Gentle Joseki, part IX
by Pieter Mioch

An introduction to corner patterns, especially but not only meant for kyu players.


By now everybody is aware that people in Japan do not longer wear Kimono's for everyday life and that the times of men in skirts with hair tied up in a bun and with long pieces of menacing looking steel at their sides is in the far past. Nostalgic emotions and a hunger for the "good old times", however, have kept the population interested in traditional stuff like the tea ceremony, sumo and yes, go for the last half of the 20th century.

Now that the Japanese economy is only moving at a snails pace, if it is moving at all, corporate sponsors, on which many of these traditional sports depend, are tightening their belts and starting to pinch pennies. As the larger part of the public does not seem to care about tradition so much anymore less and less money is available for "antique" events and combined with internal trouble this puts the Japanese go association (the nihon ki-in) in an extremely difficult situation. The newspapers are not as generous with funds as they once were although they still do guarantee enormous sums of cash for prize money in the pro tournaments

As a first step to not "go under" the wages of professional salaries have been cut up to 15% depending on the tournament. As far I know since the Second World War this has not happened. At the same time that the pay for participating in the tournaments is going down the going rate for go classes is getting cheaper, too. As yet most pros are grumbling but not really complaining and there does not seem to be anybody considering giving up go and trying another profession. It feels possible, however, to predict that in the next 10 years at least some pros will have to reconsider their jobs and might have to start something on the side.

To make things even worse, despite the unexpected successes of the go comic "Hikaru no Go" in Japan the number of people who play go say once a week seems to be decreasing. The game of go is such an integral part of the Japanese society that you do not need to worry about go vanishing altogether or something. All the same, many young people (under 40) feel that Go is something you pick up after retirement as a preventive measure against Alzheimer's disease. But then again, there are also plenty of people who start playing mah-jongg for the same reason.

To be honest, the number of participants in youth tournaments held throughout the country has been increasing the last couple of years. To think this means that lots of young people at school are playing go now is a mistake. Recently throngs of youngsters do realize for the first time that there is a game called go and that it even might be cool. Unfortunately for 99% of the parents behind possible go protégé's goes that education is the top priority in life. Video games are allowed as a necessary evil, to help children to relax and let off steam but only few parents will encourage their brats to put time in go. This is an extremely unfortunate situation as everything necessary to raise a new generation of world-top pros is still there. The know-how, the equipment and high level of pros and amateurs ready to take talent under their wings, however this all mean nothing without the support of the parents. If the Japanese society does not make a 180 degree turn fast and start paying attention to matters besides good grades and video games the level of go in the next 50 years will not be up to meet the world.

What does all this have to do with me? Well, everything, actually. My senior citizen's class I get paid for is going steady, everybody's happy and the number of participants does not change much. At other days, when I'm not teaching, the number of people attending has been going down and as a result my boss, Tsuchida 9p, is desperately looking for new students. So, at every go event in Gifu prefecture you can find me now, that 6'6" pink elephant standing there on the stage in front of a group of Japanese spectators telling them why they really *must* come over, join and start playing go at Tsuchida's club.

To end this depressing story with some good news, my elementary school go classes are doing fine and I even got a couple of mothers playing now, just to make sure that go doesn't stop the moment school's out and that interested children have enough chance to play at home too.

P.S. It goes without saying that I'm trying to turn the situation in Japan around and "father" the next generation go fanatics. As Yuki Shigeno confessed when I spoke her a couple of years ago: "What I'm trying to do is to help spreading the game of go all through Europe and make it so popular that people in Japan will become interested in playing again. Japanese people love everything foreign so I guess that what I'm saying is that I'm trying to save go in Japan by importing it back..."

The Patterns

As usual I've underestimated the amount of even the most basic diagrams concerning the 4-3 point. There is no way on earth I can tell all the things you should know in order to be able to start feeling confident in your own games when playing 4-3. The ko-moku move is low, as I said before and if there's one thing you should try to pick-up from Gentle Joseki 8 and 9 it is that the 4-3 move lacks in attacking strength because of it.

Well, that was one something which deserves a single episode by itself but, alas, not this time. I'll continue with where I let off in Gentle Joseki XIII and when I have some 20 diagrams I'll call it a day.

White Attaches

Diagram 1 After a white approach move to the ko-moku stone playing a pincer is the most likely way to lead to unpredictable and difficult situations. In dia 1 blacked played the two space high pincer. White has plenty of choice in how to answer this pincer. The white answer I'd like you to memorize by heart though is the attachment (tsuke) of white 2. This is *the* move white has to keep things simple and settle himself without messing up too much. After black 7 white can play at either A or B to settle his stones. Because of having two options white can play elsewhere without having to worry.

Diagram 1

Playable But Not So Many Eyes

Diagram 2  Diagram 2a
The dias 2 and 2a show that black can counter at 5 instead of letting white get easy eye shape. After white 8 it is 98% out of the question to even consider fighting this ko when playing black. Black 9 in dia 2a is natural and white 10 might look cool, but?..White should not be too happy with his shape. As black's corner is alive black could very well choose to peep at A and B and continue attacking the white stones. White should be able to handle himself, of course, but for the time being his stones have no eyes and feel a kind of heavy.

Diagram 2 & 2a

a Genuine Joseki

Diagram 3 This is, as an exception to the normal Gentle Joseki approach, a genuine joseki. Black 1 in dia 3 shows the "go steady" attitude. After white 2 black can hook up his stones with 3. Black is satisfied (even though he's a bit low)

Diagram 3

Always Works

Diagram 4 Dia 4, in short with *all* the pincers A-F the attachment play of white 1 is possible. It most of the time works similar to the dias I just showed you about the two space high pincer. If black pincers at A white 1 might not be the best move, but it's still playable.

Diagram 4

White Settles His Stones

Diagram 5 And I do it again! It is a real joseki! Be that as it may, however, I think that this result is more than white can hope for. White settled his stones most effectively in spite of the fact that black played the sever pincer of black 1. White 8, by the way, is extremely big because white cannot extend towards the left and instead of 8 playing elsewhere (tenuki) is often a bad idea as black can take 8 and set the white stones a floating.

Diagram 5

The Attachment Works

Diagram 6 Diagram 6a Diagram 6b
Black would like to do something, anything. The atari at 5 is a good start, now there are a number of possibilities. Filling in with black 9 is good enough, white's shape may look okay but it's a little thin and not very impressive. White 10 is correct, if one to the left the remaining peep option can help black to set up an attack.
The cut at black 1 in dia 6b is possible too. As black cannot expect to win the ko, however, filling in at 3 is the only move. Next white 4 is a nice move, this solid move enables white to later on play at A and fight ko. Without white 4 his position would most likely not survive in a ko fight. The result is more or less equal.

Diagram 6, 6a & 6b

Not So Popular

Diagram 7 There seems to be an unwritten law or at least a silent agreement to not play the two-space low pincer of black 1 in dia 7 these days anymore. In my insei days my "sensei" (teacher) was very font of this pincer because most of his students did not study it as thoroughly as the other, more popular pincers. I think it is an excellent play and whatever the current fashion may be by all means add this move to your standard-answers repertoire. Playing white the opposite idea to the attachment we just went over would be moving out and jumping towards the center. A, B and C are just a few possibilities which are playable with all the pincers although they're maybe not always advisable if black played any one-space pincer.

Diagram 7

I don't know about the correct line of playing too much but judging from my own games jumping out leads to "unsettling" at least a quarter of the board. I mean that often both players end up with a number of stone-strings of unclear status and feel they're in a guerilla war.

Our Ships Are Sailing the Same Direction

Diagram 8 One of the major options white often has when jumping out as in dia 8 is to counter-pincer. This especially is a very healthy attitude if white has the left corner. If the triangle marked stone would be black's, however, the counter-pincer could be too much for white to handle. This is, again, a joseki. All the same you cannot expect your opponent to follow suit. There are plenty of ways to make a left turn somewhere and, as a matter of fact, this is often called for.

Diagram 8

Be never satisfied just because you memorized a joseki and got it on the board correctly. Being suspicious of the outcome is the more recommendable attitude, me thinks.

A Question

Diagram 9 Black: Cheng Zengyu
White: Wang Yuan (+resign)
Played April 1986

Dia 9. I'm glad I could find some game from after WW2 were the two-space low pincer is played. From my search results I can say without a doubt that this move is nowhere as popular today as it was 60 years ago.
Next black to play, where would you play in your own game A, B or C? Part of the continuation of the game is given right at the end.
By the way, this is again a game where black had to resign after having played an opening making two corner enclosures (shimari). This makes six games in a row including the games I checked out for Gentle Joseki 8. I think it is time for me to start writing a thesis, proving that black cannot win a game of go when having two shimari. I still have no clue, however, why on earth two shimari would be bad but it's intriguing to find that black often loses. Still, it could very well be coincidence, of course. I'll get back to you when I checked on say 2000 games.

Diagram 9

No Big Deal

Diagram 10 In dia 10 the remaining moves I have to go over are given. You can make a big deal of the white approach moves at B and C but I think they're not.

Diagram 10

Good For Black

Diagram 11 If white wants something on the left side he often chooses to play a little far from the corner, trying to avoid being pincered. Well, let white do his worst and give him a second move at the left side, I say. Black 2 makes excellent shape and after white 3 black can play tenuki or make an extension in the neighborhood of A. Black gets the better part out of this exchange.

Diagram 11

Good For Black Too

Diagram 12 The same goes for dia 12. Just stay cool and play solid moves and white only can make a thin extension towards the left, no sweat. At a fairly early stage of the game black might very well want to invade at A after which white cannot hope to capture the invasion.

Diagram 12

'Lot of Moves

Diagram 13 Dia 13 shows that there are certainly enough moves to choose from if white played the one-space high approach move. I have no personal favorite move but black E gives black a lot of points while black still is the one who can play elsewhere (tenuki) first.

Diagram 13

Good Enough for Black

Diagram 14 Black is solid and got points in dia 14, he has no reason to be dissatisfied. Black also can aim at the troublesome move at A later on in the game. He should not play here too fast but only just about when white is starting to think that the upper left is his territory.

Diagram 14

Three Ko-Moku Joseki

Diagram 15 Black: Kato Masao
White: Otake Hideo (+resign)
Played July 1978, 2nd round Gosei title

Dia 15. I don't have much room left that's why I decided to show you this game between Otake "the master of good style" Hideo and Kato "the Killer" Masao and show you various aspects of the 4-3 move all in one diagram. Try, among other things, to pick up something from the lower left corner. Playing tenuki (or a pincer) *after* your opponent has attached at the 3-3 point is quite a common strategy. Now tell me, did you ever try that in one of your own games?
White 18, by the way, is over extended. Black could play between white 16-18 and probably eat the 2-16 stones. White, however, does not care so much about that since he regards the 2-16 as light.

Diagram 15

Alternative Joseki

Diagram 16 Dia 16 shows an alternative joseki, that is to say that this might be playable but by no means common. Instead of black 7 playing at A could very well be an excellent choice.

Diagram 16

I just found another game to throw at you which I think is worthwhile. It is between a local hero, Hikosaka Naoto playing white and O Rissei who is currently one of the strongest players in Japan, if not in the world.

There Ain't No Such Animal

Diagram 17 Later on in this game a big fight developed and black managed with a truly exquisite move to barely ensure life and thus killing the white stones which had only one of those things, eyes. White resigned after move 145.
The joseki in the upper left corner is not all that special but the sequence of moves in the lower left is one I never saw before (and never hope to see again). White clearly made a judgment call here and decided to give black a lot of points in exchange for some stones towards the center. It seems that black is doing fine here, I wouldn't complain if this were my game.

Diagram 17

Surprise Your Club

Diagram 18 To give you an edge at your local go club it is a good idea to have a closer look at dia 18. As anybody can tell you, normally black is supposed to play at 4 instead of black 3. The blunt move of 3, however, is possible too and an unexpectedly large number of players seem to never have heard of it. The result in the dia looks natural and very joseki like but it does favor black and white should not be satisfied with it. Black 13 neatly captures two white stones and he's happy. White should not play as docile as in the dia but should play 10 at A instead. After this all hell breaks loose as black has the fierce diagonal move (hane) at B. If black does not feel up to the difficult fighting which follows he also can stretch at C, now the result is unclear but something tells me it cannot be bad for white.

Diagram 18

Surprise Your Club II

Diagram 19 Dia 19. I remember as if it were yesterday that this joseki was the latest hit at the go club I was playing when I was about 6 kyu. We all thought that white was taken in big time and that black had played a cool trick joseki. Well, actually the result in dia 19 is about even and there nothing "hamete" (tricky move) about it. So, don't be surprised when your opponent does not answer as you had anticipated but instead plays hane at 3 and easily captures two stones of yours.

Diagram 19

Answer To Dia 9

Diagram 20 Black: Cheng Zengyu
White: Wang Yuan (+resign)
Played April 1986

Black 15 was the biggest point at the board and also helps to set up the counter pincer at 25. Notice that before starting the heavy fighting black plays 29 in order to make one and a half eye, this is always a good idea, of course.

Diagram 20

Be sure to come back next month for the next episode of "Gentle Joseki"

Appendix 01

Index of joseki's mentioned in this episode:

idx-01 idx-02 idx-03 idx-04 idx-05 idx-06 idx-07

Appendix 02

Some Japanese words and their English equivalents:

aji taste; remaining possibilities, however distant they may be
atari "check" on at least 1 stone
dan ranking system for stronger players
fuseki opening
gote not being able to leave the current situation first, allowing your opponent to be able the play elsewhere first
hoshi star; any of the 9 dots one the go board, the middle one is called "Tengen" (=center/origin of heaven). Hoshi is often used when talking about an opening move on the 4-4 point.
joseki a sequence of moves (in the corner) giving both players a locally equal results
kakari approach move to the corner
kikashi a move which is almost impossible to ignore, also "forcing move"
ko situation which occurs when it is possible to immediately re-capture the stone your opponent played in the previous move to capture 1 of your stones. Since there is no end to this there is the ko-rule, which prohibits a player to exactly recreate a previous board position.
komi compensation for white (usually 5-7 points) since black gets to play the first move. (often there is a half point komi, as in 5.5 stones komi, to prevent a game from ending in a draw)
komoku the 4-3 point
kori-gatachi inefficient shape, uneconomical, using to many stones to make only few points (hollow wall)
kyu rating system used for intermediate players
miai of equal value
moyo large framework often forcing the opponent to (try to) reduce it drastically in order to stay in the game
ni-ren-sei two 4-4 moves one the same side of the board
ponnuki the name of the shape when 4 stones capture one enemy stone
san-ren-sei 3 hoshi of the same color at the same side of the board
sente having the opportunity to play elsewhere first leaving the current situation. (example: He had sente so he decided to play tenuki)
shimari "closing" (the corner) formation, any 2 moves which effectively seal the corner, also "enclosure".
shin-fuseki "New Opening" a way of playing starting in the 1930's which does not accept the go-theory of the 19 century as being without its weak points.
tatami thick mats of woven rush stuffed with straw, traditional flooring
tenuki playing else first when judging the current situation does not require an immediate follow up
warui bad

Copyright by Pieter Mioch, June 2001