Handicap Principles

British Go Journal No. 92. Autumn 1993. Page 10.

Alistair Wall

This game was played at Mrs Feng's first simultaneous display at the University of London Club. Four stones handicap was too many, and the game was one-sided. (I feel obliged to point out here that if the Grading Committee based promotions on strength, instead of waiting for tournament results, this embarrassment to our distinguished guest could have been avoided.)

However, the game is still instructive. I did not have time to read out variations, because I had to be ready with my move whenever Mrs Feng came round to me. This meant that I had to base my moves on simple principles you should be able to use against your local shodan.


Black: Alistair Wall, 3d
White: Feng Yun, 7p
Handicap: 4 stones

The game-file in nd SGF format.

Figure 1a
BGJ had Fig 1a and 1b as one diagram, Fig 1.



















75 at 70.
  • Black 4-6: The first principle is not to answer two space approach moves. White has no severe continuations, so fighting spirit demands that I take the big point at 4. 6 at 8, or one point to the right of 6, would be more severe, but could lead to complications.
  • Black 8: Fighting spirit again. The 3-3 point in the upper left would be safer, but White would be controlling the flow of the game.
  • White 9 is an attempt to complicate the game. It is an overplay because 6 and 8 are still unsettled. 12 makes miai of the top and bottom, so when white defends the top with 13 it is important to attack 9 rather than reinforce the top left corner.
  • White 21: Similarly, after 21, black has to play lightly because White is strong here. The white corner is not too big, given white's three extra stones here; the three black stones on the inside still have some aji, while 24-28 make it difficult for white to build a large territory along the top.
  • Black 32: If 32 simply connects, white can break out into the centre by attacking above 30, and black's pillar of stones will come under attack.
  • White 35 is a probe. If black is worried about his stones on the side, and plays 36 at X, white may break into the centre.
  • Black 38-42: Black reinforces in sente with 38 and 40, then switches to the big point at 42. The white group may have only one eye, but it is better to leave it unstable than to attack and possibly provoke complications.
  • Black 44: In this type of moyo, the centre is bigger than the side.
  • Black 46:
    Diagram 1





    For 46', I would now choose the joseki in diagram 1, which builds a wall facing the biggest side. The joseki in the game is good enough, though after 56, 44' should be at 58.
  • Black 58: Defends against the biggest threat, but after playing on this side I cannot expect to make any territory in the corner. I concentrated on connecting my stones out.
  • Black 68 threatens both 69 and 70.
  • Black 72: Connecting with 72' at 73 would have been a strong move, threatening to kill the corner with 72', or to attack the group above with a move to the left of 37. I was worried that 72' would be too small at this stage, and that there might be complications if I attacked the group above. I was happy to get two moves in a row at 74-76, and white was eager to connect at 75. If I had known she was going to connect, I would have played 74' and 76' at 76 and Y.
  • White 77-79: White has to play 77 and 79 to capture 24-26 on a small scale. This vindicates my play in this corner.
  • Black 78; My most serious mistake of the game; I should approach white's thickness more cautiously at Z.
  • White 81: If I attempt to cut this stone off from 13, White might connect it to 35, cutting off my group on the side, or use the aji to break into my moyo. I counted, and judged that I could win by relying on my moyo below 36-42 and the top right corner, so I reinforced the group on the side, activating the aji in the corner.
  • Black 86-: In the sequence from 85 I pay for my over-extension at 78. 86 defends my weakest stones. There may be more aggressive sequences than the moves to 96, but I wanted to be absolutely certain of escape.
  • Black 98: Sacrificing 98 to build thickness, separating the white groups, is the most aggressive continuation.
Figure 1b
BGJ had Fig 1a and 1b as one diagram, Fig 1.


















  • Black 110-112: Mrs Feng winced when I played 110-112; apart from taking territory in sente while white connects in dame, the eyeshape forestalls any nonsense in the corner.
    With more time to read, I might have attacked with A at D.
  • Black 116-118: After playing 116 and 118, I felt that capturing 81 (triangle) would not be big enough, so I started the ko up to 123. Mrs Feng won this ko, but had to give up four stones at 97-103. This left Black about 15 points ahead, a lead which was preserved at the end of the game.

This game demonstrates that the handicap principles of taking the big points and building thickness really do work. Taking the big points at 4, 36, and 42 meant that White had to invade at 43 and 57, allowing Black to make thickness. The value of the Black thickness is illustrated by White 81. Here White would like to combine an erasing move with other threats, but the best she can do is an erasing move combined with an invitation to make a mistake.

In the next Journal I will redress the balance with a game which Mrs Feng won.


This article is from the British Go Journal Issue 92
which is one of a series of back issues now available on the web.



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