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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shusaku Game 3 - Part 2

Back to our Shusaku review! If you missed it here is the first half of the game, now lets see how it ends.

Figure 1
Note: 1=101

White starts by reducing the corner a bit with 76 and 78 and then makes yet another dubious peep at 80. This really is the moral of this game: 'think before you peep'. First black turns at 81 and white runs away with his two weak stones at 82. Then black directly resists the peep buy pushing at 83 rather than connecting. White makes another peep, this one actually a forcing move, at 84 and after black connects white defends the territory on the right at 86. Now black threatens to capture the peeping stone with 87. White manages to pull it out through 96 but this allows black to poke his head out at 91 and connect at 93 in sente. Now black turns back to the center right  and captures the two white stones here. I strongly encourage you to see how these two white stones came to be here and how black has succeeded in turning the tables on white. There are some good lessons on peeps and how to resist them in this game. I would also like to point out how well black's two stone sacrifice at H10 and J10 has worked out. White needed yet another move at 100 to firmly capture these stones. If white instead plays at N8 (black 101, or 1) to rescue one stone black will crawl out at 100 and the resulting fight is not very good for white. After 101 black can make two eyes in gote or white can connect at N10 to give black one oversized eye. The downside for white is that even if he does this black has a tremendous number of liberties because of his 5 point eye. It will take white many moves on the inside alone to reduce black's liberties which gives black a huge advantage in future fighting. Though black is not yet definitely alive he has lots of tactical possibilities so the conclusion is that this result favors Shusaku.

Figure 2

White starts to reduce black's territory and expand his own with 2 through 10. Black 11 is very important. Without it white will play here to seal black into the corner in sente. This will give white a chance to stage a comeback by getting territory in the center. 12 is gote but very big because it has a followup at T3. With 13 black starts reducing the right side. This sequence is pretty easy to understand, black wants to do as much damage as possible while retaining sente and by pushing down to 21 Shusaku makes 23 sente as well. White cannot fight this ko (this is what they would call a 'flower viewing ko' for black. This is a strange phrase but it means that the ko is as pleasant of viewing flowers for black. If white doesn't immediately connect and black starts this ko there is no risk for black so white will not risk this fight no matter how large his advantage in ko threats) so he connects. Black reduces the lower side with 27 and 25, pokes at 29 and then secures a second eye by playing at 31 as you can see in diagram 1.

Dia. 1

Once the marked stone has been played white can no longer rob black of his eyes by playing at 1. Black cuts at 2 and through 6 makes a second eye. With the black group in the center safe and the white territory on the right reduced to a manageable amount the game seems very favorable for black. The last area where white might be able to get moderate amounts of territory is open to incursions from the black stones at D5 and J7. Meanwhile black has four corners and no weaknesses.

Figure 3

White first plays at 32 which is a good forcing move, ensuring connection and forcing black to connect on the second line. White 34 is very large and sente besides. This is a classic endgame tesuji known as the Monkey Jump and it is required study for intermediate players. Any book with a thorough treatment of tesuji will cover the basics but there can be a great many subtleties in precisely how to respond, both for white and black. White continues in sente with 40 and 42 and then turns to harassing the upper left. After black connects at 49 though it seems that there is no real room to create complications and is behind in the territorial balance. Because of black's deft play and excellent timing in responding to a series of white peeps gave him a solid lead on the board. White resigns after 149.

I thought there were great lessons in this game relating to forcing moves, or kikashi if you want to use the Japanese term, and how to potentially ignore what your opponent thinks is a forcing move. The key is to always be on the lookout to take sente. Every move you should evaluate if you really have to answer your opponents move or if there might be a bigger point somewhere on the board. I hope you enjoyed the review! Till next time, ciao!

Shusaku Game 3

Howdy there, this one is shorter and less complicated than the last couple of games so we'll blaze through it in probably two posts. This is the first game where Shusaku is officially ranked as a shodan but he is still ten years old. Over the next two years he grows incredibly strong. You can still note some moments of weakness but were you to ever see a young child display this level of talent on a goban I would think you would be excited to see such a young prodigy.

Without further adieu, lets get to the game. Black is Shusaku and his opponent is 3 dan. There is no komi as was traditional at the time.

Figure 1

The fuseki is of note because of 4 and 5 which are both played away from the corner. Shusaku tends to play a tight, territory oriented, opening in these early games and seems happy to take the corner with 7 and 9. White 6 might seem a little sub-optimal, giving black a large corner and leaving the white formation open at the bottom but I think that 6,8 and 10 work well with white 20, giving white a large formation facing the center. When black approaches at 11 white pincers at 12, one space closer than is often played. This crowds black a little more and black plays an easy variation that settles his stones quickly. This allows black to turn to the bottom right and approach at 19 which prevents white from playing at the same point which creates a nice shape across the lower side. White's formation across the bottom is his chief asset in this game as black has taken a position in all four corners.

Figure 2

The exchange in the lower right is typical of opening on the 5-4 point (Q5 in this case). White gets influence and black gets secure territory. Black 29 looks small but concerns the base of both the black and white stones, white would also make a base by playing here and then black would like to extend to C13 but because of white's stone at C12 he would have to play at D14 to make shape. No matter how you cut it black's shape looks cramped. After 29 Black is unconditionally alive and doesn't have to worry about his stones in this corner. Whites stones, however, are somewhat weakened. After 29 a black pincer against the C12 stone would be severe so white makes a two space extension to 30 to establish a base. Black exchanges 31 for 32 before confronting white at 33. This move combines well with 29 and when white ignores this again to play 34 black forces at 35 before reinforcing his corner at 37. I'm a little doubtful of 35 actually. It doesn't seem necessary as black's group in the corner is already alive and the extra stone at 35 doesn't really add much pressure to the two white stones below. In fact this two space extension makes building influence across the left side uninteresting. I would rather keep the aji around G18 intact and simply reinforce at 37 directly.

Speaking of 37, this is the key point in the corner in this formation and if black neglects it white will gladly play there, pressing black down and playing on a grand scale in the center. Imagine a white stone here: This would be a good result for white. Even though black has all four corners all of white's stones are working together to form central influence. Black 37 is also big along the top, forming a good formation with 33 and P17. Finally black 37 prevents or limits white's probing moves in the corner. These are a little beyond the scope of the commentary here but white has numerous probes to use against the small knights enclosure, you can explore some of the possibilities of white playing at P18 or R17 among others, particularly before black reinforces at 37. White builds a moyo with 38 and black begins to reduce white's central influence with 39. The crux of this game is whether white can get a big center. Black has good positions in all four corners so the center is the only place for white to catch up in territory.

Figure 3

White forces at 40 before turning to the fight at hand. Through 48 white moves into the center and gets to jump into the potential black territory at 46. After black 49, though, white has to turn and reinforce his other group at 50. This gives black the chance to counter in the center. With 51 he seals white in and develops his two stones at 45 and P11. White shows no fear and cuts with 56 and 58 while black connects with 59. White continues to develop his cutting stones with 60. Black jumps out to 61 and white peeps at 62. Often a peep is proper kikashi, a forcing move, but in this case the situation is a little more complicated. Certainly if white pushes through at O11 he enlarges his side and no longer has even the faintest worry for his group in the upper right. On the other hand the center is the crux of the game right now, not the right side. The relative strength between the 56-60 white group and black's central group at 45, 61, etc is the urgent situation on the board right now. It is good to get in the habit of questioning your opponents peeps. You will often find that the consequences of the cut are small enough that you can ignore or somehow resist the peep.

Figure 4

Black ignores the white peep to connect at 63. White makes a very dubious second peep at 64 and black counterattacks by pushing at 65 and cutting with 67 and 69. Here black sacrifices two stones to play 71 and then connect at 73 in sente. After white plays at 74 black comes back and connects at 75. It may be a subtle point but kikashi should be light and after black plays 63, 71 and 73 these stones seem a little heavy, nearly engulfed by a very thick black position. It will be hard to pull out these two stones and also protect the potential territory on the right side. Also black's two stones at 67 and 69 are still working well and preventing white from putting too much pressure on black from the other side. Since it seems doubtful that black's large group in the center will be captured it seems very hard to see white making much territory here. From this we can conclude that the game is better for black who already has all four corners. We'll see more fighting in the center when we wrap this game up in the next post. Thanks for following along! I hope you enjoyed this review.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shusaku Game 2 - Part 3

We're going to wrap up this lovely little game here in this post. I'm really having fun doing these Shusaku reviews and I hope you are enjoying them on your end of the inter-webs. You can follow this game from the beginning or check out other problems (there will be more eventually, I promise!) or study fuseki around different areas of the site. Without any more delay lets wrap this game up.

Dia. 1

I think that white takes the lead with 10. It is hard to say for sure but white just seems to get too much territory around the top right. After 17 the situation in the lower left is very interesting. Black can kill white by capturing 12 but white figures that another mover around M14 will enclose enough territory to win easily without the corner. Also white has gotten to play 14 which gives him good prospects for enclosing territory on the bottom. Black may have thought that he had to capture or pressure the white corner in the lower left but I think 17 has to be somewhere along the top or maybe even on the right. Something has to be done about the white moyo. The downside of not playing 17 is that if white plays there he is unconditionally alive and black will have no attacking moves. This dilema shows how hard the game is for black now.

Dia. 2

This is a good example of how to tenuki to take sente. Black makes an extension to 19 and would like white to answer so he can take some profit in sente and turn to attacking the top. White has other plans and peeps at 20 to make aji (you can see this if you imagine a white move at S7 later, it impacts a lot of reads) and then jumps to 22 along the top. After 24 and 26 I really don't like Black's position. If white gets a whole quarter of the board the balance of territory completely collapses. Yet it seems an invasion isn't practical either. The capture at 36 is well timed too and when black jumps to 37 an interesting ko shape develops. Either side can start the ko by throwing in, white at White manages to keep black off balance throughout this sequence and ignores 37 to swing back and block at 38. I think that even if black takes the corner by playing at A3 white still gets plenty of territory in the upper right.

Dia. 3

Black exchanges 39 for 40 before solidifying his shape with 41. Knowing that he is behind Shusaku plays a very daring sequence and through 47 cuts white in two! Now white has to worry about making sure this group survive and with 49, 51 and 53 manages to capture some white stones. While this is a great tactical sequence I doubt it is enough to redress the territorial imbalance but in addition to capturing three stones the potential white territory on the bottom has been destroyed. Perhaps if black can take the lower left corner the game will be winnable for him. When white descends at 54 black starts the ko fight. It is a little unpleasant to start this ko since white gets to capture the ko first. This is a big advantage in a ko fight since your opponent has to make the first threat. Black has a lot of threats in the upper right, he can threaten to live in the corner with his sole black stone but white is not without resources either.

Dia. 4
62 at A2, 65 at 59,
68 at A2, 71 at 59

Ahhh... ko fights! This is a big one so we'll try to take it slowly. First black makes use of his threats in the upper right and retakes the ko at 59. White makes a great ko threat at 60. Remember how I said black would have to break up the lower side and kill the corner to have a chance? This offers the corner for the side and black cannot take that offer if he is to even dream of winning. Black blocks at 61 and white retakes the ko, black keeps on using his threats up top with 63.

Black now takes the ko with 65 but white has another large threat at 66. Black is still mining the top right for ko threats and after the 69-70 exchange is able to, once again, retake the ko. This is a pretty straightforward ko fight. The size of the ko is very large and each side is playing their biggest threats. Certainly if you were able to read out the available ko threats in this situation you would be a very strong player.

Dia. 5
79 at B3, 82 at 74
85 at B3, 88 at 74

The ko fight continues and the most interesting part is how white uses his ko threats along the bottom to counter black's wealth of ko threats in the top right. These threats aren't as big as the black ones in the upper right but there are enough to preserve his lead. Finally black runs out of threats in the corner and has to continue at 89. This is small enough that white captures at 90 ending the ko. After 91 black captures four white stones and makes around 14 points of profit but this is not enough. The white position in the top right corner is overwhelming and after black's ko threats up here there is not even a shred of aji left for him. I think black is more or less looking for a spot to resign but Shusaku still has some fighting spirit left in him.

Dia. 6

After the top plays out black makes another desperate stab at winning. After connecting at 97 he rescues his cutting stones with 99 and looks to attack the large white group in the center left. White has read out all the variations and counterattacks at 2. After the 3-4-5 exchange white plays at 6. Now white the white capture of either the group connected to 97 or the three stones at 5 is miai, guaranteeing life for the large white group. After white captures at 108 black resigns.

One question I've had with these games is "Exactly how strong are these players?" At the time of this game Shusaku was still known by his childhood name, Torajiro, and is only ten years old at. His opponent was 3 dan and I'm unsure of how classical strength was measured. There were no pro leagues but most strong players had patrons that bankrolled their study. I would think that a 3 dan in 1839 Japan would be a significant achievement. On the other hand the level of Go/Weiqi/Baduk has risen greatly in the last 100 years. This is also one of only two games of his that were recorded before he was called a Shodan. I think these players are probably around the strength of a modern amateur shodan player. The games are very good with many sharp lines but I don't feel this is totally out of my depth either. Also, I've looked at some of the other games and Shusaku gets a lot stronger in the next couple years of his life. Anyway I hope you appreciate the game.

I apologize if my commentary has any mistakes. To my knowledge no dan player has even looked at the site yet so there may be some corrections coming my way! I look forward to it too. I am trying to build a community of go players, particularly in the US and Europe. If you haven't yet, go register with IgoLocal.com and start finding players in your area. One day I dream of a Go Academy in the US and when young children here rival the best that Korea, China, and Japan have to offer.

Speaking of Go in Europe I want to give a special thanks to the Club de Go Nam Ban in Madrid, Spain for their hospitality and their strength. Seriously, this was one of the best Go clubs I've ever been to, if you get over there check them out. 

Shusaku Game 2 - Part 2

More Shusaku! You having fun yet? We'll be going over another game from 1839 which means Shusaku is nine or ten years old. I feel like these games are definitely good material but not so advanced that we cannot comprehend what is going on. If you want examples of really complicated games try looking at some some of Go Seigan's fighting games (courtesy of gokifu.com, you can also download sgf files directly from their website). Here we should be able to follow along pretty well with our own skills. Perhaps as we go through the game record we can improve alongside Shusaku so that when we get to his later games when he was in the full flower of his skill our own abilities will have risen somewhat and we can continue to enjoy these marvelous games.

If you want you can jump to the beginning and see what has happened so far and you can always go to the 'Game Reviews' tab along the top to get a full index of games that I've annotated here. Shusaku is black, his opponent is a 3 dan player (sorry, I don't know his name, the book I have is in Mandarin which I tragically cannot read), and there is no komi.

Dia. 1

White has just lost a ko in the upper left giving black a big corner but allowing white to play two moves in the upper right. Black's stone at R16 still has some aji but black will have to find the right time to make use of it. Black approaches and white pincers at 56. This type of move should be reflexive and automatic. Any chance to extend while making a pincer is worth taking. Black presses white down a bit and then plays lightly at 61 and 63 so Shusaku can take sente to crawl out with his cutting stone. Had white captured this stone, maybe in a net at G11, the white wall along the top would dominate the whole top half of the board with its thickness. We can see black's plan take shape through 69, white has to scramble to escape with his group on the left, and with 75 and 77 Shusaku destroys white's wall and breaks out into the center. White, though, has gotten to play 76 and seeks compensation with 78.

White 78 is kind of a tricky move. In some shapes this is a tesuji, the one space diagonal jump, but in others it leaves a weakness at the middle point, here that would be D6. In the game black chose to play 79 and it is easy to see why. If black defends the corner or even hanes above or below at B4 or D4 white will fall back and capture the black stones above. This is unacceptable because black wants to continue attacking these white stones and this would give white not just a base but some territory besides. Black choses a difficult path with 79 but I'm not sure what choice he really has. I think after investing the stones at 65-69 that black needs to attack these white stones to maximize his overall efficiency.

Dia. 2

Here we see the trade take place with black sacrificing the corner (his stones still have some aji but white's four stones are obviously very thick) to keep up his attack. This also concerns the base of the black stones on the left. As a rule of thumb a move that concerns the base of both weak groups in a fight is extremely important. Rather than letting white capture these stones black judged the fight to be most urgent and so decides to simply let go of the corner. First he pushes out at 81 and 83 and then, since white has to descend to 84 to break up black's corner enclosure, has time to cut at 85.

Dia. 3
Note: 1 = 101

White forces at 86 and 88 and jumps to 90 which do a good job of reinforcing the large floating white group. It is hard to see black surrounding white after these moves. Black turns and threatens the top with 91 which helps get rid of the aji around J15 that white had. After black connects with 93 white hanes at 94 to slow down any black attempt to try something in the corner. When white cuts at 96 the situation becomes more dire for black on the right side. While he settles his stones in the lower right white can probably solidify a large territory in the upper right.

Dia. 4

Black pushes white around a little bit with 3 through 7 but white gets the time to play 10 which is a really large move. After this it seems hard for black to win. Black's corner is decently big, about 23 points in the upper left but white will get much more than that either on the top or, more likely, on the right side. It seems that black must take back the lower left and prevent white from making any territory on the bottom to win. While one of the two might be possible I doubt that black can achieve both. The alternative is too invade and escape but after 10 this seems difficult. The game isn't over yet but I think that the situation is easier for white, it is probably best not to relax when your opponent is Shusaku though.

Tune in next time for more exciting adventures of Torajiro and the Goban vs the World.

Continue on to part 3.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

You want Shusaku? You get Shusaku!

The small handful of people who have been to the site seem to really like the Shusaku game review. I figure that I'll just start going through his existing game records and commenting on what I can see in the games. I apologize for the inevitable mistakes. I feel like I have a strong understanding of the game but am also far, far away from mastery. Since this commentary is aimed at kyu players I should be able to offer some insight into what is going on. I would greatly appreciate any stronger players who might want to contribute to our collective understanding of this beautiful game. If you are just joining us then please look at the previous game record of Shusaku's that I commented on last week.

Now, lets get into the next game. This is also from 1839 when Shusaku was ten years old. His opponent is a 3 dan player. Remember that this is before the invention of komi so games could be tied and taking black was a huge advantage.

Dia. 1

Here we have a fairly standard classical fuseki with all initial stones being played on the 3-4 point. The pincer at 6 is fairly loose so black feels comfortable playing tenuki to enclose the corner at 7. I have a hard time deciding whether 8 is good or not. It seems very large to extend down the left, establishing a base while also reducing the value of black's enclosure. This also increases, albeit indirectly, the pressure on black's stone in the upper right as it it is no longer possible to directly attack the white pincer. If black encloses the corner at 8 then white can enclose his own corner in the lower right. On the other hand it is common thinking that allowing black to enclose two corners is a little slow for white, who is already behind by a move, so perhaps white 8 is appropriate. When black attacks at 9 I feel some apprehension though, especially as black 9 is very big, being an extension from the black shimari in the lower left.

White 10 and black 11 are generally considered a little slow in modern thinking. Regardless of that they remain solid moves. Perhaps the efficiency is not as high as it could be but most of that difference is made up by the solid nature of the shape created by the diagonal extension. White jumps to 12 and it looks like we will have a fight on our hands. Black would like to settle his stones and build up the lower left corner while attacking 6 and 12. White will look to harass black's group while leading 6 and 12 into the center and solidifying territory along the top.

Dia. 2

Now we see how this fight played out, black peeps at 13 to make the white stones heavy and then slides into the corner to try to get eyes. White 16 and 18 are very sharp, allowing white to destroy any potential eye space black might have found on the side. White reinforces the top with 24 and Shusaku wastes no time attacking at 25 and 27. These are very good, basic, attacking moves. Note how well 25 and 27 coordinate with the black enclosure below. White naturally counter attacks at 29 and black attaches at 29. This fight is about to get very complicated but I think we can follow it. While the black stones are weak they have a move at C18 that will get them two eyes. While simply surviving like this would represent a loss, the ability to fall back and live allows black to fight to the limit. Remember also that the white group is also weak. Black should be able to use the aji available to craft an acceptable result.

Dia. 3

This is a beautiful sequence that demonstrates the prover 'There is no ko at the beginning of the game.' The meaning of this proverb is that if a ko emerges at the beginning there are no ko threats so whoever captures the ko first will simply ignore any threat and finish the ko. Black pushes through with 31 & 33 and then turns to cut at 35. Then black continues to push and white is forced to start a ko to save his stones. Black captures the ko first and then white makes a very serious local threat at 46. I just said there are no ko threats in the beginning but this is a local threat that deals with the ko specifically. If black fills the ko at 34 then white will cut at 47 and capture the whole group connected to the ko. Black has no choice but to connect at 47. Fortunately for black he also has a local ko threat. If white ignores 49 to connect the ko then black will cut at 50 and kill the white stones outright. After this white takes the best option available by pressing at 52 but, like the proverb says, there is no ko at the beginning of the game and black fills it to take the corner.

This result is actually fairly close to even. Black has taken a large corner in the upper left but so has white in the upper right. Black's five stones in the lower left map out a very large territory but the white wall on the top coordinates well with the upper right. Since black has sente I think the game is slightly better for him so far but, again, my analysis may be somewhat off. Hope you have enjoyed this series. Continue with the game in the next post.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beginners Luck

Unlike poker there is no such thing as beginners luck in Go. The game is too complex and even when playing against a slightly weaker player it is far too easy to pick apart their moves and gain profit. The beauty of Go is in the handicap system which allows interesting games to be played between people of vastly different skill levels. Even as a player in the single digit kyu range it can be hard to beat a beginner with 19 stones without playing drastic moves. So I'm going to start a series aimed at beginners and people trying to get to that magical 9 kyu mark where people begin to take you more seriously as an opponent.  Each segment will deal with a proverb and how it applies to the game.

My first proverb is 'Learn joseki lose two stones strength'. This is very true but it often has to do with the way people learn joseki. Learning joseki will make you stronger but only if you understand the joseki. If you understand the joseki than you can see how all moves in the joseki are strong and forthright. In a real game, however, joseki are often wrong and playing a sequence by rote can cost you the game.

How then should a developing player study joseki? With the proper mindset a player at 20 kyu could immediately improve by two stones by learning joseki. The trick is to not see joseki as a sequence to be memorized but simply as an equal exchange. This allows you to look at the result in the actual game and compare your achievements to the joseki result. If you had equal compensation compared with the joseki then you could be satisfied with your in game result. Joseki are only useful to demonstrate an equal result and avoid blunders. As soon as there are other stones on the board joseki become obsolete.

This is just an intro, I'm planning to do a series of articles on various facets of the game that are key to progressing to 9 kyu. Planned articles include joseki, fuseki, how to study, Go books, and maybe a subject of your choosing. Email me or leave a comment with a request for a subject you'd like to see covered.

Life and Death Problem 1

Here is the situation and then you can look at the solution and see how this happened and what occurred in the actual game after the jump. Also, I just realized that it would make more sense to just post the problem and solution at the same time and hide the solution by making it visible only after you click on the read more link. That will make it easier to archive the problems because each will only have on post, so after this we'll keep it simpler.

Dia. 1

White has just descended with the marked stone which we decided later was a mistake, instead white might look at playing atari to the left of the marked stone at C18. Alright, its a complicated situation and there may be another way to live, or maybe there is a way for white to kill black but I at least went over this with a dan player and he was convinced that black could live. Think you've got it? Solution after the jump.

Shusaku Game 1 (Part 5)

Here we go, we will wrap up this game and then find something new to dig our teeth into. I will be doing many Shusaku game reviews here but sometimes I will pick out pro games too, especially when looking at fuseki which has changed a lot. There will also be more problems as time goes on, which reminds me I have to post the solutions to those two life and death problems. If you're just getting here you can go to the beginning or click the link to 'Game Reviews' at the top of the page to go to a page that will have links to all the games I go over on this site.

First of all I'm going to backtrack here and cover the end of the ko fight that were were looking at last time because this is where (I think!) black pulls ahead. Black 29 has just taken the ko to the left of 47 and white makes a ko threat by peeping at 30 along the top.

Dia. 1

Black ignores this ko threat and turns to attack the large white group on the bottom. The logic is that after 31 and 33 the white cut at 49, setting five black stones adrift, is no longer very threatening to black. This is doubly true because the white stones in the top center are very weak and have bad shape. 33 also weakens this group further. White has no time to take the ko after 33 because he has to make eyes for his large group on the bottom. While he manages to make two eyes through 46 black is comfortable enough to ignore white 30 and fill the ko at 47. White would like to play at 49 to profit from his ko threat but the white group in the center is so weak that he has to take the time to reinforce it at 48. Black now descends at 49 so white can't even get partial compensation from the ko.

We can see that white 30 was actually a mistake that allowed black to gain the advantage in the center and eventually win the ko fight. This also shows the wisdom of not following your opponent around the board. Had this been my game I might have reflexively answered white 30 and then gone on the lose the game. Every move you should take stock of whether you truly have to respond to your opponent, take every chance you can to get sente and execute your own plan. If we remember that white had to add the stone at R12 to increase the value of the ko we see that white has invested a number of stones into this fight and gotten almost nothing in return. This is a beautiful sequence for black and really shows how strong Shusaku was even at a young age (he is ten at the time of this game).

With 50 white takes the biggest point on the board but this allows black to take the initiative and attack the floating white stones at 51.

Dia. 2

White pushes out through 60 and then builds up the top left with 62 and 64. White switches back to defending his center group with 66 and then ignores black's turn at 67 to play the large point at 68. Black makes an excellent move at 69 which exploits the bad aji at G18, white has to defend the point with 70 or black will play there and cause all kinds of trouble. See if you can work out the details for yourself (hint: Black's wedge at F16 has some intriguing possibilities).

Dia. 3

This takes us through to the end, these moves are all pretty small but notice how Shusaku ignores the threat to cut at 78 to live on the side with 79. This is bigger in terms of territory and makes the cut meaningless. After white blocks at 80 black uses sente very well, forcing at 81, 83, 85, and 87. White resigned after black 91. I'm not the best counter but no matter how I play out the endgame it seems black has a secure lead of at least a couple points.

I hope you enjoyed this game. I had a lot of fun playing through it for you. Maybe we can do another Shusaku game next week. I'll see if I can find a good one, or maybe we'll just go through the book, game by game, and see how Shusaku progresses. Till next time, ciao!

New Links!

I just wanted to take a moment to highlight some new links that I've put up. There are some really good game databases like GoBase.org that have thousands of pro games that you can review but here are some other sites that have good Go resources.

The first is GoCommentary.com and I think that you'll like the in depth game reviews as well as the brief pieces on tactics.

The second is IgoLocal.net which is a geographic database of people who play Go. I encourage people to register so they can find players near them. The site launched recently so there aren't many people on there yet but if we build on it we can find each other, play more go, and get better.

The third is Eidogo.com which has a web applet for games and a joseki dictionary that you can use in a browser. There are a number of games and on the site that are worth reviewing and The Eidogo software is a very good Go engine and I highly recommend checking it out.

I'll have the rest of the Shusaku game up later today I think, maybe tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life and Death Problem 2

Here is a decent problem that I adapted from a game I played on KGS the other night.

Black has just descended with the marked stone which gives white a good opportunity. White to move and live on the right. Solution in a few days.

Shusaku Game#1 (Part 4)

Alright, we'll get through the middle game ko fight in detail and then I should be able to wrap up the game with the next post, thanks for following along so far. Ko can be very confusing so I broke this section down into smaller pieces so we can follow the ko fight closely. If you're just getting here you can jump to the beginning if you want to get up to speed. With that said, lets continue:

Dia. 1
Note that Black 1 = 101

White captures at 94 which reinforces his center stones and threatens to escalate the ko by cutting at R12. Black responds by turning at 95 to pressure white and white attaches at 96 which leads to a second ko, this one, unlike the other ko, is large and urgent. Black captures immediately.

Dia. 2
White 10 to the right of 7.
Black 13 at 7.

As you can see white doesn't even fight the ko but while black captures and then connects with 3 white uses 2 and 4 to link up his stones. Black cuts at 5 and white uses 6 to increase the size of the ko on the right. Black captures and white makes a ko threat at 8. After black captures white retakes the ko with 10. Black defends by falling back at 11 which firmly captures the two stones above. Now if white fills the ko at 7 black's five stones on the right will be cut off. If white fills immediately though black will jump to 12 and escape easily. Therefor white plays at 12 directly even though this allows black to retake the ko with 13. White 14 reinforces his stones and threatens to cut off and attack black's four stones on the top center. Black cuts at 15 to connect underneath to the corner and with 16 white retakes the ko.

Dia. 3
19 takes ko.
26 takes ko.

17 threatens to connect to the endangered stones so white plays 18 to respond and black retakes the ko. White 20 threatens the large black group on the bottom and black 21 is a good response. If white retakes the ko black has very large moves on the bottom and can inflict damage to the white corner in the lower right. The combination of 21, 23, and 25 make it hard to threaten the group effectively and reduce white's ko threats. Compare if black simply blocked 20 at H2 then white would retake the ko and continue to threaten this group. After 25 white retakes the ko. Black pokes at 27 and then takes the ko.

Dia. 4
47 fills ko to the right of 29

White makes a threat at 30 but black makes a very sharp decision to ignore it and attack white's bottom group. If white can build some influence towards the center then the white cut at K18 doesn't matter so much because the five black stones can easily jump to safety. After 31 and 33 white has to struggle to make eyes locally. While white eventually gets a second eye at 46 and does a little damage to the corner but there is no way to live in sente. After 31 and 33 the white threat at 30 is not looking so threatening so black takes sente to fill the ko bringing this fight to a close.

If we look at the end result white has done poorly. White had to invest an extra move at R12 to increase the value of the ko fight and that move becomes wasted now. Secondly when black connects the ko it is white who is suddenly thin in the center and white will have to jump out which will even give black time to turn to the top and answer white's ko threat. This sequence shows the incredible latent strength of Shusaku and his amazing grasp of timing. Usually one can expect to get at least some profit out of a ko fight but here white has gotten almost nothing.

Next time we'll wrap this game up, check back for the rest of the analysis.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Tricky Situation

This comes from a game I played yesterday, I'll go into exactly how this came about and what the in game result was later but look at this and figure out if you can make something happen for black.

White has just descended here which, in an after game review, we decided was a mistake. Black to save some stones on the inside. I'll show how this came about and what happened in the actual game in the next post.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shusaku Continued (Part 3)

More sweet Shusaku action here. You can jump to the beginning or use the tag Shusaku Review#1 to see all posts covering the game. White has just played a shoulder hit on the single black stone in the upper left. Now lets see how black handles the situation.

Dia. 1

First black turns at 51 to build strength and then jumps to 53 which is a standard maneuver in this situation (black could also live in the corner). After pushing at 54 and 56 white turns to expand the right side at 58. Why 58 specifically? The answer has to do with the possibilities of a second extension up the right. If white plays one point closer to black's shimari in the upper right then black can invade behind him like so:

Dia. 2

Now white does not have room to make a base on the side and the situation is troublesome. If white were to pull back a point and play at 2 then black has room for a large extension at 1. The point at white 58 is ideal for expanding the right side and restricting black's influence in the same area.

Next I want to look at white's attachment at 60. This exchange is not as good for white as simply making a two space extension to 62 because after black 63 his corner is very solid and large. If white simply makes the two space extension there is still room to reduce, probe or invade the corner. The attachment eliminates these possibilities. I suspect white wanted to reinforce the expansion at 58 in sente and then turn back to the left side and take the corner with 64 and 66. This explains why white made the somewhat crude attachment at 60. With the situation on the left settled Shusaku turns to the right side and reduces the white formation with a shoulder hit at 69. This is a strong reducing move that limits white on the right side.

94 at 78 Takes Ko

White ignores the shoulder hit to clamp at 70. This seems a little dubious to me as the thrust at 71 is very large. White salvages some territory with 72 and 73 but this gives black the suppressing move at 73 and also allows black to turn at 75 which makes white's upper right side group very thin. I think responding to the shoulder hit directly leads to a better result for white than what happens in the game.

Through 87 a ko develops but it is not terribly urgent for either side. White's stones at 70, 80-84 are light. Their ponnuki shape is difficult to attack. So white is not so concerned with the ko. Even if white had the advantage in ko threats and captured at 78 black could give way at the point below 85 and still capture two white stones and connect his stones down to 73 with the corner. This is why white tenukis to play at the big point on the upper side.

Again I think 88 to be a little dubious. It is too close to the thick black corner and invites invasion. It also does not seem to coordinate well with the white group at 70 et al. I prefer to play at 92 directly which limits the scope of an invasion. With a stone at 88, when black invades at 89 his stone has room for a two space extension so white must immediately pincer at 90. I prefer playing directly at 92 like this:

Here, if black invades, black cannot extend to get a base as easily and white can use the thickness in the upper left to attack black's stones, white 1 and 5 also reinforce the four white stones to the right. Note that black will not actually invade as in the diagram but might consider sliding underneath the stone at 1 and playing two points above it on the second line. In the actual game black was able to invade at 89. White 1 here also does more to reinforce the stones to the right than 88. Through 91 white's drifting stones in the upper right are starting to feel uncomfortable so he recaptures the ko with 94. This regains the resilient ponnuki shape and threatens to make the ko dire by playing below 85. Now black has to make a decision, if he wanted to play it safe he could connect below 85. This is very solid. But if white does start the ko black would capture first so black could ignore white's threat and continue pressuring the central stones. This is a more proactive plan but leaves some aji behind for white to work with.

That is all for this installment, I will continue to work through games, hopefully doing one a week or so. I hope you enjoy this commentary.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shusaku! Game #1 (Part 2)

Shusaku really is a fun player to watch, you might want to catch up with the game so far or just see how black (played by Shusaku) breaks into the bottom of the board here:

Dia. 1

The lesson here is leaning attacks. Note how black makes what base he can with 17 and then responds to white's cap at 20 by poking out at 21 and crawling at 23 before jumping to 25. This is a basic technique whereby you first strengthen one group by using forcing moves against a stronger enemy group on one side and then strike out where it is most urgent. Right after 25 it is white's turn for a leaning attack. By making the shoulder hit at 26 and the hane at 28 the blocking move at 30 becomes much more effective. Imaging a simple black extension to the left of 24 without the stones at 26 and 28 and you can see how ineffective 30 is without these forcing moves being made first.

Another thing to like in this sequence is how white floats away with 22 to keep the pressure on black. There is a proverb that says "Attack with the knight's move." and the logic is that by attaching you strengthen yourself but you also strengthen your opponent. Attacking moves are played away from your opponents stones to pressure them while keeping them weak, it is when you have the weak group that an attachment becomes appealing.

Dia. 2

Black starts with 31 and 32 to probe white's intentions and then seizes a white stone with 35 and 37. White plays 38 to increase the aji of his sacrificed stone. After exchanging 42 for 43 which helps the weak white group on the bottom left white switches to the corner to play 44. I think this is premature, or perhaps this is a situation of a player going for a big point instead of an urgent one. Black still has only one sure eye and white's group is very weak. This is seen when black jumps out at 45 white immediately turns to reinforce at 46 and 48 which allows black to not only stretch out at 47 but solidify his territory of the bottom left. White's moves might make an eye at some point but have no real territorial potential. Black's sole stone in the upper left is very light and even after white attacks it for a fourth time with 50 Shusaku still has options for dealing with the situation.

Update 8/20/2010: So I talked to a dan player at my go club about this game and he showed how white 44 is also urgent. If white plays around 45 to seal black in then black can play at 44, press white down in sente and then counter attack the sole white stone on the left.

Ok, I hope this piece helped you, especially the first bit on leaning attacks of which these are very good examples of how to wiggle one way and then probe the other when your stones are under attack. This is why it is usually unwise to try to capture large groups. The options your opponent has to push and strain first this way and then another will usually create a gap in your net as you try to take all their liberties. It is almost always better to play simply and make your opponent live small. Next time... How will Shusaku settle his stone in the upper right? Will white fight back or can the young Shusaku (or I should say Torajiro, his childhood name, since he is only ten at the time of this game) best his 2 dan opponent? Tune in next time to find out!

Ko Problem Solution

Welcome back! Lets start by looking at the problem again and then see how the problem developed before looking at the solution:

Dia. 1

Black pushes at 1 to gain a few points in sente and then plays at 3 to reduce white's influence. The 1-2 exchange is actually very bad for black. How does white take advantage in the corner? Once you figure it out, and I mean figure it out, if you don't start practicing your reading sometime you'll never get better, then go ahead and read on. Go ahead and lay it out on a board and look at it for a while if you have to. A strong kyu player should be able to spot this quickly, a dan player should see it instantly. There are only so many combinations in a small corner situation like this and even a weaker player should be able to lay it out on a board and go through it till they find the answer.

To see how this diagram came about we have to see how this invasion happened. It starts with black's probe at 1:

Dia. 2

Depending on how white responds this could go many different ways but white plays at 2 which is a simple response that stresses the outside. Black hanes at 3 and through 7 is unconditionally alive in the corner. Later white can play this sequence to further seal black in:

Dia. 3

Note that on an open board white's influence far, far outweighs black's meager corner but this probe would not be played in the opening, it would be a middlegame tactic that might be used to rob white of the corner territory. As is usual the benefits of this trade would have to take the whole board into account. Back to our problem though, did you find the ko?

Dia. 4

By pushing at 1 black reduces his own liberties, now it becomes imperative to reinforce the corner which makes black 1 a very small gote move. Since black foolishly tenuki's at 3 white strikes at the vital point at 4 (note how black plays at the same point in Dia. 3) and after the 6-7 exchange where black makes an eye white throws in at 8 to create a ko. Since without 1 black is unconditionally alive this has turned into a terrible exchange for black.

Next time we'll follow up on that Shusaku game that I started analyzing. Have fun!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


So excited!! I just got a new board, new stones, nice bowls and the complete recorded games of Shusaku! The game commentary is in Chinese but I can at least read the game diagrams.

The games of Shusaku are great study material for kyu players. While the joseki are a bit out of date, because there was no komi black had a large advantage and often played conservatively in the opening, the middle game fighting tends to be spectacular and the endgame sequences are modern pro level. To that end I just bit the bullet and picked up what I think is the most complete collection of his games and I thought we could go over some of the interesting points of a game here. This is a game from 1839 when Shusaku, still known by his childhood name Torajiro, was only nine or ten years old when this game was played. Shusaku is black and this is before the invention of komi so playing black is an advantage. His opponent is a 2 dan player.

First of all you'll notice the old fuseki style. All corner openings start at the 3-4 point and there are a number of other quirks like the order of 5 and 7 as well as playing 1 and 3 in the same corner. Black's move at 7 would almost certainly be played at the 4-4 which would prepare for an extension on both the bottom and the left but the 4-4 was not played at the time. As it stands 8 is a well timed approach. Black 13 is an often overlooked variation on the joseki that prepares to extend up the left side and puts more pressure on the three White stones than a one point jump on the 3rd line which is by far the most common variation of this joseki.

White's decision to tenuki and enclose the lower right corner is a little suspect. It makes an invasion of the bottom look attractive. I would have thought about this variation for white 12 to create a more balanced formation across the bottom:

This way there are no obvious entry points into the bottom for black. If we go back to the sequence played in the game the lower side looks very inviting for black.

As a matter of fact Shusaku wastes no time at all and strikes at 15, robbing the three white stones of a base and breaking into the bottom. Next time we'll go into how the situation plays out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fuseki Study Concluded

So I thought I would simply start out by going over a few basic principles for getting through the fuseki even if you don't competely know what you're doing. First of all either enclose corners or prevent your opponent from doing so. Secondly, and this often gets overlooked, settle your stones. It is almost always better to take gote to make sure a group is safe because every weak group will cost you dearly in the middle game fighting. Often higher kyu players will litter the board with weak, floating stones and both will blithely ignore the opportunity to attack while bickering over endgame moves at the edge of the board. Secure your groups, identify weak points in your opponents formation and build up your own position. Finally pay attention to areas of the board that are wide open, simply putting a stone on the 3rd or 4th line around a star point on an empty area of the board may be the biggest point and will never hurt you.

Now that we've got that covered lets get back to our game. If you are just joining us this is Park Jieun 9p as black and Suzuki Ayumi 5p as white and the game is from Round 3 of the 8th International Female Cup in China, you can start at the beginning of the game if you want to get up to speed. When we were last with our plucky heroes they had just settled the situation in the lower right and black, taking sente, turned to rescue his stone in the top left. This is very important as another white move in this area will make it difficult for black to settle his stone. Diving into the corner with 25 is a simple and neat way to resolve the situation.

Once black jumps to 25 white presses at 26 and 28 to link his stones, connection is important, and build influence. Black secures the corner with 29 and white uses his wall to extend to 30. If white were to block to the right or 29 then black would be happy to take this point which would give her a good base to combat the influence from the white wall in the upper left. This extension doesn't give much territory yet as white's formation is still open at the bottom because of black 29, a jump underneath will erase a lot of territory and may be large enough to play in the early middle game depending on the situation.

Now we have two extensions, a black one down the right at 31 and the white two space extension at 32. Can you see how black's extension is much larger than the white? Not just because it is a three space extension but because of the formation made with the two black stones in the upper right. Because of the orientation of the two black stones they project power down the right side. Nevertheless white's extension is very large. Appreciating the power of these simple moves will greatly improve your game. Flashy moves and killing techniques might win you some games but at higher levels of play when your opponents will be experts at defense you will have to rely on your board judgement to gain small advantages.

Black takes time to secure territory on the bottom left with 33 and white decides to use 34 to build a moyo on the top. I think white was looking at this situation and felt like she was falling behind in the territorial balance. White has almost no sure territory, the formation on the right is open to invasion and the group on the bottom is only assured of getting four or five points. Black has secured three corners and the lower left and upper right are both large enclosures. White's only real asset in this game is her thickness in the upper left and the influence it projects.

Black jumps out to 35 to reinforce the corner formation and white jumps out to 36 in an attempt to reinforce the formation in the lower right. This brings us to the end of the fuseki and in order to see if we've learned anything let us analyze the position once again. As I just stated black has taken more and more solid territory without surrendering too much influence. The four black stones in the upper right project influence, the black group on the bottom right is nicely wedged between two thin white positions and the lower left is large and fairly secure. White is looking to use her strong outside position on the upper left to enclose a large center to make up for the territory but this is less than ideal. Typically it is better to use thickness to attack rather than surround territory but with the corners already settled and no weak black stones are on the board she doesn't have a lot of options.

The overall feeling is that the game at this point is favorable to black but where did white slip up? Next time I'll go over the whole game up to this point and we'll see if we can figure out where white mis stepped.

Do You Fear Ko?

Other than the very beginning of the game no other facet of the game of Go inspires confusion like Ko. Studying Ko is a key element of becoming a decent player and a subject that I really want to dig into here. We'll keep studying fuseki but here is a quick problem. Remember: lay it out on your own board and wait until you read out the whole thing before you answer.

The 1-2 exchange is bad for black and by playing tenuki at 3 black is asking for trouble. White to attack the corner, good luck.

This is a classic problem that is good to practice your reading on. I'll give it a few days and then post the solution. Bonus points for anyone who wants to explain exactly why the 1-2 exchange is bad for black.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fuseki Study Continued

If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I'll try to get back to you. Also if some dan player wanders through here remember that I'm no expert but I like to think that I'm good enough that I can present some insightful commentary. Anyway, this is a continuation of the game we were looking at last time with Park Jieun 9p as black and Suzuki Ayumi 5p as white. This is from the 8th International Female Cup. We left off with white's attachment at 14 and now we'll see how black settles her stones on the bottom.

The hane at 15 is the only response. Also note that the attachment at 14 is only possible with a favorable ladder for white in the upper left, without that ladder black will hane underneath 14 and gain the advantage but in that case white would never attach at 14 to begin with. 16 is pretty much forced as well. Now black has some options, she could play at 18 to seize corner territory in exchange for white influence or press immediately at 19 but in the current situation white could then hane at 17 and the situation for black becomes complicated. The descent at 17 separates the white stones on the bottom from those in the corner and looks forward to attacking on the bottom. White takes corner territory with 18 and then black pressures the bottom group with 19 and 21. 

With 23 and 24 both sides stabilize their weak groups and I want to bring particular attention to white 24. This is the type of simple move that all players should understand, it approaches the black enclosure in the lower left and, most importantly, establishes a base for white's group on the bottom. The two point extension on the third line is almost never bad. Simple, solid moves like this are the foundation of strength and though they might seem slow they allow you to attack strongly in the middle game which will bring its own rewards.

Now we can evaluate the position, black has reduced the corner and broken out to the center. Moreover her wall negates the influence from white's one point jump and side extension. With this influence an invasion in the white formation becomes very appealing. On the other hand white has laid claim to the corner and gotten to develop on both sides which is always appealing. It may seem that black hasn't gotten quite as much as white out of this exchange but it is important to see that black took sente which is very valuable in the beginning of the game.

After white's extension to 24 black can take a deep breath and look around the board. Having settled a group in the lower right the single black stone in the upper left becomes the focus of the game.  Black decides to dive into the corner and the move at 25 guarantees this stone life along the side.  Next time we'll see how the upper left plays out and go through the remainder of the fuseki (opening) in this game.

Fuseki Study

One thing that many beginning players say is that the opening is truly bewildering and they often feel like they end the beginning of the game at a disadvantage. So here we'll be looking at the fuseki (opening) of a pro game. This is Park Jieun as black and Suzuki Ayumi as white and the komi is 6.5. This particular game comes from Round 3 of the 8th Female Cup International and was played in China.

The first interesting exchange here is the 7-8 exchange. These moves are because of white 6, the famous Shusaku diagonal. This move is not terribly common anymore and is considered to be just a little slow for white.  This may be why black chose to tenuki and enclose the corner at 7. While white plays at 8 and makes the sole black stone in the upper left feels a little uncomfortable there are still many ways to handle this stone. Black could move out diagonally towards 8 on the fourth line to separate 8 from 2 and 6 if the outside became important or he could dive into the corner to establish a base. Meanwhile by playing at 1 and 7 black has laid strong claim to the corner territory and projects influence down the right side. It might help to think of 5 as, in a broad sense, a reducing move. Compare black's stones at 1, 7, and 5 with white's stones at 2, 6 and 8 and see how black's corner is much more solid. This is not to say that white's position is bad, it has more possibilities and projects power on two sides so she is not necessarily dissatisfied. I'm just trying to show the logic of this exchange.

Being satisfied with the aji of the stone at 5 black now turns to consolidate the lower left corner. The move at 9 makes a 3-3 invasion uncomfortable for white and the low position, on the third line, makes the left side uninteresting to play on. This is due to the low position of white 8 as well. If white 9 were one line higher then it would be an invitation for white to approach two points above nine and threaten to slide underneath black's stones.

Because the left is not as interesting anymore white turns to the right and plays 10. Why play here instead of below the star point on the bottom? It has to do with the amount of influence projected by the two different black enclosures. The enclosure on the bottom left has a lot of influence over the corner but because these stones still lack a base and the open nature of the 4-4 point these stones do not project their influence as directly as the enclosure in the upper right.

After black approaches at 11 white jumps to 12 which coordinates well with his previous extension up the side. We've all seen black 13, jumping into the corner but now white pulls out a move that isn't too common though it is the favorite of a few pros (Rin Kaiho comes to mind). Next post we'll cover the continuation of white's attachment in detail and continue watching the opening unfold.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Getting the complete recorded games of Shusaku's tomorrow. All 400 some odd of them including games that aren't finished or completely recorded, the only downside is that its in Chinese. Shouldn't be too much of a problem, I'll just miss out on the commentary.

For the not a one of you who will be reading this (at least right now) I'll have problems up fairly often or whole board examples from both pro games and, possibly, some of my own. I think it can be useful for players in the mid to high kyu range to get analysis from a player around 5 kyu. The concepts don't completely fly over your head that way, which happens to me when I listen to two dan players talk about a situation. They'll say things like "Well this hane doesn't work because of the ladder." and I'll be "What ladder?" sigh...

More soon, have fun!