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January 5, 2005 was a special day for the go-set of Nagoya where the central Japan branch of the nihon ki-in is located. (In case you were thinking about becoming a pro yourself you can make your pick where to enrol, Nagoya, Tokyo or Osaka) The reason was the unprecedented gathering of world-top players in the Nagoya Castle hotel for the final of the "Toyota-Denso Cup". In this best-of-three match he champion or "World Oza" will be the first player to gain two wins.
From China Chang Hao will try to better his previous achievement of being runner up in this very tournament 2 years ago. The other finalist Go-Genius Lee SeDol is from Korea. The Japanese staff was grumbling about the lack of a Japanese finalist, which would be nice for the local fans but otherwise did not really seem to mind that for the second time in a row the winner of the "World Oza" would not be a representative from Japan.
I had the chance to watch this game in real time, live at the hotel, and also join the pro-commentary given at the nihon ki-in which is only separated by a 20 minutes (stiff) walk. Being in this rather privileged position I felt I owed the go players over the world to pen down some of commentaries and impressions I picked up (while I wasn't walking, that is).

Although not all amateur players who had showed up at the ki-in seemed to realize the very high level of this match the pro's gathered at the ki-in as well as at the hotel very much were aware that they were in for some real fireworks. All the same, the game started simple enough, as do all games :-)


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Fig 1 Black 11 simplifies the situation, for pro's too but all the more so for amateurs this is a good strategy. For black instead of 11 playing right to white 10 will lead to the large-avalanche joseki. This difficult and large-scale joseki has been around for a while already. Go Seigen was one of the major pioneers in developing it some 70 years ago. Recently, however, especially in Korea different patterns of this "oonadare" are being studied and experimented with. To feel at home with the tens or perhaps even hundreds of variations which might follow it goes without saying that thorough preparation is a must.

By the way, black 11 is not a "run away from the difficult stuff because I might get burned" kind of move. Hikosaka sensei mentioned that for black to keep things really simple he should play 13 at 6-4. However, he continued to explain that although this really simplifies the situation a lot if you now would ask 100 pro's where white is to play next all of them without exception will come up with the move at the 11-3 point. The game move black 13 makes it less obvious (=much harder) to decide for white how to continue. Black 13 is a difficult move also because it involves the risk that somewhere along the line white might attach at the 6-3 point and aim at attacking the black stones there.

White 20 is funny looking but correct shape (although a bit thin). White 1 in dia 1 would be more natural looking but black is very glad to play at 2 to reinforce his stones there. White 3 next would be normal but looking at this result it is obvious that now a white stone at A would come out better than white 1. The point is that because white 1 is a solid move black is not reluctant to solidify white even more. With the game move of white 20 however black is reluctant to do so and instead will try to exploit white's thinness in one or another way.

White 26 may look totally incomprehensible but Hikosaka 9p told us that most likely white decided on this move without much for thought. "White 1 (dia 2a) may look like the most common move, better yet, it IS the most common move but in this situation it also is the losing move. There is no way white is going to win this game after the 1-2 exchange." Hikosaka sensei was very outspoken about this situation and not only to please the crowd of about 120 people who had gathered to watch his commentary.

The reason for Hikosaka's bold statement is shown in dia 2b. White 1 would be a normal continuation but now black immediately plays 4-6 which is worth about 10 points. Because of the troublesome move for black at A threatening two cuts with one move, white has no choice but to add a move at B. Though black scored point white B is worth virtually nothing, for pro's being made to play worthless moves like this is a disaster. White could of course prevent black from playing at 4 by playing in that area himself first but this will not be a move black has to (or will) answer, black gains the initiative and is happy. To repeat: Black 4-6 are almost endgame moves but big since they can be played while holding the initiative. For white preventing black from playing there will mean losing the initiative for the same *endgame* moves, it's much too early in the game to justify "gote" moves for such a small return.

Although black 33 in the game looks like the only and most obvious move this is not 100% the case according to Yamashiro 9p (former challenger for the honinbo and kisei titles) who had shown up in his usual "I'm just out of bed and need some more coffee, thank you" style to see for himself what was going on. The pro's were going over dia 3 and a lot of sidetracks when I left the ki-in about 15:30 and they were still at it when I got back around 17:30. Note that in fig 4 there are two defects in the white stones which he needs to defend if he wants to move out to the center.

The interpreter Korean 9p Yun Ki-Han suggested that he should instead of game move 41 black should have played a hanging connection at the first row as shown in dia 4 and make an eye. The black stones are still captured but now they can easily become a major pain in the *-* neck since the surrounding white stones are not settled yet either. The same as before, white has two cuts to defend against at A and B and here he cannot hope to be able to move out to the center, eventually white needs to come back in the corner and manually capture the black guys.

"Well, it really doesn't matter anymore, any which way white'll choose to continue he has a good game". This is again Hikosaka speaking during the commentary. He himself seemed to prefer to play at 1 with white, which is a nice and very thick move. If black goes for profit with 2 which would be the normal thing to do the top black stones as well as the right side stones are thin and while attacking white should be able to solidify his victory. Which by no means however that white's game move 48 is bad in any way :-)

Fig 2

White 52 is a kind of "pushing from behind" move which if possible one wants to avoid. It is true that it might be necessary and even mean profit but at the same time is also will help developing the enemy stone and you still run the risk of being sealed in. Hikosaka suggested the cut at 1. If black 2 white 3 is a nice "settle and get it over with" move and if black would play the proper reinforcement at 4 white 5 is excellent, guaranteeing white a foothold in the center as well as threatening to start running with 1.

I personally found Hikosaka's comment on white 62 the most interesting. It was clear what he was talking about and made sense too but I never would have looked at the situation in that way :). Hikosaka: "White 62 would be a perfect move if black were to answer it at the bottom with for example a knight's move. However, making territory at the bottom at this stage of the game is not enough for black to have a real chance of winning, so? there's no way in hell black is gonna answer white's move but he'll ignore the situation and force white to come up with something thus inviting a bare-knuckled fight! (which is a great way for black and try to turn things around).
So, because black is reluctant to answer white 62 Hikosaka suggested dia 7. White 1 here is a rather difficult move to ignore, it is obvious that black faces a direct loss if he chooses to do so. If black, for example answers at 2 white plays one more forcing move before jumping to the vital point of the shape at 5.

Black 73 was played to avoid something like dia 8. Black 1 looks like better shape but in this situation white has an easy time of getting out into the center which is very much where he wanted to be in the first place. After black 5 white can play somewhere around 6 and be satisfied.

Fig 3 At this point I went to the Castle hotel to have a look myself. Kisei Hane Naoki was the (on paper) strongest player present in the press room but Ogata 9p was doing the instant analyzing with the help of a energetic lady from China who happened to be Chang Shuan (i apologize for any spelling mistakes, this is the translation from Japanese) and a strong pro herself. I forced myself on the Korean delegation who fortunately didn't mind me at all. I asked a reporter from "The Baduk Monthly" what he thought about this game being held in Nagoya. His response was straight to the point and very disarming: "Well, you can have games like this in Tokyo, Osaka or Seoul and it is all great as long as it helps to popularize go and spread the game through the world."
All in all it was a pleasant atmosphere in the pressroom where everybody spoke at least one common language and that is all it takes.

Fig 4

Fig 5

Copyright © Pieter Mioch January 2005

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