Fighting Spirit

British Go Journal No. 62. July 1984. Page 21.

Ian Meiklejohn

The following vigorous struggle was played during the Cheshire tournament between two evenly matched 3 kyus. The comments (by Ian Meiklejohn) are aimed mainly at demonstrating the value of doing the simple things well, and in particular, of maintaining an awareness of the overall position during local fights.

Black: Eddie Smithers, 3k
White: Tony Atkins, 3k

(Note: The names were incorrectly reported the other way round in BGJ 62.)
The game-file in SGF format.

Figure 1 (1-53)

  • Black 9: Very unusual. The simple line is to play at A first, then counterattack the white stone with 17 or 18.
  • White 10: Cutting across at 38 is the only move, then black 40, white 36, and black has to play 49. The continuation is hard, and is not even mentioned in lshida. (Note that capturing white in a ladder with 39 instead of 49 in this variation would be no good even if it worked, as whites corner would be too big after 37 and B).
  • Black 13: An instructive error. Normally this should be at 34, the vital point in what has become a pushing-and-crawling race. Blacks two-stone group is still unstable and he cannot yet tenuki here (a useful rule of thumb for tactical situations is that a group needs at least 5 liberties before it is stable), However a 'joseki' alternative to 34 is to first attach at 32 to sound out White's reaction and prevent him from playing at 37 to take the corner.
    Secondly, if black wants to attack white 8 he should himself play a counter-pincer first. The capping play only forces white to extend to 14, taking territory and stabilising his group.
    Incidentally, an excellent lesson in the significance of pushing-and-crawling is given in the Ishi Press book, "In the Beginning" (a book most kyu players could profitably read).
  • White 16: Wrong direction. If white wants to avoid being sealed in, he should move out through 13 and 15, not head towards blacks (albeit thin) thickness.
  • Black 21: Too thin, inviting white to slice through the middle. Better is 44.
  • White 22: Too thin, better at D.
  • White 28: Strengthens black. Simply 30.
  • Black 31: Strengthens white, and is off the mark. Willy-nilly, black must block at 43.
  • White 32: 43 shrieks to be played.
  • Black 33: Still off the mark and fishing in muddy waters.
  • White 36: 43 now drowns out all sound - it slices through blacks groups like a knife through butter. But instead white loses patience and tries a vulgar piece of rough stuff - fortunately it works.
  • White 44: Or does it? This move is stylish, but simply giving the series of ataris starting at C and ending at 44 is simpler and prevents black 45.
  • White 48: Missing his chance. Now white must strike .and capture one or more of blacks outside stones by giving atari at C.
  • Black 53: The result of the opening skirmishes in this corner have turned in blacks favour: he has considerable thickness, while white has only a small side. Note that because of whites bad (and incomplete) sequence of 22, 24, and 26, Black can capture two stones by cutting at D.
Figure 2a (55-100)
BGJ had Fig 2a and 2b as one diagram, Fig 2.

  • Black 55: Black eliminates the bad aji here, but lets white start a fight in the other corner.
  • Black 57: Simpler is 60.
  • Black 59: Bad. Must be at 60.
  • White 62: Aggressive, but not without risk. Natural is 64.
  • Black 63: Lets white seize the vital point of 64.
  • Black 71: Bad shape, making the dreaded empty triangle. Should be a 1-point jump.
  • Black 79: The position is becoming steadily more difficult. Black has a weak centre group short of liberties. But his corner is not alive (if White plays 118 he can reduce it to an L group). On the other hand White's centre group is stuck inside Black's moyo, and is riddled with cutting points, The vital question therefore is, at what stage can white stop chasing black and go back to kill the corner - or will black get a chance to save the corner first. In the meantime, this hane and White's aggressive answer further confuse matters, since they raise the spectre of a Black descent at E and a counter-attack on the side.
  • White 92: Probably an overplay. White should defend his cutting point (after exchanging 118 for 119) and make miai of killing the corner or escaping/continuing the attack on Black's centre group. This would be a simple way of playing, since white can look forward to deriving plenty (more) profit from black's straggler.
  • Black 97: Black now and later continues to tempt fate. He really should make his corner live (with the, in itself very large, move of 118).
Figure 2b (101-137)
BGJ had Fig 2a and 2b as one diagram, Fig 2.

  • Black 107: Vital point for attack and wrecking white's shape.
  • White 118: Having failed to escape or make eyes (and fatally shortened himself of liberties in the process), white now turns in desperation to black's corner and the game reaches a climax.
  • White 124: Now white is behind in the semeai, but 124 seems to be necessary on the side, due to the aji of black 79. Also white should play 120 first (in fact, probably much earlier than this) to destroy blacks half eye (black always has the option of discarding two stones to secure life).
  • Black 127: A blunder. Black should first play at 128, threatening F and two eyes. This increases his internal liberties to the point where white needs 9 moves to put black into atari (count them), whereas black needs only 7 to do likewise to white..
  • White 132: Hara-kiri. White must play at 136. If black connects both sides effectively have 6 liberties and white can win the semeai. Black's only hope is then to fill a white liberty instead and fight the ko.
  • Black 133: Returns the compliment. Filling a liberty at G will put Black ahead in the semeai and safeguard his stones above.

In the sequence to 137, at which point the score tantalisingly ends, white kills black's corner (for the time being), a success which should be enough to win comfortably.

However, not surprisingly, since both players are amateurs, the fight in the corner was not decisive, and in the end White won by just 3 points.

An entertaining and instructive tussle.


This article is from the British Go Journal Issue 62
which is one of a series of back issues now available on the web.

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