I remember writing essays in school: once I had a thesis, I was happy to flounder around putting sentences together. However, coming up with the thesis in the first place could cause hours of anguish and agony. If, heaven forfend, I was stuck with a terrible thesis, the entire essay writing process would be an exercise in pain and misery, and I’d be terribly unhappy with it when it was finished.
So went all my games when I first graduated from 9×9 and 13×13 boards to 19×19 boards. I was awed and dumbfounded by how… much… space… there… was…. I had absolutely no clue where to place my stones at the start of the game. I knew something about corners mumble mumble and I’m sure I’d heard someone throw around this word ‘extension’ or something something, but a big empty board inspired me with as much panic as a blank sheet of paper and a looming essay deadline.
Now, I had (and have) more problems with my game than there are grains of Libyan sand in the land of silphium-producing Cyrene between the oracle of sultry Jupiter and the sacred tomb of old Battus (don’t ask), but my sense of things in the very early days of 19×19 games was that I spent almost the entire game trying to regroup from my first 10-20 moves.
I didn’t feel a joseki book would be very useful at this stage; I had no interest in memorising patterns I didn’t understand, and I didn’t have enough experience to understand the patterns. What I wanted was a book that would present some fundamental principles that would at least give me a starting point when thinking about the opening.
Otake Hideo’s Opening Theory Made Easy was exactly that book. I would like to build a statue in honour of this man; this book made Go a much more enjoyable game for me. Okay, so I may not have made amazing dan-like moves after reading it, but I had a basic framework for thinking about the opening. I started to have reasons for making the moves I made that I could put into words. The what-on-earth-am-I-meant-to-do-with-this-big-open-board anxiety started to fade.
I think that whilst this is probably a more ‘intermediate’ book, I found that it had a lot to offer someone in the ‘advanced beginner’ category. At this level, I concentrated on the fundamental principles presented and tried to follow along the examples. I reckon I was somewhere around 19-17 kyu when I first read it. I found it had an immediate effect on my game; I was much more confident about the start of the game, which gave me the s
I found this an ‘easy’ book to read. The diagrams are very friendly; only a few moves are shown, so they are easy to follow. Each diagram is discussed in text, so there aren’t as many what-was-I-meant-to-get-from-that? moments. Each of the 20 points has its own subsection, so it can be read and digested in bite-sized increments.
I’m currently rereading this (at about 8 kyu). Of course, it seems like a completely different book now. Many of the patterns that looked strange and inscrutable at 19 kyu look all-too-familiar now. I can understand more of the reasoning behind many of the things that I took on faith as a weaker player.
This is proably a good time to reread it as it’s reminding me of some of the fundamentals, and it will perhaps calm me down a bit. I think I’ve started trying to be a little too fancy in my opening, which leads to a middle game where I’m constantly fixing leaks. Oh, the pitfalls of greed!