I don’t feel right mentioning Teach Yourself Go without talking about the book I read right after it: Kaoru Iwamoto’s Go For Beginners. I am happy that I read both books, and happy that I read them in this order. (In a discussion today with the resident 4-dan, I discovered that this might be a heretical view, however I stand by it.)
Teach Yourself Go is useful for giving a gentle introduction to the game itself, and introduces basic Go concepts gradually. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as saying that Go For Beginners throws one in at the deep end – it is also a very accessible, well organised and comprehensive introduction to the game. Perhaps it might be fair to say, however, that the shallow end is just a smidge less shallow; I remember feeling that a few sections felt slightly more advanced. The books starts out with an example game which I recall thinking might be hard to follow if it were the very first thing I’d read or heard about Go. That being said, the game is used as a realistic example of situations that arise on the Go board, and Iwamoto quickly doubles back to explain the basics.
However, I found it very helpful to read both – although there is a lot of overlap in the material covered by each book, they concepts are sometimes described in different terms. I remember feeling that Go For Beginners helped reinforce the fundamentals and tidied up some loose ends. If one were to read only one beginner’s book, I’d think either would be great and one might choose solely based on which style of prose was preferred.
At the very end of Go For Beginners, there are a couple professional games given as examples. I must admit, I was terrified by these at first. I now have enough experience to know that I’m not going to fully understand many moves in professional games, but at the time, I had no understanding of just how different actual Go was from what I would be doing in my first weeks of coming to grips with the game. In retrospect, it was very useful to see the professional games alongside the teaching game detailed in Teach Yourself Go. The I-can-sort-of-follow-this non-professional game was useful for building up a picture of how a game might go; the this-is-way-over-my-head professional game gave me a taste of what sort of higher-level thinking would need to be developed in order to become strong. In both cases, I found it very useful to lay the stones out on a board – it helped me build up a picture of how the positions developed more so than when I tried to hunt the numbers on the board diagrams.
In any case, I found Go For Beginners very helpful in the early days and went back to it several times. (The discussion on dealing with the 3,3 invasion was…invaluable after my first tournment trouncing!)