Fuseki On Your Side

Charles Matthews 3-dan takes a sideways look at the Go openings

The Anti-Chinese Plan

White can make initial plays that devalue, or at least cast a shadow on, Black's subsequent construction of a Chinese formation.

Diagram 1

White 4 here should make Black pause for thought. White's enclosure with 6 is particularly well placed to limit the expansion of Black influence on the lower side.

Diagram 2

If for example White has the chance to play 1 here, creating what amounts to a pair of miai points at A and B (see the article "Chinese: Lower Side Plays"), the marked white stone will be well placed in support whichever Black chooses. From Black's point of view, however, only the answer at B works well with the marked black stone, allowing White A and a framework with good balance.

This reasoning is perhaps not conclusive. The idea that Black shouldn't play the Chinese against White's starting formation has been around for 25 years, and in professional play Black 5 is normally an approach in the lower left corner instead. A clear-cut condemnation of playing the Chinese in this position, as bad for Black, would step outside the professional niceties. I therefore consider myself fortunate to have had an explanation in terms from Sonoda 9 dan while I was in Japan.

Diagram 3

Sonoda-sensei showed me this variation, laid out in a few seconds. The lower right sequence has appeared already ("Staying Light"). The verdict was that in this position the white fortification in the lower left is really very well positioned, an ideal corner enclosure.

The reasoning can be placed as an issue of co-ordination. One may accept some poor co-ordination of one's own forces and compensate by fighting - this is an aspect of the openings that comes into play as you look further, for example at 5-3 points. For the opponent's forces to appear specially well co-ordinated is however always a misfortune.

Diagram 4

Therefore there is a call to study sides of this kind, where Black 1 approaches White (possibly at A, B or C instead). White 2 (or one of D, E, F) is natural to thwart the Chinese formation, and in any case is a very big point. In a sense this type of position is more open to freedom of choice of variation than any seen so far. A huge range of corner openings could in principle appear.

Diagram 5

Our Anti-Chinese side bears a superficial resemblance to the celebrated Shusaku side shown here, in which the colours of the stones in the left-hand corner are interchanged. Features common to the two will naturally be shallow. In both cases the lettered points form a zone of potential double-purpose plays, which affect both corners. In the Shusaku case the points A and B (the famous Shusaku diagonal for Black) act as a pair of miai - if Black rushes to pincer at A, White can press Black down with B.

Diagram 6

Back with the Anti-Chinese, thinking in terms of double-purpose plays can still lead to some fruitful ideas on direction, and hypothetical variations. Firstly Black applies a pincer in the right-hand corner, rather than playing directly in the 'zone'; this plan is adopted in the modern treatment of the Shusaku side too.

Assuming White plays it safe in choice of corner variation with 2 and then 6, Black can build a very satisfactory framework up to 9, establishing good co-ordination between the corners. Here White has been too passive.

Diagram 7

Therefore White often tries for control of the zone, like this, at the cost of giving up the right-hand corner.

Diagram 8

That there are differences that count between the two side formations can be seen when we look at White approaching high in the right-hand corner. This is a normal plan in the Anti-Chinese case. It makes it easy for Black to play the common opening to 6. After that Black can take the initiative, probably playing in another part of the board. Seeking rapid development in that way is the style applied with such great success by Kobayashi Koichi, who held the Kisei title from 1986 to 1993. The point is that the lower side becomes an area in which White can't achieve so much. If Black wanted to create a framework there immediately, Black 6 would be played on the fourth line.

Diagram 9

In contrast, the sort of Shusaku side formed with the high approach 1 here is a rare combination in pro play (the order in which White's approach plays are made is in fact usually the other way round, i.e. right corner then left corner, but may lead to the same position). The continuation up to 8 is excellent for Black.

Diagram 10

This is a normal way for the left-hand corner to be played out, but the result is poor for White. Black has taken territory in both corners and retained the initiative. A subsequent white play at A, towards the low, solid marked stone, has little enough effect on Black, who reaps the benefits here of superior co-ordination.

[01] [02] [03] [04] [05] [06] [07] [08] [09] [10] [11] [12] [13]
[14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26]

First published 4 January 2001 as On Your Side on MindZine, Go Learning
© Charles Matthews 2000.