Go is the kind of game that one can learn in a day—and spend a lifetime perfecting. It is more art than science: in order to surround and capture the opponent's territory, one needs intuition, flexibility, and acute perception combined with a sharp analytical mind. Each player is a partner in an exercise of coexistence; each player needs the other for self-enlightenment and for enjoyment. But then, too, go is a game whose strategy has been compared to the tactics of guerilla warfare. Go can be all things to all people; it is simple, elegant, and unexpectedly beautiful.
This book contains an introduction; a brief example game; a clear, leisurely explanation of the rules; and illustrations of the simplest techniques of good play and of some easy and some more difficult problems the player will encounter. The appendixes include a concise list of rules, a glossary of technical terms, and a list of international and American go organizations. Among go players, Go for Beginners is known as the best beginner's book available.
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|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1st American ed|
|Product dimensions:||5.16(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.37(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You hold in your hand an excellent beginner’s go book. The author, Kaoru Iwamoto, 9 Dan, is well known in Japan for his go achievements and is famous in the Western world for his efforts to popularize this most fascinating and profound game. The superiority of this book is no small contribution in that direction. Mr. Iwamoto goes beyond a clear rendition of the rules; by adding a thorough introduction to fundamental go strategy, he guides the neophyte toward a more complete understanding of the game.
Go is a contest between two players who compete to secure territory. The territory consists of 361 points formed by the intersections of nineteen vertical and nineteen horizontal lines drawn on a wooden board. Players use lens-shaped discs, called stones, to mark off their territory. One opponent plays black stones, the other white, in alternating turns. The board, which is empty in the beginning, gradually fills as the players place their stones. Contrary to most Western games, motion in go takes the form of adding to what is already in place rather than moving the position of the pieces. Once put on the board, a go stone is stationary unless captured. The player controlling the largest total area at the end of the game is the victor.
The intellectual enjoyment of go is enhanced by good playing equipment. Ideal go stones are made of shell and slate, although for economic reasons glass and plastic stones are most commonly used. The highest quality stones are known as yuki grade shell, distinguished by their perfectly parallel grain lines and their completely opaque color. The quality of go stones is also determined by their thickness. Thick stones, often up to ten millimeters, are preferable. Go stones are customarily grasped between the index and middle fingers. They are placed on the board with a quick, decisive action that creates a snapping sound. This tone is so valued as part of the charm of go that enthusiasts prefer thick kaya-wood boards with a chamber cut out on the underside to increase resonance. The stones are generally stored in handsome wooden bowls, called go ke, made of chestnut, mulberry, teak, or rosewood. The covers of the go ke are used to store enemy prisoners taken during the struggle for territory.
In Japan, where go is a national pastime, it is more than a game. Go is taken quite seriously, as demonstrated by the fact that a strict system of ranking is used and that there are over four hundred professionals—men who earn their living by teaching go and evaluating other players. Shodan, or first dan, is the rank awarded to a player who has mastered all the fundamentals of go, such as proper shape, use of influence, effective fighting techniques, vital points, and counting. Ktu ranks are awarded to novice players in different stages of development. While a tenth kyu player is a beginner, a first kyu player would be only one step away from Shodan. The highest rank is Professional 9 Dan.
As the beginner progresses up the kyu ranks toward the first dan level, he becomes increasingly aware of both the aesthetics and the struggle of a go contest. The unfolding geometrical patterns, the interaction of the basic elements of line and circle, stone and wood, and the meshing of grand-scale opposing strategies make go an artful game. But at tournament level, the protracted struggle brutally strains the players. The energy drain caused by long, intense concentration; by continually searching for the elusive tesujis, or exquisite tactical moves; and by ever tightening a winning grip on the position leave the players physically and mentally exhausted. One year at a state tournament, the reigning United States champion weighed himself before and after the two-day bout. He discovered he had lost five pounds as a result of the extreme effort expended in the match.
Don’t let this mislead you into believing that go is so complex as to be impossible to master. Nothing could be further from the truth. Go is simplicity itself, really a child’s game. In Japan children learn to play go at the age of five. Gifted youngsters have been known to defeat opponents many years their senior. There may be several facets of go that will tax the patience of a Western beginner; however, those who persist are amply rewarded for their efforts with a lifetime of enjoyment. The more you develop your go skills, the more you can appreciate the beauty of the game.
Although go is just beginning to grow in popularity in the United States, it has had an interesting one-hundred-year development on American soil. Go was played by Japanese immigrants in the pier cafés along the West Coast during the late 1880s. In those rough-and-tumble days, money was often wagered on go games. It was not unknown for disputes to occur, and sometimes even a murder resulted. Legend has it that the cut-out section on the underside of the go board was not originally carved for improving resonance, but for containing the blood of a decapitated kibitzer’s heard victimized by the samurai’s sword. Thus, it is not surprising that some of the immigrants took the game quite seriously.
Go remained exclusively a part of Japanese culture for many years, with Americans taking little notice. Immigrants formed the San Francisco Go Club, the first go group to be permanently established in the United States. The group was chartered by the Japanese Go Association, and the original membership was composed entirely of Japanese. During the early twentieth century, some Americans began to take an interest in the ancient game. Today the San Francisco Go Club, which is still a center of activity, has a large percentage of young American players. In the 1940s, a drive was started to familiarized Americans with the game, and the American Go Association was founded. Today, there are two regularly published English periodicals available through the American Go Association, as well as a variety of books on advanced strategies. The Association also sanctions both state tournaments and annual national championship competition. Moreover, as an addition to the Japanese dan/kyu ranking system, the American Go Association has devised, and maintains, a numerical rating system so that its members can measure their improvement.
As you begin Mr. Iwamoto’s Go for Beginners, accept my welcome to a game many people the world over have found to be a continuous source of entertainment and challenge; and perhaps someday we shall meet across the board.
—John C. Stephenson
President, American Go Association
New York, New York
Table of ContentsPreface 7
Introduction by John C. Stephenson, President, American Go Association 8
Part I: The Rules of Go
1: Demonstration Game 15
2: Capture 22
Solidly Connected Stones 23
Suicide is Illegal 27
Life and Death 35
False Eyes 38
Part II: Elementary Tactics and Strategy
3: At the Edge of the Board 51
4: Shicho 61
5: Geta and Loose Shicho 64
6: Semeai 64
7: Snap-back and Shortage of Liberties 73
8: Life and Death 77
Eye Shape 77
The Death Blow from Within 80
The Death Blow from Without 81
Cutting Points 82
Throw-in Plays 83
Me Ari Me Nashi 84
Bent Four in the Corner 85
9: General Strategy 93
The Corners are Important 93
The 3-3 Point Invasion 102
Make Territory While Attacking 104
10: Ranks and Handicaps 109
Improving One's Playing Ability 114
11: Example Games 117
Appendix: The Rules of Go 135
National Go Associations 139
American Go Contact List 141
About the Author 149