Book Review: Modern Master Games, Vol. 1

Description: Prepare to be taken on a journey from when the first Honinbo tournament was established in 1941 through the incredible rivalries that arose and flourised along with new tournaments over the next decade. You will not only have the opportunity to learn about a critical time in the history of go, but you will also get to peer into the minds and thoughts of famous players (like Sakata Eio and Fujisawa Hosai) many of us have come to recognize as legends.

Book Details

Title, “Modern Master Games, Volume 1: The Dawn of Tournament Go”
Series, Modern Master Games
Authors, Rob van Zeijst and Richard Bozulich with historical notes by John Power
Publisher, Kiseido
Published, “March 2012”
Language, English
ISBN, 978-4-906574-91-9
Length, 165 Pages

Table of Content

  • Preface
  • Glossary of Japanese Go Terms
  • The Dawn of Tournament Go: The Honinbo Tournament
  • Game One: The First Honinbo Title Match, Game Six

    *   Kato Shin vs. Skiyama Riichi
  • Game Two: The Third Honinbo Title Match, Game Two - The Atomic-Bomb Game

    *   Hashimoto Utaro vs. Iwamoto Kaoru
  • Game Three: The Third Honinbo Title Match Playoff

    *   Hashimoto vs. Iwamoto
  • Game Four: The Fourth Honinbo Title Match, Game Five

    *   Iwamoto Kaoru vs. Kitani Minoru
  • Game Five: The Sixth Honinbo Title Match, Game One

    *   Hashimoto Utaro vs. Sakata Eio
  • Game Six: The Sixth Honinbo Title Match, Game Seven

    *   Sakata Eio vs. Hashimoto Utaro
  • Game Seven: The Seventh Honinbo Title Match, Game Four

    *   Takgawa Kaku vs. Hashimoto Utaro
  • Game Eight: The Fifteenth Honinbo Title Match, Game Five

    *   Fujisawa Shuko vs. Takgawa Kaku
  • Game Nine: The Sixteenth Honinbo Title Match, Game Five

    *   Takagawa Kaku vs. Sakata Eio
  • Game Ten: The Second Meijin Title Match, Game Seven - The Founding of the Meijin Title

    *   Sakata Eio vs. Fujisawa Shuko
  • Game Eleven: The Third Judan Title Match, Game Five - The Establishment of the Judan Title

    *   Fujisawa Hosai vs. Handa Dogen
  • Go Books from Kiseido


  1. A fascinating journey that takes you through the beginnings of tournament go in Japan.
  2. Every game is accompanied by a backstory and even insight from the players themselves!
  3. The game commentary seems to be aimed at players who are mid to high SDKs (single digit kyus) and above.

Before I Read This Book…

My Abilities

  • As a mid to high SDK (single digit kyu), I have had a fair bit of exposure to dan level thinking when having my games reviewed or playing teaching games. In addition, I have attended professional lectures on pro games where I was able to actually understand some of it.

My Perspective

  • I have tried numerous times to work through collections of professional games before and failed miserably. It has been awhile since I’ve tried to study professional games again, but I’m looking forward to what this book has in store for me.

My Review

What did I enjoy about the book?

  • Though it is a collection of professional games, the way that the book is structured makes it seem like you are being taken on a personal tour through some of the most important historical games in go history.
  • The games are not simply game commentaries where the value of one move versus another is being discussed, but instead there is a lot of history and insight from the players themselves that really help personify and bring the reviews to life.
  • To reiterate the previous point, the insight into the significance behind X move because of psychological warfare between the two players really made me stop to appreciate the emotional significance of a move. Whereas if I were just simply replaying the kifu, I would have not given that move a second thought.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • Valuable insight into the incredible fighting spirit and genius that top professional players have in their games.
  • I am much more comfortable studying professional games than I was before I started reading the book.
  • A real appreciation for the famous players that I had heard of so often (i.e. Sakata Eio) since you get an opportunity to learn about them through the historical significance of the games along with the story prior to each game.

What style of teaching does the book use?

  • Historical Textbook + Game Commentaries Hybrid

    *   Prior to every game, the history and background describing the significance of the game is laid out to set the stage for the game commentary.
    *   Amidst the normal game commentary, you will also find insights and comments from the players themselves and spectators here and there as well.

What aspect can be improved on?

  • I would have liked to see more explanations regarding the purpose behind certain moves instead of variations at times; but this should be taken with a grain of salt since I am a weak player and the book has already done a great job not overloading the reader with too many complicated variations.

Is this book easy to read?

  • Yes. Each game is only around 10-15 pages long and the explanations are kept short and simple.
  • Players who would like to learn about the history behind the beginnings of tournament go in Japan.
  • Players who want to learn about a professional players’ emotions and thoughts during some of the most historically important games in Japan.
  • To appreciate and learn from the game commentary, players should be at least 5 kyu or stronger.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • Kiseido - $35.00 USD (shipping and handling not included)
  • SmartGo Books - $11.99 USD (e-Book)

Last Updated on July 14th, 2013