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 Post subject: Translating the nuances of attack
Post #1 Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:34 pm 
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John posted in another thread that brought an old thought to my mind.

English go literature uses the word attack frequently (overly, I think, in John's opinion). But in English the concept of attack has some nuances. There are clear differences between a pair of boxers duking it out in the ring vs. someone being mugged in a dark alley vs. a wolf stalking its prey in an attempt to wear it down.

The idea of the wolf pack stalking its prey was one distinction I made at about the 3-dan level. Stalking an opponent's group while developing in some desirable way was a worthy result that could be just as useful (and less risky) as going directly for a kill.

Does Japanese (or Korean or Chinese) go literature have a varied vocabulary for attack? Have attacking nuances become lost in translation in much the same way as for thickness?

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Post #2 Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:09 pm 
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English go literature uses the word attack frequently (overly, I think, in John's opinion).


I would never have the opinion "overly" about anything. In ordinary modern speech I regard it as American.

Plus, I don't think 'attack' (for semeru) is over-used. It's rather that I believe that the Japanese nuances are overlooked by too many people here. I blame Hollywood (the source of so many other ills).

When I was young tv was rare. My family didn't get it till I was 11 and of course it didn't really cater for kids. All I can remember watching was the Lone Ranger, the FA Cup Final and the comedian Charlie Drake. Films were once-a-week matinees for kids where the usual bill was Superman and a cowboy and indians film, all in B&W. In other words, no war films.

My conception of war was based either on what I saw around me (derelict bomb sites), my father's photos from fighting with the Desert Rats, and whatever was in comics. There the diet was mostly Commando raids, naval convoys and the French Resistance. No Americans, no pitched battles.

People significantly younger than me have been brought up on a different diet. The face of war as portrayed by films now seems to be dominated by American shock-and-awe, or mass atrocities that were not mentioned when I was young - Auschwitz and Hiroshima. In short, war on a different scale.

Even more recently, of course, there have been attempt to inculcate in young people views of war that reflect anti-war movements. I'm not sure they've had much success, and so shock-and-awe still dominates.

It is my belief that the way you are brought up to view war seeps out in the way you play the war games go (or chess). I'd happily provoke an argument by suggesting that cohorts of western players fail to get to grips properly with go precisely because of their inculcated mindset. Far, far, far too much emphasis on invasions, for example.

The way Japanese players play has likewise been moulded by their views of fighting. More so in their case because they've has several hundred years of tradition which has fixed what we might call a samurai core. It's not the only strand, of course. Readers of Kamakura might recall how I highlighted the use of modern military terms such as bombers and tanks even by pacifists such as Go Seigen. But even the modern Japanese are influenced by their own landscape - huge mountains, steep valleys, fast-flowing rivers. Their view of go tactics has been so influenced. With such a terrain, invasions were relatively rare - one reason the Mongol kamikaze invasion struck such horror in their hearts and left them not knowing what to do. The divine wind saved them, not their fabled katanas. What might call invasions within their own civil wars were closer to raids and skirmishes, and when they were planned they were view as uchikomi - driving in a wedge. The idea of a D-Day type invasion across a wide front, or mass cavalry charges were not part of the usual deliberations. Favoured instead were surrounding manoeuvres, for which go provided a ready model. They had castles, for the daimyo, but not fortified towns.

In China, the terrain was quite different. Vast plains, huge rivers, huge lakes, few but highly strategic mountain passes. Cities (and the general populace) found sanctuary in cities with enormous walls. Generals there had to learn to manoeuvre in quite different ways from Japan. Large-scale army treks, huge flotillas of ships, early-warning garrisons, city walls and even Great Walls, produced a military viewpoint that could stress different things from those of Japanese generals, but surrounding was still a major feature. Diplomacy and alliances also played a massive part. It may not be too fanciful to suggest that the emphasis on keeping connections (alliances) was reflected in go via the group tax.

Eventually, all these elements were translated into the pseudo-military terms that were used to talk about, but differently in both China and Japan. The Chinese were at it much longer, of course, and always had the very ancient classics such as the Art of War and Book of Changes to fall back. Actually it took a couple of millennia for all this to take place - in the 17th century - as regards strategic terms. Tactical terms such as hane had been known several hundred years earlier, but strategic terms were limited to those borrowed from the old classics (e.g. 正 and 奇 or 实 and 虚). The spur for the introduction of strategic terms seems to have been the introduction of commentaries. The first major commented book (100 games) was Yi Mo. The language there is rather pedestrian. Almost the only word of praise was 'good' 好. The players, although they included guoshous (meijins) such as Guo Bailing and Lin Fuqing were also not yet quite at the top level (and so had limited strategic range).

When we skip ahead to the second book of commentaries, the Bugu Bian, the level of the players was much higher - this was the book that introduced Huang Longshi to the world - and the strength of the commentator (Wu Ruizheng) was top-notch. We see new strategies and new terms. I have mentioned the lighthouse strategy elsewhere. Another change was the introduction of new terms of praise used consistently (i.e. we can regard them as technical terms). 'Good' 好 still appears, but is outnumbered by a much more meaningful 细 (having good technique/good suji: very much a tactical term) and is almost matched 是 (correct), 正 (orthodox/normal) and the occasional 妙 (excellent).

However, what might surprise the most is that the commonest words cover a range of words that could all come under the heading of attack. They are differentiated, even this early.

The 5th most common word in the entire corpus of Bugu Bian's 66 commentaries is 紧. It was not then an entirely new word in go, but the sheer dominance of it is new. In fact, where 细 was Wu's go-to word for 'good' in the tactical sense (96 instances), 紧 was his go-to word for 'good' when it came to strategy. It has 149 instances, or 2.4% of the entire corpus.

If we treat 'attack' as a very broad heading, we can put under it several very common terms, starting with 紧 and then, in order but still common 收 (walling off; 81 instances), 攻 (direct attack, often with techniques such as cuts; 49 instances), 侵 (encroachments; 35 instances.) There is also a range of occasional terms such as 逼 (checks) and 镇 (caps).

You would get a very different pattern if you looked at Japanese go corpora. 紧 would virtually disappear there. I think the reasons are two- or threefold. The main reason may be that the military terrains differed. The meaning of 紧 in the old Chinese texts is 'put pressure on.' The associations are words like 'forceful' and 'assertive'. We may add 'severe' but not in the sense of having severe consequences. It's more to do with struct control. This control is expressed by manoeuvring - sometimes close up, sometimes at a short distance - and what you are trying to achieve with it is not 'attack and kill' but rather keeping the initiative, making profit by bullying or by 'free moves' (another new concept in these commentaries). This, in my view, reflects the terrain encountered by Chinese generals. They has space to manoeuvre - they were often happy to "win without fighting".

Because the terrain was different in Japan, these terms did not have the same resonances. They were therefore adapted or enhanced. 攻 became more common, because direct action such as skirmishes were more in their line, but a skirmish is not a full-scale attack, and so the idea of the lower level 'putting pressure on' was always latent. It was more in your face than Chinese 紧. If they wanted to express Chinese 紧 they would use せまる which is clearly related to せめる. Because large-scale surrounding manoeuvres were more difficult in Japan, they used words for their own versions, such as twisting attacks 絡み and running battles 競合い and yoritsuki 寄付き which might be called strategic bullying. They also came up with their own kind of invasions: 打込み. These latter terms do not exist in Chinese. That's not to say the ideas are unknown. It's rather that they are so relatively uncommon that there was anciently no standard technical term.

A third reason for the differences must be the rules. Group tax is a pretty severe penalty and so tactics or strategies that led to one's own groups being separated were eschewed. Encroachments (侵) rather than invasions were favoured. In Wu Ruizheng's usage these encroachments included what we call reductions and even often what we call peeps, but they also covered encroachments via open skirts, and that became by far the main usage later on.

Much, much more could be said about all this, but I hope I have given enough to show that bot the ancient Chinese and the Japanese came up with terminology of their own that expressed their view of how military campaigns, and by extension go/weiqi campaigns were best carried out.

If we look at the west we have nothing comparable. We have no body of work that expresses our inculcated military ideas about shock-and-awe, atom bombs, nerve gas, asymmetric warfare, cyberwarfare and so on the go board. We haven't even found a space for Rambo. I think the nearest we've got might be "build a wall" or "have a peaceful riot", but that doesn't amount to more than a row of beans. It's no wonder we are so far behind.

Maybe what we can do, though, is ditch the military analogies (and by extension the terms) and start with a clean slate with AI as our inspiration.


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 Post subject: Re: Translating the nuances of attack
Post #3 Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:49 pm 
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Hi John,

What is the original Chinese characters name of the book Bugu Bian?
Showing the original name of the book as well as the Anglicized version is useful when I try to research more about the books you talk about.

Thank you.

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Post #4 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:13 am 
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Whether Hollywood is to blame for anything I leave to culturologists.

If any of John's musings in this regard have had an impact on my thinking about Go, it's the repeated reference to the concept of "ijime" and the suggested translation of "bullying".

We probably derive many of our spontaneous strategic/tactic concepts in Go from a mental framework fed by Chess (another conjecture), where killing the king is the objective. Bullying the king is often seen but it always has the end objective of killing. This is different in Go, where bullying a group can result in killing but only if the opponent chooses to ignore. And it is even possible that the bullying is inefficient and the opponent sacrifices with good feeling. The desired outcome of bullying is more like gaining more strength for one's own group, more influence towards area to be developed, aka "attack for profit".

The concept is not entirely absent in Chess. Double check, discovered attack, which is an application of pinning, ... these are elementary tactics which apply pressure without an immediate aim for check mate.

I don't know how to employ these analogons in Go, if at all useful, but such references may help us getting out of the crude thinking in terms of "territory" as "this surrounded area is mine" and "attacking to kill". The better conceptual investment may be to familiarize ourselves with Japanese terminology, which has harnessed the underlying concepts throughout the ages, with help from people like John, but for someone like me it goes the other way round: I get a feeling for the word ijime by getting the concept. The best job "ijime" does for me is that it means nothing else to me. The translation to bullying destroys that virtue but replaces it with a more helpful mental picture.

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Post #5 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 5:08 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
The concept is not entirely absent in Chess. Double check, discovered attack, which is an application of pinning, ... these are elementary tactics which apply pressure without an immediate aim for check mate.


You also have a much closer concept in chess, where you bully the queen (or another piece) to gain space and developpement. Your opponent will spend several moves moving a single piece, while you move several pieces, and gain a better position by doing so.

And much like in go, if you push too far the bullying, you can overextend and open yourself to a counter-attack

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Post #6 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:10 am 
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The concept is not entirely absent in Chess. Double check, discovered attack, which is an application of pinning, ... these are elementary tactics which apply pressure without an immediate aim for check mate.


I don't think this is remotely anything to do with ijime. Before I explain, allow me to make some prefatory remarks to set the right mood of inquiry.

When I was reasonably young in my working career, I still had very limited managerial experience. It was also before the "change is the new black" fashion swept across the business world. It was only later that I was faced with the challenge of introducing new changes such as technology into the office. I then became aware of a variety of attitudes towards change, and also a variety of attitudes towards self-improvement, which can be a process of radical change. I am now attuned to seeing these attitudes reflected in these pages (and elsewhere in life, of course).

In that light, two attitudes stand out to me on this forum. One is that people often ask for help with self-improvement, but it turns out they don't really want help - they want praise. The other common attitude is that people don't really want to change - they want to modify. They want to fit any advice into what they already know and are anchored to. They don't really want to venture into new territory.

I hasten to add that, with the exception perhaps of smowflakes, I do not condemn resistance to change. I have seen too many cases when an MBA type comes in, makes drastic changes to a system he doesn't understand, upsets everybody except his bosses who also worship at the shrine of change, accordingly gets promoted, and leaves. The workers are left to sort out the mess and go back (mostly) to the old system, which was there for a reason - it worked.

I also remember vividly a chess grandmaster who spoke warmly of shogi. When we tried to get him to consider taking up shogi full-time in Japan, as he could make much more money there if he succeeded, he tellingly said that he had spent so many thousand hours on chess, he couldn't face throwing that all away to try something new. I think most people would share that view. On the other hand, I have also (as a journalist) interviewed people who have done things like selling up their entire chattels and setting off around the world in a small sailing boat, with no sailing experience (and coming up with a smiling face after subsequent shipwreck on a reef). Although my personal opinion of that initially may have been, as per Rowen and Martin's Laugh-in, "interesting but stoopid", even to this day I feel a warm glow of admiration.

Personally, I'd say I'm very open to change. But I often wrestle unsuccessfully with a problem and moan when I can't find the answer. My daughters will look at me quizzically and say, "Why don't you Google it?" Duh! I just haven't acquired the mindset to think of using technology for these things. My first port of call is books. I'm not quite as bad as the granny who says, "I can't do digital currency. I'm still on pounds, shillings pence." But I still think in Fahrenheit and social distancing is two yards for me.

So, no slings and arrows intended, but the above quote and other comments in knotwilg's post do come across to me as trying to fit modifications into an existing framework rather than accepting change per se. Not only do I think that's fine (and do it myself), it probably makes a huge amount of sense, psychologically if nothing else, for amateurs with limited time. Not to mention the fear of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The mental trick I have used is to try to "enjoy" the proposed change. I don't commit myself to implementing it, or working hard on it. I just read about it in as much time as I can spare and wallow in the fun of watching other people's minds doing the work. It's the equivalent of watching workmen on a building site, where spectating is so normal that building contractors put little windows in their hoardings. Every once in a while I do get inspired to really try something new for myself, but it's the exception that proves the rule.

This is not for want of good examples. Lately, as lockdown continues, I have been watching a lot of masterclasses on Youtube, mostly for opera singers. (The lockdown also explains all these recent long outpourings of mine.) The typical scenario is young singer - usually winner of a major prize - sings an aria in what I think it is a superb performance. Then old diva stands up and tells them all their mistakes. At this point I am often squirming with embarrassment on behalf of the young singer. But then two things strike me. One is that the young singer takes no offence and instantly implements the changes (apart from a non-snowflake mentality that shows huge skill, in my opinion). The second thing I notice is how much better the song sounds the second time round, with the diva's changes. I then ponder whether I should likewise be responding to possible changes as readily. Then I go and make a coffee and grab a biscuit.

All I am saying really is that we all need to approach change with a mood of inquiry. How far each of us goes with it is a matter of personal choice and circumstances. But at the very least we can have fun seeing how other people think.

So here's my take on ijime.

First, it's not a technical concept. It's common in Japanese pro commentaries but is just an ordinary word in daily life. Especially school life.

Quote:
The translation to bullying destroys that virtue but replaces it with a more helpful mental picture.

If you want a mental image that both expresses what ijime is and ensures you'll never forget it, visualise an archetypal image from the Japanese playground: group of boys lift up girl's dress and knot it over her head. So-called "tulip" girl staggers round helplessly. Boys stagger round just as helplessly with laughter.

Ijime cannot really be a concept because it relies on a mistake by the opponent. You can't go into a game with a plan to play in an ijime way. You can't study tactics for it. It is simply a matter of spotting a weakness in the opponent's position and then bullying him, usually in crude and brutal ways. It's a one-way process. As nasty on the go board as it is in real life. In real life, though, the bully sometimes gets his come-uppance. On the go board the spindly weakie not only gets sand kicked in his face, but he also gets stamped in to the beach with an ice-cream cornet stuck on his head, and the bully always gets the girl. Go can be tougher than real life sometimes.

It's also important to understand what ijime is not. It is not forcing moves. A player may not want to be forced, but if he is he hasn't lost anything, beyond maybe a sliver of an opportunity to do something else later. It is not yoritsuki, which is a strategy, and one the opponent could ignore if he wanted to, and can certainly manoeuvre so as to attenuate it. It is too crude to bless it with the name 'attack'. It is certainly not 'attack and kill' (or checkmate). It's more akin to pulling legs off spiders.

Because it's not a definable concept, you have to learn it by examples. You can't have an ijime-1 and ijime-2. You can't stick numbers on it.

Here's one shortish example. Here Shuei is the bully. The triangled move should have been a move in the playground in the lower-left corner.



Bullying can be done on a smaller scale than this, but the characteristics are complete enclosure, one-way loss, no ajikeshi, and the bully ends in sente.

At the other end of the scale, here is a not-quite-famous example where ijime bullying lasts for over 80 moves from move 84. It's not-quite-famous because the game record became corrupted after about move 212, and so is a flawed jewel, but Maeda Nobuaki was the bully. Seeing this example you might consider calling Maeda the God of Ijime as well as the God of Tsumego. For those of us who like to watch men at work rather than doing the work ourselves, a nicely entertaining touch here is that Black clearly though he was going to be the bully when he played 83. But he ended up with a group of 40+ stones that made barely earned more than two eyes.



At least at an aesthetic level it's fair to ask why we should take much notice of crude moves that punish an unfortunate mistake. The answer is that we shouldn't. We should be taking notice instead of the weak shapes that result in being bullied. We have to learn to pre-empt bullying. In terms of our tulip girl, we need to do the go equivalent of going to school in trousers or a shorter dress, or carrying a can of Mace, or getting a Rottweiler and so on ad infinitum. Or, to invent a new concept, simply learn to recognise tulip groups. Or if you don't like radical change and prefer grafting on to older models, learn - as I mentioned earlier - to think like a pro: "All groups are weak".


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Post #7 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 9:28 am 
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What is the original Chinese characters name of the book Bugu Bian?


不古编

Incidentally, just to reinforce the theme of talking about go in military terms and to show it's not me being fanciful, Wu begins his preface to this book as follows:

予喜读“易”,性亦爱棋,即军中不废。尝玩“师”卦, 有悟于经世圣贤以教全生之义。 于是知棋又通于“易”。

For others, Wu is explaining how reading one of his favourite books The Book of Changes (Go Seigen's favourite book, too) enabled him to understand more about go. He cites in particular the Army hexagram (No. 7). It's slightly more accurate to take its original meaning of 'multitude' but that belongs to the days of peasant armies. In Wu's time it was about leading professional armies.

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Post #8 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:34 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
I'm not quite as bad as the granny who says, "I can't do digital currency. I'm still on pounds, shillings pence."


How many pennies to the shilling? I remember the old 1 & 2 shilling coins used in the 80s. Because if it's the old system... I buy groceries in pounds and ounces. And yet, I live in metric and I'm a generation younger than you.

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This is not for want of good examples. Lately, as lockdown continues, I have been watching a lot of masterclasses on Youtube, mostly for opera singers. [...] Then old diva stands up and tells them all their mistakes. [...] then two things strike me. One is that the young singer takes no offence and instantly implements the changes (apart from a non-snowflake mentality that shows huge skill, in my opinion). The second thing I notice is how much better the song sounds the second time round, with the diva's changes.


I was told something similar in Kendo some years ago. A Japanese instructor complained that too many people (specially Westerners; other lapses were more frequent with Japanese) didn't correct when he explained a mistake. He didn't expect instant mastery, not even a change in the *right* direction. But he wanted something to change, to show that there was an new intent.

I think Go has it easier, in the sense that you can try new things and not get knocked over, or KNOW you're going to get beaten blue (literally; kendogi leak color like smurf potion). And I'm waiting for a (correspondence) game of mine to end so I can try some bouts of 5-x openings. And yet...

Thanks for your information. Take care.

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Post #9 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 11:20 am 
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<off-topic>
Talking about shillings... When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I traveled several times to England, and I saved a few coins - pence, shillings and pounds. When I came back to London in 2010 and tried to buy underground tickets with my shillings, the employee gave me a strange look and, after some hesitation, told me politely that "this is not valid currency".
</off-topic>

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Post #10 Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:38 pm 
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Talking about shillings... When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I traveled several times to England, and I saved a few coins - pence, shillings and pounds. When I came back to London in 2010 and tried to buy underground tickets with my shillings, the employee gave me a strange look and, after some hesitation, told me politely that "this is not valid currency".


This reaction has long been common within England for English visitors returning from Scotland, and has become much commoner over the past few years through having so many people working from Europe working in shops and cafes. The reaction is not usually polite but more one of panic.

Scotland has its own banknote currency and it looks quite different (queen-free incidentally). There used to be coins as well. When I was little the silver threepenny bit was still common in the north of Britain, the whole of which was under Scottish influence in burying degrees. By then, though, they were mainly for insertion into plum duff at Christmas, or were in the gift of the tooth fairy.

The notes are a bit messy to cope with outwith Scotland because of lack of familiarity. I think most people outside Britain might be shocked at how few southern English people have been to Scotland. Another problem is that Scotland gas £100 notes and there are still £1 notes in circulation (I saw one on my last trip there). England has neither. Associated with that is the technical problem is that Scottish notes are legal currency but not legal tender, but even leaving that aside, shops are not actually obliged to take any notes, even English ones. Because of counterfeiting, £50 notes are routinely declined. A while back £20 notes were being refused.

Northern Ireland also has its own banknotes. The latest ones feature the famous Bushmills Distillery.

See how much more interesting the world is when it's not all swamped by KFC and McDonalds and pizza and Japanese cars and Hollywood films. And Scottish whisky, come to that. The occasional whiskey instead goes down a treat. Or Guinness. So long as you don't get fluthered. Or else all the numpty noos will end up dishin' out slaps as if it was their mammy's wedding again.

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Post #11 Posted: Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:36 pm 
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I was reading a text on go theory that has been attributed to Huang Longshi. The history of the book is both obscure and convoluted, but given its length, its detail, its novelty and its confident, masterly tone, this treatise on theory is probably the most important in Chinese go history.

One piece of advice brought me up sharp:

"An attack must be made from the outside, not from the inside - except for the corners, which should be attacked from the inside and the outside."

First, I'd never thought of that way of looking at things. Second, it seems all the more remarkable given that group tax applied. And third, it looks like DeepHuang got there nearly four centuries before DeepMind.

There are also eight kinds of enclosing moves of varying degrees of looseness: what we call nets or getas but he calls doorways (for good reason, incidentally). My favourite is the Golden Tortoise Doorway.

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