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How to Play Here?

From Kido, September 1980


Professional go players take great pains to find the best moves in any board position. Here, the spotlight is shown on the turning point in the opening, when strategy is set. The question was posed as to what the best next move could be.

In the Meijin league this year, the fight to become challenger for the title was burning at white hot intensity. However, at the same time players at the lower end of the scoreboard were fighting for the right to remain in the league. The board position evaluated here comes from the game between Sakata Eio 9 dan (Black) and Yamashiro Hiroshi 6 dan. For both players, losing this game would drop either out of the running for a spot in the next year’s league.

With fighting spirit burning, Sakata attacked all-out while Yamashiro banked on surviving to prevail. This gave the professional players in the analysis room great material to pour over.

Source Diagram


White to Play

In this board position, the play is entering the middle game phase. By attaching with White 1 and blocking at 3, White aims at expanding the territorial framework on the upper side. At the same time, Black slides to 6 in order to undermine White’s two stones in the lower left corner. Well then, how should White play here?

Compared to situations that present one fantastically difficult problem after another, where the opinions of professional players and the Meijin differ, this is fairly straightforward. In terms of where to play, White only has the options of cutting above at or below at . Since the reader is faced with the choice of one of two moves, there is a good chance selecting the move that the professionals agreed upon. However, the problem is how to play after that. It is desirable to read out the sequence that follows until a lull in the action is reached.

The opinions that will be offered are those of the professional players who were present in the analysis room: Kobayashi Koichi 9 dan, Awaji Shuzo 7 dan and Takemiya Masaki, Honinbo. Besides White or, a number of ideas concerning things like White 1 and Black 6 will be presented.

Stake the Game on the Upper Side — Kobayashi Koichi 9 dan

“White 1 and 3 in the Source Diagram were questionable. At this point, White must have felt that things were going badly. As a problem to be posed, wouldn’t it be better to ask how White should play the move at 1?”

After saying this, Kobayashi 9 dan insisted that White 1 should have been played at the skirt of Black’s two stones, , attacking them in order to restrain Black from making an invasion of the upper side.

“Regardless of that, the problem is which side White should cut on, right?


Diagram 1

“I think that cutting above with White 1 is the only move. Drawing back with Black 2 is standard, so White can then take hold of Black’s stone with 3, increasing the breadth of the upper side. Unless the upper side is expanded, White has no way to win the game.”

So far, this is all very simple. The problem now becomes one of how Black can attack in the lower left, but…


Diagram 2

“In a real game, Black would want to make the peep at 1, you know. White attaches at 2 to deal with the situation [sabaki], and then would probably develop in good shape with White 6.”

It may be superfluous to add this, but a connection of White would be met by Black jumping to , making things difficult and painful for White. Should Black use 3 to hane at 4, White creates living shape easily. The same thing with Black 5.

White gets a comfortable position with 6, and a lull has been reached in the action. How do things stand on the board over all?

“White is somewhat thin, so my feeling is that one would rather play the Black side. However, more than anything else, the conditions for consolidating the upper side will determine the outcome in the game. I guess we should leave that the situation is unclear. Of course, there is a big difference with the cut on the lower side (shown in Diagram 6).”

In regards to what would happen had Black played 1 at the jump to , Kobayashi 9 dan made a detailed analysis, but it duplicates that of Awaji 7 dan which is coming up next, so we will differ to that.

Cutting on Either Side is Bad, But… — Awaji Shuzo 7 dan

Awaji 7 dan was one of those who also followed the progress of this game closely.

“My conclusion was that cutting on either side in the Source Diagram was bad. As expected, I thought that both White 1 and 3 were problematical. However…


Diagram 3

“Unless White cuts above with 1, there is nothing to be done. At that point, the jump of Black 4 is a severe move, leaving White’s two stones unexpectedly restricted.

White 5 is a natural forcing move to play, but making life in a timid way, such as with White , Black , White , Black and Whitewould let Black torment White in every way possible with , which would be intolerable and out of the question.


Diagram 4

“Concerning the shape of the stones, there is nothing better to do than to attach with 1. Starting with Black 2, the stones can be cut with Black 6. White uses the moves of 7 and 9 as sacrifice stones to manage to make life in the corner, which would be standard. White slaps Black down with the forcing move of 13 before settling the shape in the corner with 15. There is something unavoidable about this sequence, I believe.”

In that case, what is the judgment about which side stands superior?

“This way of making life cannot be considered with pride, you know. Plus, moves like White 13 are forcing moves just in terms of feeling… Black is thick and strong, so it is reasonable to say that Black has the advantage. However, more so than the actual game, where White cut below, I think that White has winning possibilities here.”

Diagram 4 was painstakingly put together, which is evidence that White has a painfully disadvantageous position. There are only degrees of difference, so the positional judgment of Kobayashi 9 dan about Diagram 2 and Awaji 7 dan about Diagram 4 are similar. On the other hand, just one person, Takemiya Honinbo, had a different opinion.

Cutting and Extending Would Not be Bad — Takemiya Honinbo

Takemiya Honinbo, who values nothing more than thickness, came back with a typical response.


Diagram 5

Takemiya Honinbo was the only one who viewed the sliding move of the marked Black stone (Black 6 in the Source Diagram) as questionable.

“The marked Black stone should have been played forcefully and solidly as connection at 1. In this kind of position, where a cutting point is left, leaves such a bad feeling that in connection with my style of go, could not be played. Consequently, over and above anything else, cutting with White 1 is the only move. By cutting here, one feels that White has considerable chances.”

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

“This is not the place for White to play the restrained move at . By extending at White 3, there is the implication of the fencing-in shape of , which lends support to White’s two stones below. How play proceeds after this? Well then, this is difficult for Black, too, you know. If it was me, either side would be playable, but: What the heck is going on?! At the very least, one does not feel that White is badly off.”

Despite there being agreement about the cut above, after that there is absolutely nothing the same. According to styles of play, opinions differ completely!

In the Real Game, the Cut Below

In the real game, Yamashiro 6 dan…


Diagram 6

…cut below with White 1. No doubt he judged that neither Diagram 2 nor Diagram 4 nor Diagram 5 was good, but this decision was bad. The attack starting with Black 4 was severe, and following White’s jumping out at 9…

“The hanging connection of Black 10 is perfectly timed. After making this defensive move, Black has a decisive advantage.”

In regards to this, the opinions of Kobayashi 9 dan, Awaji 7 dan and Takemiya Honinbo were all in agreement. It is natural to want to start fighting with White using 9 to cut at , followed by Black , and White , but then Black , White connects, Black , White and Black launches a counterattack, and this fight would be an unreasonable one for White to get caught up in.

White 11 attempts to connect the left and the right sides, but it makes thin shape. “In symmetrical shape, play at the center” goes the go proverb, and accordingly, Black attaches at 12. This is a powerful tesuji. No matter how White answers, the stones to the left and right will end up separated. Beginning here, Sakata 9 dan’s fierce attack commenced, and soon Black gained an overwhelming advantage.

Well then, which analysis, that of Kobayashi 9 dan, Awaji 7 dan or Takemiya Honinbo, or else the cut below of Yamashiro 6 dan, does the reader feel more in tune with?

Click HERE to play through the game.


I would like to explain something about the piece posted in this space last week. What is interesting about it is what it says about the difficulty of the Japanese language, even for the Japanese themselves.


A real octopus has a smooth and round head.

In the previous piece, which was in regards to Takemiya Masaki, the interviewer asked where he gotten the nickname, “Tako-chan” [“Octopus plus the diminutive suffix chan”]. The interviewer assumed that it referred to his go style. Was it not because Takemiya would latch on to opponents like an octopus and never let go? In reply, Takemiya just laughed. At that point, the interviewer just dropped the matter.

However, in considering the nickname, it occurred to me that Takemiya became an insei [student professional] at the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association] when he was approximately 12 years old. At that age, Japanese boys typically wear their hair cropped close to the scalp. And Takemiya was living in Katsushika, that is, Downtown Tokyo, the old, traditional section of the city situated along the Edo River. (Edo itself is the olden name for Tokyo.)

So what does all this mean? And how does it relate to Takemiya’s nickname?


In those days, there was a wildly popular series of movies set in Katsushika entitled, “Otoko wa Tsurai yo!” [“It’s Tough Being a Man!”] These were comedies starring Atsumi Kiyoshi, who played an itinerant salesman who would return to his hometown neighborhood regularly to sponge off relatives and friends before setting off on the road again.


Takemiya is depicted here with a floppy-eared rabbit’s hat, but the body of a tiger.

His name was “Tora-san” [“Tiger-san,” the “san” being the ordinary honorific attached to all adults’ names]. Tora-san was beloved by everyone for his humor and humanity, and the series was popular because it displayed old fashioned Japanese values in a funny and folksy way.


At the start of every movie in the series, Tora-san would go into a set speech, delivered in yakuza style (another indication of olden values, in that these petty criminals were tolerated because they kept “victimless crimes” such as gambling and prostitution under control… but they were still not respectable… another indication of Tora-san’s status on the fringe of society) where he would kneel on one knee with his right hand stretched out as in supplication (again, the traditional way yakuza would introduce themselves, and begin saying, “I was born and raised in Katsushika…” Practically everyone in Japan could recite this set speech from memory.


There were all sorts of stock characters in every film in the series (which totaled 48 at the time of the death of the star, Atsumi Kiyoshi, in 1975), such as Tora-san’s sweet half-sister Sakura (which means “Cherry Blossom”) and her down-to-earth and hardworking husband, Hiroshi, along with assorted aunts and uncles, the neighborhood monk/official at the shrine nearby, etc.

And the boss of Tora-san’s sister’s husband was a bald-headed man that Tora-san irreverently dubbed “Tako.”

So this is undoubtedly where Takemiya’s nickname came from. Takemiya’s insei friends must have taken one look at his shaved head, and hearing that he lived in Katsushika, immediately associated him with the Tako/Boss in the series.

By the way, it is interesting how none of this occurred to the interviewer, despite all the clues that he picked up on. This just indicates how complex the Japanese language is. It is easy to miss even obvious matters unless one is tuned into all factors of a situation.

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.

Robert J. Terry

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