At this year’s U.S. Go Congress, I stopped by the vendor room and chatted with William Cobb from Slate & Shell. He had a nice selection of go books and I was itchin’ to spend a little money on my addiction.
I mentioned that I was a single-digit kyu (SDK) player looking to improve and asked what books he would recommend. Yuan Zhou’s How Not To Play Go was his first choice.
I started reading it that day. But, as most of you understand, go books are not typically quick reads. Reading the text and comparing the various diagrams that most go books are filled with means a little work is involved.
So, I’ve just now finished this short (32-page) book a month later. I’m pleased to say that I began practicing what Yaun Zhou teaches in the book after reading only the first part of the book. So, my games on Dragon Go Server (DGS) became my lab as I studied.
The points made in the book are simple and straight forward. The message is essentially “stop ignoring the whole board.” So, I guess I could end this review with that wisdom, eh? Were it only that simple, we’d all be shodans by now.
If you’re an SDK player looking to move closer to shodan, here’s a quick preview of the major advice from the book:
- Stop automatically following your opponent
- Pay attention to the whole board
- Begin taking sente seriously
- Stop assuming your opponent’s areas are bigger than your own
- Realize that every play involves the whole board (If these sounds similar to point #2, realize that this is the book’s mantra)
- Stop practicing wishful thinking (or ‘not thinking’ as Yuan Zhou calls it)
The message is essentially “stop ignoring the whole board.”
If you’re a moderate to strong kyu-level player, do yourself a favor and give this book a read. The author uses three games to illustrate the points I share above in a what-not-to-do style that will have you shaking your head and saying something like, “Yeah, I do that, too.”
The book includes examples from three games, an 8-kyu game, a 4-kyu game, and a 1-kyu game. So, no getting off the hook for the 1-4 kyu players out there. Yuan Zhou shows how the same weakness exists at 8 kyu and 1 kyu. It’s just that the 1 kyu players are closer to kicking the bad habits. But the point is, they are still there!
So, reaching shodan seems to be less about complex knowledge of joseki and the like and more about approaching the game in a new way through the elimination of some bad habits. Hmmmm . . . sounds a lot like life success in life. That’s why I love go!
The book is available from Slate & Shell for $10. Click here to visit the book’s page on the Slate & Shell website.