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 Post subject: Does a standard go book serie
Post #1 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 7:34 am 
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The title may be unclear but let me explain.

I'll start from Physics, an example I know. If one day you decide to learn Physics on your own and ask a physicist what book you should read they'll probably have 2 answers for you:
:b1: If you have no previous knowledge beyond basic highschool, go for The Feynman lectures on Physics
:b2: If you've already read Feynman or have equivalent knowledge, read the Course of Theoretical Physics by Landau and Lifshitz

Basically if you read these 14 books (which will take you a while) you know probably more about Physics than 99% of physics students in the world.


So my question is: Is there an equivalent of these masterpieces for go? A beginner serie bringing you up to 1d and an advanced serie for 1d to who knows where.

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Post #2 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 7:45 am 
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I don't think so. There are some books that turn up frequently in recommendations lists and some series that are designed to help players advance through the ranks, but there isn't one set of books that will always be recommended (or even recommended more often than not). Part of this can be chalked up to cultural diversity and different approaches to learning, but I think a major reason is because, unlike physics, it is possible to learn everything you need to know to achieve 1 dan through hands on experience. Even if you read a lot of books, you'll need to get that practical knowledge anyway. In that way, learning to play go is more like learning a new sport or activity than studying an academic discipline.


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Post #3 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:55 am 
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I agree with jeromie that there may not be a universal consensus on a single series that will bring you to a certain level.

That being said, I still have a couple of recommendations for books written in English.

For DDK to mid-SDK, I'd recommend Baduktopia's Level Up series:
http://senseis.xmp.net/?LevelUp
It's basically just a series of books with problems having increasing difficulty that will eventually have you solving SDK level problems.

Getting closer to dan level, I'd recommend Train Like a Pro:
http://senseis.xmp.net/?TrainLikeAPro
It's a set of two books, each giving a 30-day training regiment. Every day you have a few problems to solve of different types (opening, life and death, endgame, close combat, joseki). I was stuck at 5k for a long time, and I'd attribute most of my climb to 1d on KGS to the first book in this series.

The reason for my suggestions of these two series is that the books are very practical. When I started Go, I read some of Janice Kim's theory books. Those are interesting, but theory didn't give me the practical power to make good decisions on the go board. At least for getting to around 1-dan on KGS (which is around where I'm at now), I've had good success with a practical problem oriented approach like this.

Why Level Up and Train Like a Pro compared to the many other problem books you'll find? Because I like the organization, and increasing level of difficulty that they provide. Level Up starts with various easy problems, drills you over and over until you are solving more challenging problems. And Train Like a Pro does pretty much the same, but in an organized format that gives you a specific training plan for 60 days (30 days for each book).

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Post #4 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:48 am 
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If we are going down the path as Kirby suggests, the cheaper way is probably to purchase the set of Chinese problem books in the "Quick Success" series. This is basically the Chinese translation of the original Korean series known in English as the Speed Baduk series, Top 1% series, Train Like a Pro series, and Inspiration of Pro. There is also a further set of two books on joseki and fuseki.

If you are talking about a set of books which in the past might have been considered a standard go book series set, I'd probably pick the Japanese set of "Go Super Books". Although this set is very old and difficult to collect, quite a few books from this series have been translated into English and are probably still considered classics today.

If you want a set of great go material in English, I would recommend getting the Go World Archive or the Go Review Archive from Kiseido Digital. These are the digital archives of the totality of two of the greatest English language go magazines ever produced. Lots of material to study in these series.

Of course, any and all of the above will only provide a foundation for you and will not cover the latest discoveries and trends.

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Post #5 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:20 am 
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Laerthd wrote:
I'll start from Physics, an example I know. If one day you decide to learn Physics on your own and ask a physicist what book you should read


A better physics analogy, perhaps, is to add that you are nine years old. :)

Quote:
Is there an equivalent of these masterpieces for go? A beginner serie bringing you up to 1d and an advanced serie for 1d to who knows where.


You overrate amateur dan players. In terms of go knowledge, they are, I think, like high school students. Not that they don't also have skill and implicit knowledge, which make them akin to the fastest sprinter in their high school.

In terms of go knowledge, pros are like people who have majored in go in college, but not all go majors make the cut. In skill AlphaGo is like someone with an advanced degree, probably along with Go Seigen, Shusaku, Dosaku, and Huang Longshi. But, OC, almost none of AlphaGo's knowledge is explicit, and much of the knowledge of the human geniuses was not.

Except for some of the basics, go knowledge is dialectical. It is tested in contests between humans with many confounding factors. It is piecemeal, and a lot of it is wrong, it just has not been refuted yet. Furthermore, it is not really systematized. By analogy with physics, it is maybe like the knowledge of the ancient greeks, without the writings of Aristotle or Ptolemy.

Also, go knowledge has not traditionally been taught in a systematized fashion. Which is why so much advice is of the sort, Go do these problems. ;) (Edit: Like Kirby's advice. :)) One writer who did take a fairly systematic approach, I think, was Takagawa. His Go Reader series (in Japanese) is probably good enough to acquire the knowledge, if not the skill, of an amateur dan player. I donated my set to the Yale Library, BTW, if you want to know where to find it. But if you are not already 5 kyu, it may be a bit difficult.

Edit 2: One go writer in English, I believe, who takes a systematic approach is Robert Jasiek. I have not read any of his books, and so cannot vouch for them directly. But I can vouch for Robert. He is a strong amateur dan player, very thoughtful and thorough-going. He is largely self taught, I think, mainly because he did not find much in the way of systematic go knowledge in English or German. Some of his ideas may well be wrong, but you can test them out, yourself. :)

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Post #6 Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:51 pm 
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Currently such a book series or collection of any particular 14 books does not exist. There are a few books containing knowledge essential for reaching dan but these books do not cover all the essential knowledge and means to acquire reading skill and life+death problem solving skill. In fact, I rather estimate that, for enabling everybody to also acquire the two skills, we'd need 14 books for theory, 14 for reading skill and 14 for life+death skill. I know, there are those reaching 1 dan without reading books, but the purpose of such books would be to enable everybody to reach 1 dan. With ordinary reading or LD problem books, this is not achieved, nor is it solely with the theory books (e.g., Tactical Reading conveys sufficient theory on reading above the beginner level; if there were a second book for beginner level, the theory would be convered but we still need the additional books for helping all those who do not succeed from only theory books combined with problems books, those also needing books teaching how to acquire practical reading skill).

For the still missing theory books with necessary knowledge to dan, meanwhile I have compiled provably sufficient heaps of the knowledge in a private database, which I must reorganise and transform to books to be written. They are on my todo list. As a rough guess, 10 such books I need to write. 90% of the related contents is not / hardly / not usefully systematically available in current books. With those books (together with the few previously existing, suitable books for that purpose), we would then have the essential theory books. However, for those not learning from theory alone and not having been able to succeed from practice using the earlier literature of theory / problem books, more new books are also necessary for the practical acquisition of the mentioned skills. And no, I do not think at all that current books enable to latter for everybody. Far from Feynman standard.

If physics amateur dan level is said to be reached by 14 Feynman books, that would be only half of the truth. Physics also requires practical mathematical skill. At school, you also have your maths lessons. Likewise, at go, you also need your acquisition of reading and L+D skills. The best theory does not help you if you suck at reading and L+D. Hence, 14 books is not enough. 14 can, maybe, cover all the necessary theory.

OTOH, without thinking much, I already come up with 3 existing essential theory books (First Fundamentals, Tactical Reading, First Life and Death), 4 with essential theory that could be compressed in 2 books for the sake of getting not more than 14 theory books in the end (combine Strategy Concepts of Go and Joseki 2 - Strategy rewritten for generic instead of joseki-specific application; combine Fighting Fundamentals and Attack & Defense), a few more theory books whose major contents deserves to find its way into a collection of 14 (Lessons in the Fundamentals, Tesuji (Davies)) and books on other theory whose contents would have to be reorganised to achieve a maximum of 14 theory books necessary to dan. IOW, part of the problem is not just to compile all the necessary theory but to then compress it into just 14 books, of which already 5 are conceptually filled, as mentioned before.

There are two other skills, which I have not mentioned so far: positional judgement (the theory is covered in my books, but would need compression for the 14; the practical side consists of counting, reading and L+D reading, of which only counting is new but, for reaching dan, easy enough so we can dispense with extra books for practical counting skill, can we...?) and psychology (whose practical skill acquisition is very hard to teach in books because it involves self-control of one's thinking; we might need to exclude this from a sufficient book collection but delegate the related learning to autodidactics).

So much about the project. However, different players learn differently. Even with the additional 3*14 = 42 (minus 3 already existing) books, there would always be readers preferring different didactics. Some of them are lucky because they can use the current literature. Others are lucky because they do not need any books. I do think though that such 42 books would enable most players willing to learn to reach dan.

Oh, you thought that 14 would be enough? Sorry, but 14 are not enough for physics, either, because there is also maths. We cannot simply expect everybody to acquire reading and L+D skills without specific, extensive guidance on those topics. Everybody knows that many players do not make it by just being told to acquire these skills and possibly also solving lots of problems in sparsly commented problem collections. These skills require, from the POV of book coverage, additional series of books besides the proverbial 14 theory books.


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Post #7 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:48 am 
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It's a surprisingly interesting question as to why you can't learn go like physics. The various answers here illustrate some aspects.

There is another aspect. I have written about this before (and so don't want to research the details again - but have forgotten where: on the MSO site?) but in a nutshell the fallacy is in thinking that go (chess likewise) is an intellectual game in that it is amenable to useful theorising. Chess at least is honest about this in that it uses the word theory for nothing more than the results of openings so far based on trial and error.

One of the things I noticed early on about go was how much effort so many bookish amateurs put in and got nowhere significant whilst many professionals (or, sometimes, very strong amateurs) produced broods of children who often had no real interest in go themselves but, almost effortlessly it seemed, ended up around 5-dan amateur (or sometimes went on to be pros). I don't believe this has much to do with genes and I find it hard to believe any pros gave go "theory" books to their kids (I have seen none mentioned, although games collections are very often mentioned).

I think the explanation is that the pros treated go as an artisanal trade, one you learn best by doing, in a master-apprentice way. And starting young is the real secret. A pro's home environment presumably produces the necessary conditions naturally.

When I wrote before, it was largely to point out that the Polgar sisters experiment had effectively been replicated many times before in go (and shogi), in Japan. Japan was special only in that it had a pro system long before the other countries, and being a go teacher has long been recognised as a trade. But in more recent times we have seen the same broods of very strong players spawned in China and Korea (the example of Kim Seong-rae and his daughters has been mentioned in this forum recently).

What I also noticed was that this pattern of parents teaching their own children hardly applied in chess - one reason the Polgar experiment garnered so much attention, I believe. This may be an east-west cultural thing, based on the supposition that go and shogi have been around as an economically viable journeyman's trade much longer in Japan than chess in the west.

Regardless of such speculations, it does seem that a high grade in go/shogi/chess has very little to do with bookish theory and almost all to do with repetitive practice helped on with occasional one-on-one guidance. That what's history seems to show and that's what AlphaGo and DeepZen also seem to show.

Go books are for entertainment. They are for go fans, not wannabe pros.


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Post #8 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:14 am 
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Go theory can be learnt explicitly from books etc. or implicitly from verbal guidance etc. or (AlphaGo) implicitly from empirical self-training derived from extra-large databases. Either way results in the strong players having a ca. 99% common knowledge / application of go theory, although the explicit learners can more often express their decisions explicitly whilst the implicit learners more often can't, regardless of roughly equal playing strengths.

EDIT: That you have not seen pros giving theory books (as opposed to hardest problem collections) to their kids is the result of there still being hardly any theory books suitable for inseis (and those few Western books suitable also for them have not made it to the awareness of Eastern pros).

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Post #9 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:58 am 
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Hi Laerthd,

To answer naively your question (without taking into account all the comments posted above about learning with books, that are extremely insightful), I'd say that there are three kind of go books :

-Books that explain the theoretical principles. Much text, few exercices.
-Books of exercises. Very few text, a lot of exercises.
-Books with annotated games of top players.

In the first category (theory), my reference is Learn to Play Go vol 4 and 5. They compile, at a basic level, a panorama of all fundamental principles. The only one missing is "strategic decisions after positional judgement". Two books exist in english about Positional Judgement, one of Robert Jasiek, and one from Lee Chang-Ho, if I remember correctly. But they are essentially about how to count properly, rather than about what to do after that. A book exist in french, aimed at dan players, called "Chûban", by Dai Junfu, that deals with strategic decisions according to the current score. If we put it together with Learn to Play Go vol. 4 and 5, we have all the fundamentals of the go game.
Not very detailed, not thouroughly explained, but the panorama is quite complete.
The first example of fundamental that I can think about, and that would not be mentioned at all in any of these three books would be tewari, which is a notion that is a bit advanced.

In the second category, exercise books, I've got Level Up + Jump Level Up, and Speed Baduk. I had hoped that these exercises would cover all the fields of knowledge in go, but this is actually far from being true. Level Up is mostly about life and death, haengma and tesuji. Some Jôseki are thoroughly studied. But the coverage of opening theory is extremely thin, and the attack / defense notions are non-existent.
Speed Baduk is a bit more eclectic, but invasion and reduction are not at all mentioned.
They are excellent books, even if we consider the high price of Level Up, but they are not the reference collection that we are looking for.

I have made a detailed list of all the topics presented in the exercises books of my collection (including Level Up and Speed Baduk) here : http://3141592.pio2001.online.fr/files/ ... e%20go.ods
When I write "Vu" (="seen", in french), I mean that the topic is mentioned, but not taught through exercises. It concerns mainly the Opening as taught in Level Up : you have to put the stones on a real goban following the moves in the diagram, reading aloud the haengma, end of story.
Edit : the topic "formes", under the category "haengma", means "shapes" in french (i.e. bad shape, good shape)

I don't have enough books with commented games to talk about them.

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Post #10 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:20 am 
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My -two- books about positional judgement, especially Volume 2, also discuss strategic decisions not only after PJ but also as a process integrating PJ and strategic decisions:) Of course, there could be more books exclusively about strategic decisions.

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Post #11 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:08 am 
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The late Japanese pro Nakayama Noriyuki 7p was once asked at a Go Congress how to become a strong player. His reply, as I recall (from about 30 years ago), was you need to start young, study good books, play stronger partners, and have a good teacher. He didn't specify what young, stronger partners, good books, and good teachers meant. He did add that the people in the lecture room weren't young in the sense he meant, that there were very few good books available in English, and there were not enough strong enough teachers outside of the Asian go countries. Back then there were very few Western-origin players of even pro-shodan strength.

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Post #12 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:53 am 
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gowan wrote:
Back then there were very few Western-origin players of even pro-shodan strength.


Would still be true today, I suppose :-)

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Post #13 Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:00 pm 
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This is akin to asking, "Is there a set of books that will take me from couch potato to triathlete?"

The problem isn't a lack of books.

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Post #14 Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:12 pm 
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Thanks for the suggestions. It looks like what I ask does not (yet?) exist but it gave me things to think about.

I think one problem is that I give to much credits to the 14 physics books. As Robert Jasiek pointed out, I missed the maths part.
In fact I wonder if training my math reading by solving integrals like I (should) solve tsumego wouldn't have helped me during my student years.
However Robert, I think you are overestimating the difficulty of the task. Allow for say 5 books of tsumego. In addition to that you have at your disposal about 1200 pages to teach a novice go to the 1 dan level. This part at least must be doable.

Bill Spight, I think you overestimate highschool students. They basically know how to play atari-go :)

John Fairbairn, at first glance I'll agree with you that go and physics seem fundamentally different and cannot be learned in the same way. But if you look at Feynman's early life, it looks similar to a children being in a professional go player's house. He was doing experiment and learning about physics on his own with no formal training.

Anyway, thanks for the answers. I'll keep looking for the holy set of books I want :)

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Post #15 Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:45 pm 
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Laerthd, I am not overestimating the difficulty of the task because I know how difficult it is for quite a few to actually acquire the reading and L+D skills or to actually apply their knowledge of theory (even knowledge as simple as "keep it simple").

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