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 Post subject: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #1 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:08 pm 
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I'm still a relatively new player, as I have not had the chance to play much. Still, I have read a few books and watched plenty of videos and streams about Go.

I know a few Fuseki and Joseki, I've done Tsumego, and I've learned about shapes. But nowhere I've looked explains how or why shapes are good or bad.


"Go for Beginners" (by Kaoru Iwamoto) explains that a 2-point jump during a standard approach to a 4-4 point "makes a base" because it gives space for eyes and can't be cut. This is the only example of "explaining shape" I have ever found!

I know that 1-space jumps are good, that bamboo joints are strong (they can't be cut, so that one is obvious), and that empty triangles are bad etc. But when I am trying to invade or reduce or just make eyes, I want to know how these shapes are helping me do various things (or not).

Granted, I wouldn't play at all if I understood EVERY move (my opponents or my own)! But it's difficult to take concepts being presented to me as "good" or worth imitating, and see how they ARE good if they aren't explained to me.

It reminds me of playing with a friend of mine, it was the very first day he had played, I gave him 9 stones and he said, "I don't think it will matter. I don't even know how to use them." Good shape isn't "Good" when you don't know how to take advantage of it.

So apart from playing/viewing game after game after game, guessing as to what moves/shapes were good and why, does anyone have suggestions about learning the "how" and "why" of basic shapes?

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Post #2 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:12 pm 
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This is not an easy question to answer. I would recommend just playing and observing shapes. See which work and which don't and when they don't ask yourself why not, how did the opponent take advantage. That experience will probably answer the question much better than any book.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #3 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:19 pm 
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Get the free ebook Shape Up from an authorized site as linked on SL.
http://senseis.xmp.net/?ShapeUp

If you want to buy a book on shapes, I suggest "Making Good Shapes" from Kiseido.
http://www.kiseido.com/master.htm#K73

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #4 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:23 pm 
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The Sensei's Library page on shape says "stones have good shape when they are connected or will easily be connected, make an eye or will easily make an eye with a minimum number of stones, and maintain a certain amount of flexibility." This is very broad, but it is a pretty good rule of thumb for evaluating shape.

The author of this page at Sensei's Library has disavowed his previous ideas, but it could be helpful for gaining an understanding of good and bad shape. The primary problem with that page, and with your question in general, is that shapes taken out of context cannot be universally said to be good or bad. There are rules of thumb, to be sure, but the situation in the local fight trumps any broad generalizations we might like to form.

The freely distributed book Shape Up shows many good shapes along with specific examples on why those shapes are good.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #5 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:33 pm 
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jeromie wrote:
shapes taken out of context cannot be universally said to be good or bad



This is quite true. I have seen an empty triangle spring to life and create an eye to save a group. The potential on the board or in a local area can certainly change things.

However, I'm not looking for "universally" good shapes. I'm just wondering why people call shapes good, or strong, or bad for that matter. I have seen pros, or stronger players than myself, explain why a move was a mistake quite a few times. But it's difficult for me to abstract the specific context of that move in that game, into an abstract concept or "shape" to attempt to apply in my own games.

I figured the resounding answer to this question would be "play more games", as that is usually the answer to most of my questions ;-)

I will certainly take a look at that "shape up" book that has been suggested though! Thank you all for your comments.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #6 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:40 pm 
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I don't mean to dismiss your question. I think it's a good one, and shape is a useful concept when playing. As I'm growing stronger, the shapes that will remain when a sequence is finished is becoming a heuristic I more frequently rely on to make decisions. I just think it's important to recognize the limitations of the answers you will find, too. Sounds like you've already got a good handle on that!

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Post #7 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:49 pm 
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Quote:
I'm just wondering why people call shapes good, or strong, or bad for that matter.
As DrStraw mentioned, it's an excellent question, but quite difficult to answer.

Another angle: a move or shape is good if it's efficient (best if it's the most efficient available) for the global board situation. You may say that's just a truism -- substituting 'good' with 'efficient' and 'bad' with 'inefficient' -- and in a way, it is. But maybe it's a little better than to associate good with pretty and bad with ugly; rather, it's not the appearance of a move or shape that matters, but its function ( efficiency ). Your empty triangle is a very good example.

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Post #8 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:53 pm 
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shapes are mostly good or bad due to liberties, and to how they relate to, or interact with other nearby groups of stones (both friend and foe)

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Post #9 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:09 pm 
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An excellent book series (that is not necessarily aimed at beginners) that attempts to do something along these lines is Shuko's Dictionary of Basic Tesuji. Slate and Shell has some sample pages that hopefully help explain. Basically you can start with the idea of "I would like to cut two groups" and the book will show you several shapes that have the potential to cut other shapes in the right circumstance, then shows examples of how they work and don't work.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #10 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:45 pm 
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Hm, let me try:

Good shape is an efficient shape. It's the shape with the fewest stones that achieves its objective, either jumping away, creating more liberties, making eye space, etc. Bad shape, on the other hand, is inefficient, with too many stones played, or no eyes, or can easily be cut, etc.

As an example, the empty triangle is usually a bad shape because it has a shortage of liberties problem compared with any other configuration of 3 stones. It doesn't make eyes (by itself), and it doesn't have much influence.

Example of good shapes:
  • One space jump is hard to cut without strength around it. It's also faster than extending from a single stone.
  • Tiger's mouth makes eye shape with the potential of ponnuki. It can't be cut, and has plenty of liberties (though a peep could make an empty triangle).
  • Knight's move can't be cut without a favorable ladder. It can put pressure on a group while remaining strong and extending a group out (dual purpose moves!).
  • Bamboo joint can't be cut (except through shortage of liberties).
  • Diagonal can't be cut (but is slow, in most cases).
  • Table shape is a connected shape that has potential to make eyes.

Some bad shapes:
  • Hane at the head of two (or three) creates a shortage of liberties, may force an empty triangle, and allows you to be pushed around.
  • Dango/Dumpling (B2 bomber, for example) due to no eyes.
  • Split shape since you're divided into two weak groups that must now live separately.

In general, when reviewing a position, you want to find the most efficient move. During this review process, see what stones you can remove as unnecessary while still achieving the objective. Then the good shapes will become more evident.

Like tchan001 and jeromie said, I'd recommend Shape Up as a primer. With more tesuji and tsumego practice, and in reviewing games, you'll start to see why certain shapes are better. And how to force your opponent into bad shape.

I've recently learned that I have a bad habit of making a two space jump. While its not a bad shape, it can easily be cut. Without supporting strength, its better to make the one space jump.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #11 Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:45 pm 
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Ninjaboots wrote:
I'm still a relatively new player, as I have not had the chance to play much. Still, I have read a few books and watched plenty of videos and streams about Go.

I know a few Fuseki and Joseki, I've done Tsumego, and I've learned about shapes. But nowhere I've looked explains how or why shapes are good or bad.


Yes, there are books that offer such explanations, but not so many in the Western literature.

Quote:
I know that 1-space jumps are good, that bamboo joints are strong (they can't be cut, so that one is obvious), and that empty triangles are bad etc. But when I am trying to invade or reduce or just make eyes, I want to know how these shapes are helping me do various things (or not).

Granted, I wouldn't play at all if I understood EVERY move (my opponents or my own)! But it's difficult to take concepts being presented to me as "good" or worth imitating, and see how they ARE good if they aren't explained to me.


Well, there is hope. You can learn how to utilize good shape by playing it. (If you don't play it, you cannot learn how to use it, can you? ;)) Bad shape is in general self punishing, and good shape is in general self rewarding. It can be easier to make use of good shape than to see it in the first place.

There is a fair amount of material on shape here. For instance, here is a good thread: viewtopic.php?t=8136 And here is a reference page on Sensei's Library: http://senseis.xmp.net/?Shape

Good luck! :D

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #12 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:00 am 
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Ninjaboots wrote:
I'm still a relatively new player, as I have not had the chance to play much. Still, I have read a few books and watched plenty of videos and streams about Go.
[...]
does anyone have suggestions about learning the "how" and "why" of basic shapes?


See viewtopic.php?p=209103#p209103

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #13 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 4:35 am 
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tchan001 wrote:
If you want to buy a book on shapes, I suggest "Making Good Shapes" from Kiseido.
http://www.kiseido.com/master.htm#K73

This is a very good book, that DOES explain the why's behind good shape.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #14 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 8:56 am 
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See also this thread: www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5825 :)

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #15 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 9:23 am 
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Bill Spight wrote:
See also this thread: viewtopic.php?t=5825 :)

well, most of that thread was pointless bickering, though somewhat entertaining :)
it was nice to hear from TMark again :)

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #16 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:45 pm 
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Good shapes give you potential eyes, maintain connection and allow you to develop from the shape easily by making extra moves.

That is in most cases.

If you play good shapes you will have less problems.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #17 Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:17 pm 
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Since others have already given much more valuable advice than I ever could, I take liberty to ponder about the topic title.

My first spontaneous thought when I first read the title has stuck with me and been going around in my head since then:

IMHO, it should rather be The “Where” and “When” of Shapes because that’s all that matters: context. (Though I think others have said things here which point in the same direction.)


There’s a whole zoo of named shapes … here are just a few:


A shape often described as “good shape” can be totally useless if played prematurely or too late, or simply in the wrong place. A “bad shape” like the Empty Triangle can save your life when the situation gets crowded (cf. The Good Empty Triangle).


Just a few thoughts that sprung from my confused ~10k mind that loves words and language ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #18 Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:14 am 
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I read Shape Up several years ago, and loved it. Until I read that book, I was mystified anytime people said something was good/bad shape. I should have another look at it soon, as there were a few ideas that were beyond me when I first read it.

Making Good Shape is nice, but I feel like you have to be a little further along to appreciate it.

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 Post subject: Re: The "How" and "Why" of Shapes
Post #19 Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:47 am 
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Thanks to all for the suggestions and thoughts.

I have been trying to focus on basics lately: staying connected, looking for weak groups to support or attack, and doing life and death problems. Shape is just a concept that baffles me a bit. I know "good shape" is shape that leaves room for eyes, that lets you connect, prevents cuts etc. But it's sometimes difficult (for me at least, as a beginner) to watch a stronger player "make shape" and understand how these goals are met by their moves.

Bonobo wrote:
The “Where” and “When” of Shapes


This may have been a better title, in a way. Clearly shapes have a "time" and "place", they are neither "good" nor "bad" in themselves. Understanding what makes them "good" or "bad" in the right time and place, however, is my difficulty. So if I've already got an answer to the "where" and "when", I think the title still applies (such as when I am watching a stronger player and I can see the "where" and "when" but I don't understand "how" it helps them reach their goals).


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