Once in a while, a really good book will appear. In Go, the book that I am talking about now is KAMAKURA by John Fairbairn. The book is about the 10 Game (Jubango) between the two legendary Go players of our time, Kitani Minoru (featured in Kawabata’s novel “The Master of Go”) and Go Seigen (featured in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s film “The Go Master”). This jubango at Kamakura is also a legendary event. Besides the historical and cultural significance that it implies, it is also a contest between two of the top players in the world (at that time) and between two good friends.
The book by John Fairbairn not only gave a superb introduction to each of the players as well as a superb write up to the events and history leading to the Kamakura games (trust me, it is really excellent), what he did in the game commentary is simply amazing. We have all read and seen game commentaries where good moves and alternative moves etc. are discussed, with various diagrams. What John added was not only the surrounding background and sometimes the time the players took to think (so that we know that a move was thought over by a player for 30 minutes, for example), he also recorded the conversation between Go Seigen and Kitani. You you actually know what they are thinking and talking to each other.
This is just like our normal games that we play with friends, i.e. we play a move and then chat about it. Despite the enormous impact of the Kamakura games, the two players still chat like friends, talking about the game openly while the game is in progress, revealing their thoughts and strategy, not after the game ended! This shows how great these two guys really are.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Go Seigen and Kitani, especially so the historical background in the their times leading to and including the Kamakura games. Also of course, you will learn about the games, get an in-depth look at the moves, sometimes blow-by-blow. But above all, it is a story about these two go geniuses.
However, if you are just interested purely in go techniques, new openings, new josekis, etc. the Korean books such as “21st Century New Openings” by Kim Sung-Rae will be very much suitable and good.
For me, I think I can read Kamakura over and over again but I still have trouble getting through the first 20 pages of Kim Sung-Rae’s book. That probably explains why I am still so weak at go ;-)
Please accept my highest recommendation for KAMAKURA by John Fairbairn. It will be a classic in the league of John Power’s INVINCIBLE, the games of Shusaku.