Book Review: The Master of Go

Description: A fictional chronicle of a match played between a revered and invincible Master and a younger, more modern challenger. It is set in a time where the immutable traditions of imperial Japan met the onslaught of the twentieth century.

Book Details

Title, The Master of Go
Author, Yasunari Kawabata
Translator, Edward G. Seidensticker
Publisher, Vintage Books
Published, “June 1996”
Language, English
ISBN, 0-394-47541-0
Length, 188 Pages

Table of Content

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 40
  • Chapter 41
  • Notes


  1. The story is told from a third person’s perspective on “The Master of Go.”
  2. Although the story revolves around go, it is more of a historical retelling and/or biography than an intriguing story about go the way First Kyu is.
  3. Recommended for someone looking for a meditative elegy on a famous go player’s last game.

My Review

I knew beforehand that this book would be more of a historic (but partially fictional) retelling of Shusai’s last game. However, that did not stop me from hoping that it would live up (even if only 10%) to First Kyu. So unfortunately, I am the first to admit that I had a harder time appreciating the book after the gripping and culturally enriching storyline that First Kyu had. Though to be fair, it is important to note that the two books have completely different approaches to telling a story that is themed around go.

For what sliver of objectivity I have left in regards to this book, I will admit that it is a book that commands your attention in a way that a drop of water would captivate you after being submerged in pure silence. It certainly is not a book for those looking for a protagonist to become attached to or some plot with twists and jaw-dropping turns. Instead though, there is an air of tranquility and introspection about the game and the player that even I had to appreciate as I read the book. In other words, if I might paraphrase what my friend Martin said, “There’s a reason it has a Nobel prize while First Kyu does not.”

Bottom line, although this book doesn’t rate too highly for me personally, it is a great book if you’re looking for a calming book immersed in go during a turbulent time in Japan.

  • Recommended for someone looking for a meditative elegy on a famous go player’s last game.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • Amazon - $12.15 USD (shipping and handling not included)

Last Updated on July 24th, 2013