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Kobayashi Koichi 7 Dan Wins with the Magic Sword


Secret Moves Revealed — Young Players Debate


Left to Right: Kato Masao 7 dan, Cho Chikun 6 dan, Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan; in the lower right 光一 = Koichi

From Kido, September 1975

The two point high pincer, dubbed the "Magic Sword of Muramasa," is representative of the most difficult of joseki, but Koichi 7 dan used this weapon of Muramasa’s to cut down his rival, Chikun 6 dan. When this powerful playing method appeared, it met with admiration on all sides, but it seems that the originator of it was an amateur player. That is interesting, because the player who came up with the idea for the Avalanche Joseki was also an amateur. Born first in the hands of amateurs, these joseki had humble presences, but once they caught the eye of professionals, they ended up turning into ferocious monsters.


Kato Masao 8 dan

Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan

Cho Chikun 6 dan


Source Figure 7th Sharp Young Players Tournament

Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan (Black) — Cho Chikun 6 dan

A Move Favored by Amateur Players

Kobayashi: This is a game that I played recently against Chikun, you know. In the Source Figure, Black makes the pincer at 1, White replies at 2 and then Black comes at White with the move at 3.

Kido: In regards to this Black move at 3, it seems that amateurs were the first ones to play it, you know.

Chikun: When it comes to amateurs, most of the time they play quick games. That means that they do not have a sense of responsibility in playing the moves that they do. Therefore, they will play any kind of move whatsoever, I must say. When Ishida Meijin spends as much as an hour thinking about a move, that move has a certain value.

Kido: In that case, it seems that Kobayashi san is irresponsible, because this was played on Channel 12 [sponsor of the tournament that it broadcast] as a lightning go game, you know. [The implication is that Kobayashi is irresponsible, too, since he played this game quickly, just like the amateurs he criticizes.]

Kobayashi: That is true. However, there is a reason for that.

Chikun: That’s okay, really. I understand.

Kido: No, I don’t understand. I’d like to hear about it.

Kobayashi: The fact of the matter, you know…


Diagram 1

…is that the attachment of Black 1 is the usual joseki move. The sequence from White 2 through 10 can be anticipated. At that point, the extension of Black 11 is standard. But White has the solid marked stone occupying the 3-3 point, so there is no effect on White. That is not appealing, which is the reason I did not play this way.

Chikun: That’s true, I must say.

Kobayashi: Even if the marked White stone was on the star point, this would be distasteful for Black, you know.

Kido: I see. That’s the reason, is it? Regardless of that, playing some kind of thing like Black 3 in the Source Figure would be surprising to players who know nothing about the move. It could be called a trick move, a bogus move, a move that amateurs favor, you know. On the other hand…


Diagram 2

…in response to this, the three moves in reply, White A, B and C are the standard moves that can be considered. Which is the correct move?

Kato: According to the circumstances, it depends on the conditions at large, doesn’t it? (Laughs)


Diagram 3

Kobayashi: Let’s see what happens when White answers with the diagonal move at 1 and the sequence plays out. Black pushes through at 2 and the moves through White 7 follow directly, an unbranched path. Black then attaches at 8, and the continuation through Black 14 is unavoidable, isn’t it? How would the game proceed from there?


Diagram 4

Chikun: White would surely ignore the situation here to play elsewhere, and in this board position, the attack on the corner with White 1 would be standard, I would say.

Kato: What if Black defends with 2?

Kobayashi: Then White plays 3 and Black 4. White jumps to 5 and then what?

Kato: The atari of Black 6 is standard, I suppose. How is this? Is Black bad?

Chikun: This is good.

Kobayashi: I would suppose so. When Black plays atari at 6, White will ignore the move again to play elsewhere. But if I was playing, instead of this pattern of play, rather than fix the shape in the lower right corner…


Diagram 5

…I thought that it was best to develop with Black 1.

Chikun: Huh?! Leaving it just like that? And then how should Black answer White 2?

Kobayashi: Black presses upward with 3, turns at 5, and then makes the fencing-in move at 7. Next…


Diagram 6

…White 8 is met by Black 9 and then backtracking to play at 11. White 12 is answered by Black 13. White is forced to reply at 14, upon which Black plays 15. Black has a good territorial framework [moyo] on the right side, no?

Chikun: This is a promising way of playing, I must say.

Kido: And yet, although Black has a good territorial framework [moyo] on the right side, the lower side is thin and weak, and Black has a dangerous position there, you know. There are a variety of moves and ways of thinking to consider, you know.

Kato: Aren’t there other moves available other than the knight’s move of White 2 in Diagram 5? For instance, the diagonal move in the next diagram leads to a playable variation, I believe.


Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan


Diagram 7

Kato: If White moves out with the diagonal move at 1, how should Black play?

Kobayashi: The fencing-in move of Black 2 is good. In reply to White 3, Black blocks at 4 and stubbornly keeps White stopped up with 6.

Kato: When White puts the shape in order with 9, I suppose that Black does the same at 10.

Chikun: White attacks at the skirt of Black’s position with 11, then I guess that Black answers at 12.

Kato: But this is awful for Black, too, I tell you. Besides all of Black’s other problems, the territory here is open at the edge at A.

Kobayashi: In my opinion, Black is better off, but…

Kido: Well then, this is fine for a variation, but what is the judgment in regards to the actual game?


Diagram 8

Kobayashi: White answers boldly and directly by cutting with 1 and 3 here. The follow-up move of White 5 is also straightforward. But what happens after this?


Diagram 9

Kato: In terms of first impressions, Black presses at 1, I must insist on. Black waits for White to reply at 2, then hanes at Black 3, an unyielding move. This is the desirable way to play.

Kobayashi: Black pushes three times? Why not four? Really, that right there is the heart of the matter. Supposing that in this board position, White turns at 4 and then develops at White 6, how would that be? The spacing on the lower side is good, is it not? This is playable, right?

Kato: That’s not true, I must say. Black 5 captures without any potential problems [bad aji]. Tewari move order analysis also shows the degree of effectiveness. To the extent that Black has played an extra move, the aji [potential weaknesses that can be exploited in the opponent’s position] is good and the profit is big.

Chikun: Black is good, no doubt about it.

Kobayashi: Is that true? Well then…


Diagram 10

…can White move out at 1? How about that? Black 2 is met by White throwing in the cut of 3, and then White’s playing the turning move of 5 as a forcing move is really irritating to Black, I must say. When Black makes the fencing-in move of 6, White slides to 7, and how in the world is this to be evaluated?


Diagram 11

Chikun: Next, does Black attach at 1? If White draws back at 2 and Black at 3, then White 4 is the vital point. If Black hanes at 5 and connects at 7, play proceeds to the hane of White 10, and — Oops! — This is strange, I must say. This is a tough nut to crack, I tell you.

Kato: What is that?! The hane of Black 5 and connection of 7 are strange, I must say.


Diagram 12

When White plays at 1, descending with Black 2 is good. Even if White plays at 3 and makes the hanging connection with 5 and 7, Black descends at 8 and it does not seem likely that White will win the race to capture.

Chikun: In that case…


Diagram 13

…what if White tenaciously plays for a ko with 1 and 3?

Kato: Black draws back at 4, and it is no big deal, you know. Then, if White plays at 5, Black makes the wedging-in move of 6. Even though a ko remains here, that is practically not a problem.

Kido: If that’s the case, by White’s getting captured, does that mean that White is badly off?

Kato: No, that’s not how it is. White turned with the marked stone as a forcing move. And White has a lot of ko threats. And besides that, White’s stones will have to be taken off the board, so it becomes a problem of the way to discard the stones, you know.

Chikun: Losing them unconditionally would be irritating, so…


Diagram 14

…when Black plays 1, White hanes at 2, and in response to Black 3, White sets up a ko with 4 and 6, no?

Kato: Even though this is a ko, White has no ko threats.


Diagram 15 White 10 takes ko

Kido: White has the move of 8 as a ko threat, but…

Kato: That’s a terrible loss. After incurring this kind of loss, it is okay for Black to descend at 11, giving up the ko. When White captures at 12, Black connects at 13, and then White has no choice but to play at 14.


Diagram 16

Chikun: Next, Black 15 forces White 16. And besides that, in the corner, the ko with Black A, White B and Black C is left.

Kato: The marked White stones are a terrible loss. And what is more, there is even the unpleasantness of the ko left in the corner. This means that White is not well off. The feeling is that Black does not have to expend much effort to get this result, you know.

Kido: Even though it is a small space, the corner is where there are a variety of moves possible, you know. It is what is called another problem. Therefore, the corner can be a frightening place. It seems to me that finally a definitive version of the joseki is coming into sight.

Kato: No. We’re still a ways off. It cannot be put simply into words.


Kato Masao 8 dan


Diagram 17

Kobayashi: Incurring the single forcing move of the turning move is irritating, so how would it be if Black presses once more at 3? Although this is exchanged for White 4, the feeling is that Black has no incurred much of a loss.

Kato: That’s right. After that, Black hanes at 5, a solid way of playing, isn’t it?

Chikun: This time…


Diagram 18

…White plays 1 and 3, aiming at wedging in at White A, I guess.

Kobayashi: Incurring the wedging-in move would be no good, so it is natural for Black to make the defensive move at 4. White proceeds outward with 5, and how would that be?

Kato: Here, Black has the placement technique [suji] of B available, so dealing with the situation directly…


Diagram 19

…Black pushes in at 1 and cuts at 3. Momentum leads White to play for a swap with 4, and then Black would not make a small capture with the sequence through 7, so I don’t suppose that this would be bad.

Chikun: Would White then attack the corner at 8?

Kato: Black attacks with the pincer at 9. White is floating in the center, you know.

Kobayashi: White 12 is answered by Black defending at 13, after which White cuts at 14.

Kato: Black wedges between White’s stones with 15, then when White plays 16, the throw-in of Black 17 is the technique [suji] to rapidly eliminate White’s liberties.

Chikun: When White defends the cutting point with 18, Black attaches at 19. How is this for the definitive version of the variation?

Kato: As may be expected, this is a reasonable division, I suppose.

Kobayashi: The feeling is that Black is dissatisfied, you know.

Kido: The conventional wisdom says that if only bad moves are avoided being played, the balance will be maintained. No. This is surprising.

Chikun: If a swap is undesirable…


Diagram 20

…when Black pushes through at 1 and cuts at 3, White balloons out at 4.

Kato: I suppose that Black’s capturing in a ladder with 5 is natural. If White pushes out with 6 and 8, Black has no choice but to give way with 7 and 9.

Chikun: And if White makes the pincer attachment at 10 in the corner?

Kobayashi: Black descends at 11. There is no choice about it, I must say. Following White 12 and Black 13, White attaches at 14 and you have to wonder if the corner is okay.


Diagram 21

Chikun: When White plays at 1, Black can immediately make the pincer attachment at 2. Should White descend at 3, Black attaches at 4, making life.

Kobayashi: I see. That’s true you know, really. Black can add a move at A to make it final, but even just leaving the position as it is would just have a ten thousand-year ko sitting there. [Meaning that there would be the possibility of a ko fight for the life of the corner, but to start it, the initiator would have to fill liberties of the initiator’s own group. This is anathema for players, so it is said in go lore to only occur every ten thousand years. I have played out more than 5,000 professional games and only seen the ten thousand-year ko occur once.] But this is a story that will be told far in the future, while meantime Black has thick and strong influence on the outside. So I can’t see how Black could be badly off.

Seemingly the Definitive Version, But…


Diagram 22

Kido: White plays 1, then Black uses the line [suji] with 2. That was referred to before, you know. In that case, how does this turn out?

Kato: White has no alternative but to play at 3 and cut at 5. So Black must push out with 6, 8 and the following moves, until being able to capture with the placement of Black 14. After playing at 16, Black wins the race to capture.


Diagram 23

Chikun: Isn’t the hane of White 1 a forcing move? That would make Black have to push more, wouldn’t it?

Kato: Black doesn’t have to push. That’s because playing at Black 6 will do. Even if White cuts at 7, Black just ends up fencing White in with 8.

Kobayashi: With this, turning with White A is a forcing move, you know.

Kato: Ah, I remember.


Diagram 24

In response to White 1, it is good for Black to make the checking extension on the side at 2. White 3 and 5 are answered by Black cutting at 6, and then White has no choice but to live with 9 and 11. This would seem to be good for Black.

Kobayashi: In that case…


Diagram 25

…it is hard for White to move out. So White turns at 6 and Black plays 7.

Kato and Chikun: This is good for Black, you know.

Kobayashi: In that case…


Cho Chikun 6 dan


Diagram 26

…wouldn’t pushing four times with Black 1 and 3 be the definitive variation? As might be expected, pushing once more at Black 5 would be overdoing it, you know.

Kato: That’s right. The fact is that the knight’s move of Black A is a standard move in this kind of position, and again, a pincer from the left area is also possible.

Chikun: It seems likely that Black 7 would be met by White putting the stones in motion with 8, I must say.

Kobayashi: In regards to that, Black pushes through with 9 and 11, then attacks with Black 13. But the White jump to 14 at that point is a nuisance. There are all sorts of moves that are possible here, which makes it interesting for White, I tell you.

Kido: Huh?

Kobayashi: In other words…


Diagram 27

…instead of the diagonal move there, the pincer of Black 1 is desirable to play, but if Black does so, White will hane over the stone at 2 and things turn strange. Black has no alternative but to cut at 3, but White pushes at 4 and then has the line [suji] with the connection at White 6 to play. Of course, before that White would jump to A, looking for complications on the outside, you know.

Kido: I see. That’s an interesting line [suji]. isn’t it?

Kobayashi: Well, the diagram we’ve appended here is just for reference sake.

Kato: What happened in the actual game?


Diagram 28

Kobayashi: Black ended up playing the move at 1 in the corner.

Kato: Uh huh. This is no good, you know. White plays 2 and then turning at 4 is thick and strong.

Kobayashi: The sequence through White 20 will follow and although Black is thick and strong on the outside, White has been able to play on both sides, so this is slack for Black. [White can also make ko in the corner.] This is out of the question. As might be expected, should White have pushed on the outside? If so, when White jumps at 6…


Diagram 29

…it is no good for Black to attach at 2 in order to make a swap. Considering that White can hane at A, and make the forcing move at B. it does not go well for Black. Over and above everything, incurring the turning move of the marked White stone is painful.

Kido: Somehow or another we seem to have come close to a definitive conclusion, you know. For the final point…


Diagram 30

…what happens if White pushes up at 1? Going for thickness on the outside?

Kato: Butting against White’s stone with Black 2 would be standard. White plays 3 and Black captures with 4. I suppose that White then develop at 5. The potential [aji] of a hane at A remains, and there are all sorts of other moves possible, so this is a fair and straightforward assessment.

Chikun: Generally so, I must say. Kobayashi san seems to have exchanged seats with the editor from the Nihon Ki-in who was sitting with us. (Laughs)

As a final judgment regarding the Magic Sword joseki, this two point high pincer must be taken seriously. The open space of the center holds unlimited possibilities. Although we might be close to a definitive evaluation here, that is just based on the board position that we have arbitrarily set up. The reader is advised to always to focus on the board position at hand, and make judgments accordingly.

In all situations, a whole board vision is essential. I urge all go fans who have come to read the commentary here to embrace this idea fully.

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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