Thursday, April 8, 2010

So lately I've veered off the Go stuff, and for those of you who are here for that, I just haven't been as hardcore with my study over the past week....AND IT FEELS GREAT.  Only having to focus on working at school is liberating, but rest assured come Saturday, May 1 I will be right back at the Yu Changhyuk Baduk Dojang ready to do battle with the 9 year olds.

That's right kiddies, I'll be back.

So while I haven't been as hardcore, that doesn't mean I don't study.  I got this book full of go problems, 150 of them to be exact, and some of them are really difficult while some of them I can do with a glance.  I've taken a break from being hardcore because I've been taking a much more...objective look at my Go style.  I kill groups.  I know this sounds sinister but it's not.  In Go you can capture a large number of your opponent's stones at one time by making it so there group cannot avoid being captured when it's encircled.  I kill my opponent's groups left and right and most of the games I win my opponent has lost groups with upwards of 15-30 stones.  My style has always been the killer type, where I kill groups that otherwise seem like they'll get away.  Keep in mind, you really aren't supposed to kill your opponent big in Go.  Sure, you may capture a few stones here and there, and maybe you'll get a 5 stone group or a sacrifice, but it is really difficult to take down a big dragon.  The reason is that to kill groups you have to be thick.  Thick in Go means being without weakness.  When you kill in Go you must first seal, then kill.  If you don't build indestructible walls around their fleeing group then they will run away and a lot of your attacking stones won't be much use.  With big groups, that means you must be thick practically everywhere!  But, what is tricky, is that being "thick" is in the eye of the beholder.  My personal philosophy is that the "big groups don't die' rule applies to your own groups as well, and you can use that to take your opponent down.  Let me show you what I mean.

This is a game I played today on Tygem against another 3 dan (I dropped to 3 dan but I'll be back!).  I tried killing the middle Black group but I missed some leftover moves (the go term is aji) and it's mostly alive.  Notice how in my mind it's mostly alive since I'm considering how i can cause Black to have false eyes.  I played White 1 as sort of a reduction of the right side because I do have lots of territory at the top but no where else, so I just wanted to make sure the right didn't become anything too big and win.  Black hanes at 2 and then he plays the really strange move of 4.  I thought "You want to kill my group?  Your group isn't that strong!"

I was expecting him to play something like 3 which is the stronger move in this case, especially since the lower right part of the board is thick (Black in that area is completely without weakness).  After I atari at 5 I don't really have much to do except reduce, so maybe my initial move wasn't so hot, but hey, Black had so many more stones there than me that I shouldn't expect much else.  But, my opponent was pretty clear that he wanted to be solid then cut off my group.
Don't ask me why he played 16, I don't really know.  See, even at this point, I'm not really thinking about killing the group, at least not until he played 16.  My plan was to just ride out the attack and then connect my group or make two eyes.  Since my group is big, I don't really expect it to die, so I'm not scared for it's life.  Instead, he wastes a move at 16 leaving the 3,3 point wide open.  Now, some of you may say that my opponent is killing himself more than anything, and I agree.  That's the secret, you don't kill your opponent, your opponent kills himself.
I made a group in the corner and now the eye space of Black's group is severely in question.  Black tries to weak my outside group by playing moves like 28 and 30, but I thought that the outside group was very hard to kill and that even if you reduce it's eyes, it has outside liberties.  My inside group is alive I think because I have a sente move at above 19 which saves my hide later in the game, so in  capturing race I think his inside group which doesn't have the benefit of extra liberties would lose the capturing race.  Believe me, I could be horribly wrong and oftentimes I show my games to my teacher and he shows me otherwise, but this is my feeling during the game.

So I live with 49 which seals the fate of Black's group because I can play 53 and live with my group on the inside.  So when he initially connected to start attacking my group, it was rather overplay, because even though my group didn't initially start out thick, it is now, and that's what matters.  

I used to criticize myself and my go style a lot.  I always envied the players who calculated more and dealt with global planning and didn't rely on something so barbaric as killing groups.  But now I see my style is just as valid, if not more complicated and reliant on life and death.  I have to look more carefully at the games I lose, to find out where the holes are, and to keep trying.