Life In 19x19

Genjo-Chitoku now available
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Author:  John Fairbairn [ Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:12 am ]
Post subject:  Genjo-Chitoku now available

I have now completed a major book giving commentaries in English on the games (almost 90) between Honinbo Genjo and Yasui Chitoku, the two players who stood at the top of the go world during the Golden Age of Go in the early 19th century.

It is available as print on demand via Kindle Direct Publishing: ... _397514860 (ISBN 978-1-731-28635-2). No electronic version is planned.

I have here followed my usual practice of providing background history, biographies and commentaries based on as many professional commentaries as I can find - a lot in this case because Genjo and Chitoku (and the age they lived in) are so esteemed. But hitherto (e.g. in books on Go Seigen's matches) I have been concerned mainly with entertainment. This book includes all that, of course, but adds a major new element - an invitation and encouragement to you to study and work hard. This series of games between two players of Meijin standard who just happened to have sharply contrasting styles seems to offer the perfect platform for that.

By playing through so many games in chronological order, you get to see how their styles were formed and how they evolved. But more than that (and I think for the first time ever) you get to see exactly in what respects professionals improve.

Apart from a new colour-enhanced format for the commentaries, which is intended to encourage you to play the games over on a real board and to force you to visualise variations without variation diagrams (though ample help is still given), there is a very large appendix called "Go Wisdom" which contains discussions and proverbs not just on every topic that comes up in the commentaries but on others that may occur to you as you think about the games for yourself. In a sense you can thus add your own guided commentary, which is an ideal way to really learn. This "Go Wisdom" includes many topics not covered adequately, if at all, in English before, such as ijime (bullying), kakoi (surrounding), the various kinds of attack (e.g. aori, seriai, torikake, karami and yorituski), and the various kinds of probes and forcing moves.

Each of the topics on Go Wisdom is cross-referenced to each mention in the commentaries. It is this that enables you to track each player's improvement. For example, you will see that in their early games both players showed very few instances of probes but in their later games these had become second-nature. By the time they had reached Meijin standard, though, they were even able to throw in a few counter-probes! And while early on they were not specially concerned with overconcentration as a tactic, later in their careers it became a major concern.

They were in contrast always very, very concerned with forcing moves. Much more than amateurs. They were also very concerned with the various kinds of attack (especially karami), and quite a few of their games have been labelled master classes for such techniques. But quite a few things amateurs obsess about, such as invasions and sabaki, rarely feature!

You can spot other trends yourself by tracking these cross-references, but a further major use of them is to study tricky topics such as thickness. Where there are so many examples of the topic in actual play, you can compare each of them and so build up an intuitive understanding not just of the main principles (also fully discussed in the appendix) but all the nuances.

The entertainment aspects of the book include a new kind of ko and a detailed look at the Castle Games ceremony and the political manoeuvring behind it. And a photo of toorie-topped me on top of a mountain :lol:

The book is large in every aspect: letter size (8.5 x 11 inches) and almost 500 pages. It includes colour. It is good-quality paper, and so is heavy. It is therefore a little more than a pocket-money book. With postage I'd say it might cost about as much as 20 cups of coffee in London. If you buy one, you give me about one cup of coffee as royalty.

Printing absorbs most of the rest of the cost. And one concern there, if you're like me, is the quality of the binding. I've had plenty of books fall apart on me over the years. I can only say that I was astonished by the quality of the copies of this book I got. Despite being over an inch thick, the book opened flat throughout, and the paper texture was a delight to handle (with no see-through). Best of all, despite the severe manhandling of a proof-reading which included flipping backwards and forwards several hundred times to check all the cross-references, the spine not only stayed intact but didn't even show a crease! Because the book was such a joy to handle I played all the games over myself on a real board, the first time I've done that at home for at least two decades! I claim no credit for any of that - for once I tip my hat to Amazon (although I obviously can't say whether Amazon outlets outside the UK offer the same quality; I also can't speak for how long it takes for the book to propagate through the system outside the UK).

Now it's on to Shuei and a first paper edition of his games. I now have almost double the number of commented games compared to the e-version.

Author:  SoDesuNe [ Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available



John Fairbairn wrote:
Now it's on to Shuei and a first paper edition of his games. I now have almost double the number of commented games compared to the e-version.

YES! Very much looking forward to it!

Author:  Shenoute [ Sat Apr 13, 2019 12:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I just ordered it! Thank you John for publishing these wonderful books.

Author:  Vesa [ Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

Nowadays it is such a strange feeling to actually buy a book from :)


Author:  Ember [ Sat Apr 13, 2019 10:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I read the first post here and he sample pages and it sounds like a fantastic book! I already enjoyed your book on Shusai and Jowa, John, and the new approach on variations in this book sounds really interesting, too. My husband has just ordered it via Amazon Germany (which means I can tell you about the quality of the printing and binding here soon). However, I find it quite depressing how little money you earn from selling a copy after all the hard work you put into compiling the information and writing the actual book. All the more thank you for working so hard to bring such pearls to the English speaking Go world!

EDIT: By the way, at this very moment the book is number 1 in the ranking of books on board games in German Amazon.

Author:  Calvin Clark [ Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I played though some of these games years ago after reading a post of yours. It will be wonderful to learn more of the history of these great players.

US Amazon Link in case it's convenient.

Author:  gowan [ Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

FWIW it is also available from Amazon in the USA.

Author:  Calvin Clark [ Wed Apr 17, 2019 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I picked up my copy today. The printing is excellent. I have complained about some of the Amazon print-on-demand services before, so I am not sure if this is different but it's very clear, with a tasteful use of color and symbols that makes the commentary fun to read without being too distracting. I don't have a desert island to escape to yet, but this is the kind of book that makes me want to figure out how to retire early. Thank you for this wonderful contribution to the Go world!

Author:  dfan [ Wed Apr 17, 2019 3:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

Mine showed up today too, and I can second Calvin's comments about the physical quality.

I never like game commentary books as much as I think I will, because I get really fatigued by all the variations and end up just playing through all of them mechanically like a zombie instead of really engaging with the content. (I don't have this problem with live commentary, or replaying games on my own trying to guess the next move.) The lighter touch of these commentaries is a welcome contrast in that respect and I look forward to going through them.

Author:  bobmcg [ Sat Apr 20, 2019 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I bought a copy. It's a wonderful book, a very valuable contribution to go literature. I like historical go and the surrounding cultural milieu and this book gives me a lot of that. I have Yoda's book of some 18 commented games of Chitoku, published by the Nihon Ki-in, and I have Yata Naoki's book Hifu Hakkutsu ending in research into the "84 game match between, Genjo and Chitoku", published by Seibundo Shinkosha. Both of these (in Japanese) are useful books but omit many games in this book. John Fairbairn collates the available commentaries to give a more general perspective. The two players were at the top in Japan in the so-called Golden Age of Go and their play is quite beautiful, something we can't easily say about modern go. The combination of being rivals and also friends allows us to savor a special atomosphere in the games: each player trying the best they can to win but also admiring the good play of their opponent.

Author:  Ember [ Sun Apr 21, 2019 12:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

My copy already arrived on tuesday, but I was super-busy this week and only got arround to look into it this weekend. It's excellent! The paper und binding quality is just as described, it's a pleasure to handle (in this format nothing to take for granted), but most important is the content - which is superb! I read a bit about both player's backgrounds (not all of it yet, though) and this is always really interesting because it's nothing that is usually covered in any English language publications (apart from yours, John :-) ). The new method of not having any variation diagrams at all and just hints works out perfectly for me (I'm around EGF 4k), too, I tested it with the first game. Usually, I only glanced at the variation diagrams and didn't try them out on the real board while replaying the games because I found that too bothersome, but this way I'm discovering them myself which is way more interesting and motivating.

Thank you so much for discovering and making available this new way of presenting a game analysis, I really hope that more people will pick this up!

Author:  thirdfogie [ Sun Apr 21, 2019 7:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

Also ordered in the UK. I will update this post with comments when it arrives. As a fan of all the author's earlier books, it is very likely that I will enjoy it.

Meanwhile, are there any hints of John's plans for more Go books?

Author:  sorin [ Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

Are there sample pages from the actual game commentaries available? I would like to get an idea of the level of commentary detail and style before deciding to buy.

Author:  SoDesuNe [ Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

sorin wrote:
Are there sample pages from the actual game commentaries available? I would like to get an idea of the level of commentary detail and style before deciding to buy.

I got my copy last week and the level of commentary detail varies greatly, probably depending on how much attention the individual game got from professionals. If you know the Kindle books on Honinbo Shuei's games, you can expect a similar kind of commentary (minus colour coding and symbols).

A couple of examples while browsing through (pages of commentary only refer to the text without counting pages used for figures):
- Games 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 29 and 38 have no commentary in part because they are treated as suspect in respect to their actual credibility.
- Games 53, 69 and 74 have about four pages of commentary devoted to 16 figures.
- Game 80 has about six pages of commentary devoted to 9 figures.
- Game 81 has about five pages of commentary devoted to 20 figures.
- Game 83 has about seven pages of commentary devoted to 26 figures.
- Game 85 has about six pages of commentary devoted to 21 figures.
- Game 86 has about five pages of commentary devoted to 19 figures.
- I'd say (without checking) on average a game has about three pages of commentary.

Keep in mind that there are no variation diagrams (which I quite like). Every figures shows part of the game record.

The sharp rise in the level of commentary detail probably has to do with the players gaining strength:
- Game 44 quotes a professional player that by now both players enter high dan level strength.
- In game 52 it is mentioned that the players firm up their respective styles.
- Since game 68 both players got their "house names" (Honinbo + Yasui).

As for my actual review: I'd like to give a more detailed review in the future since I only played through the first six games yet and only took a quick peak at the go wisdom part. But I can second all the comments about the quality of the paper and the binding - it's extremely good (via!

What I can say is that so far I enjoy the book very much and that I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

Author:  RobertJasiek [ Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

While there can be many different styles of game commentaries, I do not get it why missing variations would be welcome. I also want to learn from tactics etc. so I consider good variations with good commentary on choice as very helpful. Unless we have a problems - no answers book or a pure game collections, absence of variations is for lazy learners. I may buy the book for its history but certainly not for its absence of variations.

Author:  SoDesuNe [ Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

RobertJasiek wrote:
[...] absence of variations is for lazy learners.

Fairbairn makes exactly the counterpoint in his preface: Variations are for lazy learners because they do all the work for you ; ) (my words not his) By omitting variation diagrams and only giving hints and informations in the commentary he hopes to encourage the reader to actively participate in figuring stuff out.


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Wc Game 1
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O O . . . . . . . . . X . . . . |
$$ | . O O X O O X . . , . . . 7 . , X . . |
$$ | . . X X O X . X . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . O X X . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | . . O . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . , . . . . . , . . . . . , O . . |
$$ | . . X 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . 4 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . 2 1 X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . X O O . . . . . . . . . O . . . |
$$ | . . X , . . X O . , . . . . . , O . . |
$$ | . . X O . X O X . X . X . . X . . . . |
$$ | . . O . O O O X . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]

:w1: wrote:
It may seem premature to settle but if left till later, Black might answer at :w3: and risk turning the corner into a capturing-race ko on the left edge.

There is no variation showing you this capturing-race ko. You have to figure it out yourself.

Author:  RobertJasiek [ Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I see, like a problems / no answers book. If I wanted such problems, I might as well browse the pure game record and would think about many more problems.

Author:  John Tilley [ Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

My copy arrived last week - it's an excellent book and well printed and produced. The section on "Go Wisdom" is very interesting - you can find example games under the subject of say "karami" ( a splitting attack) - the appendix gives the games and move numbers. You can thus study "karami" and then maybe leaning attack ("motare"). The section on "Go Wisdom" is some 36 pages of very valuable information, some of the terms are new to me (even after 50 years of Go).

I am less worried about the lack of variation diagrams - if I chose a game to study as "Go Wisdom" tells me that it has a three way splitting attack - than that is good.

I would be delighted to see the book on "Honinbo Shuei" in this format. John F's other books of games do contain reference diagrams - in the case of "Power - Honinbo Shusai defends the Nihon Ki=in" 134 reference diagrams - which for this marvellous game is great. I suspect that producing all those reference diagrams was "character building" for Slate and Shell, producing just the actual games from SGF for Genjo-Chotoku was much easier.

The ten games of "Kamakura" occupy 161 pages - so that is 16 pages/game - which would make Genjo-Chitoku some three times larger with a lot of work choosing and creating the reference diagrams from all the Japanese sources.

Looking forward to "Honinbo Shuei".

John Tilley

Author:  Shenoute [ Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I (finally!) picked my copy today. I second every comment I've read here about the good quality of the binding, of the paper, and of the printing (ordered on, "printed in Germany by Amazon Distribution GmbH, Leipzig").
I've just spent the last hour replaying through game 1 and leafing through the introduction and the index. All I can say right now is that I see long and delightful hours ahead of me. Thank you again John for this superb book!
I might post a slightly more detailed review later, especially about the lack of variation diagrams and how it impacts my studying the games.

Author:  Jujube [ Mon May 06, 2019 7:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Genjo-Chitoku now available

I've jumped in on this too, and look forward to Shuei in the future.

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