Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lee Sedol vs. Gu Li - Sedol Dies Big: Can he make it?

I'm kind of in awe at the daring of Lee Sedol sometimes.  He's one of my favorite professional Go players for a reason.  He fights hard in difficult situations and comes out on top because he uses unorthodox strategies, something I enjoy.  However, in today's game, I was taken aback by how he clearly felt he could win despite taking a huge loss towards the end of the middle game.  I've seen sacrifice strategies before where one player makes a huge territorial framework by letting a big group die.  This strategy can work if you get a ton of forcing moves and endgame moves to whittle down the big group you've lost while maintaining a big framework yourself somewhere else on the board.  The downside to this strategy is that if your opponent still can make territory while reducing your main area, you can easily lose control over the balance of the game.  Take a look at this:

                                                             Gu Li vs. Lee Sedol (Black)

This is an intense game for both players.  You can tell from their body language.  Both players are hovering over the board and look ready to pounce.  Black lost seventeen stones, making the top worth at least forty five to fifty points.  This resulted from a trade.  Black's upper left group is alive, but at the cost of the upper right group.  White happily cut the two apart and traded the left, which had previously been under his control.  There is nothing worse than losing a game after killing a large group.  There's also nothing like trying to maximize your territory after a huge loss and converting every remaining intersection into points.  You can feel the weight of each move poignantly because the situation has become clear.  Sedol's bottom right is comparable to Gu's top half, and the left side areas of the board almost cancel each other out. The fight will have to be over the left-middle area of the board and whether or not White can turn that area into territory.  I really don't feel that Black is winning.  I know the bottom right looks big, but when you get down to brass tacks, it's at most sixty five points, seventy on a good day.  White's territory at the top easily matches that.  If we look at what happens next...

Black has to solidify his holdings in the lower right.  He snags seventy points of territory, but now White's center is starting to look out of control.  Even if White were to just make fifteen points there, it'd be enough.  Talk about a nail biter.  Looks like I'll be up tonight :P