Monday, January 29, 2007

Furikawari and the "Why" behind it

Yeah, I was busy
A handful of you know that the third to fifth weeks of the beginning of the quarter is when I coordinate a small global conference. There were no posts to my blog last week.

Trading Places: Furikawari

I (Black) expected to take the left but was happy
to take the corner and bottom.

In a recent game, one of White's moves in a corner battle (number 8 in the image above) made me (Black) consider taking an opportunity for furikawari; that is, an exchange of potential territory.

In the opening of this game, White seemed to be mimicking my High Chinese Opening. This fuseki shares some of the potential of the sanrensei (stones on the star-points of one side) in developing a center-facing territorial framework. The challenge for the opponent would then become the task of invading or reducing the framework.

With my stone at D10 and the approach at D6, I had generally expected White to give me the left side so that she could build a right-facing wall and a moyo that I would have to later reduce.

However, the atari of move 8 seemed to suggest that White wanted to take the side, so I obliged with the sequence shown above to take the corner, and eventually, the bottom.

White got an upward-facing wall on the left; but it's potential was somewhat blunted by my stone at D10.

In the course of this game, the exchange favored Black.

Applying a sanrensei guideline
I can't say that the territorial exchange that took place in that game was fundamentally advantageous or disadvantageous. After all, White could still push my D10 stone against her wall with a pincer in either C12 or D12.

My decision to play for the exchange was influenced by a guideline for using the sanrensei fuseki that Shukaku Takagawa provided in the first chapter of The Power of The Star-Point.

The diagram above shows a possible outcome after White's approach and Black's pincer. If White jumps into the corner, then Black makes good use of his sanrensei by blocking in the direction of the center stone (Q10).

The result yields a large zone of influence from the stone on O16 to Q10. Ideally (but very unlikely), Black may be able to turn this zone into solid territory. The more likely outcome is that White will be forced to invade or reduce that zone; and Black's massive wall will give him the upper hand.

Blocking toward the left makes less effective use of the sanrensei. Although Black takes the top, White undermines the potential of using the sanrensei to build a large framework on the right.

In my game, given that a successful furikawari could have allowed me to deny White a similar framework from her opposing Chinese Opening, it seemed to make sense to play for the exchange.

For now, it's NO to Vista

These days, I tend to run our house's IT maintenance and upgrades the same way that most corporations run theirs; conservatively and only when the technology has matured or become acceptably stable.

Windows Vista is due to release in late January and I've already decided that we will not be upgrading for 1-2 years; and then only when we need to replace our hardware.

Back on January 18th, Walter Mossberg, Personal Technology editor for the Wall Street Journal wrote:
After months of testing Vista on multiple computers, new and old, I believe it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced. However, while navigation has been improved, Vista isn't a breakthrough in ease of use. Overall, it works pretty much the same way as Windows XP.

He goes on to write:
For most users who want Vista, I strongly recommend buying a new PC with the new operating system preloaded. I wouldn't even consider trying to upgrade a computer older than 18 months, and even some of them may be unsuitable candidates.

Clearly, Walter is not being effusive in his recommendation to upgrade. I believe my desktop and ChiyoMama's laptop may be candidates for upgrading but Chiyo-Chan's desktop, top-of-the-line powerhouse that it was two years ago, might struggle somewhat.

We ran Microsoft's Vista Upgrade Advisor on all three and these were the discouraging results.
  • Her Nero CD burning software will need to be upgraded. The current version will not run on Vista.
  • Full compatibility with our networked HP Officejet 7310xi is not guaranteed.
  • Compatibility with proprietary media-enhancement software (from Sony and HP) is not guaranteed.
  • Each computer also had 7-20 applications or peripherals for which compatibility was not guaranteed.
Upgrading all three of our XP-based computers to Vista would cost our household between $300 to $450 for the operating system alone. Add to that the lost time and additional costs of software and/or peripheral upgrades, and our household has many a good reason to just stick with Windows XP SP2.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Care and Survival of Pincers

"Must ... keep ... SENTE!"

Back in December, I had written about pincers launched in your opponent's area of influence. I play pincers a lot because merely forming a shimari (corner enclosure) in response to a kakari (corner approach) feels too passive. I expect to become less aggressive as I mature in this game as even Cho HunHyun wrote:
In every Go player's life, early in one's career, youthful exuberance propels one into stirring fights. But as one gets stronger, one tends to go for solid profit. I am no exception to the rule.

But, as most of you know, I'm still in the (irrational) "exuberance" stage.

Lately, I've been wrestling with the dilemma of how manage my pincer stones when they come under attack.

As shown in the above diagram, the most common response to a pincer is a leap into the corner at the 3-3 point. White gets territory while Black gets outside influence and some thickness. Most would say that's fair dinkum.

Black usually chooses 4 at Q3 as his blocking move unless he has a stone at A. Otherwise, he chooses R4 so that he can build a moyo.

The pincer stone starts getting isolated

Other times however, White finds it in her interest to hang tough on the outside and duke it out with the pincer stone. This initial sequence to 5 is very common. Black must now decide how to proceed.

Sure the corner is defended, but ...

As a lower-level kyu, I've often followed this common pattern to 6 or to 8 in order to protect the corner. But most of you can see what is happening. With each move, White is getting stronger and forming an anvil against which the pincer stone of M4 will be smashed against with a counter-pincer. White can also slide to M2 but that seems a little slack to me.

In past reviews with GW (4D) and Zero9090 (3k), I was shown that the Black defensive moves at R3 and S3 can sometimes be superceded by other local moves which can yield more profit or pose a greater threat to your opponent.

Not responding to the Q2 slide however, gives White an opportunity to inflict much damage upon Black's shimari. So the key is to find a move that is big enough that White will reconsider, for the time being, continuing with her encroachment into the corner. The move must draw White into another battle in order to keep the balance.

Kick the kakari!

Here's one model suggested by The Nihon Ki-in Handbook of Star Point Joseki.

Black probes White's preference.

In this sequence, rather than Black responding with 6 at R3, he attaches to the kakari stone with N3. This move is actually a probe to see if White is prepared to continue the outside fight or to take the corner.

Fight on the outside!

The sequence shown above is a joseki that results if White prefers to fight on the outside. Black is ultimately able to protect the corner with 10. This is judged by Kawamoto Noboru to be an equal result albeit somewhat slack for Black.

The corner is mine!

This alternate sequence is a joseki that forms if White prefers to take the corner with move 9. Black's hane at 10 and atari at 12 aim to spoil White's shape but her counter-atari with 15 keeps all of her stones connected.

For me, when comparing the two sequences, Black seems to still wind-up with one group which is not perfectly settled. He has territory potential; but it has yet to be realized. White may or may not get much territory, but her stones are settled and stable.

Understanding these possible sequences is helpful; but as always, they still don't provide easy answers for what may follow next.

Chiyo-Chan's Gallery and the animation of Adam Philips

Hikaru from Angelic Layer

Chiyo-Chan has been continuing her experiments with Flash animation. Here's a trio of her tests:
These are her scraps. You can find her public-presentation gallery here.

Bitey of Brackenwood

In the course of her search for tips and techniques, she stumbled-upon a site by Adam Philips down in New South Wales, Australia. Adam once worked as an animation director for Disney.

The following links are his award-winning shorts about his characters from mystical Brackenwood. I've listed them in the order that they are best viewed.
You can find more of his shorts (thirty of them) which will launch from the buttons on the top of this page. Some of these could be rated PG-13 for ... grossness.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Parts 5 & 6 of Yukari Umezawa's Beginners' Videos

Yukari Umezawa's Videos: Parts 5 and 6

ShadowBakura has posted another two installments from the Go! Go! Igo! teaching segments of Hikaru No Go.

Part 5

Part 6

Mr. Kuroki's Go-Cart

Floor gobans; if we in the West had fatter wallets and were more comfortable playing on the floor, more of us might buy them. There seems to be a sharper click to one's stones when they smack upon thicker wood.

Mr. Kuroki of Kuroki Goishi Ten recently introduced a simple raised platform for folks that might want to use their floor gobans for chair-seated play.

The raised cart.

The cart again. Fully-loaded.

At 10,000 Yen (roughly US$87) it's an elegant means of getting dual-use out of a floor goban.It's wheeled so moving the goban around will be easy. The space on the bottom can be used to store the stones in their bowls.

More on Super Yunzi

I saw that Super Yunzi are now on the Yunnan Weiqi Factory's website as well. These are the same ones sold in the US by Yellow Mountain Imports. This set includes the 11.7mm stones, bowls, and the walnut storage box in the background. It sell for 2,800 Yuan domestically which translates into about US$360. Shipping to the US would probably be about $45 via surface freight.

It's not clear to me what needed to be done to achieve this thickness and how the manufacturing process changed. Pong told me that these stones have a shinier surface as opposed to the traditional matte texture of Yunzi. This is noticeable in the photo above.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Learning to REALLY appreciate Go problems

I don't know about you but I tend to shun Go problems (aka tsumego albeit the Japanese term applies mostly to Life & Death Go problems where there is only one solution path). It often feels like work and it just doesn't carry the excitement of a game. Solving problems can feel like doing math exercises for leisure; although I know some folks who enjoy that.

I played a lot of games last week while making use of some compensation time that was owed to me after working over the holidays. Some of the games I played were serious while others were experimental. I'd read-up on some strategic theory or gain a better understanding of a joseki, then I'd get into a game hoping for a chance to apply it. Of course, those opportunities seldom came-up since your opponent plays according to his or her own objectives and not yours.

By the end of the week, I looked at all the games that I had played. Even though my matches tend to be fast, it was a considerable amount of time spent. Most were not reviewed.

As a means of improving at the game, it all seemed rather ...

... inefficient.

Sure, there was a lot of thinking that went on in my games. Sometimes though, you lose or gain a significant advantage early in the match by your blunders or those of your opponent. It then becomes an exercise of keeping the lead by not making simple mistakes, or a desperate (and often futile) attempt to catch-up with risky plays.

Most game veterans that I've communicated with say that both playing and doing problems can improve your game; but they give the much greater nod towards the latter.

Their advantages are glaringly obvious:
  • You can usually do them anywhere when you have time, assuming that you're studying from a book or a printout.
  • You can select problems that are appropriate for your skill level.
  • You can select what subject you want to study. There are problem books for all areas of the game and not just Life & Death.
  • You spend practically every minute thinking and analyzing; that is, training your brain. I'm guessing that one easily does much more deep-thinking in 20 minutes of tsumego than in equivalent time of play (particularly if your games are on the fast side).
  • Good problem books expose you to better play and provide an explanation as to why one move is better than the alternatives. This can deepen your understanding of the game and train you how to read the values of your choices.
Accordingly, I've become open to doing more Go problems and it's been feeling less like work and a little more like fun.

You can find books from Kiseido, Yutopian, Slate & Shell and sometimes on eBay. You can check's product database for ratings and comments on some of these books.

Scoring the last Fuseki Quiz 20/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 6
  • B = 8
  • C = 10, This is the furthest that Black should extend into White's territory. A more aggressive thrust would leave the attacking stone in danger of being captured
  • D = 4
  • E = 2

Corresponding Ranks based on the Fuseki Quiz Results
So how did you do in all of the fuseki quizzes? These rankings are according to the Japanese strength assessments of 1975.

Keep in mind, of course, that we're only evaluating your strength in the opening. A good opening strategy still needs to be backed up by your strength in tactics, middle-game strategy, and end-game strategy.
  • 6k = 64 pts or less
  • 5k = 66-78 pts
  • 4k = 80-92 pts
  • 3k = 94-104 pts
  • 2k = 106-118 pts
  • 1k = 120-132 pts
  • 1D = 134-144 pts
  • 2D = 146-158 pts
  • 3D = 160-172 pts
  • 4D = 174-182 pts
  • 5D = 184-190 pts
  • 6D = 192-198 pts
  • 7D = 200 pts

I didn't know that: Coffee Brewing Lesson

Lately, I've been regularly brewing a cup of hazelnut coffee
in my new and inexpensive Bodum French Press.

ChiyoMama learned from a 25-year coffee grower that one should wait a minute after the water has boiled-over before pouring it over the ground beans in a French Press or some other brewer. Never use boiling water to make your coffee. Otherwise, you over-extract from the grind and the brew turns bitter.

A finer grind, hotter water, and pressure all lead to over-extraction. You want that in espresso, but not in regular coffee.

I've applied this lesson to my daily brew and it's surprising how less bitter my coffee now is.

In Other News: ChiyoChan tries out real animation

Another book for her learning library.

ChiyoChan's has begun earnestly experimenting with Flash animation so I bought her a copy of The Complete Guide to Anime Techniques from Borders to support her interest. She's been spending most of her Christmas holidays with these experiments and improving her art. The work below is based on Waka from the PlayStation2 game, Okami.

Click to enlarge.

She's completed three basic, but rather good, animation studies with Macromedia Flash since she got the book. Maybe I should buy her a copy of Toon Boom someday ... soon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

That dang hoshi fuseki

Aaargh! It's that fightin' fuseki again!

Does the above board position look familiar? It's a fuseki where every stone is on a star-point.

I'm sure you've seen it at least once if you're a lower kyu. Maybe several times. I'd bet real money almost everyone has played it.

Whenever this fuseki materializes, the first thing that comes to mind is, "We're going to have a real fight".

In the Nihon Ki-in Small Encyclopedia: Fuseki, Fujisawa Kazunari writes this about this particular opening:
Although playing only on star-points like this may seem simple-minded, the result is roughly equal and sometimes seen in tournament play. After this, the players will either mark-off huge moyos or start some serious fighting.

To the best of my recollection, I've always found myself playing White when this fuseki materializes. That's likely because two reasons:
  • I have a habit of playing moyo openings as White, so my first two stones are on the star-points.
  • One of the best ways that I currently know of to counter a sanren-sei fuseki by Black is for White to build a sanren-sei as well.
When the 10th move is called for, I follow the example that was set in a 1990 game between Cho Chikun (W) and Takemiya "Mr. Moyo" Masaki (B).

This is the first "paratrooper invasion". Just a little behind the enemy's sector line and far enough from enemy stones to be able to run (or, hopefully, fight out).

Then when it comes to attacking and defending the corners, I rely heavily on timing, and what little I have read in Chapter Four of Masaki's book, The Enclosure Josekis.

Fuseki Quiz 20/20

This is it gang. This is the last fuseki quiz. Next week, we'll see the table of what Miyamoto thinks your rank should be after adding-up the scores for all of your answers.

Black to play.

Scoring the last Fuseki Quiz 19/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)

  • A = 4
  • B = 6
  • C = 2
  • D = 10, Black playing on N4 is correct. If it is ignored and White is allowed to play her next move to L3, then Black's stones would be separated into two groups. It is a small play but also a key point. You cannot pay attention only to the big points on the sides in the opening.
  • E = 8

Odd stuff on the web
Multi-tasking. If I could study Go while doing a bench press, I'd do it!

How about learning English to music while doing aerobics? Maybe it's not a bad idea.

Of course, things can go a bit too far. This video shows the instructors training the viewers for a more unpleasant encounter in America.