I'm currently 4d, been playing infrequently for about 5 years. i've been busy with life lately to focus on go, so slow progress has been made. I watch and review tons of games, so I know a lot of joseki, fuseki, and overall knowledge about modern go trends.
- some contributions by me:
- mark I: game theory
- firstly, since game theory is such an ambiguous term, allow me to define it. "Game theory refers to strategies and tactics that are used to achieve the goal of winning at a game." now to elaborate further: i'm sure you've played a game before right? most sports, board games, any sort of ball game, etc. they all relate back to strategy and tactics. even how to interact with people and society can be related towards strategy and tactics. have you ever met with a person who seemed very timid? who seemed to wilt at pressure? or how about a person who is so dominating that they try to force others around them into things. being timid or dominating, these can be broken down to "defense" and "attack". you've seen go players who never seem to make a big move or attack, they always defend and wait for opponent to attack first. these "defense" players are employing a game theory tactic. the same for players who seem to want to complicate a situation from the beginning and aggressively attack and fight. these players are employing the "attack" game theory tactic. now lets look at each of these closer:
- attack: this type of strategy is based around the player taking the victory by their own efforts. this means coming up with some attack or plan that directly relates to taking victory. an example would be moyo. create a moyo to force opponent to invade and thus create a target to attack. the success or failure of this strategy depends entirely on the player who is deploying it. if you have not read the board properly, your attack will fail and you will leave too many weaknesses in your stones to win so long as the opponent plays correct. players who use the "attack" strategy will usually favor influence and moyo games that rely on aggressive attack strategy. one example of an attack based player is Yi Se-tol.
- defense: this type of strategy relies on keeping all of your stones strong, defending often, and then waiting to take advantage of a mistake by the opponent. the reason why you keep your stones strong is so that when the opponent does deploy his or her attack, it will have a greater chance to fail against your rock solid stones and thus you will obtain a favorable position. therefore one can say that a defensive player cannot win by their own efforts, they require the opponent to make a mistake to capitalize upon. However this does not devalue the defensive strategy because go players always make mistakes, and taking advantage of mistakes is the most common way to win at go. an example of a defensive based player is Yi Ch'ang-ho.
now how do these 2 strategies relate to one another and how does game theory relate to go as a whole? well here are my thoughts: during the 30k-6k phase of go development, tactics and strategy are less valuable because shape mistakes are the most prevalent. therefore, even if you try to employ tactics, chances are a more skilled opponent will simply exploit your shape errors and no strategy will save you. however things change at 5k and above. between 5k-5d there is a noticable application of strategy, specifically the use of the "attack" strategy. in general most players will use attack over defense as their basic strategy. they will complicate the fuseki early, resulting in many semeais and invasions. of course there are many exceptions, you also see plenty of "defense" players, but they are in the minority. now, 5d+ is when things change. suddenly more defensive players emerge, the fuseki becomes less chaotic, more subtle attacks are employed, and the game overall becomes calmer in appearance (notice i say appearance, because the pressure actually increases and the threat of attack is even more stifling, however we don't see it because most players 5d+ can foresee the attacks and they avoid them).
so how can you explain this shift? easy: experience and reading. as you develop in both, you can begin to forsee 1. the possible/viable attacks available to you and your opponent, and 2. how to sidestep/counter them. thus high dan players who have so much experience and reading power will naturally play defensive because they can forsee attacks easier and have already devised ways to side-step them. this type of shift from attack to defense is prevalent in every arena of the world. in life, when we're young, we're more likely to take chances for something we want, whereas when we're older we're more likely to be conservative and defensive. in sports you see this as well. in soccer, a team can be heavily defensive, protecting it's own goal so tightly that it's too hard to score, resulting in many impromptu attacks which fail, resulting in the goal on the other side being left wide open. Portugal is an example of a team who plays like this. In tennis, you have players like Nadal who are defensive and wait for the opponent to make an error. As you see, strategy and tactics in go can be found everywhere, therefore learning the ins and outs of these 2 basic overarching strategies can be highly valuable to not only developing in go but also in sports and life.
so now that we have described the 2 sides, which one is better? this largely depends on your skill-set as an individual. lee sedol shows that you can become 9p with attack strategy, and lee chang ho shows you can be 9p with defense strategy. however lets get away from absolutes and start entering grey areas. can it not be possible to play in such a way that you can be both defensive and offensive at the same time? well of course you can. this is called "picking your battles" and it's the way that most strong players play. does lee sedol start out aggressively attacking trying to kill everything? no, of course not, that would be foolish. so how does HE attack and how can YOU attack properly? well lee sedol carefully lays out plans that involve trading, joseki choice, and reading/sequences that come together to become a global attack whose sole goal is to obtain an advantageous position, not outright win the game. this is where most players 5k-4d fail, they attack to kill and win right then and there instead of show patience like lee sedol.
but what if you are no good at creativity, what if you still want to be a good player? then you must excel at defense. you must keep your groups strong, find ways to defend that do more than simply fix aji, defend by attacking/playing forcing moves, defend by extending an area, rather than outright fixing a cut. these types of "active defense" moves will allow you to play solid while also allowing you to not fall behind or appear slow. my moto has always been "defend in gote if the extra strength can be used in the local areas next to the group". what does that mean? well if there is an invasion nearby that you can't play because if you invade, the opponent will get strong enough to attack your other group too hard, then defend that group first, and then invade afterwards. if this super strong gote defensive move is not gonna result in a future in the local area, then don't defend so strong. find a way to defend in sente by playing forcing moves. doing this will give more purpose to your moves, and allow you to obtain positions that lead to victory.