Book Review: Basic Techniques of Go

Basic Techniques of Go

Description: This book can be considered a broad coverage of the following: opening principles, lots of handicap go advice, brief survey of tesujis, and a brief survey of endgame. The material is quite dense and contrary to what many descriptions say about this book, I vehemently disagree with the recommending this book for beginners. It is suited for intermediate to advanced players. Beginners steer clear of this book!

Book Details

Title, Basic Techniques of Go
Author, Haruyama Isamu 9P and Nagahara Yoshiaki 6P
Edited by, Richard Bozulich
Publisher, Kiseido
Published, “First Printing, Feb. 1969 | Tenth Printing, Nov. 2002”
Language, English
ISBN, 4-906574-02-5
Length, 172 Pages

Table of Content

  • Preface to the Third Edition
  • Technial Terms
  • Chapter One
    • Principles of Even-Game Openings
      • Opening Moves
      • Corner Enclosures
      • Approach Moves
      • Proper Timing of Enclosures, Approach Moves, and Extensions
      • How to Play Handicap Go
  • Chapter Two
    • The Nine-Stone Handicap and the Attach-and-Extend Joseki
  • Chapter Three
    • Six Stone Handicap Opening Strategy
      • White’s Capping Strategy
      • Invading the Sides
  • Chapter Four
    • Four-Stone Handicap and the One-Space Jump Joseki
    • The One-Space Jump in Four-Stone Handicap Openings
      • The Pincer
      • Double Approach Moves
      • Double Pincer
      • The Attachment
      • Capping
      • The Invasion
  • Chapter Five

    • A Survey of Tesuji
      • Tesuji Problems
      • Answer to the Tesuji Problems
  • Chapter Six

    • The Endgame
      • Counting the Size of a Territory
      • Sente Endgame
      • Coutning the Size of an Endgame Play
      • Endgame Tesujis
      • Endgame Problems
  • Appendix

Before I Read This Book…

I bought this book way back when I started go. I felt like I was completely lost when I first tried to read it, so here I am a couple years later trying to read it once more. What I was expecting when I bought it was a book on a broad coverage of techniques one would find with go. Now that I am much stronger and more experienced, I am still hoping for a survey of techniques along with clarification on their usage.

My Review

When I first opened this book, I was a little surprised to be greeted by a chapter on opening theory. After all, this is a book on technique is it not? I recognize that selecting the correct opening move is a “technique” in a sense, but in my mind I was thinking more along the lines of haengma (i.e., the movement of the stones) or something else.

With that aside though, the first chapter does cover quite a bit regarding the opening. While this is good in one sense, I still found it to be a bit dense and cannot imagine any beginner trying to work through this and achieve much success.

And the next thing I know, the book is going full blown into handicap go coverage. All I could think when I kept reading was, “EH?!” I understand that these handicap go principles and techniques being described might seem “basic,” but even as a single digit kyu, even I was raising my eyebrows as I was trying to figure out what was going on. The diagrams were often rather complicated and required multiple readings just to get a sense of what was going on. After you work through a rather substantial amount of handicap go material, you finally get to the tesuji section.

Here, I finally got a sense of what I was hoping for. A broad survey of different techniques used in different situations. With each tesuji, there is a brief explanation along with an example and an obvious variation or two that players might question. So while some of the material in here was a bit advanced and hard to grasp based on simple reading, this felt more like the book I was looking for when purchasing this book. And for those wondering about the problems, they are overall intermediate level and not very beginner friendly.

For the last chapter, the reader is introduced to the importance of endgame. And while I would consider myself to at least be moderately versed when it comes to endgame, this was a rather tough section for me to work through. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who had little to no exposure on endgame. Definitely not an easy chapter at all.

Overall, I would divide the book into the following categories: 10% Opening Principles, 40% Handicap Go, 30% Tesuji, and 20% Endgame. And as such, I find that it is not quite aptly named as “Basic Techniques of Go” since there was far more handicap go than I think is appropriate for beginners. And not to mention, what about life and death? That deserves attention in here as well if it is going to be titled “Basic Techniques of Go.”

In regards to its overall difficulty, it really does feel as if the reader needs to already have a decent grasp of the material in order to truly understand and digest the contents of this book. To be clear though, I am by no means saying that the content in this book is bad. Quite the contrary in fact, there is a lot of information considering how short the book is. It’s just that its rather dense for beginner/intermediate players.

So if you fall into the category of beginner/intermediate players looking to get stronger, I do not recommend this book for you. Instead, I recommend checking out the Mastering the Basics series from Kiseido as a better alternative.


What did I enjoy about the book?

  • There is a lot of information on handicap go.
  • They did do a pretty nice job surveying some common tesuji.
  • There were problems to accompany the tesuji and endgame section.

What did I gain from reading this book?

  • Due to the dense material, I can’t say I really gained anything from this first reading.

What aspect(s) can be improved on?

  • In all honesty, I don’t feel that it would be very fair for me to criticize the book at the moment since I feel that its content is generally out of reach for me. The one thing I will say is that the title is a little misleading to the unsuspecting player. Otherwise, I will save my comments for when I am able to better comprehend the book.

Is this book easy to read?

  • As a mid to high single digit kyu, I felt that it was rather difficult to read due to the level of discussion that occurred in the book. However, if one could easily follow the level of content in this book, the English is rather straightforward and should be pretty easy to work through.

Bottom Line

  1. Content is essentially 10% opening principles, 40% handicap go, 30% tesuji, and 20% endgame.
  2. Better suited to players already familiar with the content in the book. In other words, NOT for beginners.
  3. If you’re a beginner/intermediate player looking to get stronger, check out the Mastering Basics series instead.
  • Intermediate/advanced players looking for additional material to study.

Where Can I Buy It?

  • Kiseido - $18 (shipping and handling not included)
  • SmartGo Books - $8.99 (iOS Devices Only)

Last Updated on November 3rd, 2013