Guide to Go / Baduk / Weiqi Books

by Sorin Gherman

This page contains reviews of the Go books I read, so you can have some guidelines before going on a shopping spree.

I provide here links to the books available online from, whenever possible. There may be cheaper places to buy these online, so it is a good idea to shop around before actually buying - check the list of specialized Go books vendors at the end of this page.

Introductory books

Go for Beginners

This is the classical introductory Go book. Very well rated at Amazon, so it must be still very popular.

Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game

Another very good introductory Go book.

Absolutely-must-read books

Lessons in the fundamental of Go

This is the best technical English Go book I know of. Fundamentals are equally important to both beginners and advanced players: the vast majority of the errors we make are due to the fact that we forgot about the fundamentals of Go. Follow this link for a detailed review of this book.

Attack and Defense

Another essential book in the collection of any serious Go student. It teaches about attack and defense, and when each one is appropriate, by examples and then through problems. In the vast majority of cases, amateurs tend to over-attack, and underestimate the need for defense.

The Endgame

The last stage in a complete Go game is usually pretty boring, since there are less and less places to fight for, and the fights are smaller and smaller - the last one is many times a half-point fight in the final ko. How can this be worth studying? Well, trust me, it is: in yose, one can easily revert a 20 points loss, if the opponent doesn't play yose well. Yose is a lot about resisting the urge to defend everywhere, and instead threatening to do an equal damage to your opponent. It also teaches you a lot about the relative value of moves on a small scale - and that helps in estimating moves on a larger scale as well.

Books that "increase your appetite" for Go

These are in general not technical books (or not just technical), but more focused on what Go is about from a cultural or historical perspective. I love these books, they constitute a great motivator for one's Go career.

The treasure chest enigma: A Go miscellany

This is a collection of Go essays by "the amateur professional" Nakayama Noriyuki. A lovely book, and a must read for everybody who wants to understand the spirit of Go, not only the technique.

The Master of Go

This is not a technical Go book, but a semi-fictional one, based on true professional Go players: it's about the "game of the 20th century", when the old master Honinbo Shusai lost to the young master Kitani Minoru, marking the modernisation of Go in Japan.

400 years of Go in Japan

This is a great book about the history of Go in Japan. While the history of Go is much longer than that, it's these past 400 years when Go developed a lot, once it became one of the main arts in feudal Japan so that the best Go players were playing "castle games" in front of the Shogun. The book covers that period and the transition of Go into the 20th century.

Reading the book while replaying the most famous games from each historical period is a great cultural experience.

Go problems

Graded Go problems for beginners

Excellent series of books with Go problems. Any other source of problems is good, of course, but this one conveniently groups problems for different ranks in a series. I highly recommend it.

Igo Hatsuyo-ron, Classical Life and Death Problems

This is the mother of all Go problems collections. Several hundred years old problems, really complicated, professionals study them regularly and still find new variations.

Commented games

Invincible: the games of Shusaku

This is a collection of games of the most famous Go players in history, Honinbo Shusaku. All professional Go players in Japan have studied Shusaku's games at some point in their career. The name of Shusaku should be well known to all serious Hikaru-no-Go fans (even if they don't play Go), since, as the story goes, Shusaku was "the previous Hikaru", in other words Sai's spirit was communicating to the young Shusaku as well as he did with Hikaru - only a few hundred years back in time.

Appreciating Famous Games

Another book that I liked a lot; there are several in-depth commented, famous games from the history of Go. It covers many historical stages, so it's also very interesting to see how Go evolved in time. This book is lovely written, and it is also fascinating to follow the traditions and drama around a top match in Japan: it shows why Go can be much more than just a game.

The 1971 Honinbo Tournament

This is also one of my favorite books (maybe because I studied it a lot early on in my Go career). It contains extensive game analysis from one of top 3 annual professional titles in Japan, the Honinbo, from 1971. The winner was Ishida Yoshio, and all of his games (qualification plus the actual title) are here.

Other Go books

These are Go books that don't fit into any of the categories above.

All About Thickness

This is a book by Ishida Yoshio - see the review for "The 1971 Honinbo Tournament" - and it's very nice. It presents thickness in a visual, easy to follow way.

The Direction of Play

This is a book by Takeo Kajiwara, who was a famous professional Go player in Japan. Besides being very strong, he is best known as a theoretician and artist of the Japanese Go - not concerned with winning, but with finding the best possible move always. Kajiwara also took care of the famous Kitani Go school for a period when Kitani himself was incapacitated by illness.

Positional Judgment

This book teaches us how to quickly estimate a global position and decide what to do next based on that, which is a very important technical skill to have especially in competitive Go.

Beauty and the Beast: Exquisite Play and Go Theory

This dan-level book is about applying the Go theory into practice, with examples from the Chinese professional Go scene.

Basic Techniques of Go

This book is pretty famous because it was one of the first English books with Japanese authors. I must confess that I am not too excited about the fact that it focuses too much on handicap game joseki instead of principles of play, and reading this without the guidance of an experienced teacher may result in one getting a lot of rigid ideas that are hard to "unlearn" later.