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 Post subject: Endgame 1 Fundamentals Review
Post #1 Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:16 pm 
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Endgame 1 Fundamentals

By Robert Jasiek
A5, 264 pages, suggested range 18 kyu to 1 kyu, available as book or PDF

Many theorists like to divide the game into 3 sections: opening, mid-, and endgame. This is a convenient categorization for focusing on different aspects of play but tends to lead beginning to mid-range players to feel that special considerations are required for each of these separate segments and play must drastically change over the course of a given game. Instead, many of the same principles hold true through the entire game, just with some trumping others as priorities shift and stakes change.

The opening can contain dramatic grabs for power and influence as large portions of the board are claimed and challenged. In the midgame, violent jostling and pushing where the life and death statuses of groups are challenged and confirmed. The endgame then is often relegated to the final contestation of boundaries where only a handful of points can change hands. But this is the final chance for either player to catch up or exploit overlook weaknesses. And as such it can be one of the more straightforward parts of the game for mid-range (upper DDK-SDK) players to hone their skills in and (in a relative sense) easily pick up at least a rank or two by eliminating mistakes and eking out every available point instead of letting them dribble through their fingers.

With both of the above topics in mind, Endgame 1 Fundamentals leads the reader through the important topics though present through the whole game, take on a much more concrete form in the final stages. Speaking from personal experience, territory vs. influence discussions (for example) can make conceptual sense to the early/midrange player but making accurate estimates of the relative values of widely different play sequences can be very difficult in practice. But applying the same concepts to 1-8 point differences on a given part of the board is much easier to grasp and quickly execute in actual play. As the title states, this book is not an exhaustive treatise on the relative merits of half-point plays and repetitive counting exercises but instead focuses on the appropriate concepts that guide effective and proper endgame play.

From a book layout perspective, each topic is given a thorough introduction with ample demonstrations followed by a set of exercises. The focus is on the concepts and not any excessive level of detailed terminology. I appreciated the descriptions detailing the correct answer to the problems but even more important was the explanations accompanying wrong plays. Many Go books short this aspect and can leave the reader asking “What was that wrong with that move?” due to misreads or (momentary) lack of understanding of the point. Endgame 1 Fundamentals does not let the reader down and thoroughly points out the shortcomings in incorrect answers proving why the correct solution is such. Some sections go into very detailed analysis of how a given position is safe or defensible as stands (and not requiring an extra wasted play). At first glance these may seem excessive, but as a SDK-player I found value with the demonstration of just how the given situations can play out. It makes for good reading practice in a guided environment and is much more satisfying than a dismissive, “The life/connection of the group is assured”.

Covered topics include superfluous moves, identifying neutral points, playing endgame moves too early, efficiency, and the categorical range of endgame sequences from double sente to gote. One aspect that I was glad to see included was mutual reduction as a threat response. At my current level of play, this is one part of the game that I know I need to be much better at recognizing and working with but find hard to apply in practice. It seems relatively simple and easy to react to every challenge to my real (or potential) territory by solid defending and hoping my time to counter will come soon. Instead, I should be looking to counter with equal (or larger) threats instead of meekly replying. Maybe I’m focusing on this too much but it seems to be a key concept to better play (across all segments of a game) that could help lift my skill (and rankings).

Another point that comes across while reading Endgame 1 Fundamentals is that many of the attributes of good endgame play are present through an entire game play sequence and are not unique to the last stage. Careful reading, acquiring and retaining sente, efficiency of play, and global assessment of play choices are vital from the first move to the last. Even though almost all of the examples in this book are set in solidly endgame positions it becomes clearer and clearer that midgame and even opening sequences follow similar principals and the actual endgame possibilities are built upon the previous application through the game.

I found Endgame to be a useful study reinforcing concepts that I was aware of but tend to neglect during actual play. This book should go a long way towards producing more thoughtful play that will lead to more success on the board.

Bruce "Bookie" Young (6k AGA for perspective)

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Currently reading: Plutarch, Cerebus, and D&Q 25th Anniversary


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