Book Review: “Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go” by Toshiro Kageyama

At first I was hesitant to buy Toshiro Kageyama’s Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, but now I regret not reading it years ago. The book immediately explains why players may experience barriers to their improvement in Go (a lack of understanding of “the fundamentals”) and goes on to remedy this in many easily understandable chapters, while also discussing the philosophy of the game and “the correct way to study.” Kageyama’s humour and writing style make the book not only an invaluable resource for Go players of all levels, but also a thoroughly entertaining read.

After my first few days of studying from the book, I was surprised and delighted that it was unlike many other Go books I had read. Rather than a book which consists entirely of confusing diagrams and explanations, Kageyama makes a connection with the reader through stories from his own experience with Go. Among other things he writes of movies, baseball games, and a lima bean recipe, somehow making each side story relevant to the subject matter. By the time I had finished reading Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go I almost felt like I had personally known Toshiro Kageyama as a friend and a Go teacher; it is that kind of communication with the reader which contributes to any good book.

Of course, the book does cover many technical aspects of Go. Kageyama explains the difference between professionals and amateurs, and illustrates the professional way of thinking in a method that is very easy to understand. Just five minutes into the first chapter I had completely changed the way I thought about something so apparently simple as ladders! The book includes material on many aspects of the game, from Ladders and Nets (Chapter 1) to Life and Death (Chapter 6) to Endgame Pointers (Chapter 11). It also explains useful concepts such as “The Stones Go Walking” (Chapter 3) and “The Struggle to Get Ahead” (Chapter 4) which many weaker players (myself included!) may not have seriously thought about before. A full listing of the contents can be found on Sensei’s Library.

I enjoyed the appendix, which contains Kageyama’s commentary of his 1965 victory against Rin Kaiho who at the time held the Meijin (lit. “Brilliant Man”) title. Rather than the common approach to game commentary of exploring different variations at key parts of the game, Kageyama simply and effectively communicates his feelings and thought process throughout the game (similar to “Malkovich” games seen on the L19 forums), telling it much like a story while still educating the reader. This is what I loved about the whole book: rather than memorization of complicated diagrams, you seem to “absorb” the teachings gradually as you progress through it.

Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go is not filled with long sequences and numerous variations of different patterns. In that sense, it is probably not an ideal reference book. Rather it is a generalized guide to the discipline and proper mindset of studying the game, which is something I would recommend to anyone who wishes to improve – especially before reading more advanced books on specific topics.

You can understand why Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go was among the favourite books of AGA E-Journal readers. When I finished reading the book I was surprised that my method of thinking about Go had completely transformed. Over the past two months I have improved by two stones on KGS, and I owe much of that improvement to Toshiro Kageyama and Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go.The book contains 22 years of Toshiro Kageyama’s personal Go experience, and he shares his immense passion for the game through entertaining stories and practical advice. It is Kageyama’s excellent ability to simultaneously educate and entertain the reader that will make me read this book again many times.


One Response to “Book Review: “Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go” by Toshiro Kageyama”

  1. It is the first GO book I ever bought, back in 1986, and I have read it several times since then… Each time, I get new insight from it. 🙂 I think I have even subconsciously mirrored Kageyama’s approach to teaching from this work.

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