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Daigo, episode 7 (last)

A 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 seem to suffer from a kind of internet fatigue lately and I do not know yet if and when I'll post something again. Thank you for everything and who knows, until next time.



Well, here it is, the final episode of the Daigo articles. Sorry to be late, again, but having way too much free time it is very hard to get started and do something, I'm sure you'll understand. Sorry also for continuously apologizing about everything, if there's one thing I learned from living in this country it is to be ready to apologize at any given moment, even if everything actually is your own fault.

While I'm at it, and before I forget, sorry for the quality of this episode, a lot of it is recycled material which is mainly used to bulk it up a little thus creating the impression that this is really a very special, new and improved (not to mention last) episode.

I'd like to repeat a previous experiment and answer some of your questions in a 100% honest fashion. Since there are so many questions, unfortunately, and since I really enjoy reading "A Son of the Circus" I'll keep it short and limit the questions to four easy ones and a fifth question which was selected by popular vote.

Q1: What is the best way of studying go?
A: I did write about that already somewhere before, go and find it.

Q2: How many times do you need to make the same blunder before one will get it and stop doing it?
A: Aha, that I can tell you, approximately 20 times, judging from my own games and looking at my students. Children who master a new move (concept) in 2-3 times are definitely talented.

Q3: What should I do when my opponent is just irritating the sh-t out of me and I gladly would drag him from behind the board to teach him some manners?
A: By all means do! Remember to take him outside first before getting down to business, however. I also strongly recommend checking out your rude opponent's athletic ability and his weight before getting excited, if he outweighs you by 80 lbs. and works out at a Muay Thai Gym, best concentrate on the game which, in any case, never can hurt :-)

Q4: Okay, so now I know a bit what go is all about, I read through Gentle Joseki twice and memorized each and every word from Daigo but I still am the rock-bottom of my local go club, what did I do wrong?
A: That sounds (honestly) as if you are too serious about the whole game. Perhaps you pay too much importance to advice in general and books in particular. All the advice in the world combined with all the written information is still only good for, say, 20% of things you need to know to play a good game. So, just remember what superstar Michael Jordan did in the last (?) game of the NBA finals against the Jazz some time ago, dive for that ball get down on all fours and get it *no matter what*.
(which sounds wonderful and is by the way meant to tell you that you should be/get involved with the game yourself and not depend too much on: "on top of two always play hane" and other well meant stuff like it. This in turn means, by the way, that proverbs and book wisdom is best learned the other way around: first you realize through hard work and experience (and, god forbid, talent) that playing hane at the top of two stones actually is a kind of nice and only after that revelation will you study the proverb :-)

Q5: Pieter do you think that religion, any kind of religion, is essentially at the basis of each and every dispute people on this world are having with each other and/or do you also think that matters of race, sex and sexual orientation have a lot to do with it? And where precisely do you think plain old greed and envy rank on the ladder of possible culprits for the current situation in the world?
A: *splutter, uh, gargle* Where the **** did that come from? How can I possibly answer that, or even hint at an answer and not be crucified, shot or castrated inside 10 minutes!
Allow me to repeat a rather corny, but none the less well-meant and perhaps appropriate part of a Gentle Joseki article:

  1. Make it your goal to every year explain the rules of the game of go to at least 1 person.
  2. Try to care, be it about moves on a go board or daily life.

And that is as far I'm prepared to go.

By the way, the recycling and bulking up I mentioned is not from old go articles on Jan's site it's mostly stuff originally written for the go news group Whether it is worthwhile and deserves to be immortalized here is certainly questionable but I liked it and by now confessing that that has always been the main criterium by which I judge any of my writing comes easy.

The first re-post was in answer to how much and if children benefit from playing go, the question was, and I quote:

"which game delivers the highest benefit thus, the highest cost-benefit payoff?"

Apart from the edited out first half this is an exact copy of the original.

Kids Benefit

Date: 2001-04-05 22:00:31 PST

I think there are a number of games which'll help children in one way or another. I certainly think that go is one of them. Looking at my go class of 40+ children between 6-10 years old I can tell that children who play go about once, twice a week for one hour or less (and like it) tend to be able to focus on a problem (be it on the go board or in class) for a longer span of time compared to children who do not play go.

Go helps children develop an academical approach to problem solving, it stimulates to think out a situation before letting emotion take over (which they usually do anyway, be it an average young healthy child)

In Japan, by the way, a similar debate, which is the better game to teach a child, has been going on for centuries between the games of Shogi (Japanese chess) and Go.
The outcome is unclear although Shogi seemingly has the upper hand for the time being. It is very interesting to note that properly speaking Go in Japan is not referred to as "game". Go is often mentioned in combination with "Do" (Tao/road) , meaning the road the enlightenment or the road of becoming a better human being. That makes go a tool to help children, no matter of what age (7 or 70), growing up, to learn to see the difference between things which matter and which do not.

Winning was not the ultimate purpose in a game of Go, it was probably thanks to the newspapers and other big sponsors who took over control of the go world at the beginning of the 20th century that winning has become the top priority. To not be able, however, to shed this commercial jacket will hamper an amateurs' progress as well as the professionals'.

I just had to phone 4 people here (including 2 pros) to get a straight answer as to what call go if not "game". The above mentioned "road" was the best answer and the same person continued explaining that go holds the middle between "bigaku" (study of the arts) and "budo" (martial arts) which brings me to the word "Kido" as the proper way of referring to go: the way of go. This is also very close to what Wu Quin-yuan (=Go Seigen, red.)told me (which I'll sit on for the time being for a future article :-)

Go is a wonderful tool to help polish the human mind, it's up to the person,the mind itself, however, to make good use of it, tools can be corrupted and easily used for dubious purposes. As tools go, however, Go/Weiqi/Baduk is of a rare high-quality and without doubt one of the sturdiest I ever encountered.

Throughout the "Gentle Joseki" and "Daigo" article series I kept touching on (good/bad) shape and "suji" as they say in Japan. Ten something years ago when I just had arrived in Nagoya I was interviewed for by a local TV station and the last question asked was: "What do you like about go?" Everything was in English but when answering I thought to be helpful and I said: "Well, I particularly like the aspect of "Suji" very much". The interpreter, not a go player, was at a complete loss what to make of this. "Pieter, suji just means "shape" in English, what do you mean exactly?"

Since I never actually had thought about an easy explanation of suji or for that matter, I never had tried to put it in words before, I chickened out and said: "Ask, them (pointing at a strong insei and the section chief at the Nagoya branch of the nihon ki-in) they can tell you what I mean in Japanese". Boy, was I surprised to find out that the insei as well as the section chief couldn't help me out! The piece below is what I should have told the TV people but, as usual, I only seem to be able to find a fitting answer to questions ten years after date :(

Some More About Shape (Suji)

Date: 2002-02-16 03:20:17 PST

The meaning of suji applied to a move in the game of go describes the ability of given move to make itself useful with regard to neighboring stones in move 2 of a sequence which might follow or move 20 (or, to be precise, move 200).

In many situations there is more than one suji move which might mystify the issue a bit but actually does not; the purpose of suji move A can be different from suji move B which is located just one space to the right/left.

Connecting against a peep is a perfect suji move (it is very useful :-)
Although it isn't very original and the suji story (almost) stops the moment the thick connection is played. More often it is the case that a suji move does (or can do) more than a single thing at a time.

Tesuji are those beasts that are in no way refutable; if played out correctly they will always fulfil their intended purpose (btw, a tesuji might capture some enemy stones but still not rescue the dying group i.e. the group was dead anyway and the tesuji (e.g. a snapback) did what it was meant to do: capture enemy stones).

So, for a move just because it is suji or good shape does not automatically mean that it always will (or can) do what it was played for: Suji, a versatile move often helping the local situation and/or forcing the opponent to play less versatile move(s).

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

Endgame Move?

Game Diagram 48

White played a low tsuke at 106 which is often (but surely not always) a good move to pick up 2-3 extra points in the endgame. Let's have a look at what happens when black doesn't buy it and just goes after 106 with intention to capture.

Game Diagram 48

White Pushes Down (and connects his stones)

Diagram 01

Black 1 is not a bad move in general and it is even playable in this game. There is however, a price black will have to pay for capturing one white stone and ruining white's territory at the side. White can skillfully let go of a stone in order to tie his stones together. Here this will probably mean that the black stones close to the center get isolated and have to manage making life on their own.
Note that white might want to think which move to play in answer to black 7, the solid connection at A seems natural but a white move at B is more aggressive towards the isolated black stones. If, after white B, black captures the ko at A white plays the perfect extension at C, this would be very much to white's liking.

Diagram 1

Fight on Your Own Turf

Game Diagram 49

There were plenty of moves black could have played in answer to white 6 since, however, simply ignoring white 6 does not imply an unbearable loss of kinds black played tenuki.
When looking at the amount of dead and captured white stones there does not seem to be much what black can do wrong here so it is not really all that interesting to go on in detail about exactly how good or bad black's play is.
Having said this, black of course can blunder and throw away the game. For now his attitude of trying to keep things simple and clear while not worrying about white territory is very effective.
Black 11 is a key-point. Black managed by playing lightly to break away from playing in a strictly white sphere of influence and he skillfully involves the rest of the board with the situation in the lower right quadrant. After black 11 (and 7) white suddenly has come under attack himself, again.
In the mean time, black's main goal should, of course, be to finish this game and refrain from any rash attacks. Attacking and threatening to kill some enemy stones, are, however, not exactly the same thing and here it is precisely the threat of killing which comes in handy as a way for black to make sure his stones around the board will settle and get strong once and for all.

Game Diagram 49

Many times the ideal circumstances of killing your opponents' stones is the "oops" situation. Not intending to actually round the enemy stones up but not letting them of the hook too easily either they can suddenly die, although killing was by no means the foremost reason for the attack in the first place, hence the "oops".
Many a player, novices and high-dan alike, is but all too aware of the "reverse oops effect" this often can be observed in situations were one of the players is dead-set on killing his opponents' stones no matter what. If the hunt is on in this fashion the hunters' stones can weaken and get isolated without the elephant gun-toting maniac realizing this. Next when the originally weak group, the prey, skillfully ensures life by killing one or more attacking groups, the hunter goes "oops" and usually blushes a little.
(for best effect the killing move which turns the tables should be ideally played just when your opponent is about to swallow a mouth full of coffee or other fluid, spectacular fountain like show guaranteed)

Starting Something ?

Game Diagram 50

White 12 is the kind of move which could start something going. It does protect two white stones from being captured and it creates some cutting potential. Keep in mind, however, that we're still talking about remote possibilities, whether white 12 was a splendid move or not will most likely not effect the game much. That is, if black won't start to self-destruct.

Game Diagram 50

Black's Perfect Shape

Diagram 02

White can try to cut with 1 and see what happens. Black 4 is a very important move, if black get it in his head to play an atari somewhere (bad idea) than white could probably do some damage. Notice that black 4 is especially nice because it makes a good-looking formation with the help of the marked black stones. It almost seems impossible for white to get away, perhaps a move like A is the best white can do but somehow it doesn't look very convincing.

Diagram 2

The Last Offensive

Game Diagram 51

White tries to solidify his stones a bit when attaching at 14. White 16 is also very much with that idea in mind but after black 17 one does not really get the feeling that white accomplished much here. White 18 is more interesting, there still are some not 100% settled stones in the neighborhood and although the likeness of capturing them is at best remote white shows that he is not ready to call it a day, not just yet.

Game Diagram 51

Now there seem to be a number of possible answers for black, what would you do? (the game move is about as vulgar a move as can get, which does not necessarily mean it is a bad move. Can you find that move which looks not at all elegant but not too bad either?)


Go Seigen -the- go player of the 20th century is still living in Japan and well protected by his manager from rude questions and or the media in general. Thanks to an introduction and a lot of luck I could meet the go-saint once but was totally overwhelmed by Go's energy and strong mental presence. For this reason, I very much wanted (and want!) to meet him again.

What To Ask Go Seigen

Date: 2000-12-11 02:23:58 PST

I'm thinking of trying to do a follow up interview with Go Seigen.
While preparing for the first interview I discovered that 90% (or more) of the questions I was thinking of asking were meaningless or trivial in a way. As a matter of fact as of today I still haven't found -the- question, worthy of asking the most famous go player in the world.
If you have any suggestions please tell me.

Some Reactions Were:

Well, that is a good question :) what about if you asked him, what a good question might be to ask him I mean, if you don't know what to talk to him about then together talk about what might be talked about :) works with women :) :) might work with blokes :)

Why not just ask him to review some games from the European Fujitsu finals, especially the openings. Perhaps he can give his opinion on European go. The subject of go is where a professional will have something interesting to say, something only a professional can say.

"Do you know where I can get a burger and some fries around here?"

I'd like to know his views on rule reform, especially free handicap placement and accurate komi. If all top pros played with 7.5 komi for the next 100 years, would the last ten years of results still favor White? By more than they would favor Black if it was 6.5?
Also, in his estimation, what is the average number of different playable moves top pros could come up with at each stage of the game, assuming they were encouraged to be creative? I.e., on average, how many distinct good moves are there for Black 1, White 2, Black 3... White 100... Black 201, etc.? At what point in the game does he typically feel that he has only one or two distinct playable moves to choose from at every move? How frequently does he feel such a constraint of choices in the opening and middle game?

I would be interested to know how he rates great historical go players, both relative to each other and relative to modern players. In particular does he think one was the greatest of all (apart from him).

It would be interesting to hear his views on women playing go, eg. why there have been (and still are) relatively few women at the highest levels in the go playing world; does he think this is improving; prospects for future Honinbo + other top titles. (Rui Naiwei studied under Go Seigen during her stay in Japan...)

Unfortunately the follow-up interview is still not realized and possibly never will take place. Could it be because the perfect question has not been found yet?

When I have something more to tell you about the Go-Genius I promise to get back to you. Just out of sheer malice and a craving to tease you: I'm still sitting on the literal text of the first interview, I've only used this sparsely because there was a lot I didn't understand completely and I needed some time to sort things out.

Besides Go-sensei, his wife took part in the conversation too and although maybe not on the same go-level as the master himself, she certainly does match Go's energy and sharp mind.

I've no idea when or/and if I ever will get around to setting all this on paper, if not, try to obtain the video tapes made during the interview. I promise to make a treasure-map with an "X" on it showing the place were I buried them just before leaving for Walhalla.

Back to the game...

Peep of the Century

Game Diagram 52

Well, if this isn't the peep of the century than I don't know what is! It might be a reasonable move but for now it feels fishy. Black seems to be over eager to make white believe that if white connects solidly against the peculiar peep he is in for a lot of trouble. This could be true, of course, but this situation definitely deserves some closer attention

Game Diagram 52

White 3 Tesuji

Diagram 03

After white connects at 1 the question is how dangerous exactly is the extension of black 2 ?
White has to watch his step as there are many wrong moves and pitfalls (did anybody say "Indiana Jones"?) Once white has played at the heart of the shape with 3 things will work out just fine. If black, for example, would answer white 3 at A next white B, black C and white D there is nothing black can do to keep white from breaking free or capturing some black stones, play it through and see for yourself.

Diagram 3


Game Diagram 53

Undoubtedly white had read out the sequence shown in dia 3 but it seems white is tired of the game and looking for a good opportunity to resign. Well, he could be faking this state of mind and try to lure black in a sneaky trap somewhere, couldn't he?
White 20 is questionable, that is to say, the solid connection is best but this does not help white one iota to get back in the game so for that matter are the game move and the solid connection of equal value: they both lose.
Black 21-23 are natural and should be played without hesitation. Regardless of how many big fish you caught already, there is always room for one more??..
White 24 does not look hopeful.

Game Diagram 53

Good Enough

Diagram 4

If black would want a sure win then dia 4 shown one possible way of achieving that. You could argue that black's play is a bit slack but undoubtedly it gives black a solid lead and an virtually guaranteed victory.
White 4 is necessary to kill the bad aji and black 5 is hu-ge, a splendid move to reinforce his stones while at the same time keeping white captured at the largest possible scale. Next white 6 would be the biggest move, making eyes at the side.
Now it is black's turn and with 25 white stones captured he can just shift to neutral and cast until the end of the game.

Diagram 4

The End is Near

Game Diagram 54

Black, again, goes for the Jackpot, a real big fish. The focus of the game is now no longer on whether white can capture some black stones or not. At present the only question which is on both players mind is: "Can the white center group survive?"

Game Diagram 54

Best What White Can Hope For

Diagram 5

Let's make one thing clear first, white is dead already (although a few stones might be able to escape). If black won't make any strange moves there's no way on earth white can make two eyes.
Dia 5 gives an example where black did make a questionable move or two. In an actual game black would of course take the ko once first but in order to stay on track let's assume white can and did win the ko and black has to defend at 8. The whole sequence feels natural but black 12 is a bad mistake, capturing two white stones will make white 13 sente and once white gets to play 15 black only can play the ko in order to try and kill white. This is a success for white (if black 12 just defend against the atari by connecting his stones instead of capturing white 13 will not be a sente move and white dies unconditionally)

Diagram 5

The Final Curtain

Game Diagram 55

Maybe black was lazy or perhaps he just doesn't read too well, whichever it might be instead of capturing white whole black cut at 31. Strictly speaking this is not the best move, but once again isn't any move which brings you closer to victory a perfect move? And helping black a lot it certainly does, move 31 that is. The center white stones are captured unconditionally and that is quite enough.

Game Diagram 55

You still want to know who the players were? Well, if you came this far I guess you do:

Black: Pieter Mioch (you didn't actually think I'd post a game of mine I lost, uh?)
White: Filip Vanderstappen, Dutch 5-dan, European rating over 2500.

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

Copyright by Pieter Mioch, August 2001


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