I had for long thought that I could develop for myself an ideal style of play – one with which I could, without much thought, play moves ordinary to me – and then I would win every game. That was my long-term goal, anyway, even if it was unachievable. For a period of time I experimented upon a really high-flown style of playing, where I usually ended up with a huge framework in the centre of the board. I liked that way of playing so much that I started playing like that all the time.
Then I met an opponent who, instead of challenging my plans like the others had, let me have my way. He, too, had his own grand plans for the game field, and wasn’t concerned with what I was building. I got baffled, challenged his plans, and even though the game went fine for some time, I eventually lost it. The same thing repeated with the same opponent for several times. I really couldn’t take it when my opponent let me have what I wanted.
For me, this course of events felt like first I was on my way to develop a perfect sword fighting style, which no other swordsman could counter, and then I met a guy with a gun.
Now I’m wondering if I had been playing go like a solitaire game: “I’ll just do things my way and win the game like that” or similar. This would certainly be a faulty approach. Go, after all, is played by two players, not one. There’s no way that “the ideal style of play” is one such that it doesn’t take the other player and their plans into account.
Alexander Dinerchtein’s playing style quiz reported my style as “very flexible”. While test results like these should always be taken with caution, I have indeed found out that I can play pretty well, be the game fighting-oriented, territorional or framework-based. For the purposes of winning, however, should a flexible player not pick a type of game which the opponent will feel uncomfortable with?
Most of the things I’ve written above I realized during the first game in the Finnish Championship finals last weekend. While I did want to win the championship, I took a secondary objective: I wanted to analyze Javier-Aleksi’s style, and see what he would do if I were to play in a fashion that would not allow him to “unleash his natural style”. I actually almost forgot about winning the championship while conducting my experiment. That probably was good for me, because I forgot most of the tournament pressure I should have been feeling.
Here’s a sample of my experiments: the final, decisive game of the Finnish championships. I play white and Javier-Aleksi Savolainen 5 dan plays black.
Seeing that Javier-Aleksi had small issues with handling my 3-3 stone in the second game, I thought it interesting to see what would happen with two 3-3 stones. I had noticed in the earlier games that Javier-Aleksi tended to form single large frameworks, which contained most of his stones, and that he avoided making many groups. I set my game plan to be that I create multiple groups that make solid territory, and that cut black’s groups apart. Two 3-3 stones work nicely in this plan.
I kind of knew which joseki black would choose in the lower left, even before I played white 8.
Black’s one space high pincer of 9 came as no surprise, and the moves up to white 20 followed quickly. After that, the common joseki is for white to play A, followed by black B and white 22. Then black would get to play C to form a big framework in the lower right. Simply playing white 22, not letting black get B in sente, was more in line with my plan.
Black 23 here did come as a surprise to me. I then immediately set to creating a live group in the lower right corner, as seen here. After black 25, normally white plays A, followed by black B and a white stone at 27. Then black might play C in this game, after which the white stones would be under heavy attack. Thus, I decided to go with the moves 26-30 here. Black 31 was a move very much in line with Javier Aleksi’s style, looking to connect black’s groups, so there was only one direction I would go next.
I set to cut the black groups apart with the moves 32-36 here. While these white moves seem to be ineffective, located on neutral points on the board, they will play an important role later: as per the situation after white 36, the black group on the right side may yet run into trouble later in the game – at least it is not absolutely strong, as it would have been were it connected to the black group in the lower right.
The moves from 37-43 comprise the most common 3-3 point joseki, but it might be an off choice in this game: white gets some good profit in the upper left corner, while the black stones facing the centre don’t seem to do much. I then played white 44 to prepare an attack against the black group on the right side, and played white 46 to build the upper side. Up to this point, I thought I had succeeded pretty well in separating the black groups.
Black 47 in the previous figure solidified the black area in the lower right corner – I chose to do the same with the white moves 48-54. After these, the white group is soundly alive. Had black got to play at 54 himself, the white group would still have been without two eyes. Territory-wise, white 48 and 52 are big, as well.
White 56, here, is what I was aiming at with white 44 back in Figure 5. Combined with white 58, these two white stones will find their way to safety, one way or another, and black will have lost a good amount of territory. In the game, black responded maybe too aggressively, since after white 70 black’s shape is destroyed. The compromise seen in the game is probably the best black can do. The four stones white captures, however, are remarkably more valuable than the four white stones black gets.
The rest of the game is less important – black diligently looked for a chance to turn the game around, but this time to no avail. Here’s the rest of the game:
While I did end up succeeding in preventing the big black framework from happening, I didn’t end up with the easily winnable game I hoped to have. Mostly I made use of black’s wrong joseki choice in the upper left, and the result on the right side could even be classified as “lucky”. In any case, this game felt more of a two-player game than most of my go games for the last half a year or so.