First a disclaimer. I got my copy free from John Power. But I was not asked to write a review. This review is mainly the result of my own frustration that more reviews (and advertising outlets) are not available generally.
This eagerly awaited book, compiled under the supervision of Meijin and Honinbo Takao Shinji, is a complete reworking of Ishida Yoshio's 1975 Dictionary of Basic Joseki. It is also in a new format: the same large size as Go World and the yearbooks, with two columns on almost all its 288 pages. It is beautifully laid out and printed on very pleasing paper. Physically, it will be a joy to study from this book. Many people on L19 stress the desirability of being able to lay a book out flat. FWIW on my copy, the book stays open on its own between about pages 90 and 180, and at other page openings it needs just the slightest touch or a feather of a paperweight to keep it open. It's too early to say for certain how that other bête noire of L19ers - the binding - will fare, but in some 40 years of using Ishi Press/Kiseido books I've only had one binding go on me (and, oddly enough, that was a volume of the Ishida dictionary). It is a paperback, of course (with a very attractive cover), but this is a niche market after all.
You will also be getting an authoritative text, not just in the guise of Takao or even the expert editing team, but in the sense of a totally accurate translation in mellifluous prose with proper British/Australian spelling (although I blinked at "Black ataries at 1"). Don't underestimate this - you'd be shocked at how different the Japanese and English are in some go books. The reason for the quality is, of course, that the hand at the tiller belongs to John Power. You should also credit him for the superb layout.
John has also done the go world a big service by harmonising his technical terms with what has become accepted on SL or L19. The significance of this I'll come to later.
"I already have Ishida's book. Do I need this one?" Questions like that will be inevitable. While perhaps "need" is an exaggeration, the answer is yes, yes and yes.
The first yes is because the book is up to date. This is not just a case of new moves but of new evaluations. Actually, many of the new moves are not really new. For example, the move "m" on page 72 (Dia. 1) is described as a "recent innovation" but goes back over a century if you look at a database. However, it is accurate enough if you notice that the move is now very frequent in 2011, and of course if you take (as you probably should) the combination of "move + evaluation" as the criterion, the feel of a move today can be very different from days of yore.
The second yes is because the comments on each joseki are very different. This is genuinely a complete re-write. As it happens, I think the Takao comments are better than the Ishida comments - better structured, more avoidance of verbiage such as "If Black plays 1, White plays 2", and a more modern feel to strategic comments. But the Ishida comments usually say something about the position that is missing in the Takao version, so if you have Ishida already, don't be tempted to throw it out. Although the Ishida book is superseded in many details, it is still worth using.
Among the reasons I think Takao is better structured (for the modern age) is that it accepts that not all josekis are limited to one corner, and so we have a separate, admittedly brief, section on a joseki set within the Chinese fuseki. One major structural change - you can decide for yourself if it's good or bad - is that Ishida was replete with whole-board examples from actual games. These are dispensed with in Takao. I think that's a sensible move. It is so easy now to call up many more examples from a database, with the bonus also that you can play the whole game out. I don't know whether that was actually the thinking involved (after all, use of a database by the editors might have resulted in fewer claims to novelty) but for the western audience I think it's the right step whatever the reason.
The third yes will be a little more controversial. I imagine quite a few L19ers gnashing their teeth at having to wait for Volume 2, because that's where today's ubiquitous 4-4 openings will be covered (this Volume 1 covers only 3-4 point openings; Vol. 2 will also have 5-3, 5-4 and 3-3). 4-4 openings are, however, rather different from ordinary josekis. The star-point stone at once involves the centre more directly than other openings (which has strategic implications) and is much more prone to brief initial josekis with just two to six moves before play switches elsewhere. Subsequent moves are therefore more involved with the rest of the board. I think it makes sense, therefore, to start with more corner-oriented (and still very common) josekis as here. Given the current state of play internationally, I suspect such a volume as this might only appear in Japanese, where more heed is paid to traditional josekis, but that's something that should be welcomed, and of course a new text after nearly forty years is manna from heaven.
The book is not specially cheap (about US$55 or 40 euros, I think). That puts it in a higher bracket than the other major joseki book of recent times (Robert Jasiek's). The ideal would be to have both books (and a database) but I expect many people would, initially at least, only want one and want to know which want to get first. I would say that the costlier Takao's 21st Century wins hands down. It is rather bigger, it is more authoritative, it is much better to read (native speaker level, of course) but there is another factor alluded to above. The Takao book is even more firmly than Ishida within the tradition of talking about go that has evolved recently in the west. If you read Takao, you are going to be part of the mainstream that reads Go World, Slate & Shell books, Sensei's Library, national go journals, and of course L19. In short you will be sharing a common language.
That is not to denigrate Jasiek's book, but there you will be faced with terms like n-territory and mobility that hardly anyone else uses. Since the Takao book relates to "basic" joseki, belonging to the mainstream seems a sensible way to start. Nevertheless, you will see in Takao bland statements such as "Black can be satisfied" without telling you why. Jasiek's approach does offer a way of understanding why, and I would recommend it still as a back-up purchase.
One final point: many people urge avoiding learning josekis. Such warnings against rote-learning, memorisation and lack of spontaneity do apply, but you still need to see the basic patterns, and in Takao (or Ishida) you will see more than anywhere else. Also, the Takao book in particular avoids very long lines (remember the "basic" in the title), and so the temptation to memorise them barely exists. This, too, is part of the reason I like its structure. Also, the excellent English prose makes relating the diagrams to the lucid text such a smooth, enjoyable process that you will hardly notice the moves burrowing into your brain circuits.
In short: very highly recommended.
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