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 Post subject: Thckness and cutting - big steps forward
Post #1 Posted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:37 am 

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I spent some time in Tokyo last week and as usual hunted through the go books. But I found what was on offer very easy to resist and came away with just a tiny handful.

What I did pick up, though, was included a real gem and a couple of lesser sparklers.

One sparkler was the autobiography (in Japanese) of Michael Redmond. I haven't read all of it yet and so won't say anything more about it here, except to observe that it seems to say a lot more than we've seen in English in Go World or the AGJ - and that I've greatly admired his videos on AlphaGo, both for content and personality. ISBN 978-3-88293-484-4 (棋士マイケルレ°レドモンド).

The gem was a book on thickness. I may get round to doing a separate thread on this valuable book: この厚みは星なんぼ?(How may stars is this thickness worth? ISBN 978-4-14-016183-8) but for now just a few notes. I was astonished that I hadn't heard about such a good book before because it dates from 2010. But it's by a Kansai Ki-in pro, Yokota Shigeaki, and I've confined myself to Tokyo on my last few trips, so maybe that's the reason. He is known as a thickness expert and has lectured on it for NHK, but I never get to see that.

There have been many attempts to evaluate thickness over the years, such as the sword-chop formula, influence maps, and the old stand-by of 3-points per stone in the wall. I think they've all failed because they put a number on the thickness and readers end up counting it as territory. Westerners have the added problem of confusing thickness, influence and walls (which can happen with the Japanese, too, but they have a head start with the terminology).

Yokota's approach is to classify thickness as fundamentally two types - good and bad. He was thus doing in 2010 what AlphaGo is doing in 2017. He further breaks each type into two categories, to produce a range from one to four stars. He explains specifically how to assess the number of stars (including concepts such as "height" - though "length" is probably more accurate) but as a very good rough guide he provides a set of templates, or common positions we will also be familiar with, which he kindly scores for us. The scores measure strength only as stars. This usefully gets us away from equating thickness with territory.

Another vital point Yokota makes is that even single stones have thickness. Even more important, thickness is like your garden - you need to cultivate it to make it grow. He shows how (maybe the best part of the book - very simple, no fancy tactics). And something other writers usually overlook, he explains that thickness has a time element- the earlier in the game you make it the better.

Above all he clarifies how thickness is to be used. It is to create a Venus fly trap. You don't deliberately make territory out of it. Even when you extend from a wall you are not doing that. Rather, you are tempting the opponent to invade near your thickness so you can attack him by driving him towards the thickness. That's nothing new of course, nor special to Yokota. In fact, while I was reading that book on the plane, I put it down to look at a magazine for variety and there was an article by Hiramoto Yasei on joseki. In one example his theme was that you deal with the opponent's thickness by forcing him, with natural moves, to turn it into territory (even a massive one). The example showed Black being forced to make a 50-point territory but the result was good for White, who only ended up with a moyo in compensation (to grasp what that implies, just think about hw many points of actual territory are available in a typical game). Yokota's examples are not that spectacular, but perhaps the better for it - all positions that you will recognise from your own play.

Because stars are used to score the thickness, and also because the problem examples are all of the type where you have to first score the thickness and then show how to use it (but with simple, low-maintenance tactics), I have a strong hunch that you should be able to make good use of this book without knowing Japanese. It's mainly for kyus, I suppose, but I think a lot of dan players could benefit from the clarity it brings to the subject, especially if they have those territory hang-ups that need correcting.

The last Japanese book in this post does need better than average knowledge of Japanese, however. This is because it deals with nuances of language. It is called 切断の成立条件 (The Right Conditions to Make Cuts Work; ISBN 978-4-416-31549-1) and is by Kimu Sujun (or Kim Soo Joon, as he writes it).

It doesn't really say anything new but it brings order and comprehensiveness to what may be the most important element in go - at least there's a proverb that says go is all about cuts. That proverb in fact highlights the problem: there are cuts and there are cuts. Or, perhaps better, it's like: Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

Kimu points out how some cuts are tactical and some strategic and the conditions in each case are quite different. He puts most emphasis on strategic cuts, and so his range covers at the higher level 切断, 分断, 遮断 and 線を切る, or at the lower level moves you might not realise are actually cuts such as the hanedashi. In English the flavour is encompassed by words such as cutting, severing, isolating or cutting lines of communication. The obverse of cutting is connecting and so there is likewise a distinction between 継ぐ, つながる and 渡る, say. Kimu says these words are generally not well known but they are used a lot among pros. He explains each type, its nuances and its obverse and shows the conditions in which each type of cut works, but mostly within the framework of josekis or joseki-like positions. It's a largish book with over half devoted to (loosely) cataloguing and explaining the types and the rest is a set of practice problems but mostly in whole-board positions. A very worthy book.

Even more briefly, a couple of Chinese books may be worth highlighting. There is a book on Qing Dynasty Masters (清代大国手) by husband-and-wife team Jiang Zhujiu ("Jujo") and Rui Naiwei which includes a brief discussion of ancient Chinese rules - the rest is commentary and background on mostly well known games. ISBN 978-7-80550-848-1.

There is also the start of a project on "oral histories" (口述史) under the general editorship of ex-Hangzhou mayor Wang Guoping. Noted players describe, in transcribed conversations with interviewer He Yunbo, their lives in go or important aspects of the game for them. Volume 1 is ISBN 978-7-5565-0725-2. An ongoing project. Not everyone's cup of tea but it does add to the academic status of the game. More such projects are in the pipeline. An exciting one is cataloguing all the Chinese paintings that feature go.

And of course the massive reprinting of the ancient Chinese classics, lovingly edited and cleanly printed in large format, is now up to Volume 15. Fantastic, even though it saddled me with a huge excess baggage charge!

This post by John Fairbairn was liked by 4 people: gowan, jeromie, Marcel Grünauer, Waylon
 Post subject: Re: Thckness and cutting - big steps forward
Post #2 Posted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:55 am 

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Thickness can be used flexibly. Even if another author says that thickness should not be used for making (early) territory, this is wrong as a general advice. There are infrequent positions in which making early territory in front of thickness is the right strategy, as I explain in Positional Judgement 2 - Dynamics and supported by examples from pro games. Why big steps forward? E.g., my book(s) also explain(s) how to assess and use thickness etc. Stars as ranking system do not justify themselves; whether they are meaningful depends on what they are described to mean. Four star ranks? E.g., one can introduce four classes (weak groups, groups of light influence stones, ordinary thickness, great thickness) and could rank them by stars in order but why would that be a big step forward? It would be nothing new, except for copying web 2.0 star ranks.

 Post subject: Re: Thckness and cutting - big steps forward
Post #3 Posted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:06 am 

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John Fairbairn wrote:
It doesn't really say anything new but it brings order and comprehensiveness to what may be the most important element in go - at least there's a proverb that says go is all about cuts.

Go is a topological game.


The Adkins Principle:
At some point, doesn't thinking have to go on?
— Winona Adkins

Visualize whirled peas.

Everything with love. Stay safe.

 Post subject: Re: Thckness and cutting - big steps forward
Post #4 Posted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:02 am 
Lives in sente

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Thanks for continuing to report on literature that I am likely to find on my own. I always find your updates interesting!

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