Winning a Won Game, by Go Seigen. Yutopian Y21; 1996.

This is the second volume and the first to be published of a series of books by Go Seigen. It's on winning a won game: when you should play aggressively, when you should play safely. The first chapter contains three golden rules; the second chapter contains seven examples of success, and the third example contains three examples of failure. There's also a biography of Go Seigen.

The format of the book is as follows: it presents a rule (e.g. "avoid battles while ahead"), gives a position from a game of Go's where this rule came into play, review the game up to this position to show how it arose, and then show both a good way and a bad way to follow after this position. The text is in the form of a dialogue between Go and a strong amateur called "Mr. X".

This sounds reasonable enough, but it doesn't work at all well in practice. I don't have anything against a dialogue format (I rather liked the conversational aspects of Intermediate Level Power Builder, for example), but in this book there's no real differentiation between Mr. X and Go. Some things are assigned to Mr. X to say (especially the bits where he talks about how brilliant Go is) and some things are assigned to Go, but it doesn't feel at all like a normal conversation. Moreover, the fact that the format makes it look like an explanation paradoxcally reduces the amount of explaining going on: Mr. X always understands exactly what Go wants him to understand, but we real readers don't have it nearly so easy. Also, I suspect that all but the strongest readers will have a hard time relating to the actual positions in the games: from my (AGA 2k) point of view they're all so close that I wouldn't dream of slacking off because it's a won game. (Indeed, I can't always tell who's ahead in the positions without being told!)

So if you want to learn how to win a won game, don't read this. Instead, keep in mind that you should play safely when significantly ahead, play what you think are the best moves when the game is close, and play moves that can potentially cause big swings in the balance of the game when you're behind, and go and read something else. You can consider this book as a commentary on portions of thirteen of Go Seigen's games, which is certainly not something to be sneered at (though it's not the best of commentaries, and it could really use some more variation diagrams rather than indicating them all on the main diagrams with letters); you'll probably get something out of it that way.

Click here to see Yutopian's blurb about the book.

cover pic

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:59:42 PDT 2003