Sunday, November 06, 2005

Kyu Review: In The Beginning



Book Summary
Title: In The Beginning: Elementary Go Series, Volume 1
Publisher & ISBN: Kiseido Publishing Company, 4906574106
Price & Sources: $15.00 from Kiseido and Amazon (excl S&H)
ChiyoDad's Rank Suitability Assessment: Introductory to Intermediate
ChiyoDad's Rating: 4/5 - Good addition to your library

Review
As I had browsed the internet looking for advice on how to study Go, I came across at least two suggestions that beginners should skip the fuseki books and first study tesuji. If, in fact, you compare the Amazon.com sales rank of this book to Tesuji, Elementary Go Series, Vol.3, you'll notice that the latter outsells it by a considerable margin.

I'm only guessing based on my experiences, but those suggestions and the greater sales margin of the tesuji volume may be partly due to the fact that the typical beginner will likely start a direct fight after the 8th move, if not sooner, after Black and White grab the corners and sides. You will see two diametrically opposed L-shaped formations (and perhaps someone will place a stone on the tengen mark) and the attachments or one-space approaches will begin.

This couples well with Ikuro Ishigure's comment in his introduction to In The Beginning. Professionals tend to be more consistent in their skills in the middle and end game, so abilities in these stages will not make up for a botched opening. As such, for professionals, says Ishigure, the beginning is the hardest part of Go. In contrast, beginners and amateurs will have wider disparities of skill in the later stages, so they might be able to win the game even after bad (or routine) opening moves.

I started reading this book after I noticed how weaknesses in my opening moves were making my middle game so much more difficult. Hideo Otake's book, Opening Theory Made Easy, gave my games a boost but I started feeling lost when some of his strategic principles were being applied against me by my opponents.

Ishigure gives the reader a deeper understanding of good opening strategy. His sample situations are designed to develop your analysis as to which moves stand to give you the greatest profit and stability while adversely impacting your opponent's. Sometimes this is achieved with one move but, at other times, it is achieved in subsequent moves after the opponent is forced to respond in gote (without initiative).

From this book, what has been helpful to me in recent games has been my increased understanding of:
  • How far to extend vis-a-vis the presence of supporting or enemy stones
  • When an invasion or framework reduction becomes urgent
  • Analyzing the value of several moves that I might have at my option

I very much liked the way he presented his ten problems in Chapter 3 and how he assigned relative values to the many mioves that the reader might choose. In his solutions write-up, he illustrates at least three of these to explain why they are superior, of equal value, or inferior. He also explains how a move in the right direction of play but of 1 more or less space, or in a higher or lower line, may completely change its value. These were very helpful in testing my analysis.

As Ishigure admits in his introduction, no book can develop a person's imagination in the game and his book will not address all the situations that the reader will encounter. This early in one's beginning studies, you can still be walloped by an opponent who has a better grasp of short-range tactics (which I will begin reading more of). You will still need to develop your other skills and your intuition through practice. Overall however, I feel that I have an even greater appreciation for the importance of fuseki and that has manifested itself in the many thoughtful pauses that I now make during the first thirty moves.

Chapter and Section Outline
Chapter 1
  • The First Moves of the Game
  • The 3-4 Point
  • The 3-3 Point
  • The 4-4 Point
  • the 3-5 Point
  • The 4-5 Point
  • Example Opening
  • Extending Along the Side
  • Pincer Attacks
  • Invasions
  • Extending Into the Center
  • Pushing and Crawling
Chapter 2 - Nine Concepts
  • Make your stones work together
  • Efficiency
  • Play away from strength
  • Thickness and walls
  • Open at the bottom
  • The 3rd line and the 4th
  • Reverse strategy
  • Light and heavy
  • Attack and defense
Chapter 3 - Ten Problems

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