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The Palace of Memory - Janice Kim, Michael Samuel, Jeong Soo-Hyun The first four volumes of Learn to Play Go were mostly written by Janice Kim's mentor, Jeong Soo-hyun, and translated into English by Kim. This fifth and final volume was written mostly by Kim, and is a sort of capstone to the series.


Pros are so conditioned to make the sente play, that we usually ignore the possibility of making the one point larger gote play. I've had the curious misfortune to actually have the one-in-a-thousand game where I lost by half a point on Korean national television because of this, which makes it worthy of inclusion in my Palace of Memory. But the real take-away conclusion is that you should be playing the sente endgame move 999 times out of 1000.


When I started (re)reading the Learn to Play Go series a few months ago, the above would have made no sense to me. After finishing volume five (the last in the series), it is perfectly clear, though my ability to spot sente and gote moves is still very primitive. However, all of the situations illustrated in The Palace of Memory were clear enough for me to follow, though I did have to actually set out stones on a board and work through some of the moves to convince myself that I understood it.

So, everything I complained about regarding the previous volumes, particularly the otherwise very good volume four, was addressed in volume five. This is a book for a beginner at the end of basic training and ready to start learning the intermediate aspects of the game, aspects I can now dimly and imperfectly sense.

The chapter Opening Guides, what I most needed help with, was probably the most valuable part of this book for me. Kim advises players not to study joseki (standard opening patterns) intensively until you reach the dan level, and instead to learn the basic principles that apply to the more usual openings. She goes through the most common corner plays and how to secure a corner, how to approach an unbalanced corner, and sketches out the usual responses to approaches. These are things it will take me a lot of play to get fixed in my head, but now at least I have an idea of what to do, instead of playing vaguely/semi-randomly in the area of the star points.

There is also an Endgame guide, almost equally valuable, explaining how to spot the biggest moves to make in the endgame, and mistakes to watch out for. Kim also introduces the basics of point-counting, which is to say, figuring out on the fly which of several possible moves is actually worth more total points. This is something pros can do in their heads with ease, so that they keep a pretty accurate running total of the score at any given time, whereas for a less experienced player, you're doing well just to be able to figure out where to play to get more points, especially when there's a tempting group of stones you can capture but it turns out that edging into an unsecured corner will be worth more overall.

So, overall, The Palace of Memory was excellent, never going over my head, but containing enough instruction that actually assimilating it and putting it all into my "palace of memory" is going to take awhile.

I can also say that I'm now whupping Many Faces of Go (almost) every time, usually by a huge margin. Whereas when I started on volume one of Learn to Play Go, I was winning 50% of the time or less. So, there's clear evidence of the effectiveness of these books. The entire series is meant for beginners, and now I feel like (after playing a lot more go) I'll benefit from some more advanced books.

All that being said, why I am only giving volume five 4 stars? Because, unfortunately, the proofreading for this book was terrible compared to the previous volumes. Typos in the text I could forgive, but there were not just one or two but in almost every chapter a board diagram that was mislabeled, missing moves, or in at least one case, the same diagram was accidentally printed twice in a row, when the second one was supposed to be the alternative move. Needless to say, this made some of the explanations very confusing; in most cases, I was able to figure out what the sequence was supposed to be, but a couple of the diagrams were just useless. Since this was the third printing of this book, I'm not happy about finding so many errors in a book for beginners.

This volume is not for total beginners, but if you've worked your way through the previous books in this series, it's definitely worth reading. It's the biggest volume in the series and it's packed with useful stuff for the high-kyu ranked player who can now understand more than the basic basics. But, be aware of all the (annoying) printing errors.