Book Review: Perceiving the Direction of Play

Perceiving the Direction of Play

Description: In the first volume of The Heart of Go Series, Kobayashi Satoru 9P focuses on an important concept many players are unfamiliar with: the direction of play. As a critical component in any game, Satoru familiarizes the reader with direction of play though positions of his own games to illustrate direction of play in regards to fuseki, joseki, and fighting. This is an advanced book that should be read after one already has a basic understanding of direction of play.

Book Details

Title, Perceiving the Direction of Play
Series, Heart of Go Discovery Series
Author, Kobayashi Satoru 9P
Translators, Robert Terry
Publisher, Hinoki Press
Published, “June 2007”
Language, English
ISBN, 978-0-9788874-2-1
Length, 225 Pages

Table of Content

  • Chapter 1 - Thinking About The Direction of Play of the Stones

    • The Future Potential of Moves
    • Towards a Wide Place
    • The Direction of Joseki
    • The Direction in the Fuseki (the Opening)
    • The Direction of Fighting
    • Before Fuseki Theory Was Developed
    • Game 1 - Sansa-Rigen (Black)
    • Game 2 - Sansa-Rigen (Black)
    • Game 3 - Sansa-Rigen (Black)
  • Chapter 2 - The Direction of Joseki

    • Problem 1 - Which Empty Corner?
    • Problem 2 - Giving Up on a Territorial Framework
    • Problem 3 - A Corner Enclosure from a Star Point
    • Problem 4 - The Placement of an Attack on a Corner
    • Problem 5 - A Big Point or an Urgent Point
    • Problem 6 - Whole Board Balance
    • Problem 7 - Holding a Territorial Frameowrk in Check
    • Problem 8 - Dodging the Beck and Call
    • Problem 9 - A Lull in Joseki
    • Problem 10 - The Direction of an Attachment
    • Problem 11 - Within the Opponent’s Sphere
    • Problem 12 - The Motivation to Play a Variation
    • Problem 13 - Being Only Fearful
    • Problem 14 - Counterattacking Against the Beck and Call
    • Problem 15 - After Joseki
  • Chapter 3 - The Direction of Fuseki (the Opening)

    • Problem 1 - Where Territorial Frameworks Meet
    • Problem 2 - A Fight for the Initiative
    • Problem 3 - Opposing Territorial Frameworks
    • Problem 4 - A One-Sided Territorial Framework
    • Problem 5 - Three Big Points
    • Problem 6 - Unfocused Direction
    • Problem 7 - Territorial Frameworks Above and Below
    • Problem 8 - A Reinforcement for the Future
    • Problem 9 - Making Effective Use of Thickness
    • Problem 10 - Judging Strength and Weakness
    • Problem 11 - Direction and Place
    • Problem 12 - Depending on the Strength and Weakness of Stones
    • Problem 13 - Consciousness of Thickness
    • Problem 14 - The Number of Stones
    • Problem 15 - The Balance of Territory
  • Chapter 4 - The Direction of Fighting

    • Problem 1 - Which Side to Reinforce
    • Problem 2 - The Attack and Defense of Forcing Moves
    • Problem 3 - Territory of a Fight?
    • Problem 4 - Dodging the Beck and Call
    • Problem 5 - Attack or Defense?
    • Problem 6 - A Single Stone’s Course of Action
    • Problem 7 - Forcing Moves and Counterattacks
    • Problem 8 - A Momentary Opportunity
    • Problem 9 - The Course to Lay Out for an Attack
    • Problem 10 - Reinforcing for an Attack
    • Problem 11 - Before Defending
    • Problem 12 - The Move Order for Counterattacking
    • Problem 13 - Fuseki Moves or Fighting Moves
    • Problem 14 - Neutralizing or Laying Waste
    • Problem 15 - The Relationship Between Two Sides

Before I Read This Book…

I got this book long ago, but I purchased this book because I felt that I was very lost when it came to choosing the direction of play. So while my ability to determine the direction of play has improved since then, I still feel rather skittish about my abilities to determine the correct direction of play and hope that this book will provide some guidance for me.

My Review

When I first started reading this book, I felt a little uneasy as I was hit with commentary that just felt way over my head. Fortunately though, that didn’t last too long. Once the commentary was finished, there were mini-sections that summarized Kobayashi Satoru 9P’s advice on the direction of joseki, fuseki, fighting, and so forth. Though not helpful for weaker players, they seem to be great reinforcement to players who already have a grasp on this topic.

Fortunately, I could breathe a sigh of relief since the remainder of the book focused on utilizing a problem format. Being presented with a problem and then having its various options analyzed at least gave me a chance to comprehend something. Though by the time I finished the book, I can only say that I only made a small improvement in my overall ability with direction of play.

As much as I would love to rain the book with accolades, I found the overall experience of the book to be laborious and not user-friendly. To start, it is not always clear which diagram is the correct answer to the problem. I know this sounds ridiculous, but there were numerous times where I read a diagram thinking it was the correct answer when it was not. The labelling was not consistent and it made for a confusing learning experience.

In addition, the translation of the book is what I would label as “understandable if you work at it.” In other words, there are times when you have to pause and try to rearrange words or replace grammatical structures in hopes of trying to understand what is being said. Example: “White 1 leaves rights and interests on the right side…” Huh? In addition, the overall tone of the book is very matter of fact. This is great if you already have a strong foundation of go, but completely bewildering if you a weaker player trying to understand what is going on. Some might say that this is the nature of translated work, but I think that’s just a load of BS.

So bottom line, I do not recommend this book for kyu players. Whole board thinking and direction of play is difficult as it is for kyu players, so it would a travesty if I let kyu players try and tackle this book only to be discouraged and have little to show for it at the end. It might be useful to dan players; but again, I cannot emphasize enough that the overall experience has a lot of room for improvement. You have been warned.


What did I enjoy about the book?

  • The primary content of the book utilizes a problem format.
  • The problems are from real games which adds to its practicality.
  • Satoru always includes a diagram to show how the problem arose from game play.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • A minor confident boost in direction of play.
  • A slightly better understanding of how to determine the direction of play.
  • Realization of just how little I know about direction of play.

What is the format of the book?

  • The first chapter consists of high level professional game commentary that I had a hard time following.
  • The rest of the content is structured as follows:

    • Diagram with directions on what you’re looking for.
    • A diagram that shows the course of the game and how the problem came about.
    • Usually about two to four variations and why they are wrong.
    • And somewhere in that mix is the correct answer.
    • A diagram or two with how the actual game proceeded afterwards.

What aspects can be improved on?

  • My biggest complaint is that the correct answer is not always obvious. Sometimes it’s very clear since the diagram is labelled “The Correct Direction,” but there are numerous times where you have to sort out what’s right and what’s wrong. In fact, there were a couple times I thought the diagram I was reading was the correct answer when it was not actually so.
  • The translation is very terse. I recognize that there is are difficulties when it comes to translating since you want to keep as much of the language as authentic as possible, but it made it difficult to read or understand at times.

Is this book easy to read?

  • No. Even though I’m a huge go enthusiast and English is my first language, I still found it rather laborious to work through this book. And to be clear, it’s not so much that the translation is difficult as a whole; but there are enough discreprancies here and there that it interferes with the overall experience of reading the book.

Bottom Line

  1. Appropriate for players who already have an understanding of direction of play.
  2. Translation makes the overall experience of the book more difficult which reduces the value of the book to kyu players.
  3. Recommended for dan players.
  • Players who already have an understanding of direction of play.
  • Dan players who are not too concerned with explanations since the moves more or less speak for themselves.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • GoGameGuru - $22.99 (shipping and handling not included)

Other Books in This Series…

  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 1: Perceiving the Direction of Play
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 2: Catching Scent of Victory
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 3: Otake’s Secrets of Strategy
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 4: Changing One’s Conceptions: Awaji’s Aphorisms
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 5: The Way of Creating a Thick and Strong Game
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 6: Zone Press Park
  • Heart of Go Series - Volume 7: Breakthrough Attacking Power Yamashita Style

Last Updated on October 13th, 2013