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 Post subject: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #1 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:39 am 
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I have a tendency to get ahead in a game, play too aggressively, and then lose when I could have easily won by playing more conservatively. So, I've been working on trying to play it safe in these situations. But I've been surprised by how hard this has been.

My question is the following: A big part of go is knowing when a group needs attention and balancing local and global needs. So, in an even game, I'd read out the position to the best of my ability and use that to determine whether to tenuki. If I'm ahead, should I be thinking something along the following lines: "This group is weak. Based on my reading of the position, I can tenuki, but since I'm ahead, I should still play locally to hedge against a reading mistake by ensuring that the group is alive."

If so, any guidance on how to decide when to hedge? Clearly, being ahead is a necessary condition, but how secure does a group have to be before one should forgo the hedge?

Clearly there is no general answer to this question. Instead, I'm wondering if others had or have rules of thumb or guidelines that they changed as they improved. For example -- if someone had a habit of misreading cuts, then at any point where the potential for a cut arose in a game in which they had a solid lead, they might consider hedging and playing the safe move.

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #2 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:58 am 
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Unless I'm massively ahead (e.g. I could pass twice and still have it be a good game), I rarely ever play any moves that I wouldn't consider playing normally. Instead, when deciding between alternatives that I consider to be both possible as far as I can tell or judge to be similarly good, I'll bias towards the one that's simpler or more solid. When behind, I do the reverse.

In the late part of the game, this often involves being slightly more proactive about playing macroendgame moves that also make things more secure - big moves that I would normally play anyways very soon, but just playing them a little earlier. Often in any position that isn't totally finished, there are profitable followup moves that will continue to settle the situation, which I strongly prefer over purely protective moves. The main thing to be wary of is endgame moves that destabilize things, such as pushes or pokes that reduce your own liberties.


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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #3 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 9:54 am 
Judan

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Point is to minimize risk.

Think about the feeling you have when you’re losing the game. You need to find a chance to make a comeback. A good way to do this is to make things complicated for both sides. Maybe your chance will come.

Conversely, when you are winning, don’t try to make things complicated. Try to find a way to finish up the game. That is, don’t give your opponent the chance to make things complicated.

I wouldn’t advocate playing unnecessary moves. I’d advocate trying to wrap up the game with minimal risk, whatever that means to you.

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #4 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 11:47 am 
Judan

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BlindGroup wrote:
I have a tendency to get ahead in a game, play too aggressively, and then lose when I could have easily won by playing more conservatively. So, I've been working on trying to play it safe in these situations. But I've been surprised by how hard this has been.

My question is the following: A big part of go is knowing when a group needs attention and balancing local and global needs. So, in an even game, I'd read out the position to the best of my ability and use that to determine whether to tenuki. If I'm ahead, should I be thinking something along the following lines: "This group is weak. Based on my reading of the position, I can tenuki, but since I'm ahead, I should still play locally to hedge against a reading mistake by ensuring that the group is alive."

If so, any guidance on how to decide when to hedge? Clearly, being ahead is a necessary condition, but how secure does a group have to be before one should forgo the hedge?

Clearly there is no general answer to this question. Instead, I'm wondering if others had or have rules of thumb or guidelines that they changed as they improved. For example -- if someone had a habit of misreading cuts, then at any point where the potential for a cut arose in a game in which they had a solid lead, they might consider hedging and playing the safe move.


It sounds like you would benefit from learning about shape and thickness. Thickness is the more difficult topic, as you may be able to tell by discussion about it here. ;) But you should develop a good feel about thickness to get to shodan. Also, if you play thickly, your thickness will support aggressive play, and you won't have to worry so much about playing safe. :)

As it turns out, I started a thread about shape and thickness a couple of years ago. :) Link: forum/viewtopic.php?t=11896 It says it is for DDKs, and some of the material will be quite a bit below your level. But you may find it helpful. :)

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #5 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:57 pm 
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Bill Spight wrote:
It sounds like you would benefit from learning about shape and thickness. Thickness is the more difficult topic, as you may be able to tell by discussion about it here. ;) But you should develop a good feel about thickness to get to shodan. Also, if you play thickly, your thickness will support aggressive play, and you won't have to worry so much about playing safe. :)

As it turns out, I started a thread about shape and thickness a couple of years ago. :) Link: https://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11896 It says it is for DDKs, and some of the material will be quite a bit below your level. But you may find it helpful. :)


Thanks, Bill. I read through the first few posts and the first game. This is good stuff! It will definitely help.

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #6 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:01 pm 
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I sympathize. I don't think it's that easy. But what does it mean to be ahead?

One common definition of being ahead is saying, "one is ahead if one has a higher probability of winning the game." But what is meant by probability? Fraction of games won with Monte Carlo playout? Humans are not Monte Carlo generators. We have to use our Spidey sense.

Look at the board from your opponent's point of view. Really do that. It's a good habit. As this player, pretend you are behind only because you gave a big handicap to a weaker player and are still not done exploiting all aji, etc. What evil thing would you do?

Then, go back to your own view and try to prevent that evil thing. In sente, if possible. Gote moves that don't have follow-ups burn away a lead faster than you might think. I've spilled a lot of points and lost games for the love of gote. It's not good.

I think sometimes---I am not strong enough to say exactly when---it is possible to start "fixing the position" by starting the endgame early. I think that mostly works when the balance of power is about equal or in your favor but you are ahead on territory.

Another way of being ahead---by being much thicker but a bit behind on territory---requires a different strategy. Too many players panic and try to kill something or make a severe attack that may be asking too much from the position. Of course, if this works, why not do it? Get the dopamine rush. Learn something, maybe. But sometimes it may be better to appreciate that if your shapes really are stronger, your opponent owes you some moves at some point. You will get some extra sente in the endgame. So patience helps.

Sometimes I think we just lose because we try to win too fast. :(


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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #7 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:09 pm 
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One other thing worth keeping in mind is that there are multiple ways of "playing it safe". For example:

A: Playing some sente moves that give you 90% of what you're entitled to in an area, at the expense of losing the ability to use some aji and letting your opponent stabilize some territory that might have been invadable.

B: Playing a single gote move that does absolutely nothing (and might even be worth -1 point) just to be absolutely 100% sure that a group of yours that you haven't totally read out is alive.

If you are ahead by 20 points, type A moves are probably fine. Type B moves are really dangerous. Moves in the middle game are usually worth at least 10 points, so if you make just two zero-points-in-gote-just-being-really-sure moves, you may already have blown your whole lead.


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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #8 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:16 pm 
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BlindGroup wrote:
I've been working on trying to play it safe ...any guidance on how to decide when to hedge? ...Clearly there is no general answer to this question.
Clearly it is not true that there is no general answer, but it is apparent that the general answer is not generally known or understood and sometimes not even considered - for example many of my opponents typically "go for broke", ignoring the safety of their own groups in a single-minded determination to kill one of mine.

Swim addresses the general problems of judging when to play safe and how to go about it in a general way, by first establishing perceptions of group status according to general principles of connectibility and eyeshape that do not involve reading (colour maps), examining the importance of weak groups, and then seeking ways of defending one's own weak and important groups and ways of attacking weak and important opponent groups.

Imagining a colour map in your own head requires patient application; you can approximate it by working your way out and around from obviously-connected stones in a kind of widening spiral, which is how the colour map algorithm works.

If you'd like to see how Swim goes about this in a position from one of your own games, post it to http://www.lifein19x19.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=14223

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #9 Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 11:22 pm 
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The first question is why do you think you are ahead in any given game? Is it just a gut feeling, or do you have at least a rough count of the board? In the former, you might not be ahead as you think, which is why the moves that play it safe result in a loss. If the latter, it comes down to having the patience to know that a strong position now will enable you to play without worries later.

I wish I could offer practical advice, but this is something I am working on in my own play.


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Post #10 Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 11:46 am 
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Just count and be aware of sente :-)


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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #11 Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:05 pm 
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If you really are ahead, playing safe means not taking risks, as has been said above. Play useful moves but don't start complicated fights. Where there are areas where your opponent can cause trouble, settle the shape to remove potential complications. The great Japanese master Kobayashi Koichi was famous for きめうち (kimeuchi), playing simply and settling shapes.

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Post #12 Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:13 pm 
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WiseMouse wrote:
The first question is why do you think you are ahead in any given game? Is it just a gut feeling, or do you have at least a rough count of the board?


Fair question! For some reason, I tend to significantly underestimate my points. So, I could have a 20-30 point lead in fairly definite territory and not realize it. And my instructor will often look at my games and say, "No, you are ahead. You shouldn't be taking risks. You should be simplifying the game." This may seem odd, but to address this, I have actually started to practice counting the score in my old games. For example, I try not to use the score estimation function in sgf editors, but count the score and then check to see if it is reasonably close to the estimates. That has really helped a lot. I have a counting method that I now seem to be able to implement efficiently (https://senseis.xmp.net/?SteveFawthrop%2FCounting), and I'm getting better at judging when I don't have time to count.

Here are two concrete examples from a recent game that might make my problem clearer:

Example 1 (move 105 below):

I rarely have enough time late in a game on KGS to count (even under the 25min 5x30s byomi). In this case, I had the time, but thought I was ahead by a decent margin. Ironically, I was trying to simplify when I played the marked stone, but given white's deficit, expecting him to quietly defend on the bottom was naïve. I now think that C would have been a better "safe" move. I also considered A, but again, this seemed risky. I think I can kill white if white didn't defend, but I'm not 100% sure. I could easily see white ignoring A and playing to invade my moyo. If I then failed to kill the white group, that could be a problem. Similarly, I rejected B as too risky. In the past, I would have played B without a second thought.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$c
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . X . . . . . . . O . . . . |
$$ | . . O O X . . . . . . O O O X O O O . |
$$ | . . . X . X X . . X . . X X X X X O . |
$$ | . . X X . . . X X . . . . . . . X X . |
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X . . . . . . O . . |
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | O . O X . . . O . . X . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O O X . . . . . , . . . . . , . . . |
$$ | . O X . X O . . . X . . . . . X . . . |
$$ | . O X . . O . O . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . a . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | O X X . . . X . . . . . . . . X X . . |
$$ | . O X . . . X . . . . . c . . . O . . |
$$ | . O X O X X O O O , . B . . . O . . . |
$$ | . X O X X O X . . . . b . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O O O . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]


Example 2 (move 119 below):

Later in the same game, I made this move. The marked stones can (I think) connect up or to the left, but in retrospect, I think that this was much too risky. Just playing A still leaves black with a very comfortable lead.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$c
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . X . . . . . . . O . . . . |
$$ | . . O O X . . . . . . O O O X O O O . |
$$ | . . . X . X X . . X . . X X X X X O . |
$$ | . . X X . . . X X . . . . . . . X X . |
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X . . . . . . O . . |
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | O . O X . . . O . . X . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O O X . . . . . , . X . X . , . . . |
$$ | . O X . X O . . . X . a O . . X . . . |
$$ | . O X . . O . O . . . . . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . . . . Y . O X . . . . |
$$ | O X X . . . X . . . . . . O . X X . . |
$$ | . O X . . . X . . . . . Y O . X O . . |
$$ | . O X O X X O O O , . Y . . O O . . . |
$$ | . X O X X O X . . . O B . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O O O . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]


In case it matters, here is the full game:

At least in this case, these risks didn't prove fatal.


Edited: Minor rewrite of a sentence to clarify and fixed coordinates on the figures.


Attachments:
L19 Game 1.sgf [8.04 KiB]
Downloaded 162 times


Last edited by BlindGroup on Mon Nov 06, 2017 4:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #13 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:19 am 
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My (very possibly mistaken) thoughts on move 105 in the game you posted.

Before being risky or not, this move (b105) strikes me as jealous. In the end, black destroys around 15 points of potential white territory (columns L to O, rows 1 to 4) but he loses more or less the same amount because of w's moves at O5-8 and N9 (and black also lost the potential invasion in w's bottom right corner). So on this ground alone the invasion at 105 doesn't seem that interesting to me.

Then there is the riskiness, yes. White's positions at J4 and O3 are quite strong so b is the only one who will struggle here. This also makes 105 not that interesting and, combined with my first point, it means I probably wouldn't play 105 even if I were behind in points. It doesn't change the territorial balance and it just doesn't put enough pressure on white (to induce him in making a mistake for instance).

The alternative you offer (playing at N5) I prefer very much. It may still be a bit risky though if w plays at O5 and crosscut. Safer moves in this area are N6, maybe O5. To expand a bit on this (because it is related to the safeness idea) : what is the difference (in w's territory at the bottom) between black playing N5 or N6? Maybe 3 points (around L4-M4-N4)? If black is 20 points ahead, are these 3 points worth taking any risk (w's crosscut at O5/N6)?

Sorry for the rambling aspect of these.


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Post #14 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 4:38 am 
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Shenoute wrote:
The alternative you offer (playing at N5) I prefer very much. It may still be a bit risky though if w plays at O5 and crosscut. Safer moves in this area are N6, maybe O5. To expand a bit on this (because it is related to the safeness idea) : what is the difference (in w's territory at the bottom) between black playing N5 or N6? Maybe 3 points (around L4-M4-N4)? If black is 20 points ahead, are these 3 points worth taking any risk (w's crosscut at O5/N6)?

Sorry for the rambling aspect of these.


This is great feedback, and exactly what I was hoping for (and not rambling at all!). So, thanks! I agree that N6 is probably better. I think the more general lesson for me here is that I need to think a little harder about how my opponent could respond in these situations.

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #15 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 4:49 am 
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Your game is a perfect example for your question.

I think all eyes go immediately to the top left corner: have you really figured out what happens if White plays the 2-2 point there (B18) ? I can't do that in just a few seconds.

So, given the fact that otherwise the game looks fairly even, perhaps you having the advantage of the bigger moyo center to right, I'd grab the loot in the top left, shifting the balance with some 20+ points, even if the move is not 100% necessary.

A more ambitious way to kill these stones is probably to descend to the first line at A13, preventing a link up, but that requires reading.

Otherwise, you are right: playing on the border of two moyos is probably even bigger than that and your suggestion of playing C instead of your move, is something I can agree with. But boy does that top left corner itch!

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Post #16 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 5:11 am 
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For first diagram, if o5 is enough to win, why not? BlindGroup, how did you count top left? Like Knotwilg suggested it's unsettled, but even so I wouldn't play there as it's essentially a very large endgame move with no effect on the rest of the board and if you o5, white lives in gote, and you get another move to close centre and reduce lower side you presumably win. Also from a psychological standpoint maybe white doesn't realise it can live, in which case you can kill it later (a bit of a naughty approach, but effective).

As for 2nd, I spy troubles. Note ugly 5 here (making empty triangle, often a is better) was key to take liberty (so capturing 2 stones is sente) and just manage to live in my first kill attempt. Maybe some preparation at b could make it harder to connect to left.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . X . . . . . . . O . . . . |
$$ | . . O O X . . . . . . O O O X O O O . |
$$ | . . . X . X X . . X . . X X X X X O . |
$$ | . . X X . . . X X . . . . . . . X X . |
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X . . . . . . O . . |
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | O . O X . . . O . . X . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O O X . . . . . , . X . X . , . . . |
$$ | . O X . X O . . . X . . O . . X . . . |
$$ | . O X . . O . O . . 6 . . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . . 0 9 X . O X . . . . |
$$ | O X X . . . X . . . 2 3 . O . X X . . |
$$ | . O X . . b X . . . 4 5 X O . X O . . |
$$ | . O X O X X O O O 8 7 X a . O O . . . |
$$ | . X O X X O X . . . O 1 . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O O O . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . X . . . . . . . O . . . . |
$$ | . . O O X . . . . . . O O O X O O O . |
$$ | . . . X . X X . . X . . X X X X X O . |
$$ | . . X X . . . X X . . . . . . . X X . |
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X . . . . . . O . . |
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | O . O X . . . O . . X . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O O X . . . . . , . X . X . , . . . |
$$ | . O X . X O . . . X 4 2 O . . X . . . |
$$ | . O X . . O . O . 3 O 1 . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . 6 O X X . O X . . . . |
$$ | O X X . . . X . 8 5 O X . O . X X . . |
$$ | . O X . . . X . . 7 O X X O . X O . . |
$$ | . O X O X X O O O O X X . . O O . . . |
$$ | . X O X X O X . . 9 O X . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O O O . . . 0 . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ +---------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . . . O X . X . . . . . . . O . . . . |
$$ | . . O O X . . . . . . O O O X O O O . |
$$ | . . . X . X X . . X . . X X X X X O . |
$$ | . . X X . . . X X . . . . . . . X X . |
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X . . . . . . O . . |
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X . . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O . . . . . . . X . . |
$$ | O . O X . . . O . . X . . . . . . . . |
$$ | . O O X . . . . . , . X . X . , . . . |
$$ | . O X . X O . . . X O O O . . X . . . |
$$ | . O X . . O . O . X O X . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O X . . . . . O O X X . O X . . . . |
$$ | O X X . . . X . O X . X . O . X X . . |
$$ | . O X . . . X . . X . X X O . X O . . |
$$ | . O X O X X O O O O X X . . O O . . . |
$$ | . X O X X O X . . X O X . O . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O O O . . 2 O 1 . 3 4 . . . . . |
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . . |
$$ +---------------------------------------+[/go]

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Post #17 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 5:29 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
Your game is a perfect example for your question.

I think all eyes go immediately to the top left corner: have you really figured out what happens if White plays the 2-2 point there (B18) ? I can't do that in just a few second.


You're right. That's another example of an unnecessary risk. I did spend a little time reading that out when I was playing in that local area, and decided that it was dead. This is a good example of not taking into account the accuracy of my initial assessment. This I think is also what is so hard about this aspect of the game. I'm sure at some point I'll be able to look at this position and know it's status with certainty, but before then, it's very hard to know when something is not as certain as you think it is...

As an aside, my plan for the 2-2 was the following:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bc
$$ +---------------------
$$ | . d 1 2 . . . . . .
$$ | c W . O X . X . . .
$$ | b a O O X . . . . .
$$ | . 3 . X . X X . . X
$$ | . . X X . . . X X .
$$ | . . . O X X X O O X
$$ | . X X . . O O . O X[/go]


Then, white has three options:
1. If white D, black C.
2. If white A, black B.
3. If white D, black D.

I had gotten this far in the game, but looking at it now, it's a complicated position. I did not, for example, think of what happens if white plays 2 at 3. It's complicated enough that I could have made a mistake. I think I need to be more cognizant of the limits of my reading abilities.

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 Post subject: Re: How exactly does one "play it safe"?
Post #18 Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 7:06 am 
Tengen

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BlindGroup wrote:
I did not, for example, think of what happens if white plays 2 at 3.

Indeed, white's best move.

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