Subject:	THE BIG GAME 5 Question
From:		John Fairbairn <>
Date:		Tue, 29 Apr 1997 20:58:27 +0100

The next moves were:

White 30: h16

White g18 was rejected because it lets Black settle himself with profit too easily (see diagram): Black h17, White h18, Black j17, White j18, Black k18.

Black 31: h15

White 32: g17

Black 33: f17

White 34: g18

Now I invite you to find Black's move 35 but I will tell you the choice is between:

  1. Black f16, White f18, Black g13 (see diagram)
  2. Black g15, White f18, Black g13 (see diagram)

Which is better and why? I have to confess that I don't understand even after seeing the answer, but the commentary says the pro's move is the "proper move" (honte) and is in accord with go theory, while the wrong move is amateurish. They even throw in an important proverb. No tactics are shown (or needed, I think).

There are many questions on shape in r.g.g. This would be a good time for those _very_ strong players watching to give us all a bit of help.


(from Japanese dictionaries)

The proper move. A move that at first sight looks slack but which is the most appropriate to the situation.

Background noise

As, relatively speaking, a non-player and more of an observer, I notice a huge difference in the way pros and amas talk about the game. The words differ (pros say thick, thin, amas say kill, kill), and amas try to explain their thoughts more through showing tactical sequences than pros do.

But of course pros see all the tactics we do, and more. Ishida Yoshio is fond of saying that pros see "a thousand moves at a glance". While that's an exaggeration, Fujisawa Hideyuki more temperately claimed that he would see 20 to 30 moves at a glance and, counting the variations that would instantly spin off, 200-300 moves in total.

I can recall being gobsmacked watching a commentary by Feng Yun on a game she had never seen. Someone asked about a nice-looking (i.e. crass) move and she looked startled and _instantly_ said that was no good because of the ladder. What ladder, we all chorused. She then flung a few stones on the wall-board, wiggled her finger halfway across the board, round a couple of corners, up a dale and down a dell... I think that's when I gave up pretending to be a go player. At any rate, it convinced me that Fujisawa was not exaggerating.

Yet all this remains normally hidden when pros talk. Go Seigen said he spent next to no time working out tactics. He spent almost all his time counting, and favoured the move that gave the simplest win. He said Kitani Minoru, famous for using all his time, also saw all the possible moves instantly but spent the rest of the time comparing one with another, to find the best rather than the safest. Maeda Nobuaki said he thought a long time only when he was confused, but nearly always ended up playing the move he saw first.

When pros talk to each other they say shorthand things like, "That's no good because of the hane" when there's no possible hane for miles around, yet understand each other perfectly. When the go reporter asks where it is, they are shown a variation with hane on move 12.

The book where I saw the comment above about Ishida appended a cartoon with a bushy tree growing out of a go board. There was no caption but I think it alluded to a story about a famous Zen monk, Takuan Soho. Giving advice to a swordsman, he said that when his mind was working and he looked at a tree, his gaze fixed on a leaf and that became all he saw. But when his mind stopped being active and he achieved "no mind" he saw every single leaf.

This goal of "no mind" (mushin) is often cited by pros as something they strive to achieve too. Although the phrase may conjure up incense sticks and vegetarian sandles, it is a state that most of you will have experienced. You probably have similar abilities to the go pros in your own profession, but one thing most of us have in common is that when you drive a car, you can probably drive safely even while still talking, eating, listening the radio, etc. The automatic responses you have learnt take care of the gear changing, mirror glances, steering touches, road watching (the 1000 moves of tactics), leaving your attention free for more important things (strategy - the moyo here!). You will probably have also achieved that even more blissful state where you have driven 100 miles up the motorway and suddenly realise you have absolutely no recollection of getting there - yet you obviously did. Think of "no mind" as that sort of automaticity. The oft cited advice of pros to play over 1000 games to reach shodan is the same advice as martial artists get to practice their forms (kata) until they become automatic, or mind- free.

-- John Fairbairn