Beginning Go (Review)

Beginning Go (Review)

ang, GO is a confusing game!”

This from my sister, who is learning this game at my recommendation. And yes, it is a confusing game. Basically, if play your stones, black or white, in turn with the opposing player. If you manage to surround a stone (or group of stones) with yours, you take them. Territory, too. But in this, it’s deceptively complex. There are students of this game who start as children and train, train, train to be pros. Me, I’m just a fifty-seven year old guy who has come about this game late in life and is delving into it.

And books like Beginning Go help. The authors take an unusual form of explaining the game, specifically detailing how it is scored first, then how it’s played. And in the playing, there is the magic. This book takes a number of actual games and takes them apart, good moves and bad, to give a player an idea of what he or she should be looking for, how to push when you have to and defend when you have the time.

And it actually helped me. One game against an opponent, I realized that I had a real deficit in points. I needed a plan, and that plan was an invasion, a desperate move that worked so stunningly well that I too his entire side of the board, one that had clearly been his to lose. Of course, this is not to say that you still can’t lose. Go turns quickly, and the game after that I just fell apart, the death of a thousand cuts. So things fall out.

But, yes, this book was good. Oh, I did have a couple of issues – sometimes the authors would dismiss a move as poor without explaining why that is so. And sometimes they would use terms (such as shoulder hit or dog’s face) without any explanation (thank goodness for the internet there). But unlike other books, this one mentioned a number of things I hadn’t considered, such as the sliding value of Ko or the need to safeguard your initiative, to seize it and drive the game.

So, yes, overall I’m satisfied with the insights this book provided. Of course now that I do know that, I’d better internalize it pretty damn quick – we’ve got a workplace tournament starting in two weeks. So let’s see how that goes. I’m pretty much going to be the junior player, and can only hope that Beginning Go  either permits me to win, or to make my loss as difficult to accomplish as possible.

We’ll see. But, yes, good book.