Quick edit: as of this writing I'm 5k EGF. Probably worth putting at the beginning
I wasn't sure what to expect of Tactical Reading
. I didn't check the preview, but since I have reviewed a couple of books by Robert (Positional Judgement: Territory
and Fighting Fundamentals
, I found both excellent) and purchased another one (Easy Learning Joseki
, I should write a review someday, I've found it quite good so far as reference), I thought I was a good fit for reviewing another now that Robert wanted more reviews. My interest in improving reading made it an easy decision, and I chose Tactical Reading
. The TL;DR (too long, didn't read) version of this review would be: condensed common sense. Recommended, but not a must-have book.
As usual, the physical copy of the book is very well bound, printed in what feels like good quality paper. It is the same size as all other Robert books I own, so they look nice one beside the other. Also as usual, the book arrived thoroughly packed to make sure it arrived in mint condition (as it actually did.)
Since both the PDF version and the book look exactly the same, judging the printed look is shared between the PDF and the printed copy. The typesetting is good, diagrams are abundant and good-looking. As usual with Robert, the language is a little dry and sometimes "boring" but I feel like it is getting better really quickly. Also, once you have read one of his books you just get used to it, so it's not that big of a deal anyway.
The book is divided in two parts. The first contains the theoretical knowledge about tactical reading that Robert exposes, while the second is comprised of problems having detailed explanations about how they are supposed to be analysed, after following the rules and recipes from the first part.
The theory is interesting, but it doesn't feel 100% new (at least to me, because I've read a lot about the subject applied to Chess, due to the lack of a go focused book... which actually Tactical Reading
is). Of course, it is the first time it is written about in detailed form and specifically for go players, but as far as analysing moves in one's head, they are kind of "known in the wild". The main ideas of tree exploration were already exposed by Kotov in How to think like a grandmaster
(talk about dry exposure! Robert's is much easier to digest than Kotov's, and is much clearer), and most of the simplification, clarification and more rules that the book explains are what I am already doing while reading. I'd expect anyone else stronger than me (~5k EGF) to already be doing or at least trying, to read in the way recommended by the book. For me, it feels like this is just common sense written down, but actually I can't be sure about what other people think about while reading. So, if unsure, get the book and find for yourself. I feel like its usefulness range (as far as theory goes) is from ~20k to probably 1k-1d. I guess players stronger than 1d are already following all these rules, even if unconsciously, and most 3k and up probably do so or are working on it. A sweet spot is probably in the range 12k-8k EGF, where drilling common sense is probably best and has longer term consequences.
The problems, though, are very interesting. They are Robert's composing, and they don't involve specially deep reading (5-6 moves at most, and they are not specially deep-branching situations) and are analysed incredibly thoroughly
, involving at least 10-15 diagrams on average. Only for this problem section the book is worth its price: you can never have too many problem sets at home.
As of this writing I have not finished all the problems (life happens, and has happened strongly: relocated to ~1h from Barcelona, finished PhD, started working as contractor in London "commuting" in and out every 1-3 weeks...) but as usual I plan to do so as soon as I get back to my normal go & tsumego groove. And probably re-read Fighting Fundamentals
again, I've felt extremely rusty when I play or check games lately.