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49th Annual Honinbo Title Match, Game 6

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White: Kataoka Satoshi 9 dan

Black: Cho Chikun, Honinbo

Played on July 12 & 13, 1994 at Gumma.

196 moves. White wins by resignation.

Commentary by Otake Hideo, 10 Dan in KIDO, Sept. 1994.

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

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Figure 1 (1-50)

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

Up to white 6, the game follows the same order of moves as in Game 2 of this match.

But instead of making the hane at 10, Cho played the avalanche move at 7. This is the start of a long and complex joseki that has not been seen much recently. It’s been a while since Cho himself has played an avalanche joseki, hasn’t it? I do not like playing large scale joseki, and it seems to me that Cho is the same way. In spite of that fact, and in an important match, Cho plays it. That is just like him.

In this joseki, there are so many variations that if one gets started one will never come to the end in an analysis. And this joseki comes to a lull in the action at white. However, rather than leave it at that, let’s examine two or three important points along the way.

Instead of 23, playing at black 1 in diagram 1 leads to the standard variation of the large avalanche joseki. In that joseki, white plays atari at the point of 23, depriving black of eye space, so to avoid that, black plays 23.

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Diagram 1

This standard version of the large avalanche joseki is the one that is most often played.

Through 29, black’s shape is riddled with weaknesses as a result of playing the black stone at 23.

The most common move in this position is the fencing in move at black 1 in diagram 2.

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Diagram 2

The joseki that starts with black’s fencing in move at 1 is also often seen. White pushes through at 2 and then cuts at 4, picking up momentum to play in the center. White makes the forcing move [kikashi] of 6 (if black plays elsewhere with 7, white plays at 7), a move that is somewhat irksome to have to answer. It is out of distaste for this that Cho played the attachment at black 33 [black "a" here]. The variation shown here is the one that is most often played but Cho’s attachment at black "a" is also common.

When white presses at 40, capturing at black 41 shows good timing.

If possible, white would prefer to respond here at 1 in diagram 3.

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Diagram 3

White would like to answer black’s marked stone with 1, since the threat of a placement at "a" makes white "b" a severe move. However, white 1 leaves white open to the atari at "c" [kikashi], giving black impetus to play black 2 & 4.

Play reaches a lull in this area after white plays at 50. If I had to choose, I would rather play the black stones. However, to a great extent, this is just a matter of taste. Naturally, it is not the case that there are no reasons for my preference…

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Figure 2 (51-71)

…the main one being that white’s position in the lower left corner contain 16 or 17 pts. When black adds the checking extension at 51, black’s combined position on the left side and in the lower left is practically equal to that. Other than that, black has the two star points on the right side, while white has the star point in the upper left, the thickness in the center, plus 5 1/2 pts. komi. Even though it is white’s turn to move, isn’t this position a little easier for black to play? The focal point of the play from here on is the aforementioned white thickness in the center. At this stage in the game, considered as thickness, it is a positive element of white’s game. But if, according to the way the game develops, it becomes an object of attack by black, it will turn into a negative element. Both sides fully realize this, and will, in the current stage of the game, concentrate efforts on this matter. In the first place, black 51 gives evidence of this consciousness.

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Diagram 4

It is not impossible for black to play two big points in a row, at 1 & 3. That is because even letting white play the checking extension of 2 does not fatally threaten black’s group on the left side. Black can play the moves at "a" through "e" in sente, making sufficient eye space. But black 1 & 3 makes it easy for white’s group in the center, and the thickness there will make its power felt. Cho’s move at black 51 [black 2 here], was played in consciousness of this fact. It is a rock solid move.

For white’s part, at move 52 it is not feasible to answer black 51 and the impetus of events propels the moves of both sides from white 52 on.

Neither can white answer black 53 in the upper left corner. However, black might play 53 at the usual point of 1 in diagram 5.

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Diagram 5

Black 1 is the normal move to defend the corner. When white plays at 2, black 3 continues the play on a very leisurely course. This sort of development seems possible for black.

With black 51, 53 & 61, black plays three moves in a row against the upper left corner, while white plays three moves against black’s upper right corner with white 52 & 54 and the next move at white 62. (However, black could also consider playing 61 at "A".) The white moves in the upper right keep the black stones there on the defensive. As long as black has a weak group to look after, there is a good chance that white’s thickness in the center will work effectively. A scattering of forces like this is in keeping with Kataoka’s style, and he was undoubtedly satisfied with the progress of the game to this point.

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Figure 3 (71-81)

But an unexpected cannonball came battering against white’s position. Said Kataoka of this move, which took him completely by surprise, "I was aghast at this move and didn’t know what to do." This is a disagreeable move indeed, and Kataoka must have spent some agonizing moments sweating out his response. If one viewed this position only in hackneyed terms, instead of black 71, the move at black 1 in diagram 6 is what one would play.

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Diagram 6

If black simply makes the knight’s move at 1, and white lives in the corner with white 2 and the following moves, black occupies a good point at 15. However, Cho views this kind of "normal" move with revulsion. White has managed to live in the upper left corner, and although the black territory on the upper side is deep, if black now makes the attachment at "a", white will not obligingly hane at "b". Since white has profited in the upper left, in the center white will hang tough in some way.

The timing of black 71 can only be answered at this point by the hane of white 72, and this shows the sharp sense of the board that Cho possesses. If white plays the hane at "A", black obtains the impetus to play at "B"; if white draws back at "C", black hanes at "D". In those cases, making a move only serves to make things easy for black’s group in the upper right. If white extends to "D", black extends at "A", and now threatens to push through at "C". Consequently, whether white likes it or not, the hane at 72 is forced.

It is worth examining this game just to see the moves at black 71 and 73. The attachment of the marked stone is a move that Cho must have wanted to play ever since the white thickness in the center came into being. Thinking about when to do it? when to do it? just before playing the knight’s move of black 73, now’s the time! must have been running through his mind. The knight’s move at black 73 is one move that black absolutely wants to play. The attachment of black 71 attains its greatest value in being played just before black 73. The opinion was voiced that black should use the move at 73 to cross-cut at 1 in diagram 7.

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Diagram 7

If black cross-cuts at 1, it appears as if a swap will occur with black killing white’s group in the center and white capturing the black group in the upper right. Cho must have felt that the continuation here was unclear. Or perhaps he was attracted by the black 71 & 73 combination and thought that it was stronger.

The effectiveness of the attachment of the black stone is shown by the following moves, starting with white 74. White plays this move, which winds up as a sacrifice after white plays at white 76 and white 78, in order to play at white 80. And since white 80 may not be omitted black manages to take sente to play the biggest move on the board at 81. Simply playing the knight’s move at 73 without making the attachment in the center would not have allowed black to achieve so much.

Not only in this game, but throughout the entire series, Cho has, for the most part, been the one to regularly initiate activity, while Kataoka has been placed in the position to reacting to events. This is not a question of good and bad, but both sides playing style dictates such developments. In this game as well, up to here Cho has played the moves that have suited his fancy, while Kataoka stoically bears down, moving from pillar to post in defense. But as I have stated previously, go is a game where the moves are played one by one, and if a terrible blunder can be avoided, the position will not deteriorate irretrievably. At this stage, black has a slight lead, but the difference is not very big.

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Figure 4 (82-129)

Kataoka was said to have regretted playing at 82 instead of playing at white 1 in diagram 8.

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Diagram 8

Kataoka said that white has to play at 1. Since this threatens a white move at "a", black must defend with 2, and then white can turn to play at 3. Indeed, the difference between black 85 in the game [played at 3 here] and white 3 is not small.

It must be said, though, that exchanging black 83 for white’s move at white 84 is, theoretically speaking, favorable for white. It is the same as if white had first played at 84, and then black exchanged 83 for 82. White would ordinarily feel grateful for that. But Cho uses the exchange of 83 for white 84 to tide over the situation here, and then turns to play at black 85. Cho should be praised for his alacrity in taking advantage of the situation.

It would be great if white had an attack that could be mounted against black’s group in the upper right, but black has access to two exit routes to the left and below, making an immediate attack infeasible. So for the moment, Kataoka turns to usurp the territory in the lower right corner with white 86, playing for a long, drawn-out game. In retrospect, the kind of stoic patience that Kataoka displays here is indicative of his style. Of course, if there WAS a good attacking move, Kataoka would pounce on it.

Since white has plenty of ko threats, white makes a shape that will be alive in ko no matter what happens with the moves through 92 and then turns to play at white 96, trying to complicate the position. Since black has a weak group in the upper right, it is impossible to resist too strongly.

When white plays at 98, the emergency exit to the left is practically closed, so black must make shape with 99. While black retains a slight lead, the large endgame stage begins.

The moves from white 100 through black 117 are about what to expect in this position.

White 118 forces the black group above to make life.

With black 121 and the following moves through 125, while making life, black makes territory equivalent to the size of komi, and this result is par for the situation.

Black makes territory here equivalent to the size of komi.

Capturing one stone with white 126 and white 128 is a large move at this stage of the game.

At this point black makes the intuitive attachment at 129. This second attachment makes it fully worthwhile to play through this game. By playing 129 at the point of "A", black would still be ahead by 7 or 8 pts. on the board. But black 129 should be, for all intents and purposes, the coup de grace.

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Figure 5 (130-148)

If white plays 132 at 1 in diagram 9, black will answer so as to become nearly 10 pts. ahead on the board.

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Diagram 9

The sequence here leaves black nearly 10 pts. ahead on the board. However, in reality, white had no choice but to play this way.

In time trouble, Cho played black 133 in order to gain time for thinking. However, this turns out to be the losing move, and could have cost Cho the match. Black should have cut at 1 in diagram 10.

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Diagram 10

If black had cut at 1 and played atari at 3, the difference in the game would have grown even larger. The vitally important move here is the atari of black 3. The point is that one must ensure that in playing on the left, the repercussions do not affect the life and death status of black’s group in the upper right. If black plays at 3 & 5, when white plays at 6, black can draw back at 7. Now, since a black move at "a" threatens to capture white’s two stones above, the life of black’s group here is guaranteed. Cho said that while his seconds were being counted off, he saw the move at 1 in a flash, but then fruitlessly wondered which move was better, black 1 or the hane at black "b". While lost in a self-inflicted bout of indecision, he played black 133 ["c" here] to gain time to think and it proved fatal.

What if black turns a blind eye towards the upper right and just captures at "A"?

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Diagram 11

It would be nice if white would answer black’s capture at 1 by playing atari at 2, since now escaping with black "a" or living with black "b" are equivalent alternatives [miai]. Naturally, a white capture at "b" in no way compares to black’s move at 1. However, white will instead play 2 at 1 in diagram 12.

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Diagram 12

The attachment of white 1 here is a good move. There are a number of variations that may be played, but in all cases black’s group will end up dead.

Kataoka’s move at white 136 shows masterful skill. White exchanges this for black 137 and then returns to play at white 138.

If black answers white 136 with 140, white plays 137 in sente, and although the advantage is slight, it is in white’s favor.

White plays at 144 and white 146, and then with the move at 148, white has clearly staged an upset.

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Figure 6 (149-196)

White 188 and the following moves, while natural, is a skillful endgame sequence.

If black responds to white 192 by playing at "A", there is no problem in the corner, but white plays 193, answered by black "B", and this in itself is a loss of 3 pts. as compared to black playing at 193 as in the game.

Cho’s lost this game in the very worst way one can do. Upset with his own play, he left the playing room without participating in the analysis afterward, which is unusual for him, but I can understand that. I heard from those who were present that Cho was asked after the seventh game how he had managed to recover his spirit after only a week had passed since the sixth game. "Wha!? A week? It’s already been a week?" he replied. That’s how deeply he felt this.

This stunning loss had kept him that far unbalanced. But he recovered to win the final game and retain the title. That shows a level of skill to which I cannot even hope to aspire. I can only admire it.

Black resigned here, but if play were to continue, diagram 13 shows what would happen.

196 moves. White wins by resignation.

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Diagram 13

Black has no choice but to capture at 1 & 3, but when white plays 2 through 6, making eyes with a move at white "a", or playing ko with a move at white "b" are equivalent options [miai]. The ko at white "b" is a "flower-viewing ko" for white, which black cannot possibly fight.

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