One of my main ways of studying go, probably not unlike most mid-to-high dan players’, is to review games by professional players. As long as you understand what the players are going about, this way of studying is pretty much as useful as reading a go book. The understanding part however is not quite so simple, and can often require a lot of thought work. I shall use this blog to present my thoughts about professional games that interest me, and also to sort out my thoughts to myself.
The game I’m reviewing this time was played in 1995 by Kato Masao (white) and Fujisawa Shuko, the latter being my favourite professional player. He has a nice, solid style, and is able to play in an incredibly relaxed way. As you shall read later, however, he is actually not the one to have the greatest influence on my playing style. Feel free to guess in the comment section who the most influential one is!
The way the game starts out can be a little out of ordinary for some readers, as white approaches with 4 instead of taking the last empty corner. This way of playing is not wrong, however, especially since white has a special design in mind. After white presses black down with 6 and 8, and finishes the move sequence with 16, one can see that white is intent on building a large framework on the left side of the board.
Black, however, responds calmly to white’s plan: 17 reinforces the upper right corner, not caring at all about what white is doing. Black 19 even further emphasizes this. As a result, the board seems to have been split up in a rather peaceful manner: upper left for white, lower right for black. It would seem that the middle part of the board will be the open question next, being the biggest unoccupied area on the board.
Oh, the players didn’t go for the centre after all. Black 21 here is a move that some players will recognize. After white answers with 22, black could live in the corner – however, we will not spend time on that today. Instead, black brilliantly plays 23, a move that seems to have absolutely no use, also killing the 21 stone. White seems happy to reply with 24. How is it possible that a 9 dan professional player doesn’t know the common move sequence for living in that corner?
Next black returns to the upper right with 25, forgetting his useless endeavor in the upper left corner. 25’s function is simply to make the black upper right corner a little bit bigger, and white’s upper side a little bit smaller. White’s move exchange of 26-27 is not unlike the two black moves in the upper left corner. Then white, too, returns to the real matter at hand with 28, and up to 30, the board seems nicely and peacefully split up again. Left for white, right for black.
Black 31 finally sets the game in motion: wasn’t the left side supposed to be white’s? This stone’s fate will be an open question for the time being. If it survives, a significant part of what used to be white’s land will be gone.
Advanced players might notice that this 31 urges white to respond. If he doesn’t, the following will happen:
With the sequence from 1 to 9, black not only lives, but also captures three white stones near the edge. White has to prevent this, as his loss would be too great.
White responds with 32, making sure that the lone black stone in the corner doesn’t move out. Black 33 is an awe-inspiring move that is difficult to explain briefly in words. It urges white to come between the black stones with white 34: otherwise black would play on the very same intersection, linking up his stones. If that were to happen, black would have enough space to run away or make two eyes. Likewise, black 35 again threatens to link up (the next move would be one space left of 34). Black 37 is yet another awe-inspiring move – is he actually going to sacrifice everything?
White, surely, cuts. As could become apparent with black 39, black was actually aiming to attack the white triangled stones all along. The rest of the sequence here is a chain of skillful techniques, which we shall not review in detail today.
Here you can see the end result of the series of battles. White did get the upper left quarter of the board all for himself, but that’s pretty much it. Black’s invading group is now alive and strong, and the wall white got first thing in this game actually feels a bit awkward and weak.
What fascinates me about this match was black’s initial indifference to white’s framework, which at move 20 seemed very intimidating. Just as fascinating was black’s way to handle the framework: it is as though he lost all the battles, but still won the war in the end. Moves 21, 23, 25, 31 and 33 are very inspiring as a means to play your own game, and not your opponent’s.
A good analogy of what happened is, that black created a battlefield (moves 21 and 23), in which the odds favoured white. Then black conceded that fight, creating a battlefield with slightly better odds for him (31). After doing this a few more times (33&35, and then 37), he finally got a fight in which the odds favoured him.
Another thing that I’ve thought recently is that simply playing standard joseki is extremely boring – almost as if you were using a dictionary all the time when communicating with others. Reviewing and studying this kind of professional games should be a great way to breathe some life and creativity in one’s game.