Fighting Fundamentals

Review by the Author

General Specification

Motivation

Most middle games involve fighting. 33 years after Attack and Defense introduced to the Western literature a first generally applicable approach to fighting, appearance of another such book has been overdue. Fighting Fundamentals enhances coverage from selection of a few to all major fighting types, techniques and principles. The book also presents the previously under-represented, but essential topics of fighting aims and strategy. The result is a clear and comprehensive treatise of fighting theory applied to many examples.

The Chapters

Apart from the short introduction and the index of keywords, the book's chapters are 'Basics' (21 pages), 'Types of Fights' (49), 'Primary Aims' and 'Secondary Aims' (together 54), 'Fighting Techniques and Moves' (87) and 'Strategy' (34).

The chapter 'Basics' ensures that readers still unfamiliar with basic concepts, such as sente, fundamentals of life, stability, thickness, influence or aji, meet them now and are prepared for the following chapters, whose theory presumes this foundation. Furthermore, the chapter introduces the basic objects, which fights are all about: settled versus unsettled groups; important versus non-essential stones; territory versus valuable versus neutral regions. Thanks to this careful preparation, later in the book, beautifully simple principles, such as "Prefer to fight about valuable regions and important stones.", can be formulated and applied.

Without recognising a fight's nature, one cannot understand it well. Therefore, 'Types of Fights' discusses, of course, the fighting types: reduction, invasion, attack on one group, splitting attack, mutual running fight, cutting fight, leaning attack and capturing race. The more demanding or less familiar types are also explained: mutual settling fight, mutual reduction fight, multiple groups fight, exchange and complex fight. Principles identify the fair versus the one-sided fights and emphasise consideration of territory and influence balances.

A learner's first hurdle is to identify a few aims of a fight at all. His next obstacle is a flood of too many, conflicting and frequently changing aims. The book resolves these problems by discussing all the fundamental aims and inventing a clear structure: primary aims are means to achieve secondary aims. In the chapter 'Primary Aims', the reader learns about aims of defending or threatening life or stability, or of offering a strategic choice. The following chapter 'Secondary Aims' reveals a player's aims related to territory, influence, aji or playing elsewhere. Both his and the opponent's view are considered.

'Fighting Techniques and Moves' is the longest top level chapter, simply because there are a good number of techniques. Besides the basic techniques of attacking or defending life (capturing, maintaining connection of a group's stones, connection to another group, cut, blocking, eyespace construction or destruction, running), there are also flexibility, severity, options and their related threats, contact plays and efficiency. Forcing moves are considered from the attacker's or defender's view, in case of combined attack and defense and with respect to offered resistance. One must not forget the generally applicable techniques of reading, interruption of a fight, timing and sacrifice. In conclusion, the chapter explains every important technique. The instructive and sometimes spectacular examples add an entertaining note.

Finally, the 'Strategy' chapter profits from the previously developed theory by inventing powerful, but easily understood principles with a general scope of application. Since reductions and invasions frequently occur, they are given special attention.

Theory

Fighting Fundamentals answers all the essential questions of why, about what, where, when and how to fight. For example, the reader learns which group to attack or defend, while choosing good development directions. Fighting regions are identified and compared by their values, so that one can play in the most important region.

What does it mean to be aware of the fundamentals of fighting? To start with, a player is aware of every related topic; he does not have a major knowledge gap of overlooking some topics entirely. Therefore, the book is comprehensive. While the author still suffered from gaps in the Western literature and had to discover one topic or another by himself as a 5 dan, the reader can simply profit from the contents available now.

Secondly, understanding the fundamentals includes knowledge of basic principles at all, and then in their correct and most general (that is, most useful) form, as stated in the book. On average, every subchapter has one principle. While there are easy chapters without principles, other chapters about demanding topics have a few principles. The principles are formulated briefly. Most of them seem 'obvious' and 'self-evident', as soon as one has read them. Nevertheless, the book's set of principles cover by far the most fighting decisions well. Could learning of generally applicable theory be easier and more efficient?

Every chapter starts with a general introduction of the topic and explanation of its theory. This part can be enriched by principles in bold font. Usually, examples, their variation diagrams and comments conclude a chapter.

Examples

There are 243 examples discussing sequences from professional (or scarcely top amateur) games. Most of the 54 other examples are in the Basics chapter. Due to the many examples, there is space for only 18 problems. Most of the subchapters have three examples. Other subchapters can have from one to ten examples, although General Fighting Strategy has 14 and Reduction and Invasion 19 examples. In case of the few subchapters with one or two examples, their study of variations is particularly detailed.

The detailed table of contents reserves a subchapter for every topic, so that there are 64 subchapters (other than problems / answers). Despite the typically only three examples per subchapter, the flow of closely related topics and the overall great number of examples guarantee good understanding of every topic and its theory.

When writing the book, a decision between using simplifying, artificial versus realistic, professional game examples had to be made. Although both have their merits, the latter are preferred. A player's games rarely have stereotype patterns. In the wilds of real world games, positions tend to have complications. Instead of showing only important stones, valuable regions and relevant aims, it is better to develop, as early as possible, the ability to distinguish important from non-essential stones, valuable from neutral regions and relevant from irrelevant aims. Fighting Fundamentals achieves this by explaining these topics throughout the book and clearly identifying the important aspects in every example.

Although most examples discuss positions from professional games, the reader need not fear complexity. Instead, analysis and comments concentrates on a chapter's topic and explains the relevant difficulties or tactical variations. Correct variations and good choices are compared with failures and bad strategy.

What the Book is Not

Whilst the book discusses the fundamentals of each topic, its advanced details must be studied in specialising literature. Fighting Fundamentals is neither a shape dictionary, nor a problem book. Although the book explains every term beyond 'atari' and 'tesuji', players weaker than EGF 13 kyu might find the Basics chapter too dense and most examples above their head.

Conclusion

Fighting Fundamentals is a treasure for all players, except for absolute beginners and the strongest players. For the kyu player, it can serve as the first or second book on fighting. Intermediate and low dan players having read several fighting books still find a lot of new and important information. Although dan players are already familiar with most of the contents, they can complete their fundamental knowledge. The thorough structure of the contents allows the reader to develop a clear and deep understanding.
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2016 Robert Jasiek