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Secret Moves Revealed: Young Professional Players Debate

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Here is the original first page of the following article, showing the format. In the photograph, Kato is on the left, Cho in the middle and Kobayashi on the right. Note that they all belonged to the Kitani Dojo and often analyzed positions like this together. Kido magazine thought that readers might like to sit in and overhear the way they interacted.

Koichi 7 Dan Wins with the Magic Sword

From Kido, September 1975

Analysis Team: Kato Masao 8 dan

Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan

Cho Chikun 6 dan

The two point pincer joseki, known by the popular name, “the Magic Sword of Muramasa,” is representative of complex, difficult to understand joseki, and Koichi 7 dan wielded this weapon of Muramasa’s to defeat his rival, Chikun 6 dan. As a powerful playing method that has appeared on the go scene, players everywhere must be deeply appreciative, but it seems that the originator is actually an amateur player. It is interesting to recall that the large avalanche joseki was also an amateur idea. A move that was first an amateur’s speaks in whispers that make the rounds quietly, until it comes to the attention of professional eyes, and then it ends up transformed into an incredible monster.

A Move to Amateurs’ Liking

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Model Diagram 7th Shinei Tournament [Lightning go TV tournament showcasing young professional players] Kobayashi 7 dan (Black) ― Cho 6 dan

Kobayashi: This is a game that I played recently against Cho, you know. In the Model Diagram, Black makes the pincer of 1, and in response to White 2, I played Black 3 to see what would happen.

Kido: It seems that amateur players were the ones who first started playing this move, you know.

Chikun: Amateurs in general usually play very quick games. And that means that they reflect little on the repercussions of their moves. Therefore, they can play any sort of move that strikes their fancy, I must say. When Ishida Meijin spends an hour thinking about a move, it is certain that the move he plays has value, but…

Kido: In that case, Kobayashi san was irresponsible in his play it appears, but this game took place in the studio of Channel 12, Tokyo as a TV lightning go game, you know.

Kobayashi: That’s right. But there was a reason for that.

Chikun: We can ignore all that. Everyone knows all about it.

Kido: No, everyone doesn’t know. We want to hear about that.

Kobayashi: So here it is in summary, you know.

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Diagram 1

The attachment of Black 1 is the usual joseki move, and the sequence from White 2 through 10 may be expected. At that point, the extension of Black 11 is standard in this position. However, in this case, White’s marked stone is located in a rock solid position at the 3-3 point in the corner, so there are no repercussions against White in that direction. That was not inviting to me, and that’s the reason.

Chikun: That’s true, I guess.

Kobayashi: Even if White’s marked stone was placed on the star point this variation would be distasteful for Black, you know.

Kido: I see. That was the reason, was it? Regardless of that, playing such an unusual move as Black 3 in the Model Diagram must startle players who have never seen this kind of a move. This is as close to a trick play as can be found, and amateur players love this kind of thing. That’s the best way to describe this move, isn’t it? And yet…

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Diagram 2

…In response to this move, only three possible answers can be considered, those being White , and . Which is the best move?

Kato: Depending on the pattern, we can invent the sequence, can’t we? (Laughs)

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Diagram 3

Kobayashi: Shall we try playing the diagonal move of White 1 and see how it turns out? Black thrusts through at 2, then the moves through White 7 are an unbranched line of play. After that, starting with the attachment of Black 8, the moves to Black 14 are absolutely essential. After this, how does the play go?

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Diagram 4

Chikun: If White plays elsewhere [tenuki], I suppose that the attack on the corner with 1 would be standard, no doubt.

Kato: Black defends with 2.

Kobayashi: White 3 is met by Black 4. What happens after White jumps to 5?

Kato: The atari of Black 6 is standard here, isn’t it? What about this? Is Black badly off?

Chikun: This is good.

Kobayashi: I suppose so. But faced with the atari of Black 6, White will surely ignore the move again to play elsewhere [tenuki]. But from my point of view, if it comes to the question of this pattern of play, instead of fixing the shape in the lower right corner…

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Diagram 5

…my thinking is to develop the position with the move of Black 1.

Chikun: Huh?! You set things in motion and leave it at that? If White replies at 2, how does Black answer?

Kobayashi: Black pushes at 3, then after playing at 5, fences White in with 7. Next…

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Diagram 6

…When White plays at 8, Black makes the move at 9, then goes back to play at 11. White 12 is met by the cut of Black 13. White is forced to connect at 14, and then Black plays at 15. The upshot is that Black has a formidable territorial framework [moyo] on the right side, no?

Chikun: This is a promising way of playing, I must say.

Kido: But even though the territorial framework [moyo] on the right side is great, the lower side is thin and weak, and Black’s stones there are in danger, you know. There are various moves available, and things can be considered from a number of perspectives, you know.

Kato: I wonder if there isn’t a different move for the White knight’s move in Diagram 5. For example, I think that the variation with the diagonal move in the next diagram is possible.

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Diagram 7

Kato: What if White moves out with the diagonal move of 1 here? How does Black play?

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Kobayashi Koichi 7 dan

Kobayashi: Fencing in with Black 2 is fine. In reply to White 3, Black forcibly stops White with 4 and 6.

Kato: When White defends the position with 9, Black ends up play in this sequence with the move at 10, no?

Chikun: The under-skirting attack of White 11 would be answered by Black 12 I imagine.

Kato: But this is terrible for Black, I must say! Black’s territory on the edge is open to a move at I might add.

Kobayashi: I must say that Black is better off here, no doubt.

Kido: Well, we’ve gone as far as the analysis has carried us so far, but how did play go in the game?

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Diagram 8

Kobayashi: White cuts directly, no equivocation, with 1 and 3 here. What follows is an unavoidable, unbranched sequence of moves, After White 5, I wonder how play will go.

Kato: In terms of perception…

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Diagram 9

…Black pushes at 1, I suppose. Waiting for White 2, Black then hanes at 3. This is an unrelenting thrust of moves. One feels this is the way that has to be played.

Kobayashi: In regards to pushing three times? How about four times? It seems that there is a key point in that, but presupposing a push three times, in this board position Black will undoubtedly turn at 4, and then how might the lower side be evaluated after White develops with 6? I’d say that this is a good footing in breadth on the lower side and playable for White.

Kato: That’s not true, I must say. Black takes White’s stones cleanly with 5, and form a move order analysis [tewari] as well, this is good for Black. To the extent that Black is one move better, in terms of potential [aji] and profit, it is big.

Chikun: Black is better, I must agree.

Kobayashi: I guess. But what about..

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Diagram 10

…Moving out with White 1 here? What about this? When Black plays 2, White throws in the cut at 3, then turning at White 5 is a forcing move that really sets the stage. A striking move. Black makes the fencing-in move of 6 and White slides to 7. Now, what in the world happens?

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Diagram 11

Chikun: Next, Black attaches at 1, I guess. White 2 and the drawback of Black 3 follow, and then White 4 strikes at the vital point. If Black hanes at 5 and connects at 7, things proceed to the hane of White 10, and then, oops! Something unexpected has happened. This is not easy to deal with.

Kato: What about this all?! Black 5 and 7, hane and connection are strange, I say!

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Diagram 12

When White plays at 1, Black is fine after playing at 2. Following White 3, even if White makes the hanging connection with 5 and 7, by descending with Black 8, there is no way that White can win the race to capture.

Chikun: In that case…

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Diagram 13

…What about tenaciously going for a ko with White 1 and 3?

Kato: Black draws back to 4, so it is no big deal, you know. If White 5, Black makes the wedging-in attachment of 6. Even though a ko remains, it practically is no problem at all.

Kido: So does that mean that with White being captured, this is bad?

Kato: No, that is not the case, either. Turning with the marked White stone is an effective forcing move, and besides there being a lot of ko threats, the White stones have to be captured and taken off the board, so it is really a question of the way of sacrificing the stones, you know.

Chikun: Unconditionally being captured is unbearable, so…

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Diagram 14

…When Black plays at 1, White hanes at 2, then when Black plays 3, White sets up a ko with 4 and 6, no?

Kato: Even though this is a ko, White has no ko threats.

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Diagram 15 White 10 takes ko

Kido: White 8 is a ko threat, but…

Kato: That is a terrible loss. Having this kind of loss given to Black, then descending to Black 11, surrendering the ko, is acceptable. When White captures at 12, Black connects at 13 and White can only play at 14.

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Diagram 16

Chikun: Next, Black 15 is a forcing move that White has to answer at 16. Not only that, but in the corner Black can throw in at , and after White , Black sets up a ko. So this is also left. [This is a two move approach move ko, which is unfavorable for White.]

Kato: The marked White stones are a terrible waste [mochi-komi], and what is more, there is even the unpleasantness of the ko in the corner. For these reasons, White is not better off. The feeling is that there is no reason to take things this far, you know.

Kido: Even though it is a small place, there are all sorts of moves available to be made in the corner, you know. Good or bad is a separate question. Therefore, the corner can be frightening. So it seems that at last we have the definitive version of the joseki, right?

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Kato Masao 8 dan

Kato: No, that is still to come. It cannot be so easily stated.

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Diagram 17

Kobayashi: It is unbearable to have White make the turning move and be forced, so I wonder how it would be if Black pushes once more with 3. Even though this is exchanged for White 4, this does not feel like so much of a loss.

Kato: That’s right, you know. After that, would Black 5 be solid?

Chikun: This time…

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Diagram 18

…White play 1 and then 3, aiming at the wedging-in move at , I suppose.

Kobayashi: Incurring the wedging-in move is no good, so it is natural for Black to make the defensive move of 4. The question is how it is if White moves out with 5.

Kato: Here, Black also has the placement technique [suji, although in this situation the implication is that there is the potential – aji – for a number of possibilities, such as forcing from the outside in conjunction with value elsewhere] at , but analyzing this in a straightforward manner…

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Diagram 19

…Let’s see what happens when Black pushes down with 1 and cuts with 3. The impetus of play leads to the swap [furi-kawari] of White 4, leading to the sequence through Black 7, and since this is not a small capture, I would think that this is not bad for Black.

Chikun: If White makes the attack on the corner with 8?

Kato: Black makes the pincer at 9 to attack. White’s group comes to be floating, you know.

Kobayashi: After White 12, Black defends with 13, and then how about White cutting with 14?

Kato: Black makes the wedging-in move of 15. In response to White 16, Black uses the technique [suji] of rapidly disappearing liberties with 17.

Chikun: If White defends the cutting point with 18, Black attaches with 19.

Kato: As might be expected, this is a reasonable outcome for both sides, isn’t it?

Kobayashi: The feeling is not good for Black, you know.

Kido: It is said that in go if one just does not make a bad move, that balance will be maintained, you know. And yet, I’m surprised.

Chikun: If the swap is distasteful…

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Diagram 20

…When Black pushes down with 1 and cuts with 3, White balloons out with 4. How about this?

Kato: Capturing in a ladder with Black 5 is natural, no? If White moves out with 6 and 8, Black has no choice but to give way with 7 and 9.

Chikun: And if White makes the pincer-attachment in the corner with 10?

Kobayashi: Black has no alternative but to descend at 11, I must say. Following White 12 and Black 13, White attaches at 14 and the question is how safe the corner is.

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Diagram 21

Chikun: White 1 is immediately met by the pincer-attachment of Black 2. If White descends at 3, Black lives with the attachment of 4.

Kobayashi: I see. Huh.

Kato: If Black adds a move at , the group is perfectly alive, but just left this way, a ten thousand year ko remains in the corner, you know. But that is a long way off. [Due to the conditional nature of the ten thousand year ko: it can always be made into seki, but White would have to add a move in the corner – which could end up as a wasted move if the ko is lost – to pursue the ko.] And since Black has also made thickness on the outside, I suppose that Black is not badly off.

The Seemingly Definitive Version, But…

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Diagram 22

Kido: It was said that in answer to White 1, Black can make the placement technique [suji] of , you know. How does that work out?

Kato: White has no choice but to cut with 3 and 5. By crawling with Black 6 and 8 and the following moves, Black then wins the capturing race with the placement of 14 and then the move at 16.

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Diagram 23

Chikun: Isn’t the hane of White 1 a forcing move? By giving the group more liberties, Black could be forced to crawl [on the second line] still more.

Kato: Black doesn’t crawl any further. Black 6 takes care of it. Even if White cuts at 7, Black ends up fencing White’s stone in.

Kobayashi: In this case, the turning move of White is not a forcing move anymore, you know.

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Diagram 24

Kato: Oh, I see. In reply to White 1, the checking extension of Black 2 is best.

If White plays 3 and 5, Black cuts at 6, and White can do nothing else but to live with 9 and 11. This seems good for Black.

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Diagram 25

Kobayashi: In that case, it is hard for White to put the stones in motion, so White makes the turning move of 6 and Black plays 7. This might be the definitive version, no?

Kato & Chikun: Black is good, for sure.

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Diagram 26

Kobayashi: Then, pushing four times, including Black 1 and 3, is the definitive version, I guess. As might be expected, pushing once more with Black 5 would be taking things too far, you know.

Kato: That’s right. The idea is that there is also the possibility of the knight’s move of Black , as well as a pincer from the left side.

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Cho Chikun 6 dan

Chikun: When Black plays 7, it seems likely that White will move out at 8, I must say.

Kobayashi: In regards to that, Black pushes through with 9 and 11, then attacks with 13. However, incurring the jump of White 14 is troublesome. Here there are various implications, so it is an interesting position, I must say.

Kido: ?

Kobayashi: In short, instead of the diagonal move of Black 13…

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Diagram 27

…Black would prefer to make the pincer of 1, but at that point White would hane out with 2, and things go funny. Black can only cut with 3, but pushing along with White 4 and connecting at 6 is the technique [suji] to use here. Of course, White can also jump to and develop action on the outside, you know.

Kido: Indeed. That’s an interesting line [suji], isn’t it?

Kobayashi: Well, this is a supplemental variation.

Kato: I wonder how things would go in a real game.

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Diagram 28

Kobayashi: Black would end up going for the move of 1 in the corner.

Kato: Hmm. This is no good, you know. Playing White 2 and then the turning move of 4 is thick and strong.

Kobayashi: Following that, the sequence through White 20 would proceed to be played. Despite Black being thick and strong [on the outside], letting White play on both sides is slack. [This is a theoretical point.] This is out of the question. As might be expected, it’s better [for Black] to push on the outside, I suppose. On the other hand, when White jumps to 6…

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Diagram 29

…That is, White 1 here, the attachment of Black 2, playing for a swap [furi-kawari], is no good at all. After White 9, there is the possibility of the hane of White , and the forcing move of , so things do not go well for Black. It is painful to have incurred the turning move of the marked White stone.

Kido: One way or another, a conclusion is close to emerging, you know. As the final position to examine…

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Diagram 30

…How would it be for White to push up on the outside with 1? Making thickness on the outside. [Soto-mawari is the technical word used here. This was a catch-word in those days for young players. Getting wrapped up and enclosed – uchi-mawari – was considered terrible technique, if not shameful!]

Kato: It is standard for Black to butt against White’s stone with 2. I suppose that White will play 3 and after Black 4, develop with 5. White has the potential [aji] of playing at , and there are other possibilities. This is a straightforward and powerful conception. [Dō-dō-taru, another catch-word, but more of a common idiom in Japanese. As used in go, it means that a player is going for broke, ceding territory to the opponent in the quest for a large scale advantage throughout the board.]

Chikun: That’s an impressive way of playing, I must say. Maybe Kobayashi san should change places with the Kido writer. (Laughs) [Meaning: Cho is taunting Kobayashi, implying that the writer has come up with a better idea than Kobayashi has in this session. But it is just banter.]

So the curtain comes down with laughter, but it has been shown that “the Magic Sword of Muramasa joseki” is a two point high pincer that is credible.

The variations are unlimited for this space. Even though we have come close to determining the definitive variation, that is just in relation to the board position that we have created, so it is not absolute. The reader should make sure to keep that in mind.

It must always be kept in mind that full board awareness is the primary consideration when playing go.

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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