Book Review: Life and Death

Life and Death

Description: In this volume of the Elementary Go Series, Davies teaches common shapes that players will encounter in their games along with practice problems to train the reader’s life and death skills.

Book Details

Title, Life and Death (Volume 4)
Series, Elementary Go Series
Author, James Davies
Publisher, Kiseido
Published, 1st Edition - December 1975 | 2nd Edition - August 1996
Language, English
ISBN, 978-4-906574-13-0
Length, 160 Pages

Table of Content

  1. Introduction
  2. Unsettled Three
  3. Six Die, Eight Live
  4. Four- and Five-Space Eyes
  5. Rabbity Six
  6. One-Space Notchers
  7. Shortage of Liberties
  8. Two-Space Notchers
  9. An Eye in the Interior
  10. Three-Space Notchers
  11. False Eyes and Placement Techniques
  12. The Door Group is Dead
  13. Incomplete Shapes
  14. Review Problems
  15. To Make One Eye
  16. Half Eyes
  17. Bent Four in the Corner
  18. The One-Two Points, Etc.
  19. Placement: Attack and Defense
  20. Throw-Ins
  21. The L Group
  22. The First L+1 Group
  23. The Second L+1 Group
  24. The L+2 Group
  25. The Tripod Group
  26. The J Groups
  27. Hane for Ko
  28. The Long L Group
  29. Seki in the Corner
  30. The Carpenter’s Square
  31. The Weak Carpenter’s Square
  32. More Corner Positions
  33. Live or Link Up
  34. Threat to Capture
  35. Under the Stones
  36. The Difference a Liberty Makes
  37. Building Eye Shape


  1. A great overview on a lot of different shapes that players can definitely benefit from.
  2. Not a good introductory book for life and death.
  3. Requires a higher reading ability level for the practice problems than I was anticipating.

Before I Read This Book…

My Abilities

  • Having worked through other life and death books, I am confident enough to say that I have a SDK (single digit kyu) understanding of life and death.

My Perspective

  • I was looking forward to getting exposed to a lot of basic life and death shapes. In addition, I was hoping to get a bit of practice on the different shapes so I could be a lot more confident on my life and death abilities when I finished the book.

My Review

What did I enjoy about the book?

  • There are so many shapes that you get to learn about!
  • On top of that, these shapes are ones that actually occur quite frequently in games! Case and point, I actually ran into a J shape soon after I finished the book.
  • There are a lot of “what is the status of this group” problems.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • Exposure to a lot of new shapes that I never even considered life and death shapes in the past.
  • Better understanding of the weaknesses in various shapes.
  • New ideas regarding how the opponent would/should actually respond in certain life and death scenarios.

What style of teaching does the book use?

  • Textbook Approach

    *   Organized in a curriculum format that reflects the learning style one might normally find in school.
  • Primary Learning Mechanism:

    *   Explanations with example diagrams
  • Other Learning Mechanisms:

    *   Practice problems

What aspect can be improved on?

  • Though the fact that it uses “what is the status of this group” problems is a good thing for the most part, I feel that this is counter-productive to anyone learning life and death for the first time since status problems can actually be rather difficult for players who are not accustomed to reading multiple rather complex variations in life and death situations.

Is this book easy to read?

  • Yes. Davies’ writing style is easy to understand and his conversational style makes for a fun read. In addition, almost every diagram is accompanied by a short line or paragraph explaining the position.

In Comparison to Similar Books…

1001 Life and Death Problems is much more appropriate for players looking for an introduction to life and go. It does a great job providing the building blocks for being able to see the variations that are found in Davies’ Life and Death.

The Essential Life & Death Series takes a more gradual approach with life and death and provides the reader with ample opportunities to practice. However, it does not contain the explanations that you get with Davies’ Life and Death, so they complement one another very well.

  • Players looking for a reference on numerous shapes that are frequently encountered in games.
  • Players who have read other life and death books and are looking to expand their knowledge and test their skills.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • GoGameGuru - $17.99 USD (shipping & handling not included)
  • Kiseido - $18.00 USD (shipping & handling not included)
  • SmartGo Books - $9.99 USD (e-Book for iPad & iPhone Only)

Other Books in This Series…

Last Updated on July 10th , 2013