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Takagawa’s Fuseki


The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, is the most famous festival in Japan. It takes place over the entire month of July. There are many different events, but the grand procession of floats (Yamaboko Junko) on July 17 is particularly spectacular.


The late Takagawa Kaku 9 dan (September 21, 1915~November 26, 1986) had a simple and elegant style of play. In fact, one of his nicknames was "Boshi" [= "Capping Move"], because he used that move so often in his games. More than anything else, it was his crystal clear perspective regarding the opening [= fuseki] that he was famous for.

And Takagawa was the right player for the right time. The komi was just coming into widespread use. The Honinbo tournament was the first professional venue where the komi was adopted, although it was only set conservatively at 4 1/2 points to begin with. Takagawa was the first professional player to base his game on a precise calculation of the point value of each play, as well as an overall assessment of the territory of both sides. That skill enabled him to win the Honinbo title nine years in a row (1952~1960), an outstanding accomplishment. (It was bested by Cho Chikun in 1998, when he won the Honinbo title for the tenth consecutive year.)

I remember talking to Michael Redmond 9 dan once in connection with the works he had studied in order to reach professional status. He told me something like the following:

"All students aiming to become a professional player study the complete games of Shusaku. That is mandatory. And I was given a four volume set of all of Go Seigen’s games by Kikuchi Yasuro [the top amateur player at the time] that I have played through several times. But at the moment, I am studying all of Takagawa’s games. He has deceptively simple style that is very interesting."

In the following article, Takagawa explains how exact calculation is done, practically on a move by move basis. Close study of this material will pay great rewards in understanding many of the fundamental factors of the opening of the game of go.

Games Dominated by Calculation

By Takagawa Kaku from Kido, February 1975

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


Model Figure 1 (1-18)

Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Hashimoto — Takagawa (White) White wins by 8 1/2 points

The result of the 7th Annual Honinbo Title Match [1952], in betrayal of the world’s and my own expectation, was that I defeated Hashimoto Honinbo [Hashimoto Utaro, February 27, 1907~July 24, 1994, adopted the name, Honinbo Shou, when he won the title] by the score of 4-1. Following my loss of Game 1, the so-called, "Takagawa’s Pratfall," Model Figure 1 shows the opening of Game 2.

From this time forward, I retained the Honinbo title for nine consecutive years by comprehensively playing go games of calculation. Starting with the opening and proceeding all the way through to the endgame, I concentrated completely on positional analysis. In addition, that positional judgment required a delicate touch. Today, I am absolutely no good at that, but…

Black 5 and 7 display Hashimoto Honinbo’s strategy of rapid development. Now, the pincer of White 8 is the move to play here, rather than the pincer at A. Black is induced to answer at 9 so that White has impetus to jump to 10, a move that restrains the development of Black’s one point corner enclosure in the upper right.

Black 11 is an essential point for fighting. From the opposite perspective, incurring the pincer of White A (or else B) would be intolerable for Black. Here, compared to any big point on the board, this is a vital point in regards to attack and defense to hurry to play.

White 12 and the following sequence is a joseki that everyone knows about. For White 16…


Diagram 1 White 5 connects; White 13, same

…spinning around with White 1, in the local context, makes great profit for White, but in this board position Black occupies the essential point on the right side, which is unpleasant for White. Black also is left with the good potential [aji] of A.

Following through with the motivation behind White 8 and 10 here, White plays 16 and 18 out of a desire to advance into the right side first. More than anything, it is impossible to disregard the latent power of Black’s one point corner enclosure.

Black 17 is a light and versatile move typical of Hashimoto san. This is natural, since playing Black 17 at C would be met by White D, which would be no good for Black. If that is not good…


Diagram 2

…the move-in-a-row of Black 1 is a heavy and lumbering move unbecoming Hashimoto san that feels distasteful. The sequence here is viewed as joseki, but the exchange of White 8 for Black 9 is unbearable for Black. [Black 9 connects on an empty point, while White 8 is a forcing move that also gives White’s stones flexible shape.] This is a playing method that can only be used in special circumstances.

The two point jump of White 18 is correct here.


Diagram 3

White 1 and 3 is a playing method used in cases when building a territorial framework [moyo]. Here, this is meaningless because of the existence of Black’s one point corner enclosure. At the same time, White’s marked stones suddenly become thin and weak.

Not Too Close or Too Far Away


Model Figure 2 (19-28)

Black 19 and White 20 are two moves that required painstaking effort to find in this opening. First, Black 19 is a good, versatile move.


Diagram 4

In terms of the order of moves, the double pincer of Black 1 followed by the extension of 3 is natural, but this is a way of playing when the left side is viewed as important. Black has incurred a territorial loss on the right side, so it is desirable to focus on attacking White’s two stones on the lower side. Black has to play in a painstaking manner to do that.


Diagram 5

Such being the case, directly taking aim at White’s two marked stones might lead to Black vigorously playing 1 and the following moves. However, White’s territory grows too large, while the distance between Black’s wall here and the marked Black stone is too narrow. In addition, even though Black has built a great deal of thickness here, there is no guarantee that White’s two marked stones can be captured. This can be dismissed out of hand as a losing variation for Black.

Without playing too close to White’s stone in the lower left, or too far away, Black develops on a large scale with 19 to see how White will respond. Deciding how to play White 20 took me a great deal of pain and care.


Diagram 6

The usual perception is to make the diagonal attachment of White 1, then play the one point jump of 3. However, when Black extends upward with 2, the jumping attachment of Black 6 ends up thickly sealing White in. White 1, contrary to White’s best interests, damages White’s position.

In a comparison of the simplification of the position, in Diagram 5 White stays on move ahead of Black with 6 and 8, while in Diagram 6 Black advances ahead of White.


Diagram 7

Attaching with White 1 and extending at 3 is a commonsense idea. Black will probably play 6 and then develop with 8. After this, descending with Black A threatens n attack against the corner, so it is good shape with good potential [aji].

White 20 avoids solidifying Black’s outside wall while building a base, and I believed that this was the best move here.

Black 21 is a loose move. Attaching with Black A is another idea, but the continuation is difficult.

White 22 and 24 are forcing moves that leave things like the hane out at B and the cutting point at C available, then White makes the vague one point jump of 26. It seems that these moves evoked favorable comments. White 26 was characterized as, "Takagawa’s vague but thick and strong one point jump." However, from the opposite point of view, capping White with Black 26, or else D, would be terrible for White. When White plays 26, Black plays 27 to guarantee a base. This is a natural exchange.


Diagram 8

Building shape with White 1 would be met by the diagonal move of Black 2, and White has no answer. The diagonal attachment of White 3 impels Black to move out with the moves through 8, leaving White unable to cope with the situation. From the standpoint of theory, it is better for White not to play the move at 1.

White plays the extension of 28 one point further than usual because…


Diagram 9

…should White play at 1 here, Black replies with the checking extension at 2. This is distasteful, but is also a possible move. If White jumps at 3, Black attacks the corner with 4, followed by the invasion of the 3-3 point with 6. With the moves through White 19, a thick and strong position is created, and this would be another game.

In the actual game, I felt like advancing one point further with White 28. The present outlook is for a leisurely game, and to that extent I believe that this is promising for White. However, it is just here that Hashimoto Honinbo comes out with a good move.

Deviating from the Strategy


Model Figure 3 (29-60) Black 45 connects

I took the shoulder hit of Black 29 too lightly. When White plays at 32, the invasion of the 3-3 point by Black 33 is a nimble way of playing.


Diagram 10

The usual perception is that Black attacks the corner with 1. In that case, I intended to make the pincer of White 2. Black will then engineer a swap for the corner with 3, but White pushes vigorously with the moves through 18. Black’s territory on the left side is open at the edge, so White can be satisfied with this result. Should this be distasteful for Black, it is possible for Black to play 15 elsewhere, but regardless of that, White has thick and strong shape.

In response to Black 29…


Diagram 11

…pressing with White 1 is the usual way to make shape. However, there is one thing that is distasteful for White about this. That is, the moves through White 7 are standard. Then, the turning move of Black 8 is played with an eye towards attacking White’s three stones below, and as such have tremendous value.

In short, Black 29 aims at the lower side from afar, so White, too, cannot disregard that objective. However, despite that fact, White defends with 30 and 32, moves that to my chagrin give credence to the nickname that I was given, "Calm and Collected Takagawa."

The reason is that it is obvious that Black will immediately invade at the 3-3 point with 33.


Diagram 12

If possible, White would prefer to block on the wide side with 1. But here there is something distasteful for White. That is after White 5, Black instantly plays 6 and then throws in the single cutting stone of 8. This is an irksome nuisance. Should White play at A now, Black responds with B, so White instead plays 9. At that point, Black lives in the corner with 10 and 12, then vigorously presses with Black 14 and the following moves before turning to play Black 20. This is the essential point for attacking to maintain the balance in the game. Black would probably keep the pressing move of 14 and the two other pressing moves in reserve, immediately playing at 20, but regardless of that, the fact that Black has these thick and strong forcing moves available makes the position critically dangerous for White.

White has no choice but to play 34 and the following moves in transacting the settlement of the corner. White 38 at 39 would be followed by Black 38, White 44, the hane of Black A and then the connection.

That would clearly make the low position of White 30 and 32 unsatisfactory, so the sequence from White 38 through Black 45 is unavoidable.

White 46 rejects the playing method in Diagram 12 at the same time as looking towards the sequence of White B, Black C and White D, gouging out the corner. Therefore, Black 47 is big territorially.

White 48 in general makes White’s three stones on the lower side more comfortable, while also aiming at the hane over Black’s stone at 53. Black 49 through 53 defends against that.

Black cuts at 55 and makes the big capture at 57. White 58 was seen as a questionable move in those days. That is because it lets Black turn to take the big point at 59. However, I believe that White 58 is a good point, in no way inferior to Black 59.

The difference between Black 59 and White E is more than 15 points and less than 20 points. In regards to White 58…


Diagram 13

…it is difficult to assess the difference between White 58 and Black 1 and 3 here, but to begin with, capturing Black 51 produces a 3 point difference in White’s territory. In addition, having White 58 in place creates the potential [aji] of cutting at F. Besides this, Black 3 in Diagram 13 makes a difference in Black’s territory on the left side. Totaling all of these together makes a difference close to 10 points. However, White 58 is a reverse sente move [this is a technical endgame term], so converting this in regards to either side playing there in gote, it is worth 15 or 16 points. This is the way to judge the position numerically. Since White 58 is that big a move, objectively it cannot be evaluated as slack.

With the fencing-in move of White 60, the play enters into perilous middlegame fighting.

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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