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 Post subject: Struck gold!
Post #1 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:28 am 
Gosei

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Imagine you are a miner prospecting for gold and you find it. What could be more joyful? Finding Clementine, perhaps. But I think maybe striking gold when you are not looking for it could be extra special. That happened to me last night.

I was stuck away from home with half an hour or so to fill, so I browsed through go books on the Nihon Ki-in e-book site. I chose one mainly because it was the cheapest at 500 yen, and partly because I noticed it had three volumes. When I buy a DVD series I always gravitate towards those that have many seasons. I assume that things only multiply in the media sector if they are really good or popular.

But, to use kiddy language to convey my delight, I was blown away by what I got. The book is not just interesting but, I suspect, one of the most valuable for amateurs I have ever seen. Remember the buzz about Kageyama's "Lessons in the Fundamentals"? Well, my first impression is that Kageyama certainly has a rival, and one who may have even outdone him. (And, incidentally, Kageyama's book is still in print, having gone through several different covers - a good first quality test.)

This serendipitous (but not new - it's from 2003) book is by Hiramoto Yasei 6-dan, who is from exactly the same sort of mould as Kageyama. He only became a pro at about the age of 24 after working as a salary man. I'd only come across him before as an inventor of tsume go where the solutions resolve into kanji, letters or numbers. As an amateur he was the Student Honinbo, but he's never really had an impact as a tournament pro. He's been stuck at 6-dan since 1996 (he's 65 now). Clearly he's made his living largely by teaching amateurs.

So, both by background and experience, he's well attuned to the amateur world, and his book proves that.

The book is called アマの負ける手・負けない手 (Moves by which amateurs lose and moves by which they won't). The sub-title for the series is instructive, too: こだわり講座 which can be loosely translated as "lectures for nit pickers." The point is that Hiramoto, just like Kageyama, is prepared to be very discursive in his explanations. Most books by pros are written tersely, in a very limited subset of the language (if Black does this, White does that). Hiramoto instead talks about Amenomori Hoshu, a famed Japanese internationalist of the early 18th century who - this was news to me - was a great go fan. The theme here is "attitude" (Hoshu's was exemplary).

But it's not the mini-essays that provide the real golden glitter. It's the novel method which makes great use of Tom & Jerry time bombs.

Essentially the book is a series of problems where you have to choose a move, but in a way quite different from the usual one. First, the number of moves is often more than the usual 3 or 4. Second, you have to mark each move out of 10. Third, you have to assign time bombs to each move.

Here's the introductory example:



You have to give four answers, i.e. a mark for each of the four moves. Three of them are joseki moves.

Here is Hiramoto's take under the heading of his first section in which he says "Go is all about Risk Management." Risk is measured by three time bombs, which may be lit or unlit. Hiramoto's assessment is based on what is safe or unsafe for the typical amateur. In the points score, 10 is highest.

A is joseki and is scored 9 points with three lit time bombs, i.e. very risky.
B is joseki and is scored 10 points with two lit time bombs.
C is joseki an is scored 10 points with no lit time bombs (but three unit - go is never entirely safe but there is no immediate danger).
D is a bad move and is scored 5 points with three one lit time bomb.

Three moves are perfectly playable, and to some degree it's matter of style (which he talks about separately). But he would recommend C for amateurs - a move by which amateurs won't lose.

There is then a long discussion about each move, and from this we learn about risk management. But more importantly we learn what risk is. At least I have no compunction about saying that I misunderstood risk. For starters, it turns out that komoku in the corner is risky. Hoshi is not.

In every case the identified risk is different, but here's the diagram given for move B (I omit the move numbers but the triangle shows the last move):



B was a 10-point move but with two lit fuses (high risk). Hiramoto explains that the danger, for Black, lies in the fact that Black is fighting in White's sphere of influence and so will find it difficult to formulate a successful plan.

Move A makes no loss but also makes no commitment. It leaves White a defect at E6 but Black has no defects and all options remain open for later. That's a good way to plan. That's a good way to play.

The answers to this position take seven pages of mostly text and include references to the ancient Ten Go Maxims by Wang the Firewood Collector and the 9th century figure Sugawara no Michizane, who learnt wisdom by watching a frog, and (for Hikaru fans) the Kami no Itte. One of the themes here is again "attitude" (as I've mentioned before, a surprisingly common word in Japanese go books), but more specifically the need to realise that go is a two-person game. You have a highly unpredictable opponent. You can't do just what you want. You need to learn to manage risk.

What is risk? Well, it's not (in this book) to do with life and death or invasions. It's being taken out of your comfort zone. It's being left with imponderables. A good question Hiramoto poses is: would you know what to do if your opponent makes a bad move?

One thing that can elevate the value of a go book is that it exposes a bad habit or a flaw in your thinking. Here is an example that exposed my inadequate thinking:



Bear in mind that this was in the section on Risk Management. I chose B, influenced by that but I think I would have chosen it anyway. And if I did I would have scored the full 10 points. But for the wrong reasons.

Believe it or not it is a high-risk move. I didn't believe it at first, but was soon convinced by a superb explanation. In fact it is also labelled as "the pro move." I'll leave you to buy the book to see the full explanation, but the nub of it is that you should play A (no risk, 10 points) and actually encourage White to cut above B. That way you get free forcing moves in the centre which work beautifully with A. But there is much more to it than that. The real point is that B leaves a potential ko in the corner, which is obviously risky, and it defers management of the upper-side moyo, which is a major strategic risk. If he plays A instead, which is sente, he can manage the moyo now and know that the cut above B would put a lock on the upper side.

Maybe AlphaGo would prefer the shoulder hit at C, which scores just 7 and three lit fuses - which is maybe why AG wouldn't choose it, as it leaves too much weakness in the upper right. D incidentally scores 5 and three bombs about to explode. It is careless because it ignores not just the cutting points in the upper right but also the fact that the ladders are bad for Black.

That level of explanation elevates the book ayont the ordinary. However, this book goes even further. It makes you think for yourself. For what it's worth, I now give a thumbnail sketch of how my thoughts went. Remember this is me talking, not Hiramoto. Or maybe I'm Shusaku embodying Fujiawara no Sai - I can dream, too!

Anyway, what leapt to my mind is bullying (ijime). I've mentioned repeatedly that this has not been treated properly in English, yet it is a very common and important theme in Japanese books. Part of the problem must be that the term has been rendered in many different ways by translators and this dilutes it as an identifiable concept.

Bullying is important because it's a very good measure of your go skill. The more you get bullied the weaker you are. Or to put that another way, the less you can get bullied the more you improve. The more efficient shapes you make, the less you get bullied. The better your timing is, the less opportunity you give the opponent to bully you. That's another way of talking about risk management, and it also shows that risk can be identified in many different ways. The value of Hiramoto's book lies, above all, I would say in helping you identify risk, as he gives so many different examples discussed at length.

Obviously this book is in Japanese. Can you get anything out of it if you don't read Japanese? I suspect that if your Japanese is at the level of reading Black/White/right answer/X to play and so on, suitable for tsume go books, you will not find that of much help here. Nevertheless, there's plenty of pictorial help with move letters, score numbers and bombs, and examples are mostly variation-free. I'd be surprised if a high kyu or dan player didn't get something valuable out of it on that basis alone. And it won't cost much more than a cup of coffee.

If you do read Japanese I'd say this book deserves to be high, like mine, on your tsundoku list.


This post by John Fairbairn was liked by 11 people: Bill Spight, daal, dfan, gowan, jeromie, jptavan, Kirgan, Okie, sorin, swannod, Waylon
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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #2 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:49 am 
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Dear John,

In my opinion, it is the entire series that is named "こだわり講座".

Vol. 1: "アマの負ける手・負けない手 黒番編"
Vol. 2: "捨て石の極意"
Vol. 3: "アマの負ける手・負けない手 白番編"
Vol. 4: "ツギかたで棋力がわかる"
Vol. 5: "基本死活 虎の巻"

Received Vol. 5 as a gift from a Japanese professional (for what reason ever :D).

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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #3 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:20 am 
Judan

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Seems like an interesting book. I like the idea of quantifying risk in terms of time bombs.

What's not clear to me is how to quantify the time bombs in a consistent way. Is it a relative feeling based on the number of time bombs in the other examples? Or is there some metric that suggests that a position is definitely 2 time bombs or definitely 3 time bombs, etc.?

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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #4 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:39 am 
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John,
thank you for the review. My Japanese is at (or perhaps just beyond) the tsume-go book level you mentioned. But at 500 yen the price of the books are easily within the range of my minor mad money and they seem to echo some themes harped on by my go teacher. Could you please include the ISBN number to make the book easier to find?

Thanks

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Post #5 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:20 am 
Judan
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Thanks, John.
Quote:
For starters, it turns out that komoku in the corner is risky. Hoshi is not.
Seems the number of pages for 4-4 vs. 3-4 in Ishida and Takao gave it away a long time ago. :) :study:


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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #6 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:46 am 
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Okie wrote:
John,
thank you for the review. My Japanese is at (or perhaps just beyond) the tsume-go book level you mentioned. But at 500 yen the price of the books are easily within the range of my minor mad money and they seem to echo some themes harped on by my go teacher. Could you please include the ISBN number to make the book easier to find?
Thanks

Please help yourself e.g. with
https://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_no ... B%E5%BA%A7
The series' books are at the top of the list.

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The really most difficult Go problem ever: http://igohatsuyoron120.de/index.htm
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Post #7 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:36 am 
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Cassandra wrote:
Okie wrote:
John,
thank you for the review. My Japanese is at (or perhaps just beyond) the tsume-go book level you mentioned. But at 500 yen the price of the books are easily within the range of my minor mad money and they seem to echo some themes harped on by my go teacher. Could you please include the ISBN number to make the book easier to find?
Thanks

Please help yourself e.g. with
https://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_no ... B%E5%BA%A7
The series' books are at the top of the list.


Cassandra, thanks

Okie

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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #8 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:22 am 
Judan

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John Fairbairn wrote:
What is risk? Well, it's not (in this book) to do with life and death or invasions. It's being taken out of your comfort zone. It's being left with imponderables. A good question Hiramoto poses is: would you know what to do if your opponent makes a bad move?


In modern risk management I think that this would be termed uncertainty, the term, risk, being reserved for quantifiables. Long Term Capital Management has a lot of very smart people in it, but disaster hit it because, having reduced quantifiable risk to negligible proportions, they were imprudent, and were blindsided by uncertainty. It sounds like Hiramoto is talking about terra incognita: Here be monsters!

Quote:
it turns out that komoku in the corner is risky. Hoshi is not.


That may have been true before modern pros started exploring sharp lines of play, and before AlphaGo came along. ;) Even so, komoku is probably more risky than hoshi, but when Japanese players of yore embraced that risk they opened up new vistas for go. :)

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Post #9 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:16 pm 
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EdLee wrote:
Thanks, John.
Quote:
For starters, it turns out that komoku in the corner is risky. Hoshi is not.
Seems the number of pages for 4-4 vs. 3-4 in Ishida and Takao gave it away a long time ago. :) :study:


Good point!
On the other hand, AlphaGoZero (and similarly LeelaZero recently) solved that problem, they show us that most 3-4 human joseki are just crap, and there are really just a couple of good ways to play from there :-)

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Post #10 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:25 pm 
Judan
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Quote:
they show us that most 3-4 human joseki are just crap
:mrgreen: :study:

...The best that this 20,000-year-old hunter-gatherer brain came up with... quite impressive, considering. :)

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Post #11 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 1:45 pm 
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EdLee wrote:
Thanks, John.
Quote:
For starters, it turns out that komoku in the corner is risky. Hoshi is not.
Seems the number of pages for 4-4 vs. 3-4 in Ishida and Takao gave it away a long time ago. :) :study:
Even better, Western kyu players have known this for at least a decade. So many of us play 4-4 just because we know the 3-4 point is hard.

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Post #12 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:04 pm 
Judan

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hyperpape wrote:
So many of us play 4-4 just because we know the 3-4 point is hard.


Baduk Barbie wrote:
The 3-4 is hard. :-? Let's go shopping! :D

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Post #13 Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:09 pm 
Judan
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Western kyu players have known this for at least a decade. So many of us play 4-4 just because we know the 3-4 point is hard.
Correct; Ishida was published in 1977; 41 years qualify as >= a decade. :tmbup:

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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #14 Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:22 am 
Gosei

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I find it curious that the thread so quickly degenerated into minor sparring about the merits of 4-4 and 3-4, compounded by introducing confusion between hard and risky. Forget the trees, I'd say - the wood will show something much more valuable about attitude and bullying.

In an effort to get things back on track, here's an example of my own from a Ke Jie-Na Hyeon game.



A or B, for White? There's nothing "hard" about the play either way. But it's "risky." Still, I'm certain many amateurs would play B. They would maybe see eye shape after the ponnuki and would happily leave a cutting point because they'd feel confident both groups could live. Ke Jie, different attitude, saw the potential of being bullied in that. He managed the risk. He played A. He won the game, thanks to this thickness. Oh, and as a bonus, he captured at B later anyway.

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Post #15 Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:04 am 
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Hi John, is there a White stone missing in that last game? By my count Black has played twice more than White.


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 Post subject: Re: Struck gold!
Post #16 Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:15 am 
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I would not say the discussion degenerated. If it did there are a couple of ways to battle it:
1) giving good content instead, like you did.
2) We could of course shut up but that's not the point of a forum.
3)Or you could bring some clarity in the difference between "hard" and "risky", if that's the root of the degeneration.

Myself, I see risky as a subset of hard. If I can calculate a position (not hard), there is no risk. There may be other hard positions to calculate but for which all feasible options are leading to a similar result (no risk).

If I'm wrong, please clarify what risk really means.

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