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Daigo, episode 4

A monthly column by Pieter Mioch featuring a thorough game commentary tastefully seasoned with go-related stories and clues to the meaning of life.

"If you never question anything, you won't get very far"


I'll take a break from myself this time; here's a low-key intro.

An entry from the diary I don't have of October 14, 2001. Although this was a Sunday I had to work at the Nihon Ki-In, helping the 8-dan prof Ito with the pre-insei class. The day coincided with the Central Japan youth tournament at which I normally like to help out but couldn't this time.

'Got up 8:20, a bit late but too early I felt. After pastry and a banana with a glass of water I left home 9:00.

When arriving at the Ki-in I immediately got pinned on a name tag with the words "come help after you finish children class" from youth tournament assistant Mr. Urano. Because there was still some time to spare I sat myself behind a computer at the office section of the Ki-In, away from the crowd.

The wives of Nakano 9p and Yamashiro 9p were there too and busy discussing the cost of life in general and kindergarten fees in Japan in particular. Hane Shigeko 1p joined them a little later. Shigeko-chan married Hane Naoki 8p, and less than a year ago they had a daughter, Ranka. She writes for the same newspaper I do and she complimented me on the articles. I envy her very much because I often have trouble coming up with a worthwhile but technical correct thing to write. Shigeko-chan admitted that she too was sometimes at a loss covering technical details from the pro-ama games and she always makes Naoki check her work before posting. Hane Naoki is one of the strongest young Japanese born players. A live-in world class go player can come in handy at times.

Before starting class I went upstairs to the 8th floor to say hello to several mothers and kids I knew from my go-classes at the Ki-in and elementary school. Next back to the 2nd floor for the Sunday's children go class. Only two kids had shown up. Their level was way apart and the stronger one was left waiting for an opponent who had called in he'd be late and I started a game on 13x13 with an 8-year-old boy.
The head-sensei, 8p Ito, blamed the children's mothers (not present) for not letting them play in the tournament upstairs and suggested to participate instead of 2 hours children's class with 3 children. This was not really a suggestion as the children's parents were not around and the boys would not decide on their own accord.
It was clear that Ito hadn't expected that anybody would show up. He did not feel like teaching too much and went upstairs to see who of the children's class were playing in the tournament already. Ito didn't come back soon and I was left with the 2 children, one playing, and one watching. After 5 minutes a mother dropped by: "Is it still possible for my boy to participate upstairs in the tournament?"

So, forgetting about class we went all upstairs and the two boys joined the tournament although the first round had already started as it was about 10:15. They were both glad to play. Because I couldn't find the other boys' mother I paid his 1000-yen entrance fee. Ito had said something about the tournament being free for class' students but that turned out to be wrong. Since I had decided to let one of the boys play without consulting his parents first I couldn't ask for the entrance money but fortunately the mother paid me back the moment she spotted me and thanked me for taking care of her boy. I was grateful because simple situations like this can easily turn complicated and at times get sticky.

The 8th floor of the Ki-In in Nagoya can not reasonably hold over 220 kids with parents but somehow it did which didn't make it a comfortable place to be.
I went back downstairs again because Ito was not moving from the 8th floor although there still was a chance that somebody would show up for class.
Checking at the front desk I was told that the belated boy who had called earlier had gone directly to the tournament and skip go-class. It turned out that the original call was about being late for the tournament, not for the children's class, sigh.
All the same, it was a good thing I checked because one boy who got close to a nervous breakdown had dropped out the tournament and decided to come for class after all. I played two games with him and invited the mother to play too. So, playing a game and at the same time giving mom a beginner crash-course, the three of us had a nice time. The normally very shy boy helping out his mother and at times making good-natured fun of her.

Unfortunately Ito dropped by later to give some abuse (a way of communicating he seems to feel comfortable with) to the kid as well as the mother. "Connect those three stones, can't you see that they're about to get captured!?" and stuff like that, remarks which kind of spoiled the atmosphere.
Eight dan pro Ito is a wonderful teacher but he should be kept away from anybody below 5-kyu. (If somebody from Nagoya reads this: I did not write this Ito paragraph) He also could learn another thing or two from his former teacher, Kitani Minoru. This teacher among teachers didn't say a word about the games his pupils were playing but only looked on with a faint smile on his face, probably feeling happy being among young talent.

Later, after class, I decided to use my lunch ticket instead of going straight home which would have been smarter since my headache was having the better of me.

All the same, lunch was nice because pro daddies had come to watch their offspring sweating it out in the tournament. I sat at a table together with Nishimoto 2p, Baba 9p and Yamashiro 9p directly on my right. Yamashiro was in a mellow mood and we talked a bit about our children, school and English education. I asked him rather bluntly about the challenger games for the Honinbo title ('86-87 and '93). He said that although he had lost all the three times he had enjoyed the occasion and the special tension of the event. "It should not matter one bit and this special feeling, the tension typical of two-day games could be present at any game, a 2-hour fast game as well as titles games. But we're only human and we need the top-title games and the atmosphere which always comes with it to get in that "special" mood."

Yamashiro detail: he plays at IGS on a weekly basis, only fast games and most of the time is 6d*.

After lunch I did one more guru-walk (kind of moonwalk moving forward) over the 8th floor and had a closer look at the 6-year old daughter of Yamashiro. She's not so strong yet, about 10-kyu, but plays every move within 2 seconds and has unbelievably good go-manners, perhaps promising a bright go-future. The 13-year old daughter of Baba sensei is stronger but breaks down if she loses a game.

Making some excuses to the proper people I left the Ki-In to drive back home. I used what was left of the Sunday to do some reading, as far as my kids would let me, that is. All in all, a worthwhile day could have done without the headache, though.

The Game

The diagrams below are printed in two colors, one for the actual game and one for the explanatory diagrams and side-tracks, as follows:


Game Diagrams

White 1 is better than "A"

Extra Diagram

Sorry, sorry and once more, sorry. I forgot to show you this important diagram somewhere at the end of Daigo 2 or at least at the beginning of Daigo 3.

The game move of white A (move 24) is not good. "A" looks like a correct shape move but because of the presence of the marked black stone it does not work well. (Reasons for this are given in Daigo 2-3). White should have played A at 1 and now it is black's turn to scratch his head and come up with a way of playing which will let all his stones come out nicely. Pool friend Nakane 7p had this to say: "It's not gonna happen, black's marked move is not proper here, if white moves out black has to accept a loss of some kind. The white shimari in the bottom right corner is in an excellent position."

Extra Diagram

Answering Last Episode's Next Move Problem:

A Common Move

Diagram 1

Black 1 is the second best move. If black plays at 1 the situation becomes a straightforward race for liberties, a semeai. White has only got three liberties left which leaves him two moves short from capturing the black corner stones. White can try to get some extra liberties with a move at B but this will not help him (black'll block and that's it). After black 1 white has to come back to make a living shape with 2, if black would play here white would die.
Instead of black 1 he might have played at A first after which white plays 2 and lives. Now black still has to add an extra move to capture the four white stones. Black effectively lost sente but got a stone at A. In the early stage of the game this kind of endgame looking moves are almost never worth losing the initiative. A black play at "A" would be a mistake.
By the way, after black 1 white should not play A because black does not need to answer at B but instead kill the white stones with a play at 2.

Diagram 1

It is important to notice that if things were to go as in diagram 1 the marked white stone was not a correct move. White still needs to play another move in order to avoid being captured. Playing directly at 2 would have been much better, exactly how much better you can see for your self in the game diagram.

No Mercy

Game Diagram 24

Black goes for the big fish, after black 47 white cannot make eyes anymore. From here on white has no choice but to go for the surrounding black stones and try to kill some of them and resurrect his stones at the right or, if that proofs impossible, capture a sufficient amount of black stones.

Game Diagram 24

The result in dia 1 is certainly not bad for black and perhaps he should've been satisfied with it but if you feel that your opponent played a bad move it is often worthwhile to keep your calm and try to figure out exactly how bad a move it was.
Of course this takes a lot of reading and counting liberties but why should you land a left jab if you can deliver an uppercut?

This is, unfortunately, a kind of twilight-zone talk; it could easily be misinterpreted as greed. Greed is bad and often dangerous (Would it still be bad if there would be no risk attached?). If black fails he was too greedy and people will label him a no-good loser. If black can pull it off it's the red carpet and a laurel wreath. Only a razor thin line seperates exquisitely sharp moves from overplays.

Black Captures in 3 Moves

Diagram 2 black 8 to the right of 1

If white wants to have a chance of attacking the surrounding black stones it is important to keep his stones together. Instead of white 1 filling in at 3 immediately gives white an extra liberty but has the drawback of giving black the chance of cutting at 7. Black is grateful for this because once he plays at 7 two white stones are captured which means that part of the surrounding black stones do not have to worry anymore about white attacking later on.
The sequence in dia 2 is a one way street and leads naturally to black taking the vital point with move 8 after which white has only got three liberties left. White has not got much scoop for action, so

Diagram 2

Ko Fight?

Diagram 3

White can try to give his stones one solid eye and set up a ko at the same time. He of course does not do so in a half-baked attempt to make life. White's only aim is to attack one of the surrounding black groups and if he would be able to encircle one which does not have two eyes the situation will turn into a ko fight. This without a doubt is much better than just dying unconditionally.
Unfortunately black does not need to block at A but has time to reinforce his outside position with black 4. Now it does not seem likely at all that white ever will get his ko-fight.

Diagram 3

Leaving some Aji

Diagram 04

Black 1 in dia 4 also kills the white group. All the same this result is some kind of a success for white compared to this dias 2 and 3. It will take black at least 5 moves to capture the white stones. White also managed to get a ko-shape in sente, black has to come back at 5 and white can play outside first. Black 1 is a mistake and gives white more chance to try something.

Diagram 4

When going for the kill be very keen about 1) finding the killing move which leaves you opponent with the fewest liberties, and 2) avoiding the situation turns into a ko-fight. Even a 3-step ko is better for you opponent than no ko at all.

White Starts Something

Game Diagram 25

After white 48 black needs to go after the right side white group. Instead of 49, cutting at A would capture two white stones but is dangerous. After black A white will play at 49 and win the semeai.

Game Diagram 25

We now enter an interesting phase of the game, white has seemingly taken a bad hit but at the same time this makes the game easier. Now white simply has to do something and black has to be cautious, playing tight moves without giving in to the silly but understandable temptation to every move play "honte", regardless of whether it is actually necessary or not.

In a lopsided game all the pressure falls on the leading player. It is often difficult to find the right path between playing solid and playing overly defensive which sometimes can lose so many points that your opponent is back in the game before you'll notice it.

In my opinion many players purposefully seek to deliver a forceful blow or even invite being kicked hard, right from the start. After one of the parties has taken a loss and it is clear how matters stand a lot of tension and pressure evaporates. At the same time it simplifies strategy a lot and will give the players the feeling they are not just stumbling around in the dark anymore.

The tension can build up again to extreme levels later, of course, but once the balance on the board is thoroughly distorted it is just not the same. This kind of automatically fail-safety tension relieve valve will often stand directly in the way of progress to a higher level, 2-3 stones ahead.

To put this in terms the bench-pressing, wrestlemania watching majority of go players can understand: The more pain you can take the better your chances are of seeing your opponent self-destruct.

Am I telling you to never fiercely attack anymore? Am I suggesting that you always should defend and try to keep the game close? Am I telling you to wash your hair at least 3 times a week?

No, not at all. I guess that I'm saying that your state of mind when getting in a difficult situation deserves analyzing check yourself. Are you playing that overplay-looking move because you honestly think it will do you good and because you read out that it actually works? Or do you play that everything-or-nothing move just to get it over with and simplify matters, any which way?

The most taxing games I ever played were with the top insei. Can you imagine what it is to play against people who never blow a fuse? Mistakes? Sure, anybody can make a mistake but throwing away a game because of mental fatigue, inability to handle a loss or extreme difficult situation, never.
The pressure start building from move one and does only increase as the game progresses. The only way out of this self-inflicted hell is to play it through and stand it to the very end.


Game Diagram 26

White has two groups with problems, the big one on the right side is dead for the time being and the group at the top is still weak. White 50 is a fancy probe, it is also a shape move, a move which aims at making the opponent's stones come out inefficient

Game Diagram 26

A bit Vulgar

Diagram 05

In dia 5 after the exchange white 1, black 2 there is no fun left for white at the right side. Black's stones at the right are very solid and white can forget about attacking them. But then again, if white 1 would make excellent fighting moves possible involving the black stones above 1 it would be hard to call white 1 a bad move, even though it looks a bit vulgar.
So, vulgar moves do not need to be bad by definition. If a vulgar move works, it works, end of story. The problem with vulgar moves, moves that do not look thought out, is that they tend to make things easier to decide for your opponent. Unless the opponent will be overcome by emotions like anger, fear or a sick feeling, it is often the case that a vulgar move throws away opportunities.

Diagram 5

Brass Balled

Diagram 6

The boldest thing for black to do would be to play atari at 1 and connect at 3. Now the white marked "shape-move" looks ridiculous, instead of spoiling the black shape it only helped solidify black.
However, white got an extra stone at 2 and this looks a little dangerous. Unfortunately for white he cannot capture the all-important four black stones. After cutting at A black will have to let go of the square marked stones but that is not a big deal if you realize what he got in return. White can strike at the vital point of B but black can, barely, escape. Can you find the move and read out the following sequence, which allows black to get away?
All said, black 1 might be dangerous but it is perhaps the sharpest move (even though it's a bit vulgar looking :-)

Diagram 6

Not Good for White

Diagram 6a black 6 fills in at 3

Black 2 is the only move which will enable black to get away. White might get his hopes up when he starts with throwing in at 3 and next plays a lot of atari but in the end he will run out of steam. After black 12 there is no move for white which will even begin to make up for the enormous loss he took.

Diagram 6a

Too Tight?

Game Diagram 27

Black 51 looks like good style, it is not an atari, which always looks smart. However, it also looks pretty submissive and I can't help but feel that black started to read out what would happen if he'd play 51 at A but got tired along the line and decided that 51 was safest. The white probe (50 last diagram) was perhaps a small success for white, let's see what he can accomplish by the game move, the cut at 52.

Game Diagram 27

Good Timing?

Game Diagram 28

Black 53 is the vital point of the shape if there ever was one. Whatever will follow it seems extremely unlikely that white will be able to capture the central four black stones. White 54 looks like good timing, if he would play here later black might be able to move out instead of answering at 55. All the same, it's a pity that the right white stones have so few liberties left and that the situation won't even turn into a one-eye-ko group.

Game Diagram 28

No Forcing Moves

Diagram 7

Neither white move A nor B is sente. Even if white would have both, A and B, white 1 still does not work. White 1 is the only move worth a try but if black watches himself and quietly stretches at 2 there is no way on earth white can get a good result.
Realizing this game move white 54 might have been good timing but than again it might have been "throwing in his own windows" (this is Dutch for aji-keshi).

Diagram 7

Black Won't Let Go Any Stones

Game Diagram 29

After white 56 black might have chosen to sacrifice two of his stones and let some white stones escape. When black plays at 57 he declares that he's not even considering letting white out, black is going for the jackpot.
Of course white could have made his top group alive instead of playing 54-58. This, however, will not bring him back in the game and is therefor not really interesting. White tries with all his might to unsettle the black positions in order to launch an all-out attack. At present white does not seem to be getting anywhere but to be sure the black outside stones are not settled yet.

Game Diagram 29

Natural Flow

Game Diagram 30

Black 59 is inducing white 60 forcing black to play 61, a move black wanted to play anyhow. This sequence has this kind of "natural flow" idea about it. Black 59 does seem to leave an awful lot of room for the white top group, and to be sure white should be able to make eyes here, if he wants to.

Game Diagram 30

More Solid?

Diagram 8

Black 1 looks much more solid compared to game move 59. It does leave some aji, however, which white might try to use as shown. Unfortunately for white, the black positions are so solid that even cutting like this will not have much impact, black is not worried at all. All the same, aji is aji.

Diagram 8

White Attack Runs Out Of Steam

Diagram 9

Another drawback of black 1 is the aji left after white 4, black 5. Black cannot stop white from cutting at 6 and it looks as if white has found a way to continue his "unsettle" strategy. After black 11 white unfortunately does not have a way to hurt black, if black starts at A (against which white has to defend if he wants something) it only will take black three additional moves to capture the white group.

Diagram 9

Is There A Tesuji?

Diagram 10

What black most would like to do is play the extremely profitable combination of 1 and 3. There's almost no bad potential left at the top for white to exploit. At the same time black has made *a lot* of points. Black's top stones might be without worries but the same can not be said for the six black stones attached to black 5.
White to play, can he accomplish anything here? (Answer at the end)

Diagram 10

White Sacrifices Big

Game Diagram 31

White is preparing himself for what could very well be the last battle of the game, if all the white guys in the upper right quadrant are POW the game is all but over. One cannot help, however, but feel that white's chance to pull some stunt are rapidly diminishing. By the way, after black 63 there is still some aji left in the top white stones, only not enough to make two eyes.

Game Diagram 31

What Next?

Game Diagram 32

The last game diagram of Daigo 4. Black 67 is nice, white could run away with his single stone but in that case there's no way to stop black from moving out to the center. White is getting a little desperate by now and plays 68.

Game Diagram 32

Is white 68 a troublesome move or can it be eaten alive? Can white get alive and how? Find out in the next episode of Daigo!

Answer to the problem from dia 10: there is nothing white can do but black should be careful.

Excelent Squeeze

Diagram 10a (black 10 fills in at 3)

White 1 is the only move which can hope to capture at least four black stones. This on its own is would be enough to decide the game in white's favor. If the sequence upto white 13 will get on the board black can go home.

Diagram 10a

Brilliant Dametsumari

Diagram 10b

Black 2 is a skilful counter measure, and white does seem to be at a loss. It is rather unbelievable, however, but black cannot escape with all his stones intact! Whatever atari sequence black comes up with to wriggle out of the encirclement, white can bring about a masterful dametsumari, shortage of liberties-trap.

Diagram 10b

Black Escapes

Diagram 10c

Black 2 is the only tesuji enabling black to get out. After black 2 white 3 is the proper move, but when black fills in at 4 there's nothing white can do anymore, his four stones will get captured and white should start thinking about resigning.

How much time does a pro need to answer if white can capture black? Well, fair enough, I can tell you with great confidence that a pro will not use over 2 seconds:

Diagram 10c

White Has Nothing To Sell

Diagram 10d

I hope you took the trouble to go through the above diagrams, there's really a lot of basic fighting stuff in them! There was, however, no need to do so. The probes white played earlier on have reduced the amount of liberties to three, that's not enough. When white plays 1, black can make plenty of mistakes if he doesn't find black 2 from dia 10c. Black 2 in dia 10d, however, is quite sufficient too to silence troublemaker white.

Diagram 10

[Daigo 1] [Daigo 2] [Daigo 3] [Daigo 4] [Daigo 5] [Daigo 6] [Daigo 7]

Copyright by Pieter Mioch, August 2001


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