Book Review: How Not to Play Go

How Not to Play Go

Description: Zhou clarifies the common kyu level misunderstandings of how to play which hold kyu players back from reaching dan level. The principles involved are not difficult to understand and Zhou clarifies them by giving detailed analyses of how they are being ignored in three different games between kyu level players.

Book Details

Title, How Not to Play Go
Author, Yuan Zhou
Publisher, Slate & Shell
Published, “2009”
Language, English
ISBN, 1-932001-52-2
Length, 32 Pages

Table of Content

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Common Misunderstandings
  • Chapter Two: An 8 Kyu Game
  • Chapter Three: A 4 Kyu Game
  • Chapter Four: A 1 Kyu vs. 2 Kyu Game


What did I enjoy about the book?

  • The explanation regarding the principles that players constantly violate are explained very clearly and are very easy to understand.
  • The game diagrams are short and easy to follow.
  • The game commentaries range from 8 kyu up to 1 kyu.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • A better understanding of potential flaws in my play.
  • A new list of questions to ask myself before playing each move.
  • An awareness of how careful I must be in order to not to fall into the typical mistakes of a kyu player.

What style of teaching does the book use?

  • Game Commentary Style

    *   Utilizes game records to illustrate the author's message.
  • Primary Learning Mechanism:

    *   Game commentaries
  • Other Learning Mechanisms:

    *   Short chapter explaining the general principles of how not to play go.

What aspect can be improved on?

  • I would have liked to see some practice problems to reinforce the concepts that Zhou tries to illustrate.

Is this book easy to read?

  • Yes. The explanation was easy to understand. In addition, the game diagrams were relatively short in length and easy to follow.

Bottom Line

  1. A short and concise book on common misconceptions kyu players have.
  2. Presents concepts that many kyu players would benefit from.
  3. Uses game reviews as the primary teaching mechanism.

Before I Read This Book…

My Abilities

  • I’ve read a fair share of books and feel decently knowledgeable about the basic tactics and strategy of the game.

My Perspective

  • As a kyu player, I am still trying to figure out what’s wrong with my play so that I can traverse into the dan levels. So I’m hoping this book will shed some light on that.

My Review

The first chapter, which explains the misconceptions players have when playing go, is not particularly long; but the information is absolutely critical. The beauty of it all is that it’s delivered in an extremely concise manner. No wading through a ton of terms just to understand what 1+1 is.

In addition, while incorporating principles of play into his analysis, a second aspect that I absolutely love in these chapters is the fact that we get to find out why the players played the way they did. (I don’t know about you, but that really helps to make me feel less alienated since I’m like, “Hey! I’ve thought that too before!”) Once you are given the player’s reasoning (e.g. Black felt that white’s area was too big), Zhou gives immediate explanation for why it is faulty. SCORE!

I also have to admit that it is actually more advanced that I thought when I first bought it. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but I have always found example games to be rather hard to learn from since the reviews tend to require a well rounded understanding of all go basics in order for the game review to make much sense. As a result, the only real critique I have for the book is that it should be revised to be more robust with practice problems (or multiple choice questions) to further help reinforce the principles that so many kyu players violate.

Overall though, I would still have to say that Zhou does a great job trying to provide some guidance for kyu players on habits that most players fail to realize are holding them back. I can definitely say that I still fall victim to some of the things that Zhou talks about. Definitely worth purchasing if you’re a kyu player and feel stuck no matter how many new tactics and tesujis you learn.

  • Kyu players who feel they have hit a wall in their progress.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • Slate & Shell - $8.50 USD (shipping and handling not included)
  • SmartGo Books - $3.99 USD (e-Book)

Last Updated on August 4th, 2013