Slow down, you move too fast

Unlike the topic could imply, this text isn’t about about the process of placing a stone on the board, nor about playing times, but instead about the pace of stones played on the board themselves.

The exact wording of the topic comes from a story I saw on the internet, in which Washington Post conducted a social experiment: Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world, played some of the world’s most intricate violin music for one hour on a public place with a $3,500,000 violin, and no passer-by realized it. The punchline of the story was as follows: “If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made… How many other things are we missing?”

Seeing the 1994 movie recently, The Shawshank Redemption, made me think a lot about time (some minor spoilers about the movie included in this paragraph). The movie is about prison inmates, the main characters being sentenced for life – they’ve got the time to do what not, but there’s not too much you can do in a prison. For most of the time, the protagonist is taking his time leisurely, without a worry in the world, yet making the prison a better place for other inmates. The movie made it seem like the inmates actually had it pretty well: food, shelter and basic hygiene and other needs guaranteed, and certainly not many things to be concerned about. With less content in each of their days, they could spend more time concentrating on what they’re doing, instead of having to hurry and conduct different businesses all the time. That certainly leaves more space to appreciate the beauty of things. A released, old inmate sends his friends a letter that begins as follows: “Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Was a pretty touching scene.

How do these stories relate to go? Other than the more obvious realization that one well-played and enjoyed game could well be worth more than multiple fast and hastily played games, I also found an allusion to sente (“preceding move“, in common usage meaning a move or sequence that tempts the opponent to respond in some fashion) and gote (“following move“, meaning a move or sequence that doesn’t tempt the opponent to respond in any fashion). The amateurish way of playing unnecessary sente and forcing moves, extremely often seen in internet games, I could very well dub “getting in a big damn hurry”. It is not uncommon at all that instead of trying to do everything at the same time (like real-life multitasking), doing one thing properly is much better. Sente is well-used if there is a task you absolutely have to accomplish in a way that you also get to some other part of the board first. The forcing moves you may have to make will make the opponent’s position significantly stronger, but sometimes it may be worth it. In the opening and middle games, I consider it safe to say that trying to settle multiple positions in sente is never ever a good idea.

Here’s my game against Wang Wei 6 dan in the London Open Go Congress – I think I was able to play a few good gote moves, even if I did get hasty during the middle game. I was black.


I’m guessing the fuseki formation on the right side is already familiar to some of the readers. White coming in with 12 is not a surprise, and 13 and 14 are pretty natural as well.

Instead of white 14 in Figure 1, Guo Juan (5 dan professional) proposed white should play as here in Diagram 1, to apply maximum pressure to the three black stones. After white 3, it does feel black is under some heavy attack. Personally, I might instead of black 2 play on the lower side, because the black stones could still not be captured. Most importantly, white 1 prevents black from connecting on the right side.

After the exchange of 15-16, black plays 17 to link his stones up (this white would have prevented in Diagram 1). All fighting to come is now easy for black, with no weak groups on the board. Black 19 and 23 induce the said fight. Black 25 may have been too much of an instinct move:

Black 1 here, while not seeming to do much (no territory, and no direct attack on white), is a really powerful gote move. White may do what he wishes, but black has at least four good moves (A-D) to choose from next. Because the black stones are fairly strong after 1, he may invade with A to cut one white stone on the left side. Or he may play B to link up his own stones and to pressure the three white stones on the right side. C likewise pressures the white stones, but in a more territory-oriented way. D instead pressures the three white stones in the upper right. This way or that way, this black can play without a worry in the world.

Thanks to black’s instinct move, white gets around to 26, and after 32, while white’s shape still has a few problems, it seems like his stones in the centre are now mostly safe. The reader may want to stop here for a moment to consider what to do next as black; while the five stones on the left side may seem to be in danger, hurried play will not save them effectively.

My choice was the sequence here up to 39 – there may have been other choices, but this struck me as the easiest and strongest one. Certainly, after 39, white doesn’t need to answer anymore, but now the black group is surely alive. Furthermore, white’s corner in the lower left is still open, and black can play at the tengen to split the two white groups.

White chose to force with 40 to improve his position on the upper side, and then to play 42 to strengthen his corner. Black 43 may well be my favorite move from this game, building the lower side while also preparing to cut at the tengen. After white 44, black 45 and 47 prepared a chance to fight on the lower side later – however, it’s not easy to say when the fight will happen, and white’s corner did get significantly stronger after the forcing moves. Black 45 and 47 may therefore be questionable sente moves (Guo Juan did not like them at least, even after my explanation as to why I played them). Black 49 is yet another gote move that improves black’s position and prepares for a coming fight, slowly applying pressure on white.

White 50 here makes the two black forcing stones look like a waste. I then disregarded not only the forcing stones, but also the three black stones that can further be captured, and went on to cut white starting with black 51. I wasn’t looking to kill anything big – mostly I wanted to solidify my territories on the upper side and in the lower right. While maybe being the most interesting part of this game, the following doesn’t really go with the theme of this post anymore, and many of the moves played are based on careful reading, difficult to explain in a simple manner. I will thus skip the rest of the game. The full kifu may be found here.

Hopefully this post gave you something good to think about, as The Shawshank Redemption gave me. If you haven’t seen the said movie, or have seen it but don’t remember what it was about, I strongly recommend you to (re-)watch it!

4 thoughts on “Slow down, you move too fast”

  1. Very nice. A new personal high in EGF gor!?!

    I can also see that you are taking part in the Korean Style Insei League. Good luck with that!

  2. Jou that classical music he played just was not really good. Had he played some rock I bet a crowd would have gathered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please confirm you are a human by solving this: