Strategic Fundamentals in Go, by Guo Tisheng and Lu Wen. Yutopian Y24; 1999.

This book has 10 chapters whose titles are of the form "X versus Y" (e.g. "Sente Versus Gote", "Light versus Heavy Shapes"). Thus, each chapter focus on a concrete way in which a move is good or bad, or (in a few circumstances) on a concrete way in which a move represents one choice rather than another (e.g. "Saving versus Sacrificing Stones").

It's not the sort of book that gives a theoretical explanation and then proceeds to examples; rather, each chapter consists of a series of examples, with explanations of how those examples fit into the theme of the chapter. There are various different scales of examples within each chapter, ranging from local positions to whole-board ones, sometimes with the moves of the game leading up to the example shown. (This is even the case for the "Life versus Death" chapter!) The same position sometimes occurs in multiple chapters, since it can be used to illustrate different principles.

So far, it sounds good. But I confess that I didn't like the book very much. When reading a go book, I need something to focus my thoughts; otherwise, I'll end up reading over the examples but having none of it really sink in. If a book starts with a theoretical explanation, then that gives me a hook to think about when considering subsequent examples. But examples-only books are fine, too: they force the reader to take a more active role, to think about what would be the best move in a situation, and then to read the subsequent diagrams and explanations to see whether or not her thoughts were on-target or not. (Indeed, some would argue that, while demanding more of a reader, this sort of book is ultimately much more likely to lead to real learning, since they force the reader to take a more active role.)

But this book gets in the way of the reader in too many little ways. The initial diagram often gives too much away: sometimes, the correct move is already indicated on the initial diagram, for example. So while I don't expect this book to be a problem book, it would have been much more useful to me if I could have used is more as such, thinking about the examples first and only then reading the subsequent text and diagrams. (This is particularly glaring in the "Life versus Death" chapter: I rather like the selection of positions in the chapter, since it presents a nice step up from more introductory books on that topic, but the solutions are already indicated on the initial diagram, so it's impossible to look at the position you're trying to kill!) To make matters worse, the explanatory text is often on an earlier page than the diagrams associated to the text, so you spend lots of time flipping pages back and forth. In some of the examples, in fact, all of the explanatory text for that example is on a different pair of pages from any of the diagrams for that example. This is mercifully rare, but it's certainly the norm to have to flip pages more than you'd like.

So I was frustrated by the book. I think that there's the core of a good book here, and that good book wouldn't even be all that different from the current book: it would just have some of the initial diagrams split into two diagrams, and would have a more harmonious layout of text and diagrams. But I can't particularly recommend this book as it is.

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

Read Robert Jasiek's review.

cover pic

david carlton <>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:59:51 PDT 2003