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How Should One Play Here?

From Kidō, September 1980

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●100 People 100 Ways●

How Should One Play Here?

Reported by Akiyama Kenji

That place, this board position, professional players take great pains over finding the absolutely best move to play. Casting the spotlight on the opening, with its contrast between conceptions, we ask them what the essential next move is to see what happens.

With the Meijin League coming to a climax, the fight to become challenger for the title is at fever pitch. On the other hand, there is a fight for the right to retain a place in the league, and the threat of falling out is serious. One game this month is between Sakata and Yamashiro, who battled to retain that coveted spot, and their game is the subject matter of this article.

This Month’s Theme Figure

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If one loses, one’s head will roll, so to that extent the fighting spirit of both players was intense. As the game unfolded with Sakata attacking and Yamashiro maneuvering for survival, it became rich material for analysis in the press room.

The board position here is on the threshold of the middlegame. White attaches with 1 and blocks at 3, moves intending to expand the territorial framework on the upper side. By sliding to 6, Black takes aim at White’s two stones. Well then, how should White play here?

There is a continuation succession of ultra difficult positions that first class professional players shake their heads over, and different players will come up with their own answers, but it seems like this is a situation that is comparatively easy to work out. There is only the question of whether White should cut above at “a” or below at “b.” Since the statistics are based on one of two, chances are that the reader will hit upon the professional play. However, the problem is how to play after that. Please determine a sequence of moves leading to a lull in the action.

This month, the ones supplying the answer are those who were enthusiastically analyzing, Kobayashi Kōichi 9 dan, Awaji Shūzō 7 dan and Takemiya Masaki Honinbō. There is not only the question of White “a” or “b,” but there are various implications connected with White 1 and Black 6. Those matters will be dealt with as well.

The Game will be Decided on the Upper Side

――Kobayashi Kōichi 9 dan

“White 1 and 3 in the Theme Figure are questionable. I think that this made it an unpromising game for White. I suppose that the better question to ask is how White should play 1 in the Theme Figure.”

That is what Kobayashi 9 dan said. For White 1 there, he insisted that White should play at “c,” depriving Black of a base and pressing in on Black’s two stones so as to restrain Black from invading the upper side.

“Regardless of that, the theme is which side to cut on, you know.

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Diagram 1

“I think that cutting with White 1 in Diagram 1 is the only move. Drawing back with Black is standard, so White can take control of Black’s stone with 3. This makes for a wide expanse of territory on the upper side. Unless White expands the upper side, there seems to be no way to win the game.”

The play up to here represents the ultimate in commonsense thinking. Continuing, how Black should play is difficult. There is an attack on White’s two stones in the lower left, but…

“In the actual game,

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Diagram 2

“Black would want to peep at 1 in Diagram 2, you know. White attaches with 2 to deal with the situation by means of sabaki, and will likely give some structure to the group with a move in the vicinity of 6.”

It may be superfluous to mention this, but using White 2 to connect at A would let Black jump to B, making the position painful and difficult for White. Should Black use 3 to hane at 4, White blocks at C and gets living shape simply. It should be added that the same consideration holds for Black 5.

After White gets comfortable with 6, there is a lull in the action. Well then, what is the outlook in the game?

“Since White is a little thin and weak, it seems to me that one would want to play the Black side. However, more than anything, the disposition and consolidation of the upper side will determine the win. Perhaps we should say that the outlook is unclear. Of course, there is a big difference between this and the cut below (reference Diagram 6).”

How the play would proceed if Black plays 1 in Diagram 2 as the jump at B is something that Kobayashi 9 dan analyzed deeply, but it duplicates Awaji’s explanation which is given next, so it is omitted here.

Cutting on Either Side is Bad, But…

――Awaji Shūzō 7 dan

Awaji 7dan is also one of those who enthusiastically critiqued this game.

“The conclusion that I came to is that cutting on either side is bad. Likewise, I think that White 1 and 3 in the Theme Figure are questionable. However,

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Diagram 3

“White has to cut above with 1 in Diagram 3 or there is nothing to be done. At that point, the jump of Black 4 is severe, leaving White’s two stones unexpectedly lacking in freedom of movement.”

Although White 5 is a natural forcing move, but living in a scrunched way, for instance with White A, Black B, White C, Black D and White E would mean being thoroughly tormented after Black F is out of the question. For that reason,

“From the standpoint of shape,

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Diagram 4

“There is nothing to do but to attach with White 1 in Diagram 4. It would be par for the situation to get cut by Black with 2 through 6 and to make life in the corner using the sacrifice stones of White 7 and 9. White slaps Black down with the move at 13, then the sequence ends with 15. I think that this is an unavoidable series of moves.

In that case, what is the judgment regarding the status of the game?

“This way of making life is nothing to be proud of, you know. A move like White 13 is a forcing move that one can feel good about emotionally but has little other benefits… Black has a thick and strong position, so perhaps it may be said that Black has the advantage. However, rather than the cut below as in the game, I believe that White has winning chances with this.”

It is discouraging that one should analyze as hard as one can in order to come up with the sequence in Diagram 4, only to reach a position where White is at a disadvantage. It is just a difference in degree, but Kobayashi’s positional judgment concerning Diagram 2 and Awaji’s of Diagram 4 are similar. And yet, one person has a different opinion, Takemiya Honinbō.

Cutting and Extending is not Bad

――Takemiya Honinbō

Takemiya Honinbō values thickness above anything else, and came back with a characteristic response.

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Diagram 5

The only one who questioned the value of the slide of Black’s marked stone in Diagram 5 (Black 6 in the Theme Figure) was Takemiya Honinbō.

“One wants to use the play with the marked Black stone to solidly connect at 1. Leaving a cut at this kind of place makes one feel uneasy, and with my style of play I could not do it. Therefore, before White does anything else, cutting with 1 is the only move. Once White cuts here, the feeling is that White has good prospects.”

It is natural for Black to draw back at 2, and then extending at White 3 is Takemiya style.

“White does not play the restrained move at A. By extending with White 3, the shape is such that there is the implication of a fencing-in move at B, which gives support to White’s two stones below, which is what White wants. How will the play go after this? Well now, Black is in a difficult spot, you know. For myself, both sides are playable, but my gosh, you know. At the very least, one does not feel that White is badly off.

Although the consensus is that White should cut above, what happened in the game was completely different. According to one’s style of play, opinions differ in this way, which is surprising!

The Cut Below in the Actual Game

In the actual game, what Yamashiro 6 dan did was…

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Diagram 6

Cut below at White 1 in Diagram 6. No doubt he decided that all of the variations in Diagrams 2, 4 and 5 were no good, but that judgment was bad. The attack starting with Black 4 is sharp, and when White jumps out at 9,

“The hanging connection of Black 10 is ideal. By putting the shape in order here, Black establishes an advantage.”

Kobayashi 9 dan, Awaji 7 dan and Takemiya Honinbō were in agreement on this point. Instead of playing at 9, White would like to cut at A, followed by Black B and White C in order to fight, but Black plays D, White connects, then Black E, White F and Black G would launch a counterattack, and this fight would be an unreasonable one for White to engage in according to the players.

When White tries to connect with 11, the shape is thin and weak. In a symmetrical shape, play in the center [according to the go proverb], so the attachment of Black 12 is a severe tesuji. No matter how White answers, the stones will end up being cut to the left and right. This was the start of a fierce attack by Sakata 9 dan. Let’s just say that Black has an overwhelming advantage here and leave it at that.

Well then, this month we have the judgments based on Kobayashi’s analysis, Awaji’s analysis and Takemiya’s analysis, along with the cut below by Yamashiro 6 dan. To which one will the reader give approval?

[Game Record]

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