Customer Reviews: Learn to Play Go, Vol. 3: The Dragon Style
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on June 9, 2001
I learned(?) how to play Go 45 years ago. I've read all the beginners' books available in English, many in Japanese, and most of the advanced books in English. There is nothing better for learning than a good teacher -- the subtleties are "impossible" to discover by yourself. This series is as close as you can get to having an expert teacher right there with you. This is the book (series) I loan (or give) to friends who are interested in learning Go. Nothing is left out. The style of this series is intended to not be overwhelming to anyone interested. I think that the "Dummy" and "Complere Idiot" books are not really intended for dummies!!! - rather they are intended for people who don't yet have enough relevant background to appreciate books meant for "serious" students. With that understanding, this set of books really fills the bill. Plus lots of stuff to help the serious student understand this very interesting game -- easier to learn than chess, but harder to get good at.
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on August 25, 1999
Learn to play go series is good for beginner like me who doesn't know GO at all. Very easy to read and a real step by step book. Vol 1 teaches you the rule, Vol 2 teaches you basic skill and Vol 3 explain actual game and little tricks. I didn't read vol 4. The only thing that stop me from giving this series 5 star is: It will cost you more than $40 to buy all three books and you only need to spend arround $15 on other good beginner books such as "Lessons in Fundamentals of Go" and "The Magic of GO". If money is not a problem, it is a good choice.
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Having worked through the first two volumes of this series, the enterprising young player is anxious to start playing Go and stop reading about it. In addition, for some time and many players, that is sufficient. Certainly one has learned enough to live happily in the moment of conflict and capture, more than many players do. With concentration, comes a fair share of the victories and steady improvement.
Alas, this is not a perfect world. Go is a vast game, and few ever completely understand it. If a player is to improve, a time will come when he or she must study the game itself if they are to develop. Subtle bad habits of play become self destructive when facing stronger players. These latter also seem to have a magical ability to pull victory out of despair even under handicapping.
Now is the time to address the third volume 'The Dragon Style.' Despite the magical title, the purpose of this volume is to make a player aware if good and bad habits, and to begin to teach the fundamentals of strategy. To learn now one must begin to read. Read positions, read the games of others, sometimes even try to read minds. The majority of this book walks a play through several games in detail, carefully explaining the purposes of each move.
Really, this isn't hard work. With enough information to understand what each player is trying to do much can be learned from this study, It is, after all, far easier to see the whole game when it isn't the one you are playing right now. The problem, of course, is finding a source of games that are annotated intelligibly and enjoyably. Janice Kim and Jeong Soo-hyun provide some good examples. These will provide the basis for studying others.
There is nothing especially draconic about the 'dragon style.' It is sensible, thoughtful play that considers everything. Of course, this is easier to say than to accomplish. This book provides a good start along the path of reading games. If it has a failing, it is that it does not provide a list of good sources of games for study. Many are available, but not all analyses are suitable for all levels of players.
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VINE VOICEon March 24, 2005
I've been playing Go for two years, and I used to have weekly lessons from a high-ranking amateur. I read the first two books of Janice Kim's series when I was just beginning, and that was the right time.

I should've read this one at that time too. It's very basic. I agree with the reviewer who complained that the content was pretty slim. That's the point of view of a player with a bit of experience. If you're a beginner with a few extra bucks, this should be helpful for you. But if you're clever, or if you have some experience on the 19x19 board, I recommend skipping this one and moving on to "Basic Techniques of Go" or "The Second Book of Go." Those two books cover the same information, plus a lot more.

I read this book in one day, without a board, and there are only about two things I want to review later.

Tonight I'll start volume four...
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on May 3, 1999
After reading Kageyama's "Fundamentals..." I was a little disappointed with this series. I read volumes II and III and was surprised at how little substance there was: big pictures, big text, and lots of distracting doodles. Volume III talks about 7 deadly sins of go, yet I couldn't find them. Most of the book was devoted to reviewing a few games that took place between high-level players. Although this series might be great for the extreme novice, I'm disappointed that they stretched this material out into so many volumes.
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on November 24, 2011
The first part of this book is actually quite useful. In "seven dangers" and "eight secrets" the authors communicate some useful princibles of Go to the reader. There could have been much more tough.
After that the reader is treated to three different Go Plays, sketched out move for move and commentated upon by the authors. In princible this might be a very good idea since this could offer you a valuable insight into the minds of more experienced players. Actually tough, the comments leave much to be desired, sometimes leaving the reader puzzled as to why this particular move was good or bad. And sometimes the authors even ask the reader: "do you see why move X was neccessary?" If one can work it out, good. If not, well, the authors certainly didn't bother to tell.

At the end of this book is a self-test section. Various Situations on the Go board are presented and the reader has to work out the one right move. ... right. Well, after studying this book and the two that came before it in this series i once again wished the authors had done a better job in communicating the underlying foundations and princibles of Go playing to the reader. (The first book did actually quite good in explaining some tools and formations to the reader). Often the "correct" solutions are not thoroughly explained, reducing the learning effect close to zero.

I was left with thinking that the underlying ideas behind the book might have been quite sound and that the graphical representations were very good but that there was little substance.
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on October 2, 2006
This review is very general and it not intended to address specific concepts within the book.

The first two volumes of the series were quite good because 1) They dealt with basic concepts that beginners can understand, and 2) the author's writing style is well-suited for beginners who want to learn with minimal pain.

This third volume was definitely a case of diminishing returns for me. It isn't that what is said in this volume is unimportant, but the topics dealt with in this volume are not as intuitive. Moreover, once you reach a certain level, you are probably better off reading books that are totally devoted to specific topics, such as the opening, life and death, and tesuji.
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VINE VOICEon August 3, 2005
Its rather surprising that the authors were able to condense so many useful proverbs into a single volume. The explanations are carefully thought out and explained, and they aren't based off impossible or labyrinthian setups, but positions than can and, as I have seen myself, arise in actual games. The self-testing section at the end of the book is precise and helps to reinforce the lessons presented, and yet simple enough that you don't require a board of your own to lay the problems out on. And even upper level players(10-8 kyus) would find this book useful as refresher. It was quite surprising how many knee-jerk reactions even I had that were brought up at some point.

The only problem I had with this book were the games they chose to review to illustrate the points made earlier in the book. While the games were simple and straightforward, thats all they were. Quite honestly, if the author did not say at the beginning that these were professional level games, I would not have believed that they were. But as far as criticisms go, that pales in comparison to how much good this book can do for players.
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on March 3, 2012
This third book in the Learn to Play Go series, which is supposed to bring you to about the 10-12 kyu level, I did not find as useful as the first two books. We're now at the level where you need to learn practical strategy and tactics, and much of the book is a recitation of terms and some illustration of basic principles we already know. The most useful parts were probably the example games, but you really need to study a lot of those to get much out of them.

So, am I a 10-12 kyu player yet? Well, no, but you have to play a lot to gain the experience necessary to make use of the teachings of a book. I would say the first two books in this series are excellent, the third is worthwhile.
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VINE VOICEon September 13, 2013
As you can see by my rating, I have mixed emotions about this volume. Let me start with the bad points. The first part of the book goes over Seven Dangers and Eight Secrets, which would be a good idea if the instruction was at the level it should have been. In this section we just get an enumeration of this we should and shouldn't do when playing. The comments are really brief and do not really go much above and beyond what we already received in the previous volumes. I have actually read a book that is much better at conveying this same concepts, especially the misconceptions beginners usually have about the game. If you are interested in that specific topic you should check out "How Not to Play Go" by Yuan Zhou. This book has clear examples as to what to avoid and is very good instruction.

Anyway, back to this book, the parts I liked were the commented games. The second part of the book presents three commented games and these have a pretty high instructional value. Two of them are handicapped games and we get to see a little bit about the strategy to use in these games, which is very useful to the beginner since in many cases she will be playing black with some kind of handicap. The other game is an even game between two professionals. Even though it is a rather complex game, the authors focus on explaining the major aspects to the reader and do a very good job at that.

The book ends with a test similar to the one presented in volume 2. To summarize, the reason why I am giving this book only 3 stars is that I feel that the first part was the result of a lazy effort and was there just as an excuse to say they were giving the beginner more insights. There is not value in that, the games are the meat of this book, and in that part, I would have given a 4 star rating.
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