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 Post subject: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #1 Posted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:42 am
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"The Basics Of Go Strategy" (TBOGS) is Volume 5 in the "Mastering the basics" series from Kiseido.
The book is a revision of the out-of-print book "Strategic Concepts of Go".
The theoretical part consists of the following chapters:
Aji, Forcing Moves, Probing Moves, Attacking Heavy Stones, Light Stones and Sabaki, Junk Stones, Key Stones and Thickness.
Part Two, the practice part consists of 101 problems with very detailed answers.

Chapter 1 - Aji: The first two pages are dealing with a classic joseki example to show you what aji means and how it is used correctly and how not. Of course in this chapter you cannot learn how to use aji effectively in general. The following pages try to show you how pros dealing with aji. The first sixty moves from two pro games are presented with a detailed commentary.
My opinion: This chapter is interesting to read, nevertheless i am not sure what someone can learn from this chapter. The pro games and the commentaries both are quite usual. I think the book "The 1971 Honinbo Tournament" can teach you more and with even more details.
A mistake that occurs frequently among amateurs is a move that erases aji without being aware of this fact. So i think these chapters have taught me how valuable it is to think about the aji in the position but not general knowledge about this topic.

Chapter 2 - Forcing Moves: This chapter begins also with examples to introduce this topic. The examples are borrowed from common josekis. You will learn how important the order of moves is and how forcing moves activate new aji and increase the efficiency of your next moves. (Or not, if you omit them) This is the introduction.
Afterward some subchapters show you how you can use forcing moves:
Forcing Moves to keep sente, Forcing Moves that assist in creating moyos, Forcing Moves that assist in invasions, Forcing Moves that create and counter influence.
The examples shown in these subchapters are from pro games (first hundred moves) or from local board positions.
A little comparison with the book "Attack and defense" (A&D) from Akira Ishida:
A&D is more on the introductory level. You will learn what a good forcing move is in comparison to bad Thank-you-move and that it is worth considering resistance.
The chapter in TBOGS is a good successor to this topic. I think it was good to get an overview about some specific possibilities. For me it was important to get an idea of the purpose of the moves, how differently you can use forcing moves and the examples in this book do the job very well.
A last note to this chapter: I think you will learn here more about aji than in the first chapter.

Chapter 3 - Probing Moves: Sometimes it may be useful to provoke your opponent to make a decision that helps you in planning your strategy. The classic example is to probe under the 3-4 shimari on the second line.
The general idea of this technique is like the first example ( a common position on the side ) quite simple. But the next examples (corner enclosures and related moves) are much more complicated and show you the real challenge you have to accomplish: Powerful reading and a very good foundation in positional judgment. When you probe corner enclosures you have to aware of several variations, judging them against the global context. So i think this is a VERY advanced technique and can lead you easily to a little disaster.
A link to the problem section: Some well-known invasion techniques on corner enclosures (keima and one-point shimari on 3-4) and their variations are treated in some problems. Perhaps these can you give you a little insight, but... I have also Takemiyas "Enclosure Josekis" and it is good to have some sort of reference when studying on this topic. (It is a shame, that it is out-of-print, but perhaps there other book on this topic available.)
So it is hard to say how much you can learn from this chapter. I think that you should not expect too much from this chapter and the related exercises in the problem part. You have to treat this topic with some respect.
I just have to smile when i think on a quote from Kageyama about an amateur dan-player who has played an unprofessional probing move:
"Black has a lots amateur company in thinking that a capping play and three-three attachment against a corner enclosure are professional moves, ...
AND NOW THE IMPORTANT PART:
... but they are mere imitations of professional moves, played without any understanding. The most important thing to learn from professionals is not where they play but why they play there.."
On the other hand: No risk, no fun. No errors, no progress. Somewhere you have to start.

Chapter 4 - Attacking Heavy Stones
A group of stones are called "heavy" if they cannot make two eyes easily, so they are perfect targets for attacking. Hitting the vital point, playing urgent moves before big moves and avoiding to strengthen the opponent when attacking. That gives a good impression from the theme of this short chapter. In fact, the main part of this chapter was not written to teach how to attack in certain way but the need of defending the urgent point before considering other moves.
I think there is nothing in this chapter that you will not find in other book. Nevertheless some principles are essential, so i think it is not a waste to study these examples.

Chapter 5 - Light Stones and Sabaki
When you operate deep in the moyo of your opponent, you have to play flexible, so you don't have to expect that you can save every stone. One of the examples is a cross-cut-tesuji. So you can learn something about the "style" of light play.
But this "chapter" consists only of three pages. In my opinion this is a little bit disappointing, because i think that an introduction should not only cover the style of light play or sabaki. It is not only important to know how to play lightly; you have also have to know which factors should affect your DECISION to play lightly. Fortunately i can refer to very good problems in part two. They will give you more insights than this ... which i would not dare to call a chapter.

Chapter 6 - Junk Stones & Chapter 7 - Key Stones
It is important to make a difference between important and unimportant stones, between cutting stones and stones you can happily sacrifice. I think every kyu-player who has made a review with a dan-player knows what this chapter is about. These chapters are easy to read and the whole-board diagrams are also easy to understand. A good reminder for some elementary topics but nothing more.

Chapter 7 - Thickness
"Don't play near thickness", "don’t use thickness to make territory", "use thickness to attack", "drive you opponent's stones in the direction of your thickness".
These are the four principles in this chapter. Some examples show you how pros apply them in their games. Of course this chapter mentions also the aspects of overconcentration. But all in all i found no new aspects. At least not in this chapter. Again i am happy to refer to problem section.
I don't want to look down on these chapters just because they repeat well-known principles. In fact, i still make mistakes, because i am not following these principles.

Part Two - Problems and Answers
A quote from the book:
"These problems for the most part might be a bit difficult for kyu-level players. Our advice is to treat them as examples and not spend too much time thinking about them as you would a problem. In this way you will quickly exposed to various techniques and ways to think about certain kinds of positions. However, all readers, both kyu-level and dan-level are urged to approach them as positions that might occur in their own games, decides how they would play, and then look at the answers to compare their own thinking to that of a professional's."
I definitively can confirm this message. The problems are very different but arranged loosely according the topics in the first part. For example, the first questions dealing with the theme "aji". Exploiting the bad aji of the opponent's stones as well as eliminating bad aji in your own position. In the latter case you have to find the correct timing of a ladder breaker or you just have to defend to avoid overcentration. So even if you realize that a question belongs to certain category, you still have to use your holistic approach when you try to solve them. Just like in your own games.
Each problem can teach you something about how you have to think about common positions. Except from the problems which are dealing with corner enclosures the challenge of these problems is not reading power or tesuji knowledge but rather to make a good judgment of a position and make sure that your intentions consider the circumstances. Example: If you have a weak group near in front of your opponents thickness, it is at first important to know that you have to play lightly. Perhaps you will not find the specific moves given in the answer, but when you were looking for sabaki you already have understood the message of the problem.
Every problem comes with a little text which defines ( if necessary ) the opponent’s last move and your task, what is not necessarily a definitive hint. ( e.g. "Make sabaki" or "eliminate bad aji" )
In the answer part you fill find a detailed explanation for the right sequence, false moves or variations. In average, one side per problem. The problems and their explanations alone are a good reason to buy this book.

I have the first edition. I hope there will be a second edition because i hope that the second edition will have an improved layout. Sometimes you find the diagram with the solution where you expect the diagram with the false variation. That is a little bit annoying.

My final opinion: Because this book deals with strategic concepts you should not expect too much from part 1. It is very difficult to teach and to learn strategy from general knowledge. It is a good but not in every case an essential reading before you work on the problems, which are the heart of this book. In fact i would very happy, when Kiseido would publish a successor as a pure problem/answer book like the tesuji volume of this series. It's a pity that such strategic problem collections are not as common as tsumego collections, because you can learn many valuable detailed knowledge from them. I have looked on the problems of the book "Strategic Concepts of Go“. Many problems in this book are not given in "The Basics Of Go Strategy".
This book is a very good one for SingleDigitKyus. Although the main theme of this book is to give you an idea on how to think, you need a basic understanding of the meaning of single moves. That’s why i think that DoubleDigitKyus will not understand everything in detail and should not read this book, if they cannot consult a dan-player to make things clear. But i have no doubts that every SDK will improve, when he /she assimilate the ideas from this book.

 This post by Nagilum was liked by 6 people: daal, Darrell, deja, imabuddha, jdl, judicata
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 Post subject: Re: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #2 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:07 am
 Tengen

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Nagilum wrote:
It is very difficult to teach and to learn strategy from general knowledge.

Judging from having seen many teachers' teaching, most of them are having great difficulties to teach general knowledge and this makes it also very difficult for their pupils to learn general knowledge from them.

As a teacher, I find it easy to teach general knowledge and to teach it in ways easily understood by my pupils and readers. Therefore I disagree with your too general conclusion. It is easy for me now but that relies on many years of study and research. General knowledge does not occur suddenly but needs to be discovered and worked out carefully. General descriptions of terms and general principles must be the result of a generalization process and then prove their power by being generally valid and correct when applied.

The book's first edition made me about two stones stronger, surely partly because I had hardly known anything about those few strategic concepts in the book before reading it. So the first part of the book opened my eyes. The second, examples part I found pretty much superfluous. I agree with you that the concepts are not treated in great detail but encourage the reader to remind himself of considering and applying them at all during his games. People already knowing the concepts and their basic general advice before reading the book (first edition) might wish more details of worked out principles and - if they were aware of their existence - more strategic concepts.

If, as I roughly recall, the second edition is mainly a revision of the first edition, then the first title "Strategic Concepts of Go" was much more appropriate than the new title because there are lots of other basics of go strategy like strategic lines, positional judgement, strategic choices, meanings of groups, aims and planning etc. A book with the potential of making quite some players up to about 2 stones stronger does not need any euphemism in the title.

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 Post subject: Re: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #3 Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:29 am
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Nagilum wrote:
My final opinion: Because this book deals with strategic concepts you should not expect too much from part 1. It is very difficult to teach and to learn strategy from general knowledge.

Funny: When I read this, I thought: Well, Robert might disagree here ...
For the record: I myself completely agree - I get much more out of example applications of a concept than by studying the concept itself.

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 Post subject: Re: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #4 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:05 am
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RobertJasiek wrote:
Nagilum wrote:
It is very difficult to teach … … strategy from general knowledge”

As a teacher, I find it easy to teach general knowledge and to teach it in ways easily understood by my pupils and readers. Therefore I disagree with your too general conclusion.

Of course, i have not so much experience in teaching like you. So just consider this as a vague personal observation or experience. I am not absolute in this point. The reason is that I found not many books that teach how to think about in strategy in general. Perhaps I am not qualified to talk for teachers, but I want tell you from my experience in learning go.
Maybe the following perspective of a pupil is interesting for you as a teacher.
RobertJasiek wrote:
“The second, examples part I found pretty much superfluous.”

This statement was a great surprise for me. I have to admit that I am a little bit jealousy if it is right to conclude that you can assimilate and integrate a new concept in your game just from reading. I think that many people don’t have this ability.
To put things in practice it is usually essential for me to get some confidence in a certain topic. And even than I am far away from mastering a principle. Knowing a principle and applying it in every time in the game is not the same. I think this happens when you learn too much different before mastering a single principle. Perhaps it is a lack of discipline in my thinking, who knows? What I know is that I am lost without practice. Of course, I can read theoretic content and put this in practice in my games. But solving problems and to see that my thinking is right gives me this confidence. It important for me, ( at least to believe ) that i get a more solid foundation.
Nagilum wrote:
“It is very difficult to learn … … strategy from general knowledge”

At least for me:
A teacher can explain me the snapback or why the L-Group is dead. Tesujis and Tsumego is something that you can analyze in a isolated position. And if I not understand a problem a stronger player can show me exactly why a sequence works or not.
Is a certain strategic decision a good or bad one? This question depends strongly on reading power and your positional judgment.
When I got reviews from a dan-player I often have asked something like “Do you think that it was a good strategy?” And sometimes I got an answer like “You want a recipe, but if a recipe would exist Go would be much easier game.”
Recently I posted a question about “Direction of play-principles in the opening” http://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2753. Considering that the position was quite simple I was impressed how different other people play, but realize that they all justify their moves with their personal judgment of the position.
So point one is that strategy is not so absolute like a status of a life&death-problem.

When you observe a game with a handicap you will see often that the black player fails to attack his opponent on a larger scale. Instead he tries to fight with result that he ends with bad shape while White has build up Power. What happened?
Principles like “Drive you opponent’s stones against your thickness” are just a part of a great puzzle, one tool in the toolbox. When you are playing you have to try to integrate it in your game. Then comes the point where you have to decide if it is the right moment or there something more important to do. Here I have to rely on my experience, my intuition.
When my opponent starts a fight, I am often losing my global perspective and the awareness for some basics principles like “Stay away from thickness” and even “Just cut the opponent’s stones”. In a fight, I am suddenly often blind for other aspects. You are right when you think that I have to alter my thinking and that there is nothing wrong with the general principles. But I don’t wont criticize the value of general principles, but I want just to tell you why it is difficult ( for me) to learn just only from principles. Positive as well as negative examples are so valuable for me because they help me to become aware of certain thinking patterns and to change them.
Point two: Just playing according to principles gives me sometimes the feeling that I just try to imitate a certain style but often without a profound understanding what I am doing. The result is that I am playing without a clear objective or I am not following consequently my strategy.

That brings me to next point:
A single move may be an extension, a pincer or even mixture of both. From a local perspective it is more tactical question, what the meaning of stone is and how you use the stone.
But it becomes more interesting when we talk about some kind of groups or shapes:
In your book you have described a proto-group as “…a group that is without eye-shape, is not completely sacrificed yet, is not a complete wall yet and later might be either developed or sacrificed.”
Takeo Kajiwara describes in his book “The Direction of play” a three-point extension ( one stone on the third, another stone on the fourth line ) as light territory, half territory, half influence.
Strategy involves many dynamics. I find it difficult to estimate the potential of light territory or something else what you call a proto-group.
Stronger players usually have no problem with an invasion when they get thickness in exchange. They are able to regard the whole game as an exchange and always find a way to use their resources efficiently. I find it sometimes very difficult to make a judgment about an exchange. In many cases I can’t use thickness directly, but later there is perhaps a fight and I am suddenly glad that I have thickness in a certain area. But if haven’t always the feeling that this coincidence is a result of my great strategic skills.
It is easy to identify a tactical mistake. But although strategy dictates the intention of a move sequence, after all the strategic possibilities are limited through tactical skills, perhaps even through the personal style. That’s make it not easy for me to identify a strategic error.

I don’t want to complain about the complexity of go, indeed that’s one reason because it is fun. But at the moment, I have the feeling that principles cannot cover every gap. After all I think that in every game should be room for some intuition. When I get the feeling that I really have improved that always means that I have improved on the intuitive level. The intuition maybe sometimes wrong but intuition has the advantage of a holistic approach. A principle is always limited to a special situation.
I regard a principle as a first possible step in the phase of understanding something new. Principles are very valuable to lead me in the right direction and emphasize the important points (points on the board as well as important point to think about.) in game. But I think there exists something beyond.

Robert, I know that you are writing on your second book that should cover strategic elements of josekis. I am looking forward to read this book and write a review. I am sure, that it will be interesting to see if your book can give me a more solid foundation. Do I want a recipe again? mmm… It would be already an improvement when I would get more tools to improve my ability in planning my own strategy according to new circumstances.

I have to think about an experiment: I have seen some of your games on kgs. You like openings that are not very common.
My question: If you play on month more territory-like and another month more influence-orientated…
Do you think you can change your playing style without a major effect on your success in winning games?
In theory in both scenarios you just have to follow your principles… Perhaps i am thinking to simple.
The question behind: As we all know that your thinking is very analytical I would like to know if you think that there is something in your thinking process that you cannot describe neiter in a formal way nor with principles, something like intuition.

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 Post subject: Re: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #5 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:19 am
 Tengen

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Nagilum wrote:
if it is right to conclude that you can assimilate and integrate a new concept in your game just from reading.

Yes if the description of the concept is good enough.
No if the description is not.
If the description is of intermediate quality, then a few examples clarifying the description's intentions suffice. About that was the case for Strategic Concepts of Go: The examples in part I sufficed, so I did not need those in part II. The latter were a bit good for another purpose: To show that some examples were beyond my reading capability at that time.

Quote:
I think that many people don’t have this ability.

Suppose you didn't know what overconcentration is. Wouldn't you understand it pretty well from "Too many of your stones at the same place are inefficient! It would be better if some of them were played elsewhere on the board!"? I don't buy it that players are lacking ability to understand - it is just that descriptions often are not as good as they should be.

Quote:
To put things in practice it is usually essential for me to get some confidence in a certain topic. [...] why it is difficult (for me) to learn just only from principles

Practice is not bad but practice should be application of principles rather than practicing finding needles in haystacks without any general guiding. (The tesuji is: Burn the haytacks, then collect the needles. :) )

Quote:
And even than I am far away from mastering a principle. Knowing a principle and applying it in every time in the game is not the same.

Right.

Quote:
I think this happens when you learn too much different before mastering a single principle.

Presumably that is different for everybody. I can read dozens of principles and "master" them within the next few weeks. Others might need to follow Kageyama's advice "Don't do such a foolish thing as reading the entire book on one day!". More or less I did and did not hurt me.

Quote:
Perhaps it is a lack of discipline in my thinking, who knows?

Or a limited capacity for new mighty knowledge per time.

Quote:
So point one is that strategy is not so absolute like a status of a life&death-problem.

It depends on context. In some positions, only one strategy is good. In others, many reasonable strategies exist. Not surprisingly this is typical for the opening.

Quote:
When you observe a game with a handicap you will see often that the black player fails to attack his opponent on a larger scale.

Much more often I see that Black does not use his handicap stones well. Not attacking is just a special case of that.

Quote:
I find it difficult to estimate the potential of light territory or something else what you call a proto-group.

These days I am just working for Volume 2 on calculating some such potentials. It is indeed difficult but I am getting some surprising results and methods. You'll see:)

Light territory? Do you mean moyos or floating light stones groups? Moyos can be approximated by counting its current unconditional territory 100% and adding its "defender makes territory - attacker denies territory" intersections as 50%. Assessing the potential of light stones or proto-groups is much more difficult. I am not sure yet if I will already find methods for them. I am trying these days. When playing, I use a different and only rough thinking for proto-groups: It is better that their stones are on the outside than the useless inside stones of dead groups. Connecting dead stones is imposisble but connecting a proto-group is possible, to mention just the most obvious usage.

***

You describe some of your middle game strategy problems but I can't solve them all for you at once, sorry.

Quote:
I have the feeling that principles cannot cover every gap.

I think contrarily, but so much you expected from me, didn't you?:)

Quote:
After all I think that in every game should be room for some intuition.

Intuition is just an excuse for being too lazy or having too little thinking time to decipher the underlying principles. All go thinking can be translated into principles and other methodical tools.

Quote:
The intuition maybe sometimes wrong but intuition has the advantage of a holistic approach. A principle is always limited to a special situation.

There are different principles for different scopes including holistics approaches. Even a proverb has gotten that much knowledge: "When ahead defend - when behind attack!"

Quote:
I regard a principle as a first possible step in the phase of understanding something new.

There are principles for that step and other principles for later steps. Example for the former: "Thickness is defined as..." Example for the latter: "Use thickness by..."

Quote:
Principles are very valuable to lead me in the right direction and emphasize the important points (points on the board as well as important point to think about.) in game. But I think there exists something beyond.

The area beyond demands secondary principles of how to prioritarize first order principles.

Quote:
if your book can give me a more solid foundation.

Writing it is giving me a more solid foundation, so yours could benefit, too:)

Quote:
It would be already an improvement when I would get more tools

I am glad that you are not afraid of getting too many new tools...
I must finish the book rather than solve strategy in its entirety:)

Quote:
If you play on month more territory-like and another month more influence-orientated…
Do you think you can change your playing style without a major effect on your success in winning games?

I can't win by playing 3-3 but 3-4 or 5-4 is pretty common for me. Winning statistics are similar. Not any longer like in 2005 when I won all games as Black except against 7d. Many players have learned that any center move is equally good. Some like Pop or Naoyuki I still catch by surprise.

Quote:
In theory in both scenarios you just have to follow your principles…

Exactly.

Quote:
As we all know that your thinking is very analytical I would like to know if you think that there is something in your thinking process that you cannot describe neiter in a formal way nor with principles, something like intuition.

Intuition does not exist.

My Go thinking I can translate to theory completely provided I would have enough time.

My ordinary life thinking I can sometimes follow a few levels down to lower levels but I do not reach the molecular and quantum mechanics level:( Go stones and intersections can be grasped but atoms are too small.

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 Post subject: Re: Review for "The Basics Of Go Strategy" #6 Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:19 pm
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Nagilum,

I very much enjoyed reading your review and appreciate the time and detail you put into it. Good stuff!

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"This is a game that rewards patience and balance. You must think like a man of action and act like a man of thought."

 This post by deja was liked by: Nagilum
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