As I also tweeted earlier, I missed getting promoted to B class by a hair (that means, by the amount of one single win — I've got to work harder in February!). My score for January was 13-11 in the end, which is not too good a winning percentage yet. As added pressure, Kobayashi-sensei just recently returned from her trip to the US, and brought me a small gift to celebrate my promotion to B class — which I finally didn't make. Now I possess the gift, but am not allowed to open it before I do get promoted. The usual Japanese reaction to this would be to exclaim "厳しい！" (= "kibishii" = severe/strict) The aforementioned gift looks like this, and will be situated right next to the go board I'm using for the time being:
I've recently been intensifying my go studies even further; as of my current pace, I'm doing about 1-2 hours' worth of tsumego every day, and after reading about the late Hans Pietsch's experiences while he was insei in the 90s, I also took upon myself to attempt to memorize 100 professional games like he did. Right now I'm only at 14 games, and I'm not sure how far I can get before my memory starts failing me — but this should also work to improve that! The most important benefit in the memorizing of games is that it makes it a lot easier to play a high-level opening game, and a lot quicker as well. This saving of time can be especially useful in insei games, where there's not too much thinking time (currently, 40 minutes + 40 seconds per move in my games). Here's the memorial plaque for Hans Pietsch that's located in the museum of the Nihon Ki-in:
Yesterday, we had a newcomer to the English class! Originally my reaction was: "Nice, another professional player!" Then, a little later when we had everybody do self-introductions, the newcomer introduced himself as Su Haoguo 8 dan — since we've had a few 7 dans and Takemiya-sensei come already on earlier occasions, my reaction was casually: "Nice, a 8 dan professional, huh!" Once we were finished with the lesson and continued on to a restaurant, sometime during the evening I finally found out that the Japanese spelling for Su Haoguo was So Yokoku — which is no longer a random name to me. Indeed, I'd heard his name countless times before and studied many of his games as well. A similar thing happened with Shuto Shun 7 dan the previous week: I had thought of him as "only" another 7 dan professional — still super strong, of course! — but then I got around to reading a small fuseki problem collection that came with the Go World magazine. Turns out the problem collection, named 次の一手 (= "Tsugi no itte" = the next move), was composed by Shuto-sensei. The next thought that ran through my head was whether I should ask him a signature for the collection or not. It seems that I can never be too humble in my current surroundings!
Finally, since it was the English class yesterday, I have some new insight into the game I played with Ali Jabarin last week in the Pandanet European Team Championship tournament. Albeit, the discussion got so heated at times that we didn't get past move 80 when we were already out of time. I didn't get the Eidogo plugin's text field working yet, unfortunately, so we'll be doing with Gowrite diagrams again. Be warned, this time the content will be lower dan level, though stronger kyu players may get some insight out of this as well. As you may remember, I played white in this game.
Some readers may be familiar with the go book The Direction of Play, in which the author discusses how a professional player once exclaimed how the second move lost him the game. The situation with my game here is not quite as bad, but the professionals said that white 8 is probably already a mistake. It looks like a normal move though, doesn't it? Why should it be bad? There's quite a deep reasoning behind that, but let's have a look at it anyway.
First off, the game continued like this, with the normal joseki sequence of 9-12 in the upper right corner. Black gets sente to approach the lower right corner with 13. White is actually quite hard-pressed with his answer. Normally white would consider for instance the pincer of A and the kosumi of B, but both of them feel like they are developing towards the wrong direction. A puts emphasis on the lower side, where black has ▲ in white's way, and B puts emphasis on the right side, where black has black 9 directly in white's way. White can develop neither the lower side nor the right side well. This is all still only theory, however, so we have to have a look at some actual outcomes.
Dia 1 here shows how the professionals would prefer to play. The corner enclosure of white 1 induces black 2, and then white can easily approach with 3 in the upper right corner. The result up to 7 probably comes up, and white can be satisfied with his result.
Alternatively, black might play 2 as here in Dia 2. Then white approach from the right side with white 3, and up to 7 as per the normal joseki sequence, the right side is looking quite good for white. White has no reason to be unhappy this way, either.
If white played yet another kosumi in the lower right corner as here in Dia 3, black would play at around 2, and white seems to be at a loss. The kosumi of 1 doesn't work too well on the right side thanks to black ▲ — there's nothing much to build there — and if white doesn't hurry to play in the lower left corner, black plays A for a good formation. If white does play in the lower left corner next, black will play some joseki and then get sente to play on the right side, and white 1 will look weird again. It's not an especially big deal, but white's opening would definitely feel uncomfortable that way.
Given some normal pincer joseki, like in Dia 4, black might as well answer with the press of black 2, and up to black 10, the black lower left corner area starts looking promising again. Not to mention that thanks to the presence of ▲, white cannot build anything on the right side, yet again.
For the previously-mentioned reasons, I went with the tight one-space pincer of white 14 instead. However, even this classic joseki has room for some drawbacks. Up to white 30, the joseki would continue as normal, but next...
Black could play the un-joseki move of 1, in Dia 5. White's responses of 2 and 4 are forced, but then black can play 5 and 7 to kill off white's corner. If it was a normal game, black wouldn't have both of the ▲ stones present, and white's result would be fine. In this game, black does have both of them, and no matter how hard white tries, black will get to play either A or B next, leaving one white group weak.
We can summarize everything we've looked at so far with: "If you're playing a game with diagonally opposed corners, a corner enclosure from a 3-4 point is huge" and "If you're playing a game with diagonally opposed corners, a pincer from a 3-4 point can be a really bad idea". For reference's sake...
...if the lower right corner was in fact a white star point, white could easily play the approach of 1. Then, when black comes to approach with 6, white casually plays the normal knight's move of white 7 and is completely unaffected. After 9, black would pick some joseki in the lower left corner, and the winner would still be completely undecided.
Well, amateurs that we are, we had no idea you could do something like in Dia 5, and went on with the normal joseki, as shown here. Instead of black 47, black should push once more at 48 for better shape in the centre. White would extend his stones, and then black could play at 47. Up to white 58, black's centre shape is uncomfortable, and white has probably gained a small lead.
Black 59 here is again a mistake, as 60 is too good a spot to give white, both defending the centre group and building the upper side. Black 59 has to be at 60 instead. Black cuts with 61, and I go ahead to play my brute force fighting go with white 64, leaving possibilities for a black counterattack. And indeed, when black comes to press the white shape down with 65, I counterattack with the jump of 66. However, white 70 is simply too heavy.
The professionals seemed to favor this way of white play, as shown in Dia 6. White might as well answer meekly with 1, and when black presses with 2, again meekly with white 3. Black may be able to create trouble with the extension of black 4, then, but white would probably counterattack with something like white A next. Also, this way white has prepared some territory on the upper side already. If white player was Cho Chikun, this is probably the continuation we would see.
If white wants to play thickness go, my earlier jump of 66 is fine, too, but white really needs to play 1 as shown here in Dia 7. Black extends to 2, and since white's group is now invulnerable, white could for example approach with 3 in the lower left corner. The centre black group would still be pretty weak like this. White would also have good future prospects, namely the tesuji of A and the invasion of B, both of which would be unkillable. Black would have a territorial advantage for the time being, but it wouldn't be difficult for white to overturn it, with all the black weaknesses to be exploited. White 1, as shown here, is a prime example of honte.
The game continued as shown here, in figure 6. Because of white's heavy play, black could push in sente with 71 and 73, and thus became virtually alive. After white 82, it was back to a long game. Unfortunately, we ran out of time at the English class at this point, and like that, I don't have much more insight on the continuation. In case you didn't see it last week, the whole game is here: