Learn to Play Go with Learn to Play Go (Part 2)

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Learn to Play Go 2“The Way of the Moving Horse” is the second volume of the Learn to Play Go Series by Janice Kim and Jeong Soo-hyun. I reviewed Volume I: A Master’s Guide to the Ultimate Game before.

After reading Volume I, beginners learn the basic rules and some necessary and simple skills in the game of Go. However, rules are not enough. A game of Go starts from an empty board. Every stone added on the board changes the prevailing attitude a player should take. In other words, one must understand the proper flow of each phase of the game and the corresponding intentions of each carries.

Who should read it?

Anyone who has read Cho Chikun’s Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game or Volume I of the Learn to Play Go Series should feel comfortable reading this book (if they want to continue their dangerous journey in the world of Go, that is).

What can I learn from it?

This is the only Go book I know that will guide readers to the process of Go from the empty board up to the last stones that close territories.

The book has two parts: Principles and Skills. A better description for the two parts would be “Opening with Invasion and Reduction” and “Middle Game Techniques and Endgame.” Part I consists of Chapters 1 to 7, Part II Chapters 8 to 14.

Chapter 1 discusses the three stages of playing Go: opening, middle game, and endgame. Chapter 2 gives the three basic rules of the opening. Chapter 3 moves to the discussion of enclosures and approaches. As a beginner book, it only illustrates the knight and one-space enclosure and the knight and one-space approach, with a bonus on why the diagonal approach and attachment are bad approach moves. Chapter 4 discusses two basic joseki plays from a knight approach and one-space approach against a stone at 4-4. Chapter 5 is all about extensions, but Kim and Soo-hyun places emphasis on the Go proverb “If one, jump two; if two, jump three.” There are also short explanations about the wisdom of this proverb. In Chapter 6, Kim and Soo-hyun define haengma as the way stones “run” or “move. They also noted that in Korea, ma is a group of stones or horse. Therefore, haengma is the way of the moving horse (I think this is a brilliant way to explain the title of the book). Chapter 6 have short discussions of how stones should move on the board. The movements are stretch, one-point jump, two-point jump, diagonal, the knight’s move, and the large knight’s move. They give caution on using the double diagonal and the crippled horse. Chapter 7 illustrates the difference between an invasion and a reduction.

Part 2 is mostly about the techniques one can use in the middle game. Chapter 8 gives short examples on the proper way to attack invading and weak stones. Chapter 9 highlights the value of defending territory and weak stones. Chapter 10 shows tips on increasing liberties and making eyes during a capturing race. Chapter 11 differentiates between important and not so important ko fights and how to make sure that ko threats will not give the opponent a better result even after losing the ko fight. Chapter 12 focuses on the thrown-in tesuji, seki, and big eye shapes. Chapter 13 juxtaposes no response and correct responses during contact fighting. There are short discussions about answering the diagonal attachment, preventing the tiger’s mouth, playing hane at the head of two stones, preventing the triple approach and the spike, defending a weak point, connecting against a peep, watching for cut points, playing hane against an attachment, crosscutting, and attacking the opponent’s defects. Chapter 14 introduces the process of endgame and the basic endgame shapes to remember.

Why is it great?

Unlike Volume I, Volume II does not have “Test It Yourself” after every chapter. However, there is a “Synthesis” at the end of the book. It is like a final exam after a semester of studying. Although I would have preferred both the “Test It Yourself” and “Synthesis” in one book, the long exam is already a big help in evaluating your retention of everything you learned from Volume II. Readers beware. Kim and Soo-hyun have a very strict scoring system. You get four points for every correct answer. There are 25 questions. If you get lower than 20, the authors recommend to reread Volume II before proceeding to Volume III. This is good advice, and everyone should follow it. I will even suggest that anyone who gets a score of 48 and below will benefit from rereading Volume II.

How can it improve my knowledge and gameplay of go?

After reading this book and acing the “Synthesis,” you can play Go from start to finish. Just remember the objectives at each stage of the game, and I think you will do better than most beginners will. If you have played a couple of games already, this new knowledge will make you aware of the inappropriate moves you make at certain stages. For example, you might have been invading or reducing frameworks when there are still corners to enclose or approach in the opening, or you might have been playing endgame moves when frameworks need reducing or invading in the middle game. The six basic haengma will also ensure you that your horses will move with utmost efficiency on the board.

END

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