EZ-GO: Oriental Strategy in a Nutshell, by Bruce and Sue Wilcox. Ki Press; 1996.

This is a go book unlike any other. It's an outgrowth of Bruce Wilcox's Instant Go lectures, and the most distinctive feature is that they often give heuristics for playing instead of general principles. For example, if you and your opponent are building walls next to one another and you want to know whether it's safe to jump ahead or if you should keep on pushing slowly, they tell you to "skip with six liberties". They freely admit that his heuristics don't always work; the goal of the heuristics is to work about 90% of the time and to tell you what kinds of moves to look at first, though you'll probably want to do more reading to make sure that it works out.

They use completely non-standard terminology. I don't think that that would confuse anybody; at most, it might take a little while to switch to other go books after you've read this one. On the other hand, while the terms aren't confusing, they might be a bit annoying; I don't claim that "rabbity six" is a wonder of terminology, it's a lot better than "ashen amphora".

The above is a symptom of the fact that the book is quite overdesigned, and is designed with (as far as I can tell) game-playing teenagers in mind. The front cover covers has a pretty ridiculous bimbo picture on it, for example (click here to take a look), there are pictures everywhere that don't have anything to do with go, and they never label anything in a straightforward manner if they can think of a catchy term for it. And it's actually kind of appealing in its own way; I would prefer that the book were differently designed, but it does have a certain logic, and I'm sure that there are people who far prefer this kind of design.

The target reading level for the book is supposed to be mid-range kyu to low-range dan. Personally, I would recommend that weak to middle kyus give this book a try; I'm sure that they'd learn a lot from it, and that they'll learn a lot that they wouldn't learn anywhere else. It might even be reasonable for this to be the second go book to read. Click here to see the web page for the book.

If you're curious about Wilcox's ideas but don't want to buy this book, you might want to consider getting Instant Go volume 1, published by Crystalline Creations. It's a 45-page booklet that talks about sector lines, walls, avoiding piecemeal, and contact fights. It has lots of the good, distinctive ideas that are found in EZ-GO without all of the annoying design issues. Also, this would be suitable for people who are strong enough that they don't need to be told about the basic life and death shapes but who still want to see some of his ideas. It's available from Nemesis Enterprises, (877)636-8646 or http://www.gophergo.com/), for $10 (which includes a CD). Only volume 1 is available, and I don't think that there will ever be future volumes, though their magazine (Go Today) is publishing extracts from the instant go archives.

Dan Schmidt (NNGS 5k*) says:

This book was really valuable to me because it talks about the game in such an utterly different way from all the other books out there. I picked up many valuable concepts that I hadn't even thought about before. You will never look at the board the same way after reading the chapter on sector lines. The techniques for making and destroying shape have also come in very handy.

It's probably not for everyone (and a lot of the things about it that bug David bug me too), but it seems like one of the few books that can really cause a qualitative jump in the level of your play.

Update (August 29, 2004): Nemesis Enterprises seems to be more active these days, and they have a new book out by Takemiya called Imagination of a Go Master.

cover pic

david carlton <carlton@bactrian.org>

Last modified: Sun Aug 29 21:00:43 PDT 2004