I was in Japan and China recently and as usual came back with a load of books. In fact, having been gifted the massive (in both senses) new series on ancient Chinese games, I had to buy a new suitcase.
Apart from that, the highlight was finding a dozen or so new Go Seigen games, but there were some great finds among the ordinary books. Here are a few notes about some of the Japanese non-second-hand ones, simply in the order they are stacked up in front of me as I write. They are not all brand new but are all recent and available.
1. Ubukata To's Tenchi Meisatsu (Insights into the universe), about the life of 17th century go player Shibukawa Shunkai, though mainly as a calendar maker. In go, Shibukawa was better known as Yasui Santetsu 7-dan, but he was even higher ranked as an astronomer. To him is due the use of Tengen on the go board. The book won the Yoshikawa Eiji Literature Prize for New Writers and the Booksellers Prize but I haven't actually read it yet. ISBN 978-4-04-100318-3 and 978-4-04-100292-6 for the two-part paperback.
2. Habu Yoshiharu Tatakau Zuno (Habu Yoshiharu goes the distance). Nominally by shogi phenomenon Habu, it's really a series of interviews with him. I did a bit of tachiyomi at an airport with this book - it was highlighted because a film on him was due to appear - and found it fascinating. Initially I didn't buy it, but as I lay awake in the middle of the night with jetlag, what he said kept churning over in my mind so I decided to get it later. One thing that interested me was his philosophy about studying. He said the vital thing was to keep "accumulating data" by playing over games, but not to expect to see any significant results after even a month. You have to wait one year, or better 5 years, or 10 years or 15 years. It was also interesting to hear his views on slumps. He said he didn't get upset about them. He expected them and even welcomed them, because they gave him a chance to play moves he normally wouldn't play. That way he accumulated more data and could break out of his slump even better armed. Not a go book, of course, but full of relevant messages. ISBn 878-4-16-790583-5.
3. Igo no Minwagaku (Folklore studies in go). Rather than the usual go stories about famous players, this is about stories among the ordinary people in both China and Japan, heavily laced with superstition. These stories sometimes appear in go magazines, but this book is both more comprehensive and scholarly. Author Omuro Mikio is a professor emeritus at Chiba University. ISBN 4-00-600123-1.
4. Kakari ga Kawareba Go ga Kawaru (If the kakari changes, the game changes). This is by Ishida Yoshio. Not my favourite author but it's an unusual topic. It's about the very early fuseki. Not very much on cutting edge fuseki, and it looks very kyu-ish anyway, but simply because it's not a topic treated in this depth very often, there may be insights not available elsewhere. ISBN 978-4-8399-6027-8.
5. Yoda-ryu Naraberu Dake de Tsuyoku Naru Kogo Meikyoku-shu (Yoda's collection of famous old games that make you strong just by playing them over). Obviously by Yoda Norimoto, who is one of the more interesting, if somewhat undisciplined, writers. Yoda is a great fan of old games and those who know me will know that he is thus a man after my own heart. The book also contains an encomium from Go Seigen, and the range of games goes from Dosaku up to Go Seigen. In fact, Go gets two chapters - one for his early period and one for his late. It covers 30-odd games, with commentaries showing how we can learn from the ancients. These are backed up with 10 mini-essays on topics such as how to play over the games, and what it was like playing Go Seigen. Magic. ISBN 978-4-8399-2876-6.
6. Sonoda-ryu Kakugen no Subete (All about Sonoda's proverbs). The sub-title is about absorbing pro-level knowledge, and is conveyed through the heuristics (rather than proverbs) of Sonoda Yuichi. I found this an astonishing eye-opener. One mind-boggling piece of advice was not to invade three-space extensions (obviously with certain but simple circumstances) - seemed totally convincing. Best of all, fellow forumites will know I harp on quite a bit about haba (width) and wide (hiroi) as technical concepts. I picked this up mainly by reading about Shuei but Sonoda says much, much more about it than anything else I've seen (above all how to measure width and how to think about it). Also totally convincing. His section on how to assess and play from running fights (seriai) is also the best I've ever seen, but I wanted to hear more before being 100% convinced that I'd understood. He also has interesting and novel things about when to play orthogonally and when to play diagonally. Again, I didn't feel I'd fully understood this. But I have so far only read the theory part. There are, however, masses and masses of examples - the book goes to about 450 pages. Very, very happy to have found this book. ISBN 978-4-8399-5951-7.
7. Sekai Ichi Atsui Go no Kangaekata (The best way in the world to think about thickness). Author Imamura Toshiya admits to shame about the title in his preface. At this stage I can't see anything special or profound about the book, and it's essentially a series of next-move problems. But I buy any book that has thickness in the title. In this case, I'm likely to put this book at the bottom of the pile, but if you want a book devoted to thickness next-move problems, there aren't many others around. ISBN 978-4-8399-6025-4.
8. As a couple of samples of a new series on old players by the ever reliable (on old games) Fukui Masaaki, I will mention those on Shuei and O-Senchi, these being two players who are considered to have great relevance even to modern players. In format they are just commentaries on selected games, but Fukui has enormous empathy with the old players and can explain their (probable) thinking better than anyone. These are expensive hardbacks, but the Shuei one is ISBN 978-4-416-51004-9 and O-Senchi is 978-4-416-50909-8.
9. Rakujitsu no Fu: Karigane Junichi Monogatari (Sunset games: the story of Karigane Junichi) by go writer Dan Oniroku. Readers of my Slate & Shell books will know I've written a lot about Karigane. Apart from a varied and at times hard life, he was an arch-gossip and so has left much material about his life and times. Dan has distilled (if that's an appropriate word) this into 350 hardback pages of dense text after it has been serialised in a magazine. Obviously this is for the specialist, but I mention it partly to show what sort of go books are making it into print today even in Japan. ISBN 978-4-480-82374-8.
10. Shusaku Kiwami no Itte (Best next-move problems from Shusaku's games) by Takagi Shoichi. I think I've already got this book somewhere but I bought it anyway to make sure. It's a series of 30 next-move problems but of the type based on positional judgement, and so the answers are fairly detailed. PJ but no counting at all - I'm going to say a little more about that below. ISBN 978-4-8182-0615-1.
11. Konpyuta Igo: Monte Karuro-hou no Riron to Jisseki (Computer go: the Monte Carlo method in theory and practice). By Matsubara Hitoshi. This is a very detailed look at MC, giving a huge amount of usable code. It references KGS and Ayabot. Rare among Japanese books as it even has an index! ISBN 978-4-320-12327-4.
12. ArufaGo tai I Sedoru (AlphaGo0 versus Yi Se-tol) by Korean pro Hong Min-p'yo and Kim Chin-ho (Korean but actually a product of Wharton School in Pennsylvania). Essentially a commentary on the five-game match, with some very good pro insights (from a quick browse, it seems AlphaGo was not quite as error free as first assumed). Translated from Korean, ISBN 978-4-488-00075-2.
13. Chihayafuru. This is a manga, currently very popular and already into well over 30 volumes, I believe. It's about a girl who has an aptitude for Kyogi Karuta or the 100 Poets Card Game, which already has a very long tournament history but has really taken off among young people in the past few years. I bought a few volumes because I know the poems quite well, though far from well enough to match the lightning speed of serious players, but it's very much in the mould of Hikaru no Go, so it may appeal to other go players. ISBN of Volume 1 is 978-4-06-319239-1. There is also an anime version.
14. Cho Hun-hyon no Kangaekata (How Cho Hun-hyeon thinks). This is another translation from Korean. It's solid text, but I've interviewed Cho at length and met him on other occasions so I know he has lots of interesting things to say - and of course just look at his record on actual play. I haven't done much more than browsing so far, but Cho talks about how to think in both general (go and non-go) and specific terms (e.g. how to think deeper and longer). There is also some autobiographical stuff. Some illuminating stuff on Segoe pleased me as I am compiling a book on Segoe, though I need someone like Cho to tell me how to make enough time for it. He does mention time, but mainly as an opportunity to work very hard! One thing I like about Cho (and several other Oriental thinkers) is that they understand how it is possible to be rational without being logical. That helps enormously with go. ISBN 978-4-7574-2827-0.
15. 30 byou de Wakaru Yasashii Kyokumen Handan (Understand easy positional judgement in 30 seconds). I list this last not because it is at the bottom of my pile, but because I had to go upstairs and retrieve it from my bedside cabinet. It's really top of my list. It's from 2013 and I can't understand how I've not heard about it before. It's quite remarkable. I'm not going to reveal the method because it really is short enough to learn in 30 seconds, so to do so would be unfair on author Mizokami Tomochika. But to give a flavour, it is a fuseki tool that involves dividing the board in half (that's the only bit I found a bit tricky, occasionally - whether to divide horizontally or vertically). This is based on deciding in very general terms where the focus of play is (e.g. that moyo over there). You then count the stones in that half (with a fascinating special twist for captured stones) and decide on the basis of the count which of five strategic options to take. That strategy guides your tactical choice. The rest of the book is Mizokami showing example after example of how this really works. He admits he has to convince us. Apart from these indeed convincing examples, I also tried some not chosen by the author, and so far I've found he is 100% reliable (i.e. I scored 100% on his which-move tests - maybe a first for me). Even if I eventually find he is only 90% or even 80% reliable on other examples outside his book, that's still probably significantly better than I achieve with my current approach.
As mentioned above, I want to say a little more about non-counting methods of positional judgement. I've mentioned these before on L19. Pros do use them (they have to in fast games), and Mizokami implies other pros use similar methods to his. But so far, the quickfire methods I have come across have been a bit too hard for me. For example, they involve memorising some standard territory shapes - too much like hard work. A more interesting example is where pros look at a position and instantly spot bad shape. From this they can tell who is ahead, and even by about how much. This works in their games because they have very little bad shape. In games like mine and most amateurs' there is just too much bad shape so it is too hard to assess instantly. But what seems special about Mizokami's method is that it appears to work just as well in both pro and amateur games. I tried it myself in one game and it transformed the opening. Later in the game I also tried some of Sonoda's advice on haba. That was an eye-opener, too. It all made the game satisfying and easier to understand, and resulted in an unaccustomed victory by over 20 points. ISBN 978-4-8399-4720-0.
(I didn't buy it, but I did notice a book on the Kobayashi fuseki. It did not mention the Mark II version - a recent thread refers.)
Last edited by John Fairbairn on Sat Oct 29, 2016 6:17 am, edited 3 times in total.
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