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This review compares and contrasts Neil Moffatt's wonderful go books on playing the ancient game of Go. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you buy all of them if you want to progress in, and understand go! The prices are very reasonable for what you get, much more so than many other go books being sold today, and I have read and reviewed over 40, including some very rare and expensive ones, for the library purchasing database.
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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