New Go Proverbs Illustrated

American e-Journal review, republished by permission of the American Go Association

Reviewer: Philip Waldron

ISBN 0-889554-98-7

Whether in life or in go, common sayings and wisdom are recorded in the form of proverbs. In the go world, these memorable truths were initially recorded in Segoe Kensaku's “Go Proverbs Illustrated”. Additional material has been added over the years by several authors, culminating in the recent “New Go Proverbs Illustrated”. Putting to use his extensive experience teaching beginners, author Milton N. Bradley provides twenty-five new proverbs for the kyu-level player.

My first impression was that it's getting harder to find good proverbs. Whereas those presented in earlier books were fairly straightforward (“There is death in the hane”), many of the latest proverbs operate at a much more nuanced and strategic level. The principle that five liberties defeats most tesuji is solid enough, and “Stay away from thickness” is always a good idea, but we are also counseled to “Conserve your aji” and “Seek multi-purpose moves”. Reasonable advice, certainly, but perhaps a little difficult for the aspiring shodan to put into practice.

Target audience aside, books with good advice backed with appropriate examples are always worthwhile, but regretfully this was not to be. Examples were often of questionable value and the positional analysis contained too many unacceptable mistakes. One situation in White is one move away from disaster is labeled as unplayable for Black, while elsewhere a demonstrably unfavourable corner sequence is blessed as joseki. While some examples were certainly accurate, separating the wheat from the chaff is a task beyond the abilities of a kyu-level reader. Indeed, a diligent student may well find himself trying to forget many of the book's lessons when trying to advance beyond shodan. Overall, the book left the impression that the author was presenting topics that were simply beyond his depth.

New Go Proverbs Illustrated is at best a mediocre addition to the English-language go literature. Advice of similar quality can be found in the kibitz rooms of any online go server and won't cost a dime. This book might be useful in leveling a wobbly goban, but otherwise is best avoided.

New Go Proverbs Illustrated is available from Yutopian Enterprises (

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