Book Review: Master Play - The Style of Go Seigen

Master Play: The Style of Go Seigen

Description: In the second volume of Yuan Zhou’s series “Master Play,” Zhou goes into the difficult to understand style of Go Seigen, the greatest player of the 20th century. While you might have issues making sense of Go Seigen’s games on your own, Zhou does a brilliant job demystifying his moves and help you get a glimpse into the brilliant and innovative mind that Go Seigen posseses.

Book Details

Title, Master Play: The Style of Go Seigen
Series, Master Play
Author, Yuan Zhou
Publisher, Slate & Shell
Published, “2008”
Language, English
ISBN, 1-932001-41-7
Length, 83 Pages

Table of Content

  • A Brief Biography of Go Seigen
  • An Early Demonstration of Go Seigen’s Power
  • Go Seigen in His Prime

Before I Read This Book…

When I first started playing go, I was not too keen on learning about professional go at the time. Yet there were two names that I already knew that were legendary: Shusaku and Go Seigen. Being the crazy person I am, I went ahead and acquired Go Seigen’s entire game collection (in Chinese). Needless to say it was a reckless decision and I did not even open it up for quite some time.

Some time later on, I was excited to hear that Yuan Zhou had released a book on Go Seigen’s style. Seeing as how this book would be in English and I might actually be able to comprehend it, I went ahead and purchased it in hopes that I might finally be able to make use of the collection I bought years ago.

My Review

When you first open the book, you are greeted with a fun little dialogue between Yuan Zhou and two amateur players (4 kyu and 1 dan respectively). In this conversation, Zhou inquires about what amateur players know about Go Seigen. After getting a basic gist of what they know, Zhou launches into a wonderful story-telling of Go Seigen biography and why he has become the legend he is known to be today. It is very entertaining and really helps to give context to a man that many speak so highly of. I personally feel that without this section, the book would not be complete.

Now, in regards to the game commentaries, Zhou does a wonderful job of keeping the length of the diagrams to a minimum. It is usually easy to follow what Zhou is trying to illustrate. In addition, there are not too many variations to deter from the actual game. The goal of these commentaries serve more as an explanation of Go Seigen’s brilliance, as opposed to an in-depth discussion about go theory and technique, which really makes the book that much more enjoyable since professional go can often be difficult for amateurs to understand.

As my first exposure to Yuan Zhou’s Master Play Series, I was very pleased with his ability to fit so much information in such a short book. I am looking forward to checking out the other ones in the future!


What did I enjoy about the book?

  • The biography of Go Seigen was very entertaining and informative.
  • The game commentaries focus on showing Go Seigen’s brilliance as opposed to go theory and technique.
  • It is very easy to read and work through.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • A much better understanding of the legend known as Go Seigen.
  • An even greater respect for his style of go.
  • Greater interest in studying his other games.

What is the format of the book?

  1. A biography of Go Seigen that is a few pages long and reads like a story.
  2. Game commentaries that follow the standard structure of diagrams accompanied by their explanations.

What aspect can be improved on?

  • There is an extra “B” in the bottom diagram on Page 5.

Is this book easy to read?

  • Yes. The book was easy to read and work through.

Bottom Line

  1. A fantastic introduction to Go Seigen and his legacy.
  2. Contains two beautiful games that illustrate his ingenuity and brilliance.
  3. Well worth the price of admission if you are interested in learning about Go Seigen and his style of go.
  • Players who are interested in learning more about Go Seigen.
  • Players who are interested in reading in-depth but understandable commentaries of two of Go Seigen’s games.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • Slate & Shell - $15.50 (shipping and handling not included)
  • SmartGo Books - $4.99 USD (e-Book)

Other Books in This Series…

  • Master Play: The Style of Lee Changho
  • Master Play: The Style of Go Seigen
  • Master Play: The Style of Takemiya
  • Master Play: The Fighting Styles of Kato Masao & Seo Bong Soo
  • Master Play: The Territorial Styles of Kitani Minoru & Cho Chikun
  • Master Play: the Playing Style of Seven Top Pros

Last Updated on September 25th, 2013