Joseki materials, Go Seigen, and Hikaru No Go
Memorize joseki to become weaker. Study joseki to become stronger.
Proverb - The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Proverbs
Joseki cannot really be played so simply. Figuratively speaking, a joseki is like a medicine. A medicine precisely tailored to a particular illness is extremely effective, but making a habit of taking one and the same medicine all the time regardless of whether you have a headache, an abdominal pain, or a bone fracture is not very wise. Similarly, you should not use a particular joseki all the time just because you like it.
Please remember that medicine that is not suited for an illness is a poison. Be ever vigilant against joseki poisoning!
Go Seigen - A Way of Play For The 21st Century, 1997
That is precisely what is wrong with Go in Japan today. They are too attached to corner patterns (josekis). Go ought to be played on the whole board.
Go Seigen - The Pieter Mioch Interview, June 26th, 1999
Japan is weak because people study Shusaku and others of the past without understanding the essence of their play. If Japan is weak, then the great players of the past, like Shusaku, will be forgotten. That's unfortunate.
Ko Yongha - Hikaru No Go, Written by Yumi Hotta
I can't help but wonder if Yumi Hotta might have had Go Seigen in mind when she wrote the lines for Korean player Ko Yongha in the manga, Hikaru No Go. It did not directly address joseki but I interpreted it as a subtle chastisement of the state of local gameplay at the time. As if to underscore that point, in a latter part of the story during the opening ceremony of the youth Go competition, many Japanese members of the audience are unable to remember who Shusaku is when Yongha mentions his name. Whatever the case, Ms. Hotta's story thankfully has done a remarkable job of creating a renaissance in Go among the young.
I came across those quotes over the past three months as I began a very slow study of joseki; defined in Sensei's Library as a sequence of moves which results in what is normally considered a fair outcome for both players. I would often see examples of josekis during my game reviews.
Josekis are powerful and well-tested formations. Gilles Arcas, the developer of of the free Go application tool Drago (which you should have, if not already), had demonstrated to me the value of one joseki in his comment to one of my previous posts. Figure 1 below shows a White attempt to break a simple joseki pattern. After the capture of Black 2 by White, Black will capture all of the white stones to the left.
But josekis, when applied blindly, do not necessarily result in a fair outcome when the whole board is taken into consideration. Consider Figure 2 below. Both the left and right formations are identical josekis but White is not likely in a better position than Black.
Joseki Books and Articles
In my search for study materials, I have found many that demonstrate how josekis form but few elaborations on what makes them resistant. Perhaps the strength of the formation is obvious to stronger players.
The most immediately available resource, assuming that you have availed of Jan van der Steen's free registration, is gobase.org's article by Pieter Mioch which is entitled Gentle Joseki. This would give you a quick and easy-to-understand introduction to some basic corner patterns. This article got me started with blindly applying simple josekis but I gradually began to see how some variations could allow me to develop stronger positions when taking surrounding stones into account.
Mindful of Go Seigen's warning against joseki posioning, I am embarking on a search for more study materials which, hopefully, will allow me to understand the reasons behind the formations and their variations. I had acquired a copy of 38 Basic Joseki from Kinokuniya Bookstore but am browsing the web for more material that might be useful for a player of my lower rank.
Yang Yilun's books on Whole Board Thinking In Joseki are another option. These are sold by Slate and Shell. I am still trying to determine how helpful these would be for my level of understanding based on the sample pages (PDF link). What I have read thus far seems to assume some level of understanding on the reader's part. Perhaps his books are targeted at intermediate players.
Let me know if you have any suggestions that I should consider.
In Other News
ChiyoMama has started a new job and that might make my appearances on Kiseido Go Server even more infrequent and sporadic. There's a 60% probability that her department will relocate to our city within six months and reduce her commute to four minutes (or 25 if she chooses to walk). She's back in her original industry and discipline so all this is a big win for her and our family.
I managed to get a copy of Masao Kato's Attack and Kill which is currently out of print. Kato Honinbo apparently had a very aggressive style and was nicknamed Killer Kato. It looks like an intermediate-level book but it should hopefully be an interesting read when I'm up to it. I feel that there is such a great brain trust that is captured in Go books that it's a tragedy when any of them are no longer published.
Fuseki: Where would you play and why?
In yesterday's lunch-break game with narodniq (20k), I found myself having to choose among:
- Approaching the upper right corner (which was already growing stronger) with a knight's move
- Making a modest (but hopefully defensible) extension up to the star-point in the upper part of the board
- Reinforcing the upper left
- Staking out a larger moyo to the right
I eventually opted for the last choice and formed a variant of the Chinese opening to the right, but I wonder if that was the best and most balanced move. Where might you have played?