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Zone Press Strategy

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The Kanda Matsuri will take place on May 11-12, 2019

The Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three most famous festivals. The highlights are a day-long procession through central Tokyo on Saturday, and parades of portable shrines (mikoshi) by the various neighborhoods on Sunday.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3073.html

Over a decade ago I translated a seven volume set of books, The Heart of Go, Discovery Series, and Hinoki Press of Chicago published them. The instructional material that these books presented is excellent, and they received a warm welcome from go fans. They are still being marketed in digital form.

Of all of the volumes, Zone Press Park by O Meien 9 dan made a strong impression on me. Until that point, I had rarely translated any of O Meien’s work. Naturally, I came across articles of his in magazines that I read, but I read so much work about go, that little of it really sticks in my memory. I always respected his talent, and when he won the Honinbo title, I was a little surprised, but the professional go world in Japan was in a state of chaos at that time, so I did not consider it as much of a notable accomplishment as it was in the past. It was only when I translated Zone Press Park that I came to understand what an interesting perspective that he conveyed in his analysis of the game.

The article below shows the genesis of Zone Press Park, years before O Meien expanded his theories into the full-length format of a book. As I have indicated, the perspective offered is fascinating.

However, I must add that I do not remember translating any of this previously. Perhaps when O Meien worked on Zone Press Park he created all new text for it. I do not know. Or maybe I have just forgotten the material. Again, I do not know. (Of course, I have a copy of the book that I published, but it is in storage with much of my other possessions, and I did not think the matter important enough to search through the storage space to find out.)

Regardless of that, I enjoyed translating the article and I think that all go players will enjoy reading it.

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In the lower right under the photograph are the words: Lecturer: O Meien 9 dan; Formatting [which includes the writing]: Aiba Ikko

Believe in the Zone Press, I Urge You

By O Meien 9 dan in Kido, October 1998

Those interested in viewing the original article in Japanese can click here to do so.

Here is a summary of the effectiveness of the Zone System.

Right at the start, what I want to say is that, "I would like you to believe in the Zone way of thinking." Zone Strategy in the opening, to a certain extent, can be understood in terms of mood, and because of that, how play develops is not difficult. However, as the number of stones increases and the stones become entwined during action, is this still true? Perhaps this doubt wells up. At that time, it is not to be expected that it would be bad, so I would like the Zone Press to continue.

Is the spacing sufficient? Or, within the spacing, can the opponent’s stones be pressured sufficiently? Until stones become clearly settled, the "spacing" is still in effect, so when the opponent’s stones invade the spacing, they must be forcefully pressured in such a way as to gain something of value. After that, one must proceed to the next stage in the game. If this is not done, one will face a counterattack, and no value will be earned from the spacing.

Continuance of Pressure

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Diagram 1

Black has just now made the slide with the marked stone. This is an attempt to work out a way at this point to maintain the territorial balance. Please look around the whole board here. It would be good if the reader realizes that despite the initiative being in White’s grasp, Black slides at a place that is irrelevant to the front of the battle.

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Diagram 2

If the lower side is the only consideration, the attachment of White 1 at the 3-3 point is tesuji. White lives with the sequence through 7, gouging out Black’s territory.

However, Black becomes thick and strong here, enabling Black to launch a severe attack in the center with 8. Should White fail to reinforce at 9, Black can slice through the knight’s move at "a." Then, the defensive moves of White 11 and 13 allow Black to hollow out White’s position on the upper side while settling the group with the moves through 16. Since Black is thick and strong in the lower right, it is not possible for White to counterattack.

The reason that things have come to this state of affairs is that although Black played away from the battlefront, White went along with that line of play. Believing in one’s own Zone would not allow the eye to stray to the lower side in the first place.

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Diagram 3

Believing in the Zone Press Strategy would prevent White from being led astray by Black’s scheme to expand the field of battle with the marked stone. Here, White works in White’s own Zone on the upper side to Press Black to the greatest extent. Since Black neglected this area to play elsewhere, it is best to think about putting even move severe pressure on.

In regards to the point to play, White 1 seems promising. Black’s base is clearly thin and weak. Therefore, it is unavoidable that Black play something like 8 to run away. And then, this time, instead of the move at "a," White plays from above at 13 in order to neutralize Black’s territorial framework [moyo]. White plays in such a way as to bring about a board position where it is possible to create a territorial framework [moyo] in the center.

Rather than running away with Black 8, it is probably feasible to make the forcing move at "b" followed by peeping at "c," to make eyes on the left side. However, in that case, White can aim to Press Black on the left side in the light of things like the block of "d" and the possibility of moving out at "e."

Should the action proceed in this way, it would be expected that Black would regret leaving the front of the battle with the marked stone.

In a Zone attack and defense scenario, both sides must continue playing until there is a lull in the action. That way, a disadvantage will not be incurred. That is the premise of the belief in the Zone Press.

And yet, judging when a lull in the action has been reached can be unexpectedly difficult. How to correctly attack when the opponent has played elsewhere is also difficult. But as experience in thinking with belief accumulates, it is expected that accuracy will gradually increase.

Expansion of Spacing

"Instead of a big point, an urgent point," is often quoted. [It is a go proverb.] In regards to that urgent point, judging the extent of the priority to assign is difficult, but in general thinking about the vital point will advance the process.

The way of thinking about the Zone Press does not distinguish between either urgent points or big points. If forced to say, rather than a "pressing" urgent point, a "spacing" big point comes first. To start with, expand the position, and when the opponent’s stones enter, press on them. The reason is because that order of priorities is basic.

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Diagram 4

In this board position, White has sealed Black in on the left side with the marked stone, and Black has played to make two eyes to live. Now it is White to play.

This is a position from a famous game between Honinbo Shusaku and Ota Yuzo. When I was young, I played it out on a board, and here I tried to find the next move and absolutely could not do it. That is because my perception was fixated on the "Instead of a big point, an urgent point," dictum. I could not dismiss the idea of attacking with something like White A from my mind.

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Diagram 5

The move that was actually played was White 1. It was a revelation for me. This is not just a simple big point. When I think about it now, it was a move that expanded the Zone. White A would not be answered by Black running away with the two stones, but by making the checking extension of Black B. Even if White captures Black’s two stones, since the territory can be reduced by Black C, so it is small.

And then, White 1 next aims at playing at D. That is necessarily the next move to expand the Zone. Following White D, a move would be played in the vicinity of E to press in on Black’s two stones. If Black reinforces with 2 and 4, White heads for profit with 5 and 7, for a winning advantage.

Should this be distasteful for Black, 4 might be played somewhere like F, whereupon White would run away with G. This puts more pressure on the upper side, with White G also playing a role in expanding the spacing with the upper side.

Shusaku wrote about this game in a famous letter to his father. "When I blocked with White 9, I could see that I had won." However, for me the extension on the upper side was the move that left the strongest impression.

Comparison of Spacing

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Diagram 6

Black has just now cut with the marked stone. How should White play? This comes from the 3rd Preliminary Round of this year’s Honinbo tournament, with Ryu Shikun 7 dan playing White.

This has been turned into a problem here. By comparing the spacing of both sides in a calm and collected manner, an answer will naturally emerge, However, in the actual game, it was not so clear-cut. On this kind of occasion, the question is posed whether one believes in the Zone Press way of thinking or not.

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Diagram 7

If there is no belief, White will probably move out with 1. When this happens, it becomes a fight between individual skills. But the attachment of Black 4 is a tesuji that puts White in a difficult position.

White 5 in reply is standard, so Black 6 initiates a melee. Black has various forcing moves in relation to White’s marked stone that can be used in a fight in the center. Therefore, it seems that Black has the advantage.

In that case, returning to Diagram 6 and rethinking the position is called for. In regards to Black’s thickness on the lower side, White can still push through at A, so Black’s position in this area has not been perfected.

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Diagram 8

Consequently, White pushes with 1 through 5 without regret, then solidifies the left side with White 7. This move emphasizes the large spacing on the upper side. Even though Black has this been ceded definite territory, White can expect to make even more territory than that on the upper side.

And yet, in the board position where Black plays at "a," preventing White from moving out, after Black makes the standard move at "b," Black’s territory is also large. It is important to discern the size in terms of the Zone.

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Diagram 9

Since Black has lost the spacing fight, it is necessary to invade at 1. Pressuring this kind of stone is the greatest forte of the Zone Press. White 2 and 4 secure the position here. Then, White plays at 6 to surround the territory in this area.

Black is unable to play 15 as the hane at 20 since surrounding territory along with White at the same time leaves Black behind. This is painful for Black. But although Black 15 reduces the upper side to a certain extent, White 20 also reduces Black’s territory. Even the number of stones has increased, the Zone Press Strategy has sufficiently displayed its functionality. Please believe in it and adopt it in your own play.

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.

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