Reading is your worst enemy: get that Tesuji book (by J. Davies)

This is an advice for 6k to 12k players who never invested time on the reading side besides when playing games.

Tesuji is a jewel a priceless book because it’s one of the very few to take the time to show you in details the fundamental tesujis, shape and brilliant moves which will give solidity to your go architectures.

But it shouldn’ t be wasted by a quick reading. In my opinion, by its content, it’s a very good tool to introduce you to reading go problems.

Put aside the first introducing chapter. This one is like a MonaLisa example that you can appreciate but won’t paint it yourself. It’s fun, read it like an incentive
Real thing comes next. So from here take it seriously. Don’t read the book like going to see a movie. Read it like a go player.

Take that board you like (wood or screen)

Look the first diagram, reproduce it on the board.

Leave the stones in the bowl or your hand away from the mouse. Don’t read any text.

If you failed, close the book and come back later when you think you can succeed.

Now look at the position and search. Where will i play? Is it good working? Give yourself a few minutes.

Then read what the book wants to tell you. If you failed it’s ok. Anyway the author was going to show you something.

Now for the next exercises do the same, search but this time be sure to not fail. You ll be surprised it’s not that difficult. The explanation in the first diagram is useful for that.

Repeat and rinse all along the book. Search every diagram in your head before any help. Help is useless.

And the next surprise could be,that you get fun and even better games coming on.

That’s all folks, Happy gaming!

Tesuji a book by James Davies original edition by Ishi Press in the elementary go series

reprinted by Kiseido publishing company

I prefer the old one with its picture, don’t you?


I was wondering what Go book to read next. I think we have a winner :grin:

1 Like

I found tesuji more valuable than tsumego because tesuji appear very frequently, whereas if I’m in a life and death situation, someone has messed up badly.


I’ve heard it said that studying tesuji and shape alone can get you to 1 dan :man_shrugging:


Don’t confuse “someone got to 1 dan by studying tesuji and shape alone” and “studying tesuji and shape alone will take anyone to 1 dan”…

Anyway I like Davis’ book too and read it 3-4 times (i.e. solved every problem 3-4 times), however the number of tesujis presented there is limited so much more studying is needed.


Absolutly. As i said

With the most adequate player (weak reader around low sdk) a jump of two or three levels won’t be surprising, my guess.

But to go to one dan is another story which requires more as just progress in tesuji and shapes.

1 Like

Aren’t Tsumego just “go puzzles” in general? There are Tsumego for L&D sure, but there are also Tesuji, endgame, Semeai etc. Most of the Tsumego collections and apps I know have them sorted by these categories. So doing Tsumego does not mean doing L&D problems exclusively.


Confusingly, the term “tsumego” traditionally refers to life and death problems but these days is often used to refer to go problems in general. Therefore, meaning usually has to be inferred from the context.


Tsumego is referring to life and death problems unless a Japanese native player contradict me

Tesuji is something like good well placed move maybe even not obvious.
It’s a different perspective as Tsumego, you can have Tsumego in tesuji and tesuji in Tsumego.

In the Nihon Kiin dictionary of tesuji, Fujisawa Shuko 9p propose a very large and inclusive definition of tesuji (and then the dictionary covers much more as what we usually expect: in many English go books tesuji problems are simply the ones who are not Tsumego)


I’m not Japanese but I use tsumego to refer to all types of go problems not just life and death.

“Similarly, tsumeshogi refers to shogi mating problems. Perhaps the shogi term came first, where the king is contained and killed, and came to mean life and death in go by analogy.”

This makes sense as a reasoning for the overlap between the meanings of tsumego and life&death.

However, “tsume means abbreviated or compressed in this case. It shares the same root as -tsum- in damezumari but even in the case of tsumaru/tsumeru the meaning is one of compressing the space available, packing something in” makes me think “tsumego” just means “compressed go” which would include all types of problems.


He i should always check SL…
Well they do assume the same shared common meaning that tsumego=L&D

But it has come to mean life and death problems.

and that the meaning by ethymology could be wider. I’m not completly wrong. The ethymology is indeed interesting, like a concept of a part of a goban (vs a move for tesuji)

Another very nice book by James Davies is “Life and Death”, which is volume 4 in the same series of books as “Tesuji”. It focuses more on common life and death patterns, but it presented in a similar way. Each chapter introduces a concept and then reinforces and elaborates upon that concept with a set of related problems.


It is also notable that James Davies is an amateur (according to Sensei’s Library, he has reached amateur 5 dan in Japan), whereas many Go books are written by professional players.

Arguably, he is the most successful, by far, of Go book authors, in English at least, among amateur players.


In life and death, J. Davies put a lot of effort to publish a “cartesian” study of basic shapes from the simpliest, growing their characteristics.
This kind of approach will certainly encounter some success with the rationality of westerners and i know players who were very happy to tell me something like the L+1 is ko, L+2 alive…
Some will even consider this book as their favorite.
Well that’s not my case as i feel a bit anecdotic to acquire this knowledge for my games even if i guess sometimes it can help. I still fully understand the interest some players have in it.


Does he not have professional co-author on some of his books?

1 Like

Yes, I think most of his books are with professional co-authors, however, “Tesuji” and “Life and Death” list only him as the author.


I think it’s important to be able to find what you enjoy in the games and focus on that.

I know players that love fighting and just do that. Some that really love endgame and try to get to endgame asap by playing super safe and not invading or complicating the game, and so on. Those examples are eboth Dan level, and they kinda suck at other parts of the game, but that’s ok. They excel at what they enjoy.

I personally hate doing life and death puzzles, and the whole “read until you can’t read any more, then read some more” brute forcing method. It was not enjoyable. It was a chore.

But I obviously knew of the importance of life and death in games, and knowing the security of a group. So I worked around that issue by integrating the following into how I play

If I have no weak groups, I can play however I want and not worry about life and death. If my opponent has weak groups, then they are the ones who have to read and do life and death problems.

This isn’t exactly some unfounded hatred of life and death either, I genuinely have memory problems and I only know a handful of basic joseki. I found a lot more success from memorizing shapes and moves, and thinking “what shape looks best for both players, and what is the sequence I need to ensure my shapes look good?” Whatever my opponent makes is up to him, but my priority is my own shapes.

So the idea that “reading is your worst enemy” really does apply to me since I hate reading.


That’s a bit weird because when elaborating your shapes and moves, you consider your opponent moves too. I got still a similar feeling so maybe it’s just a confession that we should care more on the possibilities at their disposal?

1 Like

So ideally we both make good shapes. We cut the pie in half.

Some say the trick is to cut the pie so that your slice looks smaller but is actually bigger.

Some say the goal is to mash the pie up and make such a mess your opponent doesn’t know what to do.

I think of it as we each make a slice to the best of our ability, but that I can only control my own life skills. If I suck at cutting, then if my opponent is good at cutting pies I’m already at a disadvantage.

So when I read out a sequence, I try and find something that we both want and are enticed by, and go for that. If my opponent plays worse than the best I could find for them, then I’m at an advantage. All j have to do is just play what I found to be good for me and I’m happy.

Keep in mind that sequence doesn’t have to be “mutually safe”. It can be an invasion, a severe cut, etc. But if my opponent doesn’t play that severe cut, then I fix the cut. If my opponent doesn’t fix the severe cut, then I cut. If my opponent fixes the cut then it plays out just as I wanted it do and I can move on to thinking about something else.


Maybe i can put it in some other words. When i watch actively stronger players games i feel that i lack sometimes of ambition or i lack a bigger figure. My idea is not that wrong just too focused in a small way.
Something around was in that ’ best advice you got’ topic where someone said it’s not good to have zero weakness, which goes against my own logic at first.