Congress game against Svetlana Shikshina, with impressions from Ten and comments by Takemiya 9p

I got a sudden inspiration to finally comment a game for this blog, and what could be a better choice than the exciting game I played with Svetlana in the European Go Congress this year, to which I also received commentary by Takemiya Masaki 9 dan? The game was initially difficult for me for non-obvious reasons, but I managed to turn it around when the game started nearing the endgame. I played with white. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

The game started as above, with black playing the not-uncommon corner approach with 3, and I answered with my preferred move of white 4 (instead of the more common knight’s move, one space to the right). After that, black most often plays 5 in the upper left corner, aiming to create the oft-played small Chinese fuseki. I don’t have anything in particular against playing against the small Chinese fuseki, but since my opponent here went to such great lengths to be able play it, I approached with white 6 just to spite her, instead of taking the last empty corner. This can be a fine strategy to implement, as it’s valuable not to allow the opponent to play a game familiar to them.

For white 8, I also considered the kick of white 12, which would be effective in attacking the single black stone in the upper right part of the board. It seemed to me, however, that white might end up having a slow opening if black didn’t answer to that, but instead did something in the upper left corner. My concern was partly right, but white 8 isn’t any better: after the sequence from black 9 to black 17, black lives too easily on the upper side. When reviewing the game with Takemiya-sensei, he pointed out that white 8 should be one space to the right, at A, to prevent the leisurely black extension of 17. White 18 has a similar problem in being slow: while being the correct shape in relation to the other white stones on the right side, it is somewhat inferior to the white extension of B. After white 18, black already has the lead, albeit only slightly.

Black continued with the invasion of black 19, which surprised me. I was expecting the sequence shown in the diagram below:

After playing the common joseki sequence from black 1 to black 5, white's shape on the upper side is still not quite perfect due to the invasion possibility of black A. White B would somewhat fix it, but it would again be slow and uninteresting.

I remember being intensely grateful, being able to swallow the black stone whole with white 24. Unexpectedly for me at the time, white 24 also received criticism by Takemiya-sensei: black wouldn’t be interested in moving the stone of 19 out anyway, so white is playing too tight. After what has happened in the game, black can easily sacrifice 19, instead getting sente endgame moves. Takemiya endorsed white A instead of 24, helping to make black 19’s escape nigh-impossible, and also making it later possible for white to connect his groups with B.

The moves from 25 to 29 aren’t very special in terms of the opening. Takemiya-sensei did, however, point out that black 25 should be now on the third line, since it seems impossible for black to be able to create a moyo in this game (courtesy of the solid white position on the right side, and the low black position on the left side).

What I didn’t expect was that black 29 had laid out an effective trap.

Having considered the alternatives, I decided to pick white 30. My plan was to later enclose black in the upper left corner, thanks to the black A stone being low. However, having played the tight white 24 earlier instead of the one-space jump towards the centre, white has no prospects of building a moyo, himself. For the same reason, Takemiya-sensei suggested a different path, shown below:

Even though black has the stone on the middle star point on the lower side, white 1 still seems to be the best choice: the lower side is of the biggest importance at the moment. For example, after the sequence up to white 9, white seems to be quite well off. I actually considered this variation during the game, but didn't realize that after white 9, white will live quite easily on the left side.

Black 31 was the trap, and also a new move to me at the time. Later I found out that it is apparently a joseki, or a trick move, developed by Alexandre Dinerchtein. I didn’t want to submit to the black forcing move, so I replied fiercely with white 32 and the follows. The resulting sequence was quite intriguing.

I thought quite a bit on white 38. Possible options to it could be cutting black with for example a move at 50, but I disliked playing on the first line at that moment. Extending out to the right of 36 seemed a good move, but I thought the kosumi at 38 would be even slightly better. I read out the following possibility:

Black 1 is a strong tesuji, one worth knowing. At the time of the game, I thought I could sacrifice four one stones with the sequence up to white 12, but it was probably a misjudgment: the lone white stone on the left side now appears completely wasted.

Luckily for me, black answered with 39, and I was able to make strong shape for my group with 40 and so on. Takemiya-sensei also commented that this result was too easy for white. After white 52, the white stone at 30 seems quite effective at making the black wall feel uncomfortable.

While reviewing the game with Takemiya, I also proudly noted that with the sequence played in the game, B becomes a fine endgame move for white. Takemiya merely laughed at me having had the eye for such small details.

In the end, the trap of black 31 seemed to misfire.

Following, black went out for the single white stone on the left side with 53. After playing the knight’s move of 54, I expected black to cover with a stone at 69, forcing white to struggle for eyes on the left side. The sequence starting from 55 was a complete surprise. Not only did white live, he did so by getting seven points of territory and a big endgame moves (the first-line crawl). Also, after white 74, the upper-side white group appears perfectly positioned. It is likely around here that the situation turned back to even.

Black 75 is an important spot, as the lower-left white group still doesn’t live. Black 77 is a mistake, however, as can be seen with the continuation up to 80: suddenly, white has a moyo. Black 77 is of course a huge territorial move, but black still should have played at 78 first, preventing the formation of the white framework. After 80, I felt the game became easy to play. In the review session, Takemiya commented that one shouldn’t allow the opponent to play easy moves, as that will make the game difficult to play for oneself. Black allowing white to play 78 and 80 is such a mistake.

Black had no choice but to invade, starting with black 81. White 82 and 84 are a technique to prevent black from connecting 81 out to the lower right corner. From black 85 on, black manages to create sufficient space for two eyes. I actually didn’t even try to kill the group, as it seemed practically impossible. Instead, I merely went for strengthening my position. 102 is also a huge sente move.

If the situation after black 103 still doesn’t seem good enough for white, see how the game continues:

Since the board is pretty much divided, and all groups are secure, it’s time for the endgame. In this game, white had both sente and the stronger groups: thus, I was able to hold the initiative for a long time, forcing black with moves up to 117. After that, making the invasion of 118 is enough to ensure white’s territorial lead. Black’s response starting with 119 may not be the best choice, but it is difficult to find a significantly better option. In any case, white 118 appears to be unkillable.

The rest of the game, shown in the diagram above, is smooth sailing for white. It is notable that white 136 really is sente, requiring the black answer of  137. Otherwise, the following happens:

If white gets to play at 2, a rare under the stones tesuji takes place: with the sequence up to white 12, black loses six stones and also his eye base.
The black resistance shown here is somewhat stronger, but still, a ko takes place for black's eye base. Likewise to the previous variation, this is unbearable for black.

After white 90, black resigned, having lost a considerable amount of territory on the lower side. The full kifu is given below!

[sgfPrepared id=”0″]

Note that the Nordic Go Academy September league is starting this week! It’ll be my main portal of teaching go while in Japan, and you may well think of participating in it as a way to support my insei studies — after all, I’ll need to make a living somehow while in Japan, too, yet live lessons may prove difficult to hold time-wise. We’re going for some more agressive marketing in the near future relating to the Academy, and will also work our hardest to improve the concept further. Please root for us!

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