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Become a Tesuji Titan!

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The Gion Festival in Kyoto is one of the three largest festivals in Japan. It is celebrated for a whole month starting from early July and during this time people from all over the world join the celebrations. The Gion Festival parade consists of 33 carefully prepared festival floats with different themes related to Japanese traditions and legends.

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When playing a strong player, the thing that is most notable is how that player makes use of tesuji to gain all sorts of advantages. It is often said that playing stronger players is a good way to improve. The meaning is that the use of tesuji can thereby be studied at close range.

It is the same when playing out the games of professional players on a board. Tesuji are used regularly in those games. What is more edifying, though, is to see those tesuji employed skillfully in the course of a natural flow of moves.

The following article offers all sorts of insights into the nature of tesuji. It will repay close study many times over.

Become a Tesuji Titan!

By Kataoka Satoshi 9 dan

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

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Tesuji that exude brilliance are not things that cling physically to a player’s body 24 hours a day. In order to cultivate perception and sense, it is important to be exposed to a wide range of tesuji.

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*Weak Point Fast Overview Table*

TOP: Shape LEFT: Survival [Shinogi] RIGHT: Bad Potential [Aji] BOTTOM: Attack

Please enter values into table to determine one’s weak point number.]

Here, the elements of tesuji are divided into four sections: shape, bad aji, attack and survival [shinogi]. Perhaps the reader would like to thoroughly analyze the weak points of the reader’s play visually. Please take up the challenge of aiming to become a "tesuji titan" by solving the following 12 problems.

SHAPE: Appearance is Number One

The first step towards becoming a "tesuji titan" is above all, "appearance." That is right, it is the same appearance used in the sense that, "The girl over there has a nice appearance, you know."

The form that the stones make up is the life of go. Competing in reading is not the be-all and end-all of the game. It is just through attractive shape that the stones work most effectively.

The problem is how to gain a palpable sense of that beauty. To do so, the best way is to be exposed to a great number of the shapes of tesuji. To the point that one’s game is praised as, "Your go has a good appearance, you know." (?)

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Problem 1 Black to Play

White has just made the attachment of the marked stone. More than anything, Black would like to connect the groups to the left and right. And yet the usual moves to do that are no good. The hocus-pocus of tesuji is necessary.

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Problem 2 Black to Play

The setting-up move of Black 1 is a wonderful tesuji. However, if one does not know the follow-up move, it cannot be called complete. What is the move that works best in this shape, while producing ko material?

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Problem 3 Black to Play

If, by just glancing at the shape of White’s stones, it is felt that something must be possible, it is an indication of sharp perception. Since this is a problem concerning the base of both sides, the consequences are serious. Please demonstrate a leap of the imagination.

A Clever Wedging-in Hane

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Problem 1 Correct Solution

The wedging-in hane of Black 1 is a clever tesuji that is really hard to discover during a real game. Black uses this stone as a sacrifice in order to connect safely with 3 and 5.

Should Black use 1 to make the commonplace hane at 5, it incurs White 3, which makes it impossible for Black to connect the stones. Just a little knowledge of shape divides the paths that lead to heaven or hell.

A Common Tesuji for Playing Ko

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Problem 2 Correct Solution

The hane of Black 1. It is just by being able to play this move that the setting-up tesuji of the marked stone shows its worth.

It should be noted that this move plays the combination role of creating ko material. If White responds by playing the ko fight, No matter what White plays next, Black captures one stone after another [ignoring whatever ko threat White makes]. Besides that, the White connection at "a" makes dumpling shape, while Black gets better than good shape by extending at "b."

Go-in Deeply with an Attachment

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Problem 3 Correct Solution

Boldly going in deeply with Black 1 is a skillful tesuji. Unless one is knowledgeable about tesuji, there is no way this move could be played. The counterattack of White 2 is met by Black’s extending in a calm and collected way with 3, and then cutting with 5, with a great victory. In addition, should White play 2 as the block at 3, Black is all right by drawing back at 2.

Whatever happens, Black gets a base, while on the other hand White ends up empty-handed and forced into the predicament of running away.

BAD AJI: Shortage of Liberties Is…

Maintaining the appearance of the stones is an essential condition for improvement. And in the opposite way, how can the opponent’s stones be forced into bad shape, or bad aji?

"There seems to be something here, but," one might think, and yet no move is viable. Everyone has had this regrettable experience. At that kind of time, the only thing to be done is to precisely strike at the "bad." It must be called to mind that, "Filling liberties fills the room for life."

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Problem 4 Black to Play

White has such bad aji in the shape of the stones that one wants to cover one’s eyes. However, a simplistic move will not lead anywhere.

The proper order of moves is critical. Please put White into a ruinous tight spot.

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Problem 5 Black to Play

Black’s remaining liberties are down to merely three moves. Fast work must be made of that limit.

The odor of rapidly disappearing liberties floats around White’s shape, you know. Here, too, the proper order of moves is critical.

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Problem 6 Black to Play

At first sight, White’s shape does not appear to have anything questionable about it, but here, too, a fearful shortage of liberties is threatening. As the third move in the sequence, a surprising tesuji is lurking.

The Knack of the One, Two Punch

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Problem 4 Correct Solution

The single cut of Black 1 is a skillful tesuji that brings about a shortage of liberties for White. Black waits for White to take hold of Black’s stone with 2, then throws in a stone at 3. This takes care of everything.

Should Black use 1 to first throw in at 3, after White 4, things do not go well. Even after carefully managing to play a tesuji, a mistake in the order of moves will spoil everything.

The Sorcery of Rapidly Disappearing Liberties

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Problem 5 Correct Solution

The placement of Black 1 is a move at the vital point to deprive the White stones of flexibility. The connection of White 2 is the only move, and then the consecutive throw-ins of Black 3 and 5 lead to the finishing blow of 7. Rapidly disappearing liberties put White into desperate straits. There are probably players who will think that using Black 1 to first throw in at 3 would bring about the same result, no? Except that would be ignorant of the possibility of White answering at 1 to set up a ko, a tenacious resource at hand.

An Exquisite Diagonal Move

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Problem 6 Correct Solution

Anyone can play the atari of Black 1. And yet, continuing with the diagonal move of Black 3 requires a certain amount of skill that is unavailable to those without some training.

Next, when White plays 4, Black cuts at 5, which is "The End." Besides this, should White play 4 at "a," chasing from behind with Black "b" is fine.

Other than Black 3, no move produces a worthwhile result.

ATTACK: Tie Up Stones

The great attraction of go is, as might be expected, capturing stones. There is nothing sweeter than to mow down positions of the opponent, one after another, all the while with the thought in mind, "Please die." This is thrilling, you know.

Attacking is associated with moves of brute force, but in order to capture stones, as might be expected brilliant tesuji are necessary.

In samurai melodramas, rope is used to tie up adversaries. Tesuji stamp out the "bad," which is what we are studying here. The end comes when, "This wraps things up."

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Problem 7 Black to Play

White is restricted to a narrow space, but the shape is not such that Black can be complacent. To kill the White group, restrained moves come into play. Various expedients of the opponent are neutralized, and cold-blooded power plays wielded.

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Problem 8 Black to Play

Letting Black’s two stones be taken is no good. So much is obvious. However, it is difficult to escape with the two stones and deal a finishing blow to White’s three stones at the same time. The third move in the sequence is the point.

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Problem 9 Black to Play

As first sight, White’s shape is in good order, but in truth a shortage of liberties is threatening… Here, too, the third move is the point.

Men are Strong and Silent…

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Problem 7 Correct Solution

Only brilliant moves are not what comprise tesuji. Subdued moves that completely suppress a variety of the opponent’s moves can also be wonderful tesuji.

Here, Black silently connects with 1. This is a good move that gives White no opportunity for counter play. Since the space is narrow, it allows White no room for creative measures to make life.

Should Black play 1 elsewhere, seeing that White can play at either "a" or "b," it would be impossible to kill the group.

A Placement is the Point

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Problem 8 Correct Solution

The jump of Black 1 is the vital point in this shape. And yet, it is not the star performer here. When White answers at 2, the placement of Black 3 shows that success is finally achieved.

Following this, should White play at "a," Black’s blocking at "b" is good.

For 1, if Black instead makes the commonplace move of "c," White 1, Black "d" and White 2 turns the tables, and Black loses the race to capture. In every case, the point of 1 is the vital point.

In the Blink of an Eye

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Problem 9 Correct Solution

The cut of Black 1, in an instant, produces a shortage of liberties for White. Tesuji come in many guises, you know. Black waits for White to take hold of Black’s stone with 2, then cuts into White’s group with 3, which is the second shot of the tesuji.

Next, White "a" is foiled by Black "b," or White "b" brings on Black "a," and no matter what happens, White’s four stones to the right cannot be saved.

If White plays 2 at "b," Black replies at 2, and this time White’s three stones to the left end up captured.

SURVIVAL [Shinogi]: Escape, Escape

If it was possible to win in go by just attacking, there would be no painful difficulties. But at times one is attacked fiercely, and one can suffer acutely while struggling to survive.

Well then, now we come to the survival [shinogi] section. Here, we end up studying the tesuji of escape, in particular.

"Escape, escape"… Reviving stones that at first glance appeared utterly unable to escape can be incredibly enjoyable. Could it not be put into words as "Escaping is winning"?

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Problem 10 Black to Play

First, a light, warming-up exercise. This is a variation in the 3-4 point two space high pincer joseki. White’s marked stone is a suspicious trick play. Black wants to escape deftly with the six stones on the lower side. At the same time, another condition is that no damaging influence be cast in the process against Black’s three stones on the left side.

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Problem 11 Black to Play

In order to unconditionally bring out Black’s two stones within White’s position, the help of a tesuji is required. The root of White’s breath must be stopped up so as to escape.

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Problem 12 Black to Play

Neither by playing atari at A or at B would allow Black to escape. Ordinary nerves are absolutely insufficient to deal with this situation, where tesuji produces the only move. The thing to depend on is the thinness of White’s surrounding net.

Smashing the Trick Play

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Problem 10 Correct Solution

Black 1. Unless one knows about this somewhat odd tesuji, it would not be possible to smash the opponent’s trick play.

Next, White "a" is met by Black "b" and the capture of White’s stone with a fencing-in move. No further explanation is needed, is it?

In addition, White "c" is answered by Black bursting through with "a." Black is able to escape without doing damage to the three stones to the left.

Provoking with a Push

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Problem 11 Correct Solution

Pushing with Black 1 provokes White to play 2. At that point, the atari of Black 3 is the only method of escape. By carefully playing the proper order of moves, it is possible to shoot down White’s group of stones. Should White play 2 at "a," this time the key is for Black play at "b."

Other than Black 1, any different move would encounter a shortage of liberties, so it would not be possible to bring back the two stones.

This is a Tesuji!

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Problem 12 Correct Solution

The fact that this kind of move can rescue the seven Black stones shows the tremendous power of tesuji. The wedging-in move of Black 1.

For White’s answering move, a number of possibilities can be considered, but it is the skillful use of a Black atari at "a," or else at "b," which allows the Black group to escape safely.

Those who do not believe this are invited to analyze the position.

The Path to Becoming a Tesuji Titan

After going to the trouble of learning tesuji, if one cannot use them in real game play, one cannot become a "tesuji titan." To illustrate this point, here at the end I have selected a game of my own as subject matter.

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Diagram 1

In response to the cut with White’s marked stone, the counter-atari tesuji of Black 1 is probably simply common sense for the reader. When White plays 2, the connection of Black 3 keeps the pressure on as far as possible to attack White. Should Black thoughtlessly use 1 to play atari at 2, White would reply with 1, and the attack would evaporate.

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Diagram 2

Here is the position after a few moves have been played. The defect at "a" is bothersome, but if Black directly reinforces to deal with that, White’s two marked stones become light.

Here, I thought that the attachment of Black 1 was the correct technique [suji]. Running away with White 2 is the only move, and Black uses the impetus of the play to go back to make the move at 3. The key is that the exchange of Black 1 for White 2 makes White heavy.

If White uses 2 to play at "a," Black’s taking hold of White’s stones with 2 is sufficient.

Shape, bad aji, attack and survival [shinogi]. Was the reader able to determine what the reader’s weak point is? The path of the tesuji titan is a perilous one. In the end, solving many problems to sharpen one’s sense is the best way to go, you know.

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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