Path: <= Harmony
  Difficulty: Advanced   Keywords: Theory

Stefan: A few of the discussions of the last few days - both here and on r.g.g - have helped me remember or realize something about go (I'm not sure which). It is the importance of the context when you analyze a subboard.

Like every other seasoned kyu I got this lesson as part of my joseki training: you will not play a fixed sequence if it is not consistent with the whole board. But being the slow learner that I am, it never fully dawned on me that this is true for just about any aspect of the game.

Consider for example Charles's arguments on High Concept Opening Myths. One aspect of the justified criticism of many players' use of san ren sei and Chinese fuseki is a lack of consideration for the context. "Whole board thinking in fuseki", if you like. And I'm guilty as charged. I didn't recognize Kato's propaganda for what it was, believed that the Chinese was a "sure win strategy" and played B1, B3, B5 without even looking at what White was doing elsewhere. People that defend their application of the san ren sei because it's been played many times by top professionals may want to ask themselves whether they were playing the same board as those pros.

Another area where players miss the importance of context is when they challenge the go wisdom of teachers or proverbs. Dan dogma pro propaganda addresses this - "stronger players giving advice in absolute terms". "How can he say my move is bad? I've seen pro (some name here) play this in a game last month!", etcetera. The key difference is often the context. "Cross-cut, then extend". Sure, but there are many exceptions and as Richard Hunter's great book on the topic demonstrates, they're often driven by surounding stones. See also the discussion that ensued, which shows how people seem to expect universal and absolute truths. But go isn't like that.

The only subboards where context does not play a role are Life and Death problems. By definition, since they're always formulated as trying to find a solution for a strictly local tactical problem. Be careful though. See what happens to your standard knowledge of the L-group when there's a few stones of the defending colour in the surrounding area...

The topic of this page is fairly obvious and any dan will say "yes, of course". Somehow I have always known this, and yet it's never been a clearly and sharply focussed thought. Funny.

Zook: In another sense, context does exist for life and death too, namely: "Is killing this group big enough at this stage ?"

See also

Path: <= Harmony
Context last edited by CharlesMatthews on November 17, 2003 - 13:30
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