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The Best Ten Trick Plays


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The late Maeda Nobuaki 9 dan (November 22, 1907~July 3, 1975) was fortunate to have had mentors at the top of the go world and among the most famous players of all time. First, he was a student of Kubomatsu Katsukiyo, then Honinbo Shusai Meijin. At one point Honinbo Shusai even considered passing along his Honinbo title to Maeda. (Perhaps it was the existence of geniuses like Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru that made him decide against that.)

By the age of 24, in 1931, he had reached the rank of 5 dan, indicating his great talent at go. In those days, any player with ambitions to ascend to the highest level in the game had to get to 5 dan at an early age. That was considered the necessary qualification for being regarded as a professional player. (It still is.)

However, Maeda never got to the top, and concentrated on organizing groups of players, promoting go and writing. He also devoted much time to composing life and death problems, which led to him being called the "God of Tsume-Go" [詰碁の神様 = "Life and Death Problems God"].

The following article shows how fine a writer Maeda was, and how his work entertained go players everywhere.

Best Ten Series

By Maeda Nobuaki 9 dan in Kido, January 1972
Those interested in viewing the original article in Japanese can click here to do so.

The Editorial Department of Kido magazine came to me and asked, "How about taking a variety of topics and put them into a best ten list as part of a Best Ten Series?"

I had thought that I would continue the "Go Diary" [Maeda’s column the previous year] for a little longer. However, I agreed to start out by doing as suggested for a half a year [which was common for a new series in Kido at the time]. Well then, I am something like a handyman in go, and other than narratives about technical artistry ["gei dan" = 芸談 = a piece of writing about the art of go; it is not clear if Maeda is being ironic here] or narratives about struggling over a move ["kushin dan" = 苦心談 = a player discussing the agony he or she went over figuring out the best move to make], I can generally write about anything.

It seemed to me that it would be interesting to write a best ten series, although there was the danger that I might stumble with some trivial nonsense. And yet, I am second to none in dropping a piece of work if it is not good. So I have taken up the matter by beginning with the best ten trick plays.

In speaking precisely about trick plays, the best ten here illustrate what happens when a player falls for a terrible trick play and ends with an awful result. Recently, trick plays have become trivial intellectual affronts, so that most often an opponent is led to lose a percentage of point value and the perpetrator gets a slight advantage. The best ten trick plays taken up here are the severe ones, where falling into them leads to utter destruction or something close to that.


Trick Play 1

As the reader knows, the shape here arises from Black making a large knight’s move corner enclosure. The invasion of White 1 might seem like a fantastic aim for White to carry out, but rather it is a variety of joseki in this position. Depending how Black responds, many different traps are produced. Perhaps most trick plays result from the confluence of these kinds of factors.

The problem initially comes about when Black extends out at 4. If this move is instead played as the block at 9, things are safe and sound, but in exchange for safety, White hanes at 5, connecting underneath to the stone outside. This is a little slack in terms of shape for Black, so that is the driving force behind Black’s desire to extend out at 4.

Actually, while it might be said that Black 4 is an unreasonable move, it could equally be said that White’s play is unreasonable. The real questionable move is the jump of Black 14. In short, this is where Black falls into the trap.

Beginning with the block of White 15, the sequence through White 31 causes Black to be thoroughly wrapped up and squeezed. Black ends in gote with 32, and it goes without saying that Black’s foolishness has ended with a territorial gain of some 20-odd points, while White’s thickness can be estimated as being worth approximately 50~60 points. Of course, Black is very badly off.

During this order of moves, the cut of White 21, fixing the shape, is a good move. Therefore, instead of the jump of Black 14, filling a liberty by playing at 20 is obviously superior. However, to avoid White’s wrapping up and squeezing entirely, for Black 14…


Reference Diagram

…it appears that pressing at Black 1 is the best move. White pushes at 2 and 4, then slides to 6. At that time, Black forces once with 7 in exchange for White 8, then attaches with Black 9 and blocks at 11. Black’s superiority here is perfectly in order. Within this order of moves, should White use 8 to cut at A, Black extends at B and then gets a good result by blocking at 8. Nonetheless, if Black plays 9 as the hane at 10, it should be understood that incurring the cut of White A would leave Black badly off.


Trick Play 2

For the most part, this is a trick play employed in handicap games of six or more stones. Therefore, it can be classified as being elementary in nature, played partly in the spirit of mischievousness. Even amateurs as strong as shodan can fall for it.

When White launches the trick play with 1, those who understand something of go theory are inclined to make the attachment of Black 2. However, should Black make that attachment of 2, the attachment of White 3 and the hane over Black’s stone with 5 are the moves that give bite to this trick play. After Black responds at 6, White 7 and the sequence through the connection of 13 leave Black in a big quandary.

If Black turns at 14, the atari of White 15 is the proper order of moves, and then the variation proceeds through the jump of 27.

Of course, this is a terrible variation for Black. Accordingly, this result must be understood as being due to the difference in strength between the two players. Therefore, Black’s loss is probably assured after this.

During this sequence of moves, should Black use 14 to turn at 15, White 14, Black 17 and then moving out with White A leaves Black with the same kind of dilemma.

Besides that, Black 4 played as the move extending out at 9 this brilliant result for White will be avoided, but extending at 9 also makes slack shape, so White will surely use that to come up with some kind of ploy.


Reference Diagram

Above all else, Black must not fall in line with White’s bidding. When White plays 1, it is standard for Black to choose the moves of 2 and 4, giving White no foothold in this shape. Once White is thrown on the defensive in this stunning way, there will be weaknesses appearing to let Black take the initiative.


Trick Play 3 Black 4 elsewhere

Following White’s slide to 1, should White press in on Black’s position with 3, using Black 4 to block at 5 would be safe and sound. However, even playing elsewhere [tenuki] is no big deal. On the other hand, when White pushes at 5, the common block of Black 6 is met by the peep [nozoki] of White 7 and rapidly Black’s position is gutted out.

Here, players with some understanding of the position might make the diagonal attachment of 8, followed by the descending move of Black 10. But this shows how a little knowledge can be dangerous. After White 11 through Black 16, White wedges into Black’s stones [ate-komi] with 17, then connects at 19. These are shrewd moves that turn Black’s shape weak and flabby.

At the same time, moving out with Black 16 aims at both the hane over White’s stones at A as well as the cut at 19, so there are ways to go wrong, too.


Reference Diagram 1

If Black connects at 2, complete destruction can be averted, but the diagonal attachment of White 3 and the hane of 5 leaves Black’s stones naked and vulnerable. This is again falling for the trick play.


Reference Diagram 2

When White pushes in at 1, there is no reason why Black cannot play elsewhere, but nevertheless this might make a player feel nervous. In that case, the butt against White’s stone [tsuki-atari] with Black 2 and the block of 4 is good. It is just now that the placement of White A leads to a position where there are no problems since Black is absolutely alive.


Trick Play 4 White 29 throw-in at 7; Black 30 captures; Black 32 connects

White counters Black’s star point stone with a double attack on the corner with the two point high move at 1. Black replies with the attach and extend joseki of 2 and 4. Following White 7, when White moves out with 9, Black 10 is a slack move that indicates that Black has already fallen into the trap.

Black 14 is met by the severe two-step hane of White 15. The momentum of the position leads to Black’s capturing with 16 and 18. But then White cuts at 19 and 21, and after this, Black plays 22, until the end of the sequence with White 41, Black is faced with the loss of a ko fight.

Of course, should Black play 26 as the diagonal move of 33, the whole group cannot be captured, but White then captures with a move at 34, which would be a considerable loss for Black.

Furthermore, Black 26 played as the block at 27 lets White capture with a move at 34. Since Black ends in gote, this is even worse. This proves that Black 10 is slack. By incurring White’s moving out at 11, Black has been tricked. Instead of Black 10…


Reference Diagram

…Black blocks at 1, and when White answers with 2, the hane of 3 is a forcing move, then the cut of Black 5 is good. After this, since Black A is a forcing move [threatening to kill White with a placement at the point above and to the right of White 10], White’s pushing at B is unreasonable because Black would move out at C. And White would not get a sufficient squeeze with a fencing-in move at D. There are no other moves to try.


Trick Play 5 Black 16 connects

As representative of trick plays, this is an elementary one. Beginners are especially eager to play in the way they are guided to, so the success rate of this ploy is unexpectedly high.

White fences Black’s stones in with 5 and 7, and in such a way after Black moves out with 8 and 10, Black is then inclined to cut at 12. But the cut of Black 12 comes with attendant restrictions. White is allowed to cut at 13 and 15, and suddenly Black ends up with destroyed shape.

Connecting with Black 16 produces bad, dumpling shape [dango]. Not only is Black saddled with bad shape, but incurring White’s capture of 17 means that besides Black’s having eyes taken, White is secure, which will lead directly to a win for White. In such situations, the words, "a one-hundred-point win" are often heard. It would not be strange if the result was close to that here.


Reference Diagram

Destroying the trick play is not particularly difficult. All that Black has to do is to cut at 1 here. White 2 is foiled by Black’s extending at 3, making everything okay. On the other hand, White gets further thicker and stronger here. Should Black be wary of White’s getting thick and strong like this, another assessment is in order.

To counter the cut of Black , White has to do something. Other than that, Black has wonderful shape after extending out at 3. Due to these factors, White is very badly off.


Trick Play 6 Black 26 connects

White makes the one space pincer of 1 and when Black replies at 2, White dodges with 3, an unexpected move that is a trick that actually comes from olden times. In response to that dubious move of White 3, if Black answers directly with 4 and 6, the fact is that Black has fallen into the trap.

Starting with White’s pushing through at 19, when Black connects at 26, White makes the fencing-in move of 27 to set up a squeeze play. It is obvious that Black ends up very badly off. That is because more than Black’s profit, White’s thickness is far superior. If this result occurred in an even game, there is no reason to doubt that the outcome of the game was settled.

Since getting squeezed like this is so terrible, for Black 16…


Reference Diagram 1

…the hane of 1 might be considered, but should Black play 1, White slices through the knight’s move [tsuke-koshi] with 2. After the sequence proceeds to Black 11, White pulls back to 12. Next, White peeps at 14 and makes the fencing-in move of 16. This is again a success for White that ensures Black’s defeat.


Reference Diagram 2

In order to avoid falling into the trap, when White plays at 2, it is good for Black to attach at 3 and extend at 5 [tsuke-nobi]. Following this, White cannot omit defending at 6, so Black can cut at 7, obliterating White’s strategy.


Trick Play 7 White 23 throw-in at 15; Black 24 captures; Black 26 connects

White 1 is a Taisha fencing-in move [Taisha = 大斜 = "Great Slant"; the Taisha is known for its complexity and there are many trick plays associated with it]. Since this is a difficult joseki, there are any number of trick plays that might be explored, but due to limitations of space, the worst of them is taken up here.

The sequence from White 1 through Black 12 is followed by the dubious move of White 13. This is the essential point of the trick play. Should Black block at 14 and 16, naturally White cuts at 17. Continuing, if Black plays atari at 18 and 20, White squeezes with 21 through 31. This wins the race to capture [semeai] for White by one move. Well then, for this to work, conditions must be just right.

Using Black 28 to make the jumping-attachment [tobi-tsuke] of 29 is met by White’s descending to 28, and the reader is asked to check this out to make sure that Black would be no good in that case.

No matter what move Black plays in regards to this race to capture, the result is that Black loses. Consequently, what move should Black play to avoid becoming the victim of this trick play?


Reference Diagram

The problem is the block of Black 20 in the previous diagram. That is to say that moving out with Black 1 is good. If White plays at 2, Black presses at 3, and then jumping to 5 is standard.

In this shape White’s three stones within Black’s position are thin and weak. This makes things bad for White.

Within this order of moves, should White play 2 as the atari at 4, the loss that White incurs by Black making the hane at A is awful, so capturing with 2 is unavoidable.


Trick Play 8

This is another menacing trick play from olden times. Should Black fall into the trap, no matter what happens later, Black cannot win the game. Of course, in go one never knows how a game might turn out.

Concerning the fencing-in move of White 1, attaching with Black 2 and ballooning out with 4, then playing atari at 6 are the sort of crude moves that cannot be imagined as working out well for Black.

When White attaches at 11, Black’s hane of 12 brings on the placement of White 13. In the end, all of Black’s stones are caught in a loose ladder and are captured. Instead of Black 12…


Reference Diagram 1

…there is no other alternative than to block with 1, but this leaves Black open up to incurring the hane of White 2. This is so disadvantageous that the outlook may be viewed as already decided by Black’s falling into the trick play.


Reference Diagram 2

Black just cuts at 3, and if White plays at 4, Black answers with the atari at 5. From there to Black’s extending at 9 is joseki. However, after White 10 and 12, if Black’s two stones can next be captured in a ladder with a move at A, it is impossible for Black to play the joseki moves of 1 and 3. When the ladder with White A is no good, White has to use the move at 10 to push out at B, initiating a difficult fight.


Trick Play 9

The star of contemporary joseki is the two point high pincer of White 1. After this, the diagonal move of Black 2 may be met by the knight’s move of White 3. Then, the diagonal attachment of Black 4 launches a joseki that the reader is surely familiar with. Next, using White 9 to extend at 10 is usual, but the reader must know that it is also possible for White to block at 9.

A problem arises when White makes the diagonal move of 17. This is a variety of trick move. Should Black cut at 18, Black again falls into the trap.

By incurring the fencing-in move of White 29, Black’s shape is painfully distorted to a considerable extent. After this, Black can slide to A in order to make life, but White could then attach at B to seal Black in from the outside. That would finish up the total subverting of Black by the trick play.

In regards to that, the success rate of this trick play is high, which must be because it is easy to believe that there is no other move to make but the atari of Black 18.


Reference Diagram

The jump of Black 1 should be kept in mind as a move that played at the right moment is very effective. Should White connect at 2, Black 3 and 5 precisely meet the needs of the position, capturing White’s stones. Consequently, White’s playing 2 and extending at 4 might not be good, but White 4 followed by the connection of Black 2 is clearly bad for White.

Going back to the beginning, instead of White’s making the diagonal move of the marked stone, this move has to be played as the knight’s move at A.


Trick Play 10 Black 24 connects

The last trick play examined here involves the two point high pincer of White 1, popularly known as the Magic Sword of Muramasa. This is another devilishly complex joseki in which somewhat odd moves may appear, so that trick play opportunities arise at any time. Representative of these trick plays that follow the large knight’s move of Black 2 of this variation is the two-step hane of White 9.

Black’s cutting at 10 and pulling back at 12 are moves intended to expose the unreasonableness of White’s form, but when White plays atari at 13, Black 14 and 16, followed by the fencing-in move of 18 once again fall into a trap.

After the throw-in of White 21, the cut of 23 sets up the hane of White 25 that ends with Black losing the race to capture no matter what happens.

Should White play 13 as the atari at 15, Black 16, White 17 and the fencing-in move of Black 18 is possible, so that the essence of the position can be grasped. And yet, it is possible for White to play atari at 13, so naturally this is what makes the trick play dangerous.


Reference Diagram

When White plays atari with the marked stone, Black extends at 1. White 2 is countered by the attachment of Black 3, a good move. Next, White pushes out with 4 and plays the sequence through the turning move at 8. Then, the fencing-in move of Black 9 captures White’s three stones.

However, White’s playing at A, Black 8, White B and the connection of Black C is also feasible. In addition, within this order of moves, should White play 6 as the atari at 8, this time Black does not play at 9, but fences White in with the move at D, capturing the White stones.

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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