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This is the Vital Point

By Okubo Ichigen 9 dan

From Kido May 1969

An Essay on How to Become Strong

Model 1

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Black to Play

Okubo: Model 1. The eye should be struck by the exchange of the marked White stone for the marked Black stone.

With this done, White wedges between Black’s stones with 1. It seems that Black will be hard-pressed to come up with a response, you know.

Deviating from Joseki

Kido: This deviates from joseki, you know. Really, it is tough coming up with defensive move, you know.

In that case, is this a strong way of playing?

Okubo: No, that is not the case, but this is the kind of thing that comes up in real games. But no matter what, this would be the proper way to play.

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Diagram 1

With the White stone at 1 in place, Black attacks the corner with 2. In response, White makes the one point pincer of 3.

Following the jump of Black 4, the fencing-in move of Black 6 is connected with a ladder. Regardless of that, White makes the forcing move at 7, and the sequence to the jump of White 15 and the defensive move of Black 16 is joseki.

The moves through White 15 comprise the basic model, but in the variation under analysis White pushes one time extra, then hanes between Black’s stones with 1.

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Diagram 2

Kido: From the start it was understood that playing atari from the outside is impossible. After White 2, Black is left with three cutting points, making the shape very weak.

Okubo: In that case, what is the best way to play?

Kido: Ah, what to play indeed. Anyway, this would be trouble, you know. This way of having the joseki deviated from.

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Diagram 3

Kido: How about cutting with the atari of Black 1? Wouldn’t this be playable?

Okubo: Really, that would seem to be what would be the first thought. Black plays at 3, then cuts at 5. Charging ahead with Black 7 and 9 is crude, but the feeling is that it is playable. However, in fact this is no good.

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Diagram 4

Okubo: Next, White extends out at 1, and Black connects at 2. This fixes the shape, then Black pushes in at 4. Should White answer at 5, Black plays atari at 6 and 8, and just when Black is thinking how great things are going, suddenly White makes the throw-in at 9. Black has no choice but to capture at 10. The fact that this technique [suji] is available shatters Black’s illusions.

Kido: Ah, is that so?

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Diagram 5

Okubo: White plays atari at 11, neatly cutting Black’s stones apart. Black has no alternative but to connect at 12, so White can play at 13, taking a great deal of profit in the corner.

Even if Black moves out at 14, it is perfectly fine for White to give way with 15. It i obvious that this is a failure for Black.

Kido: It is necessary for Black to add a stone on the upper side, and Black’s six stones below are also heavy. This is no good, you know.

In that case, what is the best way to respond? The complications are confusing, so please explain how to deal with them.

Okubo: The complications are terrible, you know. I wonder if failing to think things through is characteristic of contemporary players. The urge is to come to an immediate conclusion, you know.

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Diagram 6

Okubo: The correct solution is push in with Black 1, then turn at Black 3.

It is best to prevent White from making a hane between Black’s stones. Black has already profited by playing the marked stone, so an attack in the center should be lightly warded off. Playing this way means that White is unable to cut with a move at "a."

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Diagram 7

Okubo: Continuing, playing atari with White 1 would be standard. Black would answer by playing atari at 2 and defending at 4. Even though White is allowed to capture at 5, Black blocks at 6 and is not badly off.

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Diagram 8

Okubo: Should White play 1 in the corner to make life there, Black fixes the shape with 2, and continuing, when White plays 3 and 5, it is possible for Black to block at 6, attacking White on a large scale.

Black has moved out into the center with the marked stone, so Black is surely not badly off.

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Diagram 9

Kido: When White plays atari at 1, can’t Black connect at 2?

Okubo: Should Black connect, it is possible for White to hane between Black’s stones with 3.

It is painful, but there is no way around it.

Kido: But can’t Black cut at "a"?

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Diagram 10 Black 8 connects

Okubo: Of course Black 4 is possible, but Black ends up being squeezed by White 5 and 7.

Black has no choice but to connect at 8. Then, having White connect at 9 is awful. After this, Black can cut at "a" to live, but there is no way to justify getting tightly sealed in like this.

One Vital Point

Model 2

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Black to Play

Okubo: Model 2. White has neglected this position to play elsewhere quite a bit.

One way or another, this seems very dangerous for White. However, there is a question whether that is true or not, since the shape is vague. Where is the vital point? How will this turn out?

Kido: It seems like there is absolutely no way the White stones can be captured. Is this an endgame problem?

Okubo: When asked that, I am stuck for an answer. In making a judgment, a player has to depend on an independent assessment.

Kido: Somehow, shrugging it off like that is no good. At least offer a hint.

Okubo: There is one vital point. That is the hint.

Kido: What comes to mind for players like me is that…

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Diagram 1

…the hane of Black 1 and connection of 3 would seem to be standard, but of course that is no good, is it?

Okubo: Ah, ha, ha. You slipped off the hook really cleverly, didn’t you? Turning the answer into a question?

Naturally, that is no good. White lives with 4, and in reply to Black 5, White 6 ends things right there.

Kido: With that, is the group dead?

Okubo: No, not at all. This group is not dead. Anyway, let’s look at where the vital point is.

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Diagram 2

It is the single shot of the placement of Black 1.

Kido: I really thought it was something like that.

Okubo: You are a perfect example of a budding Columbus, you know.

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Diagram 3

Kido: There is no other move than to block with White 2, you know.

Okubo: Black pushes in at 3, and if White plays 4, Black hanes at 5.

When White captures at 6, Black has to be careful. The restrained move of Black 7, extending into the corner is good. With this, White’s group is dead.

Kido: Uh huh. Black 7 is a good move, you know. Really, this move is a little hard to find.

Okubo: It is not all that great a move. For beginners,,,

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Diagram 4

…inadvertently the atari of Black 1 ends up being played.

This creates the situation where the atari at "a" and the move at "b" are equivalent options for making eyes, so the group ends up being able to live.

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Diagram 5

Kido: In that case, when Black plays 1 and 3, what if White decides to abandon half of the group and at least live in the corner by playing the restrained move of White 4? How about that?

Okubo: In that case, Black has the placement of 5.

Kido: Huh? Is that kind of move possible?! I see: if White play at "a," Black connects at "b." That way it ends up reverting to Diagram 3, you know.

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Diagram 6

White has nothing to do but to block at 6.

Okubo: Black connects at 7 and the corner is dead.

White might play at 8, and then hane at 10, but descending at Black 1 is a good move. This is common sense in regards to killing the corner, and the only thing to do.

With this, connecting underneath at "a" and taking the second eye with "b" are equivalent options. There is nothing to be done, and this is the kind of shape that often is seen.

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Diagram 7

Kido: Therefore, at the start, when Black plays at 1, if White tries the move at 2, the placement of Black 3 is good according to go theory you know.

Okubo: That’s right.

Should White play at 4, Black connects underneath at 5, and this is more or less the same thing.

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Diagram 8

Next, let’s see what happens when White tries for complications with the attachment of 1.

Descending with Black 2 is good. White 3 is met by Black 4 and then extending at 6. This makes a three point oversized eye.

With this shape, when the liberties are filled, White will have to play at "a," so the position does not become seki.

Kido: Then, no matter what is played, this group cannot live, you know.

Okubo: And yet, that is not true, either, I must say.

Kido: Huh?

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Diagram 9

Okubo: In short, if Black 1 is the vital point for the attack, the diagonal move of White 2 is the vital point for the defense.

Previously, in Diagrams 5 and 7, this 2-2 point was shown to be the vital point, and that should have given a hint as to how to play, you know.

Kido: It’s interesting that in this kind of confined space there could be a number of variations, you know.

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Diagram 10

Okubo: Next, pushing in with Black 3 and connecting with Black 5 is the follow-up.

White puts the finishing touch in by living with 6 and 8.

Black is left with the move at "a" to capture two stones, and well, this is the kind of thing Black can expect. Both sides play the best moves here, so this is the definitive version of play in this position.

Kido: This is great.

The Life of the Stones

Model 3

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White to Play

Okubo: Model 3. The marked White stone is stuck against Black’s stones, but it can be made to work effectively.

It is desirable to hold the life of the stones in high esteem.

Here, a flaw in Black’s shape must be exploited. At the same time, White’s marked stone has to be used effectively. By doing these things, Black’s stones can end up being cut off.

Kido: The shape of Black’s stones is an example of the "Tokkuri [Sake Serving Bottle] Model."

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Diagram 1

Okubo: Various points about the aesthetics of the shape might be brought up, but then we would never get going.

With the single shot of the attachment of White 1, it’s all over.

This move strikes across the knight’s move, and it is also a peep. It is what is called the vital point of the "Tokkuri Model."

Kido: This is before meeting Sensei, but this level of vital point is known by the average player.

The reason is that there is nothing else to think about.

Okubo: That is true, you know.

Well, it is one thing to have it presented as a problem, but in a real game is questionable if it would be discovered after all.

Kido: At the same time, it would not be understood how to make the marked White stone work effectively, you know.

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Diagram 2

Okubo: If Black intercepts at 2, White naturally wedges in at 3.

Black can do nothing other than to make the hanging connection of 4, but White then plays atari at 5 and connects at White 7.

The White marked stone becomes an anchor and works effectively.

The left side falls.

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Diagram 3

The block of Black 2 is simply answered by White’s going back at 3.

It is a ploy that makes pushing through at "a" and cutting at "b" equivalent options. One side or the other would thereby be captured.

There is probably nothing better to do but to connect with Black "b," discarding the upper side.

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Diagram 4

Kido: Starting by wedging in with White 1 is no good?

Okubo: That’s no good, I must say. Black makes the hanging connection at 2, and after that, White can only push in at 3 and 5, so Black connects at 8 and the whole Black group ends up being linked together.

Kido: What is the significance of this?

Okubo: That is to say that a comparison with the correct solution diagram illustrates the logic of the stones.

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Diagram 5

This is an extension of the correct solution diagram. In this model, when Black connects this way with 1, there is no logic in White playing 2.

Naturally, this move has to be used to cut at the point of 3. The result is the same as if White plays the useless move at 2, letting Black connect at 3.

The moves of Black 1 and 3 have equal value, but it is clear that White 2 is a terrible move that has no value.

No matter how far a bad move is evaluated, it is still a bad move. The logic dictates that the effectiveness of the stone is absolutely zero.

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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