Magic on the First Line

BGJ 152 Summer 2010

Reviewer: Tony Atkins

by Nakayama Noriyuki

ISBN 1-932001-48-4

As I have mentioned previously I nowadays only buy books where I know the author. I first met Nakayama-sensei in 1985 at the European Go Congress in Terschelling, Netherlands. I was much taken with his enthusiasm for the game and much regretted not forking out for the expensive hardback edition of his first book in English, The Treasure Chest Enigma. I was later delighted when Slate and Shell reprinted it in paperback and so was pleased to see them translating and producing another book by the enthusiastic Japanese professional.

As often is the case with Slate and Shell books, it is rather on the slim size, but this helps keep the price to an affordable level, unlike some of their more beefy offerings. However it is packed with material that will delight and amaze you and I think is worth every penny of its twelve pound price.

The cover is bright green and quite why there is a rabbit sitting on a Go stone is beyond me. The rabbit isn't even sitting on the first line of the stone's shell pattern! Anyway get past that and you find a well laid out book with an easy to read style; I must congratulate Robert McGuigan (translator) and Bill Cobb (editor) for their efforts.

There are four main chapters. The first three are problems split by level of difficulty, 90 in all, and the fourth chapter consists of key parts of four famous historic games, that involve stunning edge moves. The book claims if you can do all the problems correctly then you are dan level, which must be true as, even with a three dan certificate, I would often only come up with second best line in the answer. There are two problems on each page and at least two diagrams of answer to each overleaf. There is one bonus section which is one of Nakayama's ladder problems, inserted to show the importance of reading.

As the title suggests the book is all about the strange things that happen because of that missing liberty when a stone is played on the first line (edge) of the board. The answer to every problem is a move on the edge, but usually there are several possible choices of edge move. In one position the answer sequence involves four moves, all on the edge.

There are all sorts of problems involving making eyes, taking eyes, increasing liberties, removing liberties, playing under the stones, avoiding or making ko, capturing and connecting. But each seems to be impossible until you see the beauty of an edge play that makes it all possible.

Magic on the First Line is an excellent book and one I recommend to have on your bookshelf. However unfortunately, this time sadly, I cannot recommend you personally get to know the author.

Published by Slate and Shell code SL70.

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