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After the Second Move, It’s Owa


“Inu mo Arukeba…”

By Abe Yoshiteru 8 dan from Kido, March 1975

In the Year of the Dog, it is perhaps fitting that this article be disseminated since the subtitle means “If even a dog (inu) walks… The rest of the proverb goes “…bō ni ataru," (that is, “a rod will be met with.) When I was learning Japanese, I always wondered about this proverb, especially the “rod part. It seemed to indicate that a rod (or an iron bar) would land on the head of a nosy dog poking into places that he had no business being. Or else a dog banging his head into a pole.

However, the meaning is actually that, “A quest will be rewarded.” In this essay, Abe 8 dan examines various aspects of the game of go in regards to quests.

“Owa in the main title must be just as puzzling. As Abe 8 dan notes, Kajiwara Takeo 9 dan coined all sorts of words in connection with his lecturing about go. I was fortunate to attend one of his lectures. It was while he was touring the United States and visited the Japanese go club (Rafu Ki-in) in Little Tokyo. I found his talk puzzling, and many of the older Japanese players seemed to react the same way. “If you don’t follow my advice, your bicycle license will be taken away! Kajiwara Sensei warned. No doubt, he meant that in a humorous way, but no one has a bicycle license in America! The statement was greeted by utter silence…

But what does “owa mean? It is an abbreviation of the Japanese gerund, “owari, “over. And the fact that it is a cognate of "over" in English is serendipitous. (The Japanese language does not have “v or “r sounds (“overdrive = “oba–doribu; “motorboat = “mo–ta–bo–to), so accommodations must be made.

The reader is asked to keep these things in mind while reading the following material.


Abe Yoshiteru 9 dan

“If a game of go is not won, it is meaningless.”

These are the words of Ishida Meijin, and the direct frankness of the declaration is refreshing.

From olden times, go has been an artistic pursuit, that is to say, a path to investigate, and in truth this way of viewing go is still embraced by contemporary players. However, while “investigating a path” is ideal, the inner thought of “wanting to win” takes precedence. Professional go players make their livings by earning tournament game fees and prize money, so this is natural.

On the other hand, “investigating a path” and “wanting to win” are ways of thinking that originate from completely different places. And when one is strongly cognizant of both ways it is unavoidable that one suffers a personal contradiction.

In regards to that point, Ishida Meijin does not speak as a stirring figure about an “artistic path,” but in proclaiming single-mindedly “winning,” it is just there that his figure is stirring. The applause that he is accorded because of that is well deserved.

If Ishida Meijin is the standard-bearer of the “real fighting faction,” Kajiwara 9 dan is the standard-bearer of the “path investigating faction.”

If Kajiwara Sensei was asked, he would surely say that, “Winning or losing should be disregarded. The object is to find the best playing method. Winning or losing is nothing but the result of that.”

Either theory could be met simply by an appreciative voicing of, “Indeed,” but in terms of my own case, I wonder to which in the world faction I belong. As I expressed before, the contrast between the thinking of investigating the path and the idea of wanting to win has points exactly in opposition, and it would be irresponsible not to clarify this.

But unfortunately there is something in this that I do not understand. “Path investigating” and “winning” cannot consciously be distinguished. Both of these are intertwined, and although one has thoughts of winning, one must change depending upon the opponent. There is no possibility of negotiating a different way. When approaching a game, one may be conscious of the opponent’s style of play, but as soon as the game begins, those kinds of things end up being forgotten, and the only thing that is in one’s head is investigating methods of play.

Consequently, in connection with myself, the objective is to win, and to do that I can only seek the best playing method on the board.

When it comes to that, from my own standpoint, if the question is to which side I am aligned to, I suppose it is that of Kajiwara Sensei. And yet, as to thoroughly carrying out Kajiwara Sensei’s idea, that, “Ideally there is no consciousness of winning or losing,” that is a borderline that I cannot reach.

In regards to how to investigate the best methods of play, the foundation is nothing more than the experiences that I have amassed up to now. And the way to enhance that foundation is through advanced and rich study. Therefore, as far as I am able, I listen to the opinions of strong players as much as possible. And my intention is to chew it over as best I can, but…

Among my elder colleagues, the ones from whom I have most learned at Fujisawa Shuko Sensei and Kajiwara Sensei.


Kajiwara Takeo 9 dan

Kajiwara Sensei’s way of thinking about go is based on lucid premises. Not only that, but I believe that those are absolute truths. In any event, when facing a difficult board position in the opening [fuseki], the Kajiwara-style go theory is one signpost to lead the way. His investigations have pursued many playing methods.

I have attended many public lectures where Kajiwara Sensei has seen a player’s second move [in the game, starting from an empty board, that is Black plays first, then White makes the second move] and said:

“This kind of move is nonsense! It’s already OWA.”

He says this sort of thing all the time. Naturally, this creates a murmur in the audience, but by no means does Kajiwara Sensei say this just to provoke a sensation.

I am taking the opportunity to publish my thoughts in order to explain a couple of things about Kajiwara Sensei"s opening [fuseki] theory.

At one time, in a discussion group with Kajiwara Sensei the question was raised about whether a move at the center star point [tengen; indicating here the first move made by Black in the game] was not the absolutely best move to make. According to Sensei, [a first move played at] tengen has 70% of its power directed towards the center, while the influence towards the corners and the sides is extremely weak. Therefore, the theory is that a move at tengen is not to be admired. This may be considered a natural story, but putting it that the center has a 70% value, in numerical terms, has unique persuasive power.

I think that the following is a very recent piece of analysis, but it has been suggested that the best first move played [on an empty board] should be played on the star point [hoshi] in an open corner. A stone played on the star point, while exerting a measure of control over the corner, also projects a reasonable amount of power towards the sides and center of the board. The end result is that balance is achieved. Consequently, when seeing one of Kajiwara Sensei’s recent games, the first move is invariably played on a star point. [Am I carping too much to point out that tengen is also a star point?]

Next, there is the question of the second move.

For example, suppose that Black plays the first move on the star point in the upper right corner. In that case, White 2 must be played in the opposite corner, that is, in the lower left corner. That is because all of the other corners are subject to the power of Black’s first move.

“Play at the most open place on the board.” According to this dictum, playing the second move in the lower left corner is best. So if by chance White should play the second move in the upper left corner, Kajiwara Sensei would say, “It’s owa with that.”

Of course, even if White plays the second move in the lower left corner, should the move be made at the 3-3 point, it would likewise be subject to the same condemnation of owa. The move has to be made on the star point.

Next there is the question of the third move. Black plays the first move in the upper right corner. At that point, let’s say that White makes the second move in the upper left corner. Of course, this is a case where it is owa, but where exactly should Black next play in order to punish White for the lapse in making the second move? Obviously, the right thing to do is to occupy the lower left corner as White should have done with the second move in keeping with the standard. However, in asking where is best in the corner, it is not necessarily at the star point. In these circumstances, the decision to be made depends upon the placement of White’s second move.

It would not do to go on too long expounding second-hand upon Kajiwara Sensei’s theories, so it seems correct to end things here.

When Kajiwara Sensei is speaking, his unique and humorous expressions regarding technical terms just pop out. There is an element of making the meaning vivid and easily understood. Abbreviation makes things simple and easy, but there is also a feeling that somehow the words take on a life of their own.

Owa,” it goes without saying, is an abbreviation of “owari” [“over”].

Nippira,” comes from “nikken-biraki,” or a two-space extension.

Atatata” and “Atapin,” come from “atama wo tataku” [rapping the head of -usually two or three- stones] in the case of the former and in the case of the latter, “hane at the head of stones,” [usually two or three stones; “ata” comes from “atama” -head- and “pin” comes from “pinto,” or -exactly-.]

Autorain” is “losing line.” [Although this might seem to come from the English word, “outline,” it actually comes from “out,” or “three strikes and you’re out” and “line of play”.] At times when a player makes a move away from the focus of the action, he will say, “That is an outline, I tell you.” “Dame-sen chitai” [“empty-point area”] and “dame-sen kaido” [“empty-point highway”] and the like are similar expressions.

Approximately ten years ago I accompanied Kajiwara Sensei, who was the leader of the group, on a promotional tour in China. When we were analyzing games for the attendees, Sensei would blithely use words like atapin and nippira and the translators would have no idea what he was talking about. I was there with Kudo [Norio 9 dan] trying to convey to the translators what the words meant and I remember sweating profusely as we tried to come up with the right equivalent expressions.


The right place to play for move one or two? These days when AlphaGo has dominated headlines, it seems quaint to examine the question. After all, computers will soon make this an irrelevant exercise, no?

There are those who say that the game of go is about to be “solved,” but think about this. How about playing imitation-go [mane-go] against the program. Can AlphaGo win in that situation? Even draw?

Professional go players have to contest this head to head in order to find the truth.

Or how about this.

When I play competitively, I like to use the 5-3 move to start. Most players, even highly rated ones, do not have the experience that I do in regards to the positions that will result after this play. I like to keep the opponent off balance and this is one way to do it. I wonder if AlphaGo would be able to find the best moves in the tricky positions that evolve from 5-3 point joseki.

Finally, at my Japanese go club, the South Bay Ki-in, located in the New Gardena Hotel, 1641 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, CA 90247, (310) 327-5757, we have been experimenting with a komi handicap. That is, in playing against another player, the point value of the komi is either raised or lowered according to the difference in rank. (Every player who joins the club is evaluated by the strongest players and assigned a point ranking. Mine is 233 points.) So it is not uncommon for one of the weaker players to receive a komi of more than 100 points.

It has been pointed out that the results are in accordance with tournaments that have been run under the typical stone handicaps at the club.

Regardless of that, Yang Yilun 7 dan has speculated that AlphaGo will eventually be giving professional go players two stone handicaps. That seems impossible to me. In terms of point values, that would be a komi of 20 points. That is enormous. I cannot imagine professionals being unable to win against anyone or any computer program with that size komi.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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