A 4-4 and 3-5 strategy

    Keywords: Opening, Strategy

DaveSigaty: Recently I have been playing the following combination of 4-4 point and 3-5 point as White against Black's nirensei fuseki.

A white strategy (to confuse Black? :-)  

This idea followed a period in which I answered B1 and B3 with the symmetrical W2 and a. This is a very common choice for White but I think it gets boring after a while.

My first idea to change was to switch from a to b hoping to get the chance to play the taisha joseki (I came up with plan after reading a book on the Taisha by Ishida). There are a couple of problems with this plan:

  • It is difficult to plan to play the taisha because there are a lot of ways to avoid it (see the discussion on BQM13).
  • Unless you are really well prepared, you meet quite a few people who know one or another version of the taisha better than you do!
  • Most important (for me) is that if Black simply ignores the upper left, I think White b is facing in the wrong direction to counter the influence of Black's nirensei.

So finally I settled on W4 as shown above.

What do you think?

Bob McGuigan: This is a pattern I like to play, too. It is half of the "crab's eyes" pattern, where both white corners have 3-5 point stones. This was somewhat popular 30+ years ago as an anti-ni-ren-sei strategy, the idea being that the 3-5 point stones erase the influence of the black star point stones.

AndyPierce: I also have been playing this lately as white and like it a lot. In my IGS 6k experience, you don't have to plan to play the taisha because everyone at this level is scared of it, so you can plan for black to avoid it. All the avoidance lines make it easy for white to develop the top, which was the intent of the 35 facing the nirensei all along. Hearing that vastly stronger players than myself consider this approach for white reasonable is encouraging.


Follow up 1 - When Black ignores the left  

The first question arises when Black ignores the left in order to complete a sanrensei fuseki on the right with B5. Should White complete an enclosure in the upper left with a? If not, should White continue in the upper right at b or the lower right at W6?

An example for the sanrensei fuseki is given at A 4-4 and 3-5 strategy, example 1

Usually I choose W6, thinking as follows:

  • The sanrensei is a speedy, influence-oriented strategy which I am trying to counter with an equally rapid development. The enclosure at a is a perfectly normal follow-up that does not happen to fit into my current plan.
  • The 3-5 point play at W4 is outward-oriented approach. White plays it with the confidence to handle a black invasion of the corner. Immediately making an enclosure to close the corner seems inconsistent with the original choice in the upper left.
  • In choosing between the upper right and lower right there are two possible ideas:
    • White might choose the upper right because W4 is more outward-oriented along the upper side than B1. As a result, White may expect that a white approach at b will be more effective than a play at W6, in developing White's position.
    • On the other hand, White may reason that the position along the bottom is symmetrical so that whoever plays first will have a natural advantage. On the other hand, the upper side is not symmetrical so it is less clear who will gain an advantage in this area. This is the basis for my choice to play W6. If I am able to settle the bottom on my terms, I am ready to see what Black will try on the top. After all, I chose the relationship at the top, not Black.

What do you think?

BillSpight: I would tend to make the enclosure, expecting a wedge, and then play at W6; but I think that W6 is good, too. I think that the bottom is bigger than the top. Black has a good kakari at c, but a kakari at d is not so good.

Kakari in the top left  

By the way, I like the kakari at B1 for Black, given the white+circle stone.

Bob McGuigan: When I use this opening I almost always close the corner with W6. This is a territorial move, obviously, and the solid upper left corner makes a white play at the star point on the left side bigger than it would be in a san-ren-sei formation. So Black usually splits the left side in response. Furthermore, the 3-5 stone in the upper left spoils the upper side for Black development. Dave's W6 approach is also a good move because it takes the initiative on the lower side which is Black's best area for development after the W 3-5 move in the upper left.


A moral dilemma - Black 3  

The other part of White's strategy in choosing the 3-5 play in the upper left is the intention to answer B1 with the one-space low pincer at W2.

The basic idea is to press Black hard and build positions on both sides, one at the top negating the influence of Black's hoshi in the upper right and the other combining with White's hoshi in the bottom left (developing on both sides. However, in practice there is a dilemma here.

In playing this at the 1k level on IGS, almost always (I have reached the point of W2 above in probably 30 games minimum in the last year) Black answers at B3. This is called an inferior choice by Ishida's Joseki Dictionary (vol. 2) and I agree. Although there are alternatives for White to choose, in the simple variation shown White takes the corner and ends in sente. Black can not extend any further than B9 (if even a, for example, White is left with the opportunity to play B9 later). White turns next to deal with the right side.

The dilemma is that after encountering this same approach by Black so often, I now find myself using this strategy in expectation of an inferior reply from Black. Thus I have allowed myself to be seduced by the idea of a cheap advantage away from the original quite positive thinking (in my humble opinion at least :-) that got me involved in this strategy to begin with.

So what do you think:

  • Should I give up this temptation and seek purity in some alternative strategy untainted by the desire for cheap advantage?
  • Or should I give up and admit that I am a "coffee-house" go player at heart?

Interestingly enough (at least to me! :-) Go Seigen analyzes this position in A Way of Play for the 21st Century. There are (at least) two very interesting points:

1. The Time-Honored Way  

First he tosses out this position in setting the stage...

"The standard black response has been the territorial play at B5 (komoku). After Wh6, Black would play kosumi with B7, attempting to get the best of it with this strong shape. However, this would allow White to occupy the big point (oba) of W8, so White would have a lot to hope for as well."

From 1.6 Nirensei vs 5-3 Point

Which is completely different from how I've been looking at the situation for the last year or so.

2. Simple and clear - and interesting  

His main point, however, is that B5 here rather than a "is simple and clear, and won't result in a loss, so I think it is very interesting."

2a Choosing the right play  

Go then presents his analysis of choices available including: - Why W3 instead of a? (a is too slow)

- Why W5 instead of the normal joseki move at b? (better balance)

- Why W5 instead of the normal pincer at c? (because White is willing to let Black build a wall and wants to counter it from a distance)

- Why B6 instead of the normal joseki move at d? (because d falls into White's plan of allowing Black to build a wall in gote, and then take the initiative elsewhere)

- If indeed Black d why should White use the submissive e instead of the normal joseki move at f? (because if Black responds correctly the "time-honored warlike joseki" of f followed by the cut is not interesting for White)

- Etc. - some of the analyses runs along for over 40 moves from this position.

"A Way of Play for the 21st Century" is all about different ways to look at Go. Nevertheless, this is one nice example (amongst many) of rejecting the joseki books and relying on an analysis of the whole position on the board and the opportunities that it offered.


DaveSigaty: I am not too modest to report that this strategy has now received perhaps the ultimate accolade in amateur Go!! Yes, it is true. Hikaru used my fuseki in volume 9 of Hikaru No Go. Specifically he plays it as White in his game against Hon Suyon, the Korean Kenkyusei (insei). Although it is not possible to tell from the manga, the new Hikaru No Go/Gorgeous Characters Guide gives the game diagram - see below.

Moves 1-10  

White: Shindo Hikaru

Black: Hon Suyon

Moves 11-20  

Moves 21-30  

We still haven't identified the original source of this game so if it looks familiar post what you know on Hikaru No Go/Games.

Charles On the basis of a database search:

Widest path  

The widest path here from pro games is clearly enough B1, then W2 to take up position.

There are not so many hits for W1 here. But of those (I'm using GoGod) the two ones from the past decade go this way.

Therefore I'm not convinced this is losing much for Black.

A 4-4 and 3-5 strategy last edited by Dieter on July 25, 2008 - 12:42
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