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 Post subject: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #1 Posted: Sat Apr 23, 2016 4:29 am 

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Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles


* Title: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
* Authors: Richard Bozulich
* Publisher: Kiseido
* Edition: 2015
* Language: English
* Price: EUR 25
* Contents: principles
* ISBN: 978-4-906574-79-7
* Printing: almost good
* Layout: almost good
* Editing: almost good
* Pages: 273
* Size: 148mm x 210mm
* Diagrams per Page on Average: 3
* Method of Teaching: principles, examples
* Read when EGF: 10k - 3k
* Subjective Rank Improvement: o
* Subjective Topic Coverage: o
* Subjective Aims' Achievement: -



The book contains 112 principles counting from 1 to 100; in a few cases, a few principles are grouped and distinguished by a letter. Each of the principles also serves as a subheading for its, if any, usually very short explanation (infrequently better than the principle itself) and circa 2 examples. Besides, there is a tiny number of additional principles mentioned in the text but without study.

Much of the text accompanying the examples I consider boring or superfluous but this might be caused due to my perspective as a player too strong for the book. As is typical for Bozulich's books, most examples have simplified positions; the reader does not see the richness of possible positions. A few handicap examples contribute to this impression. Only a few unspecified professional positions offer more positional variation. The critic sees the author's laziness while the optimist perceives possibly eased learning of the basics.

The layout is slightly inefficient but, compared to the layout rip-off of The Basic Principles of the Opening and the Middle Game, the author has greatly improved matters. For example, showing up to three 19x19 positions on a page works well to reduce the sizes of large white spaces. The small average number of moves per diagram eases reading but there sometimes are too few moves so that one must not be impressed by the book's number of pages. On the other hand, I must have done something right in my books when now Bozulich adopts a number - subnumber style for the numbering of diagrams (he uses the same major number for the diagrams illustrating its principle) and distinguishes diagram references in the text by italics. In my opinion, this layout style eases reading.

The principles are grouped in chapters about: opening; extensions; moyos; thickness; defending and attacking weak groups; shape; shortage of liberties; pressing, pushing and crawling; attack; sabaki; ko; ladders; tactics; miscellaneous. The latter includes more principles about ko. In conclusion, the structure of the book indicates some laziness. There appear to have been last minute additions and subnumbering for the sake of finishing the book quickly and getting exactly 100 as the largest number of a principle.

The book suggests the idea that go theory can be represented as principles. Such a view is somewhat simplistic because go theory also consists of terms, concepts, methods, values and other aspects. Nevertheless, a book that claims to be an "encyclopedia" of "all the strategic and tactical principles of go" (backcover text) might be my dream book in which I would want to read every day forever. In the later 1990s, I suggested that go book authors should make more use of principles. It took years before the author of this book started to use principles prominently; finally, he provides a book concentrating on principles. In this review, I shall find out whether my dream has been fulfilled.

Limits of the Correctness of the Contents

When Bozulich takes his time and studies variations, his study is correct. The more the contents approaches his regular topics and contents in his earlier books, the more convincing his variations and study become. He has a firm knowledge of the related parts of go theory.

However, in quite a few other examples, laziness or gaps of knowledge shine through. Readers of the intended readership would hardly notice such because it is beyond their own understanding. Bozulich's major recurring mistake is to show something very convincingly for one player because that player's moves are correct while part of the opponent's moves are wrong. With much more careful study and invested time for writing, the author should have discovered most such cases by himself. Seemingly convincing applications of a principle can be a fake when the opponent's better replies would inhibit the easy demonstration. How can an author avoid the problem? He must study more examples to find more suitable ones or his discussion of the used examples must involve a much greater number of side aspects and decisions.

Besides, the author makes a relatively small number of other mistakes in go theory caused by his gap of knowledge of professional go theory and his insufficient study of available go theory by amateur experts or other go book authors. For example, he makes a mistake in positional judgement (although elsewhere in the book his other positional judgement is right) or a mistake in rules application on the strategic level.

These shortcomings and the missing generality of part of the principles mentioned further below restrict the strongest reader level to 3 kyu and the rank improvement to 'o'; otherwise, the sheer number of useful principles would have resulted in a '+'. The flaws in the contents, however, mean that the reader's learning potential is limited and he needs to unlearn too much when later becoming stronger than 3 kyu.

The Principles

The Principles in the book are short. While this eases their learning, it also means that very many principles are weaker or much weaker than other existing principles elsewhere in the literature or oral knowledge of strong players.

Principles can be classified roughly by their estimated fraction of correct versus incorrect application to practically occurring positions. Here, let me introduce these classes according to the roughly estimated fraction of correctness:

10% = special case guideline, useful together with other special cases
50% = joke (correct and incorrect application are equally frequent)
55% = proverb (only slightly better than a joke; outdated principle)
60% = weak principle
75% = intermediate principle
90% = strong principle
99% = very strong principle
100% = truth
W = weaker than another existing, more often correct principle
S = principle for a special shape only

Now I roughly assess the principles of the book by their numbers:

001  55% W
002  75% W
003  55% W
004  55% W  "Establish a position inside your opponent's sphere of influence."
005  50% WS
006A 75% WS
006B 75% WS
006C 75% WS
007  75% WS
008  75% WS
009  75% W
010  60% W
011  90% WS
012  55% W
013  75% W
014  75% W
015  10% WS
016A 10% WS
016B 10% WS
017  10% WS
018  10% WS
019  60% W
020  60% W
021  99% W  "Be willing to transfer a moyo from one part of the board to another."
022  75% WS
023  75% W
024A 60% W
024B 10% W
024C 60% W
025  50% WS
026  50% WS
027  75% W
027A 75% W
027B 60% W  "Attack your opponent's weak stones."
028A 60% W
028B 60% W
028C 50% W
029  90% WS
030  99% WS
031  75% WS
032  75% W
033  50% WS
034  50% WS
035  50% WS
036  55% WS
037  55% WS
038  60% WS
039  75% W
040  50% W
041  50% W
042  10% W
043  10% WS
044  10% WS
045  50% WS
046  60% W
047  10% W
048  60% W
049  10% WS
050  50% W
051  50% WS
052  90%    "Abandon junk stones." [Until the endgame.]
053  75% W  "Don't make territory in an area where one of your flanks is open."
054  55% W
055  90%
056  60% W
057  90%
058  10% S
059  55% WS
060  55% WS
061  75% W
062  10% WS
063  50% WS
064  60% WS
065  50% W
066  10% WS
067  10% WS
068  55% W
069  10% WS
070  55% W
071  55% W
072  10% WS
073  10% WS
074  10% WS "The comb formation is alive."
075  10% WS
076  10% WS
077  10% WS
078  10% WS
079  10% WS
080  50% WS
081  55% WS
082  90% W
083  60% W
084  55% W
085A 75% WS
085B 75% WS
085C 75% WS
085D 75% WS
086  10% WS
087  50% W  "If you lose four corners, resign."
088  55% W
089  60% W
090  55% W
091  90% WS
092  55% W
093  99% W
094  90% W
095  90% WS
096  75% W
097  75% W
098  90% W
099  10% WS
100  10% WS

Summary: There are these numbers of principles:
108  W
  4  without W
57  S
55  without S
27   10%
16   50%
17   55%
15   60%
24   75%
10   90%
  3   99%
  0  100%
60  10% ~ 55% special case, joke or proverb
52  60% ~ 99% real principles

Some of the 10% WS "principles", such as the life status of a particular shape at a particular place of the board, are 100% truths but, as special shape cases, do not deserve the principle tag.

It is ok for a book for kyu players to teach first guidelines, such as "Don't approach thickness.", when they are just starting to learn what is thickness at all. For a book, however, claiming to teach principles, be an encyclopedia of principles and not to teach proverbs, 52 real principles of 112 so called principles is too little. Besides, the average quality of the real principles is too low.

Learning the principles of the book as a player 3 kyu or weaker means having to unlearn most of them in order to improve as a 2 kyu or stronger. It is no coincidence that a principle of the book is occasionally not applied in a different part of the book.

The author should have recognised the "jokes" and omitted them. The 10% and 55% "principles" contain useful hints but most should have been called "shape knowledge" or "proverbs". 60% and 75% principles can be useful as a start but the book should have clarified clearly that such principles serve as guidelines for suitable contexts and must not be confused with the power of very strong principles or truths.

The claim that the book had "all the strategic and tactical principles of go" appears at four different places and so is made intentionally. The claim is false! I have written down several hundred real principles in the 60% ~ 100% range, know many more and would not make a false claim to have written down, or know, ALL the principles of go theory. An Encyclopedia of Go Principles has only 52 real principles, that is, a small fraction of all. "Encyclopedia" in the title is an exaggeration.


While the book is useful to some extent, it is very far from what it claims to be. Inappropriate parts of the contents should be replaced by more careful study. The book, which might be called "The Best of Richard Bozulich's Go Theory", can be seen as a summary of Bozulich's earlier work but it is not the general overview on go theory that the excessive use of "principles" suggests. Readers should be aware that, later, they need to unlearn much contents and replace it by more generally applicable, much more often correct go theory. Take the principles of the book as hints not to be applied without critical thinking.

EDIT: correction of two sums.

This post by RobertJasiek was liked by: Darrell
 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #2 Posted: Sun May 01, 2016 8:10 am 
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I strongly disagree with your (in fact) accurate review. I don't know why but you describe the book as go-theory-garbage, but I will enlight some very nice features.


1) Unfortunately not all go players will reach 1 dan or better. More: the vast majority of go players gets stuck in the 10k-6k range if they have other interests, if they don't have 3 hours a day to devote to do go, if they don't have a good teacher/reviewer, if they don't have a go club in the vicinity, if they don't do at least 10 tsumego a day. Belive me: they are at least the 80% of go player that played more than 100 games. So when you say "you have to unlearn most of the principles if you want to get stronger than 3kuy" it's pretty odd IMO: if you want to became a dan player you have either to work hand with a teacher and a serious training schedule (certainly not based on books) or you have to be go-gifted, but that's not everybody case.

2) after you review I instantly bought the book and I really get immediately benefits, even if I studied in an online go school for a while. Learning some go facts IMO is impossible without somebody that teaches you them: if you don't know how to reduce or expand a moyo is a really bad liability in your go games, especially if you are realtively new to the game (say a year). Few people can learn by themselves the concepts of light play or invasion joseki: BEGINNERS NEEDS GUIDELINES, BEGINNERS NEEDS GENERAL PLAYING TIPS. Of course it's hard to apply them correctly and immediately: it will take some times, but if we don't know anyting about go theory it's very hard to improve.

3) All go experts say that you have to develop a feeling about the correct move, since go is a fluid game. It's not about "Here you have always to do this, there you have to always do that". I obv agree on that, and the book is really inefficent in some parts (the final part, the last 1/3 of the book basically). But you CAN'T mark all book principles with a "weak advice IMO, there is a better one" and "special case" because it's NOT useful to THE VAST MAJORITY OF PLAYERS. Most players and most SDK don't know anything abouth go theory and they rely only on experience and good calculations, but if you look at their fuseki play to say for examples or their middlegame leaks you will notice that.

4) You want better examples. Yes, and you will get another boring go book that teaches "all and nothing", the classic book that one reads and then ask himself "did my go playing is better now after the reading?" IMO. If you want to explain moyo reduction you simply have to give an idea IMO, you don't have to set up a complicated position where the beginner can't grasp the concept because it's too complex position. It's basic teaching: if I have to teach you how to drive a car it's COMPLETELY USELESS take you to a rally circuit in the night with mud and rain. Better is to take lesson a sunny day in a desert street. Ok, it's not "advanced driving lesson" but if I am a beginner I need simple setup, then when I will be an expert you can take e to more complicated situations.


1) I completely agree with some examples. The author wanted to reach 100 principles and threw in some life and death issues that are completely useless for the 6k-10k players. Better off doing some tsumego and gg. The same about special shape playing: some tips only work because of the particular disposition of stones


It's not a perfect book of course, but it's a very light and very interesting book for intermediates that want to improve and approach go theory, with some powerful ideas that you can immediately spend in your game, and simply explained with clear and simple examples IMO.

If you are a weak sdk or a good ddk and/or if you have short time to study go it's a not close must have book IMO. Then if you are in the 10-15% of players that will became a dan player or if you can afford go teachers you better off listen to them.

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #3 Posted: Sun May 01, 2016 10:21 am 

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I do not describe the whole book as go theory "garbage", as you suggest that I would have done, but, simply speaking, I describe, part of it as better replaced or improved etc.

There are several ways to reach (EGF) dan level. One of them is by reading books. Besides OC playing, books were 95% responsible for, e.g., my reaching of dan level.

Nothing is wrong with some books being light or written for players never making a serious effort to reach dan level for whatever reasons. In principle, this book may as well be one of those books. However, author and publisher describe and call this book as something else: a collection of all principles of go theory. If they had written and published it as a light book teaching some selection of principles, my review would have omitted the detailed evaluation of the made claim.

IMO, even a small selection of go theory should teach such theory that persists. It may be ambiguous to some extent so that, later, details can be learnt in addition. However, it should mostly avoid teaching things needing later unlearning. Until about 5 kyu, very much of my learning consisted of having to unlearn bad prior knowledge I had been taught before. It would have been much easier to improve if I could have concentrated on learning new things instead of also having to find out the wrong, previously learnt things. This also applies to players never becoming stronger than about 5 kyu; they might improve faster from 20 to possibly 5 kyu.

Better examples do not imply a boring book. See, e.g., Lessons in the Fundamentals. The examples are correct, the book is entertaining and it is light. Correctness of examples and lightness of the presentation are not mutually exclusive.

You wonder why my review pays so much attention to details of how go theory is taught in the book. Its claim of being an essentially complete presentation of all principles is much more than a PR gag. The claim also implies that the reader of this book would not need to read any other go theory book again. Citation from the backcover: "The purpose of this book is to bring together all the strategic and tactical principles of go. All of these principles can certainly be found scattered in the thousands of go books that have been published, but nowhere are they found collected in one place." One must not let pass such an outrageous statement without proper assessment. I understand that this hardly affects your different concern of whether the book can have the other purpose of being a light book for players seeking light study material. It can. At the same time, my review does not overlook the claim just because a light use of the book can make sense.

I have not marked almost all principles as "weak" but I have marked almost all principles as "weaker than another existing, more often correct principle". As I have indicated in the review, there is scope for some introductory principles that are weaker than more worked out principles for stronger players. However, weaker principles should be avoided whenever more often correct principles can be expressed and learnt similarly easily.

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #4 Posted: Sun May 01, 2016 2:52 pm 
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Hi Robert,

Wow, that was a negative review! "Lazy", "fake", "gap of knowledge", "insufficient study"...

I saw that you started a new Reddit account to post this negative review of another author's work, then your next post recommended your own books. Why do you need to knock somebody else's work to promote your own? Do you know other go-authors who write negative reviews of their peers? If not, why do you think that is?

I was not unhappy to see that the Reddit post received no net upvotes.

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #5 Posted: Sun May 01, 2016 10:23 pm 

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If the book had been very good (e.g., if it had agreed to its title), I would have praised it very much. Would you then complain that I would promote another author's work? E.g., I have recommended and reviewed Lessons in the Fundamentals more than anybody else (in English) and you might wonder why I effectively hurt myself by motivating others to buy books by other authors. You might also wonder why another go book author has reviewed and commented on some of my books (including a few negative comments). Being an author does not remove the freedom of speech, which includes the right to writing reviews on other books.

Do you think that any good review of any book should hide "Lazy", "fake", "gap of knowledge", "insufficient study" if contributing to accurately describing it? IMO, a review must also reveal relevant negative aspects of a book if there are some. A review can forgo an infrequent, accidental mistake, but must mention regularly occurring aspects of a book.

Do you think that the author and publisher of the book may promote it by making a false, intentional statement that greatly misrepresents the work of other authors and experts on go theory - and that such a statement may not even be mentioned? That author and pulisher may greatly criticise other authors but reviewers may not criticise that author and publisher?

The claim by the author and publisher of this book is a very negative, and false, comment on books or works by some peers (especially me). This example answers your question whether I know other go authors writing negative statements about works of their peers. In fact, the mentioned claim lets you wonder whether the author of the book reads the work about principles and other principle-orientated theory of his peers. The mere existence of a different book with 175 principles should have been enough information for not making the claim.

[Redditt: off-topic in this thread. If you want to meta-discuss Redditt discussions, please start a new thread.]

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #6 Posted: Sun May 01, 2016 11:55 pm 
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wineandgolover wrote:
Hi Robert,

Wow, that was a negative review!

It is commonly quoted that a good grounding in the fundamentals is important and I don't disagree with this. Seems reasonable and is something that applies to other acquiring skills in other subjects which take time and effort. Finding out what these fundamentals are, when they're often only alluded to or exist in generalised form (proverbs) is what makes it hard to learn without reading 100 Go books. There are precious few books on the subject despite the obvious importance (I found and bought three). A beginner has no chance of knowing if a book boasting that it contains this knowledge is complete or accurate, only a stronger player giving an objective review can do so.

I actually own both this book and Robert's and found his review very useful. I'll certainly be taking his comments and feedback on board and thank him for his honesty. Perhaps other strong players that have read this book can *also* do us this service. Have you read this book? Could you give us your thoughts?

Also I saw no negative comments on the reddit post. Quite the contrary.

Last edited by longshanks on Mon May 02, 2016 1:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #7 Posted: Mon May 02, 2016 12:16 am 
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Because of the fake mass media we're so used to sugar-coating everything that an honest review seems shocking by comparison.

But that sugar-coating is just hypocrisy; it's not done because people want to be nice to each other but because commercial reviewers seem to think that if they don't find something - anything - good to say about a product, it will hurt their business.

At the other end of the extreme are reviewers who stress being negative using pithy language; it becomes their trademark. Those reviews are useless as well.

So I welcome honest reviews.

_________________ - An explorer space for data related to this game

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #8 Posted: Mon May 02, 2016 1:29 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
The claim that the book had "all the strategic and tactical principles of go" appears at four different places and so is made intentionally.

RobertJasiek wrote:
Do you think that the author and publisher of the book may promote it by making a false, intentional statement that greatly misrepresents the work of other authors and experts on go theory...?

RobertJasiek wrote:
The claim by the author and publisher of this book is a very negative, and false, comment on books or works by some peers (especially me).

Sorry, I am sometimes slow, but I am beginning to understand. Even though Bozulich, to my understanding, didn't mention you or your books, you feel that he has somehow attacked you and your work by calling his book an encyclopedia of principles? He hurt your feelings with his book's name choice?

I find this odd, but at least it helps explain your spending eight hours (source: Reddit) writing a negative review. Now that I understand your true motivation, I will respect your feelings, and press no further.

 Post subject: Re: Review: An Encyclopedia of Go Principles
Post #9 Posted: Mon May 02, 2016 1:46 am 

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wineandgolover, if you read my review carefully, you can notice that it is not only negative. I state positive aspects where appropriate.

I cannot know Bozulich's or the publisher's intentions underlying their claim and choice of title. Therefore, I would not guess any attack. It might as well be that the impact of their claim on other authors and experts is accidental.

The book title is not that important. The made claim is important. Besides, regardless, there are differences in qualities of principles, and readers might wish to learn about them. It is not like one principle would be as good as every other principle. Having a broad collection of principles is enough motivation to study their scope and relevance.

It is not my first review on which I spent 8 hours:) EDIT: As somebody having studied principles a lot, I am in a position to assess principles in a book about principles. So even from only a reviewer's motivation, I would have spent several hours anyway.

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