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5. Territory Rules I

5.1 The Last Competitive Move

In section 4 it was stated that the problem of reinforcement when there are an even number of neutral points, which is the only defect of area rules, can be solved very logically by introducing the rule of half a point for the last competitive move. It was shown that the resulting rules (area rules III) advance area rules a step beyond their most primitive form. If we examine the meaning of the last competitive move from a slightly different angle, we shall discover something very interesting.

Defining the last competitive move as the move preceding the first pass means that this is the point at which a player can let his opponent play two consecutive moves without having the opponent gain anything (the player himself loses nothing). Under traditional territory rules also, in the state at the end of the game, the player who played last can be allowed to play another consecutive move without gain or loss to either side.

The key point here is that under both territory and area rules, there is a boundary point at which it does not matter if the same player plays twice in a row. The character of the game before this boundary is different from the character after the boundary. After the boundary, the right to play first is not necessarily an advantage; it may be possible to let the opponent play two or more consecutive moves without any effect. Usually there is no tension after the boundary point. In unusual positions, however, large-scale exchanges may take place even after the boundary has been reached.

Area rules I and II ignore this boundary, which is why the problem of reinforcement when there are an even number of neutral points occurs. There is also the bother of having to keep playing after the boundary point, when the tension is gone from the game, although of course these moves can be omitted by agreement. The feature of area rules III is that they recognize the boundary and apply the half-point rule to the last competitive move. In actual play, when there are no unusual positions on the board, it is frequently convenient to end the game by agreement at the boundary.

There is a basic problem, however, in making this boundary the end of the game as in traditional territory rules. When no unusual positions exist, it is true that the boundary point is in effect the end of competition and further play is just a nuisance, but when an unusual position does exist, to ignore the possibility of playing the position out after the boundary is to invite trouble.

Making this boundary the end of the game can be explained in terms of Japanese fastidiousness, which regards the playing of even one pointless move that does not require thought as a blot on the game record. But this cannot be called logical. It is unreasonable to end the game at the boundary point and ignore means of settling unusual positions that can only be settled after the boundary has been passed. Traditional rules such as "bent four in the corner is unconditionally dead" and "three points without capturing" were required in order to make the game end at the boundary point.

Another major reason for ending the game at this boundary in traditional rules is that under rules that count territory and prisoners, it is generally disadvantageous to play inside your own territory after the boundary is passed. Under area rules, in which moves made after the boundary do not cause any loss, unusual positions can be played out past the boundary without requiring any special rules. Under territory rules, however, the rules of play past the boundary need to be clearly defined.

A recent proposal from the Nihon Kiin (not yet approved by its Board of Directors)* is to define this boundary as the end of the game, and if further play is required, treat the ensuing phase as a demonstration period. When the position has been played out to both players' satisfaction, the board is restored to its previous (boundary) state.

This proposal holds that the boundary should always be the end of the game. In unusual cases, however, large-scale trades and other changes may follow the boundary; in those cases the outcome of the game should be determined from the changed position. Furthermore, while it may not be impossible to restore the board to its original boundary state, in practice this will not be easy and mistakes are likely to occur. Retracting moves made after the boundary is a strange and unnatural procedure. This rule does not seem to have been a particularly clever proposal, and there was no logical need for it.

It is unreasonable to insist, even at such a cost, that the boundary point is the end of the game. A logical set of rules ought to allow for play beyond the boundary. If necessary, the game should be played out to the very end.

The proposal was never approved.


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