Go by Example: Correcting common mistakes in double digit kyu play (Anglais) Broché – 5 octobre 2010
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First, in general.
I am a strict 9 rated amateur at 6 kyu with loose/web ratings. I am a much better chess player, but even though both games are zero sum, full information, two player, non chance combinatorials, the similarities stop there! If you're new to go, you'll simply LOVE it, possibly more than chess, due to the subtleties in styles of play and the speed with which you'll be able to beat Crazy Stone and other software programs--you WILL GET GOOD FAST.
You'll still be challenged on the KGS server of course (online go play). Unlike in chess, there are even points where the game becomes cooperative, "somewhat" like stock openings, but much more subtle.
Moffatt uses a unique and one of a kind teaching method in all 4 of these books, right down to his own notation.
In fact, it IS a lot like the "missing" go notation that we see so often IN chess! At first, it might annoy you that he describes rather than details all the 1/2/3 moves in the diagram, but very quickly you find that all the numbers in the other books are distracting compared to Neil. You'll also find he uses triangles differently than "standard" (if there is such a thing in this rare little field in the West), and has his own little "circles" to point out the key discussion points.
If you're a beginner, you always ask questions you can't find answers to in books, like "so why can't I just plop pieces in the middle of that black territory and eat up his liberties? So what if I'm taken, making him surround me will force him to cover his liberties with his own stones, and eat up his own territory, won't it?" Until Moffatt, NO books gave details to these common sense beginner questions. For more advanced players, Neil gives analysis a LOT like chess--why here and not here, which is the Priyome (key strategic move, but instead of Russian, Japanese terms are used like Gote for taking the initiative, Atari like check, Moyo for seeing potential territory expansion, Seki for a stand off, tesuji like a chess exclamation point, and Joseki, like stock memorized openings or lines, normally in corners in go) and why, what "lines" happen if you fail to spot this cut or opportunity.
Because the combinatorial explosion is millions of times more in go than chess, you can't really "fully explore" what "might" have happened with different moves, or you'd exceed the atoms in the universe very quickly--the game is that much more combinatorially complex than chess. But Moffatt tries, in all his books, MUCH more than any other author I've studied.
The Moffatt books were published in 2009, 2010 and 2012, with the most amazing, and most advanced one first (Games of Go) and More Go by example: Improving single-digit kyu play the most recent in 2012. But I recommend you buy them all at once, then read them all, in this general order: 1. (Learn Go: Possibly the most played board game in the World); 2. (Go by Example: Correcting common mistakes in double digit kyu play); 3. (More Go by example: Improving single-digit kyu play); 4. Games of Go.
In the more advanced books you'll see comments like "don't forget that even with a starting handicap, your black stones will be on control, not profit lines." No further information is given on this (it appears in Go by example double digit), and you'd have to have read Learn Go first to understand it. Still, to be honest, ALL these books cover topics from 20 kyu to high Dan games you have to know! That means you can jump in and get something out of all of them right away if you want to get a feel for the bigger picture.
One thing very few go reviews talk about is that fact that go really contains about 4 to 6 or more "little" games going on at the same time. Moffatt (as well as many of the very fine Japanese Dans) is careful to keep pointing out that you don't always have to play where the opponent wants you to play! This is much like playing 4 simultaneous chess games--only in a few, you can have the space to yourself for a little while! The 12 games thoroughly analyzed in the most impressive book (Games of go) show both "gentleman" style and bloody cutthroat.
But even in the epic battles, there are twists and turns, and as you probably know, it is likely that in the 3,000 plus years of go by millions of players, no game has ever been repeated! We're talking 10^700 combinations here, notwithstanding very simple rules, which at 1,000 million teraflops a second for the 31 million seconds in each year, would take more time to brute force analyze than the projected 1,000 trillion years left in the universe!
Regardless of your go level, or current library, at the price/value ratio of Moffatt's fine books, all four are a MUST whether you're a beginner or advanced player. Moffatt humbly says the books are for 20 to 6 kyu, possibly because he's not a Dan, but that's simply silly--many Dan players LOVE his 3,000 plus diagram Games of Go book, and one high ranked professional Dan player told me at a go conference that he felt that book could be studied for a lifetime, just like the Japanese classics!
SPECIAL NOTE FOR GO BEGINNERS: Hundreds of books and articles on Go make a statement similar to: "Go has very few rules, which even a child can learn. The rules of play are MUCH simpler than chess, for example." These statements are true, but deceiving! If we separate those simple rules of play from principles or FACTS of play, Go has thousands more than chess! For example, a rule of play may state "you can't commit suicide by moving into Atari" (like moving into check).
A fact or principle, on the other hand, might state, "When neither black or white can make eyes, there are no kos, and all liberties are simple dame, with two competing groups where shared liberties are less than two, the black or white group MUST die." (Nowakowski, Games of No Chance (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications), p. 249). Obviously "simple rules" do NOT mean simple play, strategy or tactics!
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Neil Moffatts book fills what in my opinion is a gap in the literature on Go strategy and tactics. While there are a lot of good books for absolute beginners and a lot of good books suitable for single-digit-kyu- or even dan-players, every player staying in the horrible state of being around 16 to 11 kyu yearns for help to improve her playing after knowing the basic rules and moves. It's a phase where you begin to see the light but end up feeling doomed very often. But even the books who aim at this target group - at least the ones I know - are quite different to this one in at least two aspects.
First, Moffatt's book does not only show you some reasonable ways of payling in the opening, mid- and endgame. Indeed every ddk-player surely knows that there are better ways of playing, thinking and fighting. Furthermore this book takes the beginners by the hand and lets them recognize themselves in the errors they make. Thus they can see what blunder they play, but they also understand that there are common mistakes that most players experience during their first steps. The book gives examples from real games - mostly from the KGS-server I cannot recommend enough for online playing - shows common mistakes and gives advice how to correct them. This way of training may just be what the especially helps ddk-players to improve.
Second, each of the diagrams in this book shows only one move at a time, the next move being displayed in the following diagram. (The usual way of course is to display a series of numbered stones in one diagram which let's you follow the game in your imagination or play it after on a board.) This way the student will see the playing evolve without knowing of the more or less rational structures that will result at the end. Sure an advanced player won't need this kind of diagrams because she is already good at reading and imagining of possibilities. And while it would be useless to print games and moves in that way generally, it is - in my opinion - a perfect way to teach a progressing beginner.
The book concentrates on two aspects: The first is improving your game by finding out about weaknesses (as over cautious play, narrow vision, not being aware of liberties of groups and the connection of stones etc.). The second part covers some ideas on how to move towards the single digit kyu player rank once you know about mistakes. You then have to know something about common moves (Joseki) and advanced life and death problems (in capturing races etc.). This part also has a useful addendum of life-and-death-status of common shapes.
I am still (stuck) within the middle of the target group of this book but it helped me to feel more relaxed and a bit like home there, that should be good foundation for further emancipation, because I have not intention to stay there forever. That said, regarding the innovative idea of teaching, the form of representation, the highly enjoyable style of writing and judging and - last but not least - the price I give my highest recommandation for this book.
I have been playing for just over a year and found it a very refreshing change from most Go books as it has a unique one-move-per-diagram approach, so for those of us who may find it hard to visualise a whole set of numbered moves from one diagram it becomes much clearer.
Also as it is written from real games and players mistakes it is a real resource for moving on from the beginning stages of learning Go.
Moffatt's book is broken down into sections by themes ("Over cautious play", "Playing on in one area", "Broadening your vision", "Keeping it simple", "Liberty shortages", "Staying connected", "Corner life", "Life on the sides", Moyos"). In each section, he starts with a short description of the mistake and then presents 5-10 positions from real games between double digit kyu players and discusses how their moves fail (or sometimes succeed) to fulfil that theme, often showing variation moves that the player could have chosen and demonstrating why that move would be better.
I love the idea behind this book. Most books discuss go strategy in the abstract or review strong players. But it seems like a really helpful thing for beginners would be to see some common mistakes that other beginners make and what's wrong with those plays.
I read this book when I was about 15-13 kyu and I felt like it didn't teach me anything especially new. I had made mistakes like these in my game, but I didn't need Moffatt to tell me they were bad, that was demonstrated to me in the game itself. I think the ideas covered in the sections are good and it was probably helpful to think about them in this context.
However my biggest problem with this book is that I don't know if the advice is actually good advice. IIRC, Moffatt is only a kyu player and I have found at least one diagram in the book that gives very suspect information ("Defer capture until forced", page 20 - See discussion at [...] ). In that diagram I could not figure out why it was safe to defer capturing, because there was a glaring cut in Black's shape. After discussing with many strong players, the conclusion was that it was probably safe to defer capture, but this would lead to a lot of complication that would be incredibly difficult to read for a double digit kyu player.
This is the only example I have where I think the advice is wrong, however there were others where it was hard for me to read out why Moffatt's variation was better than the game variation and so it may be that there are others with flawed advice. In general I don't know whether to trust the contents of the book after discovering this.
I would like to say that the book is very readable, I finished it over a weekend. And given the skepticism I read it with, I think it helped to broaden my thoughts about go, but I would recommend a book by a professional (or at least high dan level) player to other beginners. Or just play with players stronger than you and ask for advice. That way it will be tailored to your exact level.
That's where Go by Example written by Neil Moffatt fills a much welcome spot for mid-beginners which was not covered by any book so far : showing actual mistakes from real games and explaining how to avoid them.
It looks easy and unconventional at first sight : no long theories, no complicated diagrams, no Go problems, only examples. But there are really a lot of examples, and all of them have been carefully selected from actual mid-beginners' games. They are organized in chapters which each illustrates a general principle. The author shows frequent crucial mistakes, and every time he details how they arise, how they could have been avoided and what could have been a good play instead.
This could seem tedious and long, but is actually very clear, concise and easy to understand, because one of the strengths of the book is its innovative way of showing games : cluttered numbered diagrams are replaced by step-by-step sequences shown in detail. This makes a big difference for a beginner, since the book can be read anywhere without the need of reproducing the game on a real Goban.
In addition, the style is enjoyable to read even for non native English speakers, the book itself is of high quality with a nice layout, beautiful diagrams, good paper and printing quality, all at a very affordable price.
All in all, the book is the equivalent of a sum of teaching games lessons which can also be used as a reference book for the mid-beginner, and it can only be highly recommended.