Book Review: Making Good Shape

Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Ponnuki

Basic Information

  • Title: Mastering the Basics, Volume 3 - Making Good Shape
  • Authors: Rob van Zeijst and Richard Bozulich
  • Publisher: Kiseido
  • Publication Date: December 2002
  • Page Length: 206 pages
  • Number of Problems: 245


  • Gives players fantastic exposure to new concepts and ideas regarding shape.
  • High quality content for a subject that has minimal literature compared to other concepts of go (e.g., life and death).
  • Any player who has a desire to get stronger and enter the realm of SDK’s should absolutely get this book.
  • A hybrid of theoretical/conceptual explanations along with problems to illustrate the ideas.
  • Appropriate for 15 kyu and stronger.
  • Recommended for serious players.

Detailed Review

Readability - 9 / 10

While a large portion of this book is focused on problems, the first chapter consists of explanations regarding shape concepts and theories. Overall, it is relatively easy to understand and read. It can be rather dense at times, but this is something you want from a book that is focused solely on a topic that doesn’t receive very much attention. Like any other tsumego book, the diagrams and solutions are quite straightforward. The only time I would imagine anyone would have any difficulty following the content would be at the end when example games are given. Then again, I always find those hard to follow and truly grasp anything from. So as a result, I’m not including it in the evaluation.

Content Quality - 10 / 10

As I mentioned before, this book consists of both a theoretical/conceptual part and a tsumego part. The theory section of the book is done remarkably well and deserves nothing but the highest of accolades in terms of collecting all the various insights on shape into one chapter. In addition, the tsumego section covers a wide variety of game positions that I have personally seen. This only helps to further drive home concepts that we are being exposed to. In addition, the explanations are quite detailed for a tsumego and does a good job covering typical responses that players might choose and why they are not very good.

Final Thoughts

Unlike typical tsumego books, approach this book as you would a theory based book. In other words, the goal of the book is being exposed to new concepts and not “solving the problem.” Spend a couple minutes or so on each one, but no more, since the solution is often (at least for me) different from what you can come up with. Once you’ve done that, flip over to the solution and see why the authors chose the answer they did.

The reason for this approach is that your goal is to be exposed to new concepts and ideas regarding good shape. Although the format of the book may be in terms of “problems” and “solutions,” there is no true right or wrong. If anything, you should try to see it as “better” or “more efficient.” By approaching the book in this manner, you will gain far more and find it far less frustrating since you will not feel bad for not having the “right answer.”

This is truly an amazing book that has so much value to players looking to further understand a concept that eludes many of us. Although I have technically “finished” the book, the theories and concepts are far from being fully integrated into my play. It is definitely is a book that I will be revisiting time and time again.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Some Important Terms and Concepts
  3. Chapter One: The Efficiency of Stones
  4. Chapter Two: Examples of Good Shape
  5. Chapter Three: 245 Problems.
  6. Chapter Four: Example Games
  1. Amazon - $25.00 (S&H not included)
  2. Kiseido - $21.00 (S&H not included)
  3. SmartGo Books (eBook) - $8.99 (Apple users only)

Last updated January 15th, 2012 - 6 kyu