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 Post subject: Good go books by amateurs
Post #1 Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2023 5:57 pm 
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Over in another thread, I saw:

hl782 wrote:
I'm not a big advocate of books written by amateurs but I'd strongly recommend "Cross-cut Workshops" and "Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races" by Richard Hunter.

As an occasional (and rather bad) chess player, I don't have an issue with books by amateurs at all. Chess doesn't have the same hard line between pro and amateur. There are plenty of great books by people who are "only" international masters (equivalent to 6d/7d amateur).

Some people may have a deep understanding of strategy, or one aspect of technique, but not the reading skills to back it up, or maybe not the temperament to come up with the goods under the pressure of tournament play. And there are lots of other things that go into writing a book: careful research, proof-reading and fact-checking, organising a large body of material into a coherent structure, good pedagogy, choosing useful examples and problems, writing style, and so on. A person doesn't magically acquire those skills from playing at pro strength, and there's no reason why an amateur player can't write as well as anyone else.

I agree with the Richard Hunter recommendation. I haven't got to the crosscuts or monkey jumps yet, but I found the capturing races book to be both useful and a very enjoyable read.

I believe James Davies's "Life and Death" and "Tesuji" are largely his own work, and they're excellent. Charles Matthews has written some great stuff (I'm not sure how much of this is still online). David Ormerod did most of the writing and organisation for Relentless (admittedly working alongside a pro). And possibly a few of our favourite Asian books are actually ghostwritten by strong amateurs.

I haven't yet warmed to Robert Jasiek's writing style, but the content is valuable, and offers something you can't find elsewhere. I'm glad he's doing this.

If someone were to put together a coherent book-length exposition of Bill Spight's or John Fairbairn's wisdom from these forums, I'd buy it. (I think John is doing this covertly -- putting out books that look like translations/compilations of others' work, but there's this little appendix...)

And I'm sure there's other good stuff out there that I haven't picked up yet. Any suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #2 Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2023 3:34 am 
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I consider the (strong) amateurs Rob van Zeijst (7d EGF) and Richard Bozulich to be good go book writers for intermediate level players.
Gunnar Dickfeld is not as strong (2d EGF), but IME his books aim more at lower level players. I don't think it is necessary to be a very high level player to write such books.


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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #3 Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2023 3:36 am 
Judan

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Since you mention "Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races" by Richard Hunter, these books on capturing races are even better: my two books (more comprehensive theory, better worked out answers of problems) and presumably also a German book on semeai techniques, which I have yet to read but must be promising from having seen samples.

"a coherent book-length exposition of Bill Spight's [...] wisdom"

You find much of his (and much more of my) endgame theory (and examples) in my Endgame books Vol. 2 - 5. He has created more theory about difference games, ko thermography and CGT, which I have not fully compiled yet but might describe in some later books. (You might also read pure maths books about combinatorial game theory, which covers some aspects of Bill's studies.)

"I haven't yet warmed to Robert Jasiek's writing style, but the content is valuable, and offers something you can't find elsewhere."

Which is your preferred writing style? Regardless, these of my other books go (often far) beyond what professional players teach: Tactical Reading, Fighting Fundamentals, Positional Judgement 1 + 2, Joseki 2 + 3, Endgame Problems 1, Basic Endgame Problems 1 + 2 (appearing soon). I am sure that there are also quite a few books (and other texts) by other amateurs that offer valuable contents not seen in professional teaching. This includes reasons of some amateurs having more time for research in go theory or being more aware of amateur learning necessities. You have mentioned more good reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #4 Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2023 4:56 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Which is your preferred writing style?
Well, I don't have a single preferred style. There's more than one way to do it :-)

For technical writing that's not just accurate, but also elegant and humorous, it's hard to beat John Conway. Getting far away from go, his Sphere Packings, Lattices and Groups is one of the great algebra books. On Numbers and Games is pretty good too. It's about much more than just conveying correct information. Being concise counts for a lot, so that the cognitive load of reading a verbose definition or principle doesn't get in the way of deeper understanding. He also uses imagery in a way that helps develop your intuition, and leads you deeper into the culture surrounding the subject matter. Other great mathematical writers include Paul Halmos (who has also written a lot about how to write, as well as being a good role model in his own technical works), Emil Artin and Michael Spivak.

By "Bill Spight's wisdom", I mean more than just the technical details of his endgame research. A lot of his writing radiates a certain attitude and philosophy of go. Or maybe more than just go. But yes, the rest of Robert's endgame books are on my to-buy list. (I got volume 2 a couple of years ago.) I just need to improve my reading and make fewer middlegame blunders before endgame technique will help me...

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #5 Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2023 5:56 am 
Judan

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You are right that improving reading and avoiding middle game blunders have a higher priority for you.

Writing books strong at both theory and entertainment is a matter of time. In First Fundamentals, I could afford to incorporate entertainment because writing the theory took little time. When hardcore maths or physics books are also entertaining, it is because the writers are paid for their research and / or the potential readership is large enough. Western English books have a small potential readership. Unless books are written altruistically, a limited amount of time can go into writing. If a book's topic demands much time for its theory, none is left for entertainment. E.g., each of Endgame 3 - Accurate Local Evaluation and Endgame 5 - Mathematics required ca. 15 months for writing the theory. Already this is unreasonable and to a large extent altruistic. There is no time for including entertaiment throughout the book. Besides, saved extra time is better spent on writing more books. That is not to say that books like The Treasue Chest Enigma did not have their value but you see how few examples and how little theory they contain.

Apart from researching go theory, I cannot capture Bill's overall philosophy but maybe some other writer can (and should)? My mission focuses on exploring go theory comprehensively - already a task greater than one life.


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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #6 Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2023 5:32 pm 
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Around the year 2001 the Japanese publisher Seibundo Shinkosha put out a series titled Jitsuryoku Godan Igo Dokuhon (Five-dan level Reading Books). The "author" of these books is given as Henshuubu ("Editorial Department". I am assauming these books were written bu amateurs, and there is no indication of professional involvement. These are quite interesting and an example of amateur-produced high level books in Japan.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #7 Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2023 5:41 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Already this is unreasonable and to a large extent altruistic. There is no time for including entertaiment throughout the book. Besides, saved extra time is better spent on writing more books.


That is a great point. I would add that sometimes there is also no space for it (depending on the situation, the pages, the flow, the typesetting arrangement and so forth).

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #8 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 7:00 am 
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xela wrote:
Over in another thread, I saw:

hl782 wrote:
I'm not a big advocate of books written by amateurs but I'd strongly recommend "Cross-cut Workshops" and "Counting Liberties and Winning Capturing Races" by Richard Hunter.

As an occasional (and rather bad) chess player, I don't have an issue with books by amateurs at all. Chess doesn't have the same hard line between pro and amateur. There are plenty of great books by people who are "only" international masters (equivalent to 6d/7d amateur).

Some people may have a deep understanding of strategy, or one aspect of technique, but not the reading skills to back it up, or maybe not the temperament to come up with the goods under the pressure of tournament play. And there are lots of other things that go into writing a book: careful research, proof-reading and fact-checking, organising a large body of material into a coherent structure, good pedagogy, choosing useful examples and problems, writing style, and so on. A person doesn't magically acquire those skills from playing at pro strength, and there's no reason why an amateur player can't write as well as anyone else.

I agree with the Richard Hunter recommendation. I haven't got to the crosscuts or monkey jumps yet, but I found the capturing races book to be both useful and a very enjoyable read.

I believe James Davies's "Life and Death" and "Tesuji" are largely his own work, and they're excellent. Charles Matthews has written some great stuff (I'm not sure how much of this is still online)


https://gobase.org/studying/articles/matthews/ for some of my articles.
I wrote quite a few articles for the British Go Journal which will be in PDF form (https://www.britgo.org/bgj/bgj.html), and possibly indexed (https://britgo.org/bgj/index/top.html).
American Go Journal pieces partially at https://gobase.org/studying/articles/ma ... exchanges/.
Shape Up! with Kim at https://cdn.online-go.com/shape_up.pdf.

All seems quite a long time ago, mostly because I moved out of go writing 20 years ago. Teach Yourself Go aka Be a Master at Go might be out of contract since it was allowed to fall out of print. There are other articles in odder places.

To reiterate comments I have made in the past: if we are talking about club players, what is needed is a three-volume set such as Teach Yourself Go plus Shape Up! plus a volume on fighting, which I didn't finish when working with Kim. What that volume III ought to be needs reconsideration in the light of developments in computer go, and/or the need for many good whole-board problems to lay the groundwork for dan-level play.

Amateurs should study "the technique of the game", not flashy stuff. The people who buy most books are typically 2k to 2d, and the marketing goes accordingly. To become a good amateur you should have seen much of the technique at least once. Those books are for becoming "well read" rather than "great at reading".

James Davies certainly had many of the right ideas in exposition for Western players. Teach Yourself Go built on Go for Beginners.

What I've never seen is a set of strong-amateur hard problems that really have tutorial value. There seems to be an exponential scale that says 5k level needs 3 books, dan level 10 books, good amateur 30 books, strong amateur 100 books ... which tells a story, a bit like Robert's. I can imagine an ideal book, that shows you one net you'd not see in practice, one technique for removing a group by playing the right sequence ditto, one great Sakata-like second-line ploy, etc. etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #9 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 7:37 am 
Judan

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A Korean amateur 7d told me to have read 1500 go books (but many Asian books are short).

What do you mean by "the 'technique of the game', not flashy stuff"?

"What I've never seen is a set of strong-amateur hard problems that really have tutorial value." What do you think of my Capturing Races 2 - Problems? Hard enough? The tutorial value (ranked by numbers of necessary variations, all relevant variations and decisions stated) is there but, for a course, might deserve some reformatting.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #10 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 9:13 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
What do you mean by "the 'technique of the game', not flashy stuff"?


So suji in Japanese means technique, maek in Korean seems to have scope suji+tesuji. In the problems in Teach Yourself Go there are what a reviewer called "small scale stuff", which might include a throw-in to gain one or two points in the endgame. There would be setting up a ko in such a way that your opponent has to find the first threat, and many other such things. Not vast ladder problems, not bestiary positions, not running fight variations in the avalanche. (A 6 dan once mentioned studying those variations for 200 or 300 hours. Which would be a way to learn ''haengma'', but really not a priority until you are a strong amateur.)

I was asked by the BGA president to put the Chinese and sanrensei openings in Teach Yourself Go. In my view they didn't need to be there, and they make the book obsolescent now. That counts as "flashy".

A friend has a general theory on teaching any "skill". I don't fully accept it yet, but in the form "identify the techniques, then gain facility in the techniques", it could make sense for go. Seeing the snapback coming is a type of facility which we can recognise as essential.

RobertJasiek wrote:
"What I've never seen is a set of strong-amateur hard problems that really have tutorial value." What do you think of my Capturing Races 2 - Problems? Hard enough? The tutorial value (ranked by numbers of necessary variations, all relevant variations and decisions stated) is there but, for a course, might deserve some reformatting.


I can't really comment. Capturing races where both sides have bad shape (liberty-losing) go beyond normal amateur facility, while those which only involve counting single digit liberty totals are within it. I remember a game commentary where Cho Chikun spent much time on a variation of that type, which the commentator said led into a land of demons, or suchlike.

As we know, tesuji dictionaries are quite hard to organise, and/or aren't easy to study. But for me they are the most useful type of go book.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #11 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 10:20 am 
Judan

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Why do you characterise tesuji as the most useful? Ca. 3% of the moves are tesuji. What one first needs is plain ordinary moves. Of course, my aforementioned book is hardly about techniques or shapes at all because they are needed for only 5.5% of the capturing races. 50% are those solved by comparing numbers of liberties, 33% by reading, 8.5% by reading and liberties, the rest by a combination of reading and techniques (or both liberties and techniques) or (endgame-like) points.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #12 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 10:24 am 
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While writing the above, I had a look for a fairly obscure tesuji book. By a pro!

I see it is the one mentioned on https://senseis.xmp.net/?PracticalEndgameTest4 by Magari 8 dan, a pleasant person. So, that sort of material.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #13 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 10:31 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Why do you characterise tesuji as the most useful? Ca. 3% of the moves are tesuji. What one first needs is plain ordinary moves. Of course, my aforementioned book is hardly about techniques or shapes at all because they are needed for only 5.5% of the capturing races. 50% are those solved by comparing numbers of liberties, 33% by reading, 8.5% by reading and liberties, the rest by a combination of reading and techniques (or both liberties and techniques) or (endgame-like) points.


Well, you asked what I meant. I think what I was saying was roughly that the most useful (for progress) practice is related to technique in the tesuji- or suji-like sense. One confirmation is that the largest Nihon Kiin dictionaries I know are three: Joseki, Fuseki and Tesuji. That's a top-down view for strong players. As we know, what was considered foundational in joseki and fuseki has been changed by computer go.

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Post #14 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 11:25 am 
Judan

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But it is false. While first gaining one's solid shape and techniques knowledge contributes ca. 2 - 4 ranks from 12 kyu to 1 kyu, it is not the most important. Tactical reading and endgame calculation are both more important and enable more ranks. For reading, you have your "confirmation" in the many Asian problem books on reading. For endgame, evidence is less obvious and comes from many pros / strong amateurs advice and my experience while improving (but I lack much knowledge about others' experience, which may in part be explained by the endgame not being as popular as other skills). The scarcity of endgame books is stark in contrast to the advice (no surprise: writing endgame books other than tactical ones is demanding).

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Post #15 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 11:31 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
But it is false. While first gaining one's solid shape and techniques knowledge contributes ca. 2 - 4 ranks from 12 kyu to 1 kyu, it is not the most important. Tactical reading and endgame calculation are both more important and enable more ranks. For reading, you have your "confirmation" in the many Asian problem books on reading. For endgame, evidence is less obvious and comes from many pros / strong amateurs advice and my experience while improving (but I lack much knowledge about others' experience, which may in part be explained by the endgame not being as popular as other skills). The scarcity of endgame books is stark in contrast to the advice (no surprise: writing endgame books other than tactical ones is demanding).


Well, really, I'm not being doctrinaire. I'm explaining a way of thinking about the "icing on the cake". I have seen plenty of Asian literature, and inferred a paternalistic point of view in teaching. Are you prepared to say there might be other ways, of some value?

In any case, I gave up teaching in a go club 20 years ago. If people want to read some of my writing, good luck to them.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #16 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 12:05 pm 
Oza

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Quote:
Ca. 3% of the moves are tesuji.


That is an absurd way to look at it, and I'm not just talking about spurious numbers. And the odd thing is that you've explained why yourself:

Quote:
What one first needs is plain ordinary moves.


A plain, ordinary door can be a useful thing. But it's actually quite complex. It needs plain, ordinary door jambs. It needs a plain, ordinary lintel. It needs plain, ordinary hinges, or a plain, ordinary sliding unit. It needs a plain, ordinary plain, ordinary handle and a plain, ordinary keyhole with a plain, ordinary lock. And, above all, it needs a fancy, extraordinary key. And often, the fancier and the more extraordinary the better.

A tesuji is a move that fits in with the flow of the stones (碁の筋にかなった手). It is the 'key' that fits the 'door' made by the other stones. If you don't have a door, you are just a man wandering around aimlessly looking for a door to put your key in. If you have a door but no key, your door's not really going to serve the purpose you had in mind for it.

The key does not have to be too fancy - just fancy enough to foil most attempts to get through the door. In a go game, if someone flashes a really fancy tesuji 'key', there's likely to be mention of it in a commentary. But it doesn't mean there are no tesujis among the unmentioned moves.

In a hanetsugi, the last connecting move is often a fancy tesuji move that may or may not be mentioned, depending on the level of player the commentary is intended for.

On the basis of these 'unmentionables' I'd say the appeareance of tesujis in a real game is rather higher than 3%. But even if we stick with 3%, we have to include all the door stones properly placed in order to make the key work. Let's pluck another spurious figure out of the air. Let's say a four-move hanetsugi represents the basic minimum for a 'door' situation. Clearly, most situations involve more stones, but let's be modest and say around six on average. I've run out of fingers and toes, but I think that means about 20% of all moves, at a minimum, count as part of tesuji situations. If we strip out fuseki moves and trivial endgame moves or connections and the like, they form an even bigger part of the game. Maybe even the majority of the game, at pro level.

That's why tesujis are important. Go is a team game. All the stones have to work together. You are the manager that makes the whole team play well. If you're just there 3% of the time, you end up in the Fourth Division.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #17 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 12:43 pm 
Judan

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Door and key or whatever metaphor you choose - there are many problems in which every move is similar and there is no apparent distinction of a subset of moves as key.

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Post #18 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 1:47 pm 
Oza

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Quote:
- there are many problems in which every move is similar and there is no apparent distinction of a subset of moves as key.


That's why you study tesuji books. Study means much more than just doing discrete problems. Woods and trees, and all that.

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Post #19 Posted: Tue May 09, 2023 9:48 pm 
Judan

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No, that is not why to study tesuji problems but that is why to do tactical reading. When there are no tesujis, tesuji knowledge does not apply. Tactical reading during tesuji / techniques problems is too partial by far to enable good tactical reading (or to enable suitably trained subconscious thinking) in problems that are much more difficult because of prevailing ordinary moves.

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 Post subject: Re: Good go books by amateurs
Post #20 Posted: Wed May 10, 2023 12:15 am 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
No, that is not why to study tesuji problems but that is why to do tactical reading. When there are no tesujis, tesuji knowledge does not apply. Tactical reading during tesuji / techniques problems is too partial by far to enable good tactical reading (or to enable suitably trained subconscious thinking) in problems that are much more difficult because of prevailing ordinary moves.


I would say that your "tesuji knowledge" as a substitute for my "technique of the game" (a) can be identified as a straw man argument, and (b) is here being employed in an off-topic discussion of why pro thinking beats amateur thinking over the board, which I would have thought was common ground. Anyway, if I want to argue with intransigent people, I can do so on Wikipedia.

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