The problem with moving to a parallel universe (see my review of Volume 1) is that you keep thinking things are going to be the same, and then they turn out to be wildly different.
I'd learned a little bit about Go. At the end of the day, the goal is to use your stones to surround territory. You quickly discover that it's most effective to do that by using the side of the board to help you. In the corner, you only need to fence in two edges, and it's easy to grab territory. On the side, you need to fence in three edges, and it's considerably harder. And the middle, where you need to fence in all four edges, it's virtually impossible, at least at the beginning of the game.
Hence you start by placing stones near the corners. That much was clear. But where, exactly? Again, it's not too hard to narrow it down a bit. Putting your stones on the second row is ridiculously conservative. You're hardly surrounding anything - there is only one row beneath you. Putting your stones on the fifth row is way too optimistic. Your opponent can easily sneak in below you. So, by elimination, the third or the fourth row, and the obvious places to start are the (4, 4), (3, 4) and (3, 3) points - a, b and c in the following diagram.
There was all this theory. You could start by putting a stone on one of the key target points, and then your opponent would challenge you, and you'd continue from there. The board was so big that you could only really have opening theory for a corner. So it would be like playing four games of chess at the same time, and they would link up after a while. There were different possible openings for each corner, depending on where you started and where the first challenge stone came from. It was perhaps a bit like the choice between 1. e4 and 1. d4 at chess. Sort of a style decision. Some people like 1. e4, some people like 1. d4, and some people play both.
But why did they sometimes start at the (3, 5) or (4, 5) points, d and e? I didn't get that. There was a lot of theory about those moves too, though, so I had to be missing something important.
Sigh. In fact, it turned out that I was missing everything. First, and this was in hindsight obvious, you can't just think about play in the four corners as being independent of each other. You need to figure out what's going to happen once things start linking up. It's very difficult, but at least you have to try; skill in doing this is a key component of playing strength.
Second, it turns out that there is a crucial different between playing on the third row and playing on the fourth. When you play on the third, you're aiming to take territory, pure and simple. When you play on the fourth, you accept that your opponent will quite likely be able to slide underneath you, and grab territory. But you're close enough to the edge that you'll usually be able to seal him in. Then he's stuck on the inside, with territory that has no chance of expanding any more, and you have a wall on the outside, which may or may not be useful for something, depending on what's going on elsewhere. As usual in Go, the theorists describe it in a way that's a bewildering mixture of mystic philosophy and concrete calculation. You're exchanging the Substance (the territory you've handed your opponent) for the Shadow (your outside influence, with its unclear potential). Okay, I guess I understand... maybe. Then they launch into a long, detailed analysis of what the Shadow might be useful for.
After a year or two of playing, I began to acquire some intuitive understanding of these ideas. It was an amazing feeling - a little like picking up the rudiments of a language that has no connection with your native tongue. If you like games, you should really check out a Go theory book some time. It'll broaden your horizons.
This is very dear to my heart, because I actually won my copy for making 3rd place or something at some Go tournament. And it is certainly the one of the three volumes that I studied the most. Learn the josekis, so the saying went, and then forget them. I managed to do that.
It is a sort of a dogma, you have to believe that by studying these books, you become stronger. I do.