Patterns of the Sanrensei
By Michael Redmond, 9 Dan
Book review of both print and SmartGo Books formats
By Robert Huang, AGA 6 kyu, KGS 4 kyu
Copy of print version provided by Slate & Shell
SmartGo eBook version provided by Smart Go, Inc.
Prerequisite reading: Attack and Defense
By Yoshio Ishida and James Davies.
Study companion: The Power of the Star Point: The Sanrensei Opening
By Shukaku Takagawa.
Although I have passing familiarity with the sanrensei opening, I had not previously studied sanrensei fuseki and joseki patterns. Reviewing the book has allowed me to read and learn in a systematic and strategic fashion. I also highly recommend having a board set up to review the games in print.
A word of caution is warranted. This book is appropriately classified as pro game commentary. It does not target beginners as its audience. The book is geared toward low dan and single digit kyu players with basic understanding of attack and defense strategies. Although the book does review six idealized sanrensei fuseki patterns, it is not meant to be a comprehensive exposition of sanrensei joseki. I highly recommend using The Power of the Star Point by Shukaku Takagawa (if you can get your hands on a copy; unfortunately, it is out of print) or another basic sanrensei textbook as a study companion for more comprehensive review of the sanrensei and nirensei josekis.
The book is divided into two sections. The first section presents six main patterns used in the sanrensei fuseki. The second section is Michael’s personal commentary of his own games.
Patterns of the Sanrensei begins with a survey of six basic sanrensei fuseki patterns. It is meant to be a short review of the optimal sanrensei opening strategy. Within the first twenty-seven pages, Michael does a yeoman’s job of explaining the rationale for optimal opening in the sanrensei, and exploring common mistakes in the opening that are inconsistent with the sanrensei strategy. The optimal variations are thoroughly explored. The underlying assumption is that white has strategically allowed black to play sanrensei and will invade within black’s sphere of influence.
Patterns of the Sanrensei is primarily a collection of twenty professional games played by Michael Redmond in which the sanrensei fuseki was used. It is refreshing to see games in which the sanrensei is used both by him and against him. The twenty games include games against Michael’s contemporary rivals during his professional career, as well as well-known personalities, such as Sakata Eio, O Meien, and the “Natural style” Takemiya Masaki.
Each game begins with a brief introduction of the historical context and summary of the playing style of his opponents. His commentary of each game is aptly focused on the unifying theme of the sanrensei strategy. Each game delves into the strategic thinking behind both black and white, moves and counter moves, respectively. The proper and mistake variations are detailed and exquisitely described.
The reader is taken through his thought process move by move. He describes his opening strategy, illustrates the proper follow through in the middle game, and demonstrates why a particular move is considered the strongest move. He thoroughly reviews the incorrect variations, as well. As the theme of the book is on sanrensei strategy, his commentary is appropriately abundant and deliberate during the opening and middle-game fighting, and typically ends with the endgame, although the entire game is presented.
HARDCOPY VERSUS SMARTGO
Although the text and diagrams are mostly the same between the print version and the SmartGo eBook version, there are significant differences between the SmartGo eBook version and the print version. For some reason, the print version is missing the game and player information at the beginning of the game. [The game info is there, but it's presented as a paragraph of text rather than a list, and games 5 and 11 don't give Yoda Norimoto's last name. – AK] This is not a terrible hinderance to the review and study of the games. This is assuming that you are able to have a go study room to review the games.
Having the SmartGo eBook version is truly a godsend. I am able to easily review variations played back on my iPad without having to physically set up my go board. If I so choose, I can play the main game physically and the variations on the iPad. I was able to finish the SmartGo version of the book within three weeks.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to fully complete the review of all of the games using the hardcopy version of the book as of this writing. The logistics of having a go board set-up with a half-played game for any extended length of time with children in the house is nearly impossible.
I highly recommend Patterns of the Sanrensei by Michael Redmond because of its clarity of presentation, depth of review, and topical coverage of the sanrensei. It should be part of any self-respecting, well-rounded go library.
In the tradition of Robert Jasiek’s Go book review categorization:
- General Topic: Games
- Topical Coverage: +++++
- Teaching Method: examples and variations, pro commentary
- Rank Improvement: +++
- Achieves Aim: +++++
Robert Huang, AGA 6 kyu, KGS 4 kyu