A Master’s Guide to the Ultimate Game, Volume I of the Learn to Play Go Series by Janice Kim and Jeong Soo-hyun, introduced Go to the absolute beginner. The Way of the Moving Horse, Volume II, showed readers how to play Go from start to finish. The Dragon Style, Volume IV, focused on the player’s mindset during a game.
Volume IV, Battle Strategies, as the title implies, will focus on fighting techniques and concepts often encountered during the middle game.
Who should read it?
Battle Strategies are for players who get lost in the complexity of middle game. If you are the kind of player who struggles after twenty or thirty stones are on the board, then you should read this. The only requirement, I think, is an understanding of when the middle game begins, which the reader should be familiar with after reading Volume II. I have my own struggles at the middle game, not that I already have a perfect opening and endgame, but I feel weakest during the wild fighting. Volume IV is a very good introductory book on middle game. I should refresh my fighting basics with it.
What can I learn from it?
The book has two parts: The Middle Game and Life and Death.
Part I is all about the middle game as the title suggests. The reader will first learn what is the difference between invasion and reduction, when to invade or reduce, how to use nearby friendly stones, and how to reduce large frameworks (should it be low, make a living base, or high, run to the centre). The book also list some battle strategies or concepts when invading and reducing. For example, the reader will learn how to pinpoint important stones from useless ones, why separating live groups are a no-no, and how to use thickness. The reader will also learn basic yet effective techniques on the proper way of attacking (taking away bases, taking profit while attacking, driving the opponent towards one’s thickness) and taking care of stones (making a base and/or eye shape, playing lightly, using ko, and giving up stones with no chance to survive).
Part II focuses on life and death techniques including dual life and playing under the stones, an almost magical way to kill or save a group (at least for a beginner like me). The reader will learn techniques on killing (and conversely living) usual shapes in the corner like the dead L-group. The authors also named an interesting shape called the Alien Symbol (the idea is to prevent a bamboo joint). It gets more challenging when the book delves into capturing races. The readers will learn how to win capturing races by counting (do not start a capturing race if you know you are behind in liberties). The discussions on no eye vs one eye and small eye vs big eye are very helpful though it requires deeper analysis from players who do not count liberties. The book also offers the mnemonic for big eye shapes and the number of stones one needs to play inside the eye to kill the group, i.e. 3-3, 4-5, 5-8, 6-12. Things get more complicated as the book discusses ko. The reader will learn some types of ko: picnic, multi-step, and double. Finally, you will learn how to use ko threats.
Throughout the book, the authors included essays entitled Extra for Experts. Beginners can get some idea from these essays too, but I think this will be more useful for players reviewing their middle game concepts.
Why is it great?
I have said that the topics can get complicated and difficult at some parts, but beginners lose not heart. Kim and Soo-hyun’s lessons are easy to understand. Just take a pause or reread it whenever the discussion gets too daunting. Of course, the readers will get to use their newfound or reviewed knowledge from the 28 questions of the Test Yourself at the end of the book.
How can it improve my knowledge and gameplay of go?
If the middle game gets over your head, this book can at least help you contain it inside your head. Just keep applying the concepts you will learn from this book during your games. Eventually, the middle game will be as natural to you as placing a stone on the board.