Dictionary of Basic Joseki

American e-Journal review, republished by permission of the American Go Association

Reviewer: Philip Waldron

Whatever their playing strength, every go player been caught in an unknown joseki sequence and found themselves wondering whether the game would be over before the opening was finished. After the game, it is common practice to consult a joseki dictionary to avoid being swindled again in the future. In the English-speaking world, Ishida Yoshio’s Dictionary of Basic Joseki collection has served as the definitive joseki reference for almost thirty years. Often simply called “Ishida”, this three-volume work surveys josekis arising from the most common corner openings, and covers all major variations known in the 1970s.

While no joseki dictionary can hope to cover all of the thousands of possible variations, the authors of this collection have done a superb job pruning away obscure sequences that are rarely played. This leaves enough space for a further analysis of mistakes and trick plays, as well as examples from actual games. Future development from the resulting positions is also discussed, although this tends to be more the exception than the rule. The amount and level of analysis appears to be most suitable for players who have reached the single-digit kyu level. Beginners may find themselves overwhelmed, and it might be more useful to start with a simpler reference such as Kiseido’s “38 Basic Joseki.”.

While it was a complete reference when it was published, the Ishida collection is showing its age. Professional opinion about many variations has changed in the past thirty years, and new sequences are constantly being invented and refined. This is most obvious in the sections devoted to pincers around the star-point, which is dated enough to be almost completely irrelevant. This is unfortunate considering how important these sequences are to modern go.

Whatever its drawbacks, all three volumes of the Dictionary of Basic Joseki are a must-have for all serious go players. They remain the most complete joseki collection available to Westerners and for that reason alone are worth having on the bookshelf.

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