Dont Follow Proverbs Blindly/ Discussion

"Give your opponent what they want".

ProtoDeuteric- The philosophy of this proverb involves so many layers (perhaps infinite) that it can prove to be a nightmare and gives me a lot of headaches. It's like saying "Don't do what I say." It is hard for me to know when to stop analyzing and reanalyzing this proverb. As if go itself wasn't complex enough alone.

Charles Ah, maybe you're getting there. But proverbs are more about finding ways to play, than the absolute essentials.

ilan: You can resolve the apparent paradox by deciding that the title is not a proverb. A more direct example is the non proverb: "Every proverb has an exception."

ProtoDeuteric- Well, I could give you guys an argument that could get us into quite a heated debate, involving the definition of "proverb" and providing several technicalities that nevertheless prove to be powerful statements (at least in my mind), but I feel that following your wise advice would lead to a better result than would coming away victorious in an argument (which, itself, is only a possibility). Thank you Charles and ilan. I am not only grateful for your wisdom here, but I find it all over the library. Also, I don't mean to be a kissass, so don't take it that way, please.

aLegendWai: My two cents. It is one style of proverbs to exaggerate the facts. A typical example is Even a moron connects against a peep. Am I really moron if I don't connect? The proverb itself seem to misleadingly suggest, say, it is 99% true.

When I read a proverb, I simply ignore the exaggerated part. And add more pre-requisite to the proverb. I will take the proverb - Even a moron connects against a peep as an example.

"Even a moron connects against a peep"
It is true provided that:

  • If both sides of groups are important to you
  • it will be a danger if both groups are separate (eg you can't live if separate)
  • and so on...

Then I will search for some examples (argue-for and argue-against) to further understand the proverb.

If some players can't bear that kind of details, they may simply remember the proverb only (at the cost of making some wrong choices in the game). Hardworking players can remember not only the proverb, but also its pre-requisite.

I do deem it is a healthy way to understand proverb. Reasons:

  • Avoid misconception to beginners that proverbs are very reliable. (Otherwise this page will not exist)
  • players have better ideas on when and how to apply the proverbs at the right time.
  • players have more understanding about the counter-situations.
  • simplicity is still kept in the proverb itself (we don't need to include the details in the proverb. But as a note to the proverb.)

In fact, I really hope the creator should not only write out the proverb, but also write out its pre-requisite (although it may be hard, at least you try to go towards the road of success!).

Simply remember the proverb is not a road to strong players; but a road to weak players. The current way teachers teach and people learn proverbs are not really help them to be strong.

Any idea is welcome.

crux: There is no general list of preconditions. Programms of computer go software would be ecstatic if there was. Deciding whether or not to apply a proverb requires experience and cannot be fully taught. I do think that proverbs are helpful for weaker players, but the advice not to follow them blindly is also helpful. They are examples of which moves can be good play, but it is not possible to make an exhaustive list of good and bad moves. This kind of thing everybody needs to figure out for themselves.

Relax :-)

aLegendWai: Programmers need to be more accurate in defining a pre-condition. Simply telling the programmer, say, if "when separating a group is acceptable, one can do XXX", is not enough. We have to define what is acceptable.

Reading is what human possesses. Computer Go is not. We have to tell them as precise as possible.

The followingis just my little opinions:

A heated topic again.

I'm afraid listing some pre-conditions is not an impossible task. It seems you only have 2 extreme options in mind - only proverbs or "proverbs + listing every and all pre-conditions"! But how about something in the middle of the road?

"Cannot be fully taught" doesn't mean "cannot be taught", right? ^o^ I don't think it is really very difficult or impossible to explain just a bit more, or list some pre-conditions (maybe quite general though). I tried this in "Even a moron connects against a peep" (although I am not sure I am 100% correct). But a step forward towards better understanding.

Is it really impossible to list some pre-conditions, explain a bit more about the proverb? It is much much less difficult than analysis numberless variations in joseki / fuseki. Otherwise the pros will simply don't bother to list them at all and ask you to learn them all by yourself.

It seems you tend to move a lot of things into the discussion section and without providing a link in the main page. I do think at least providing a link is preferable (especially to new Sensei's readers here). What do you think?

crux: You have a point about providing links, I've looked around and it seems to be customary to have a brief /Discussion hyperlink. I didn't bother because I thought having the link in the side bar was enough.

aLegendWai: It is better especially for newcomers. And whether there's a discussion page or not is a bit not clear in the side-bar. ^o^

crux: About explaining a bit more; I welcome one or two good examples (e.g. HolIgor's ones in Even a moron connects against a peep). I believe it is easier and more instructive to give examples of good play than it is to list preconditions for a general guideline.

aLegendWai: It is a good sign. And it gives less misconception to readers. If a reader simply read a statement, it tends to treat it as an absolute rule, rather than a general advice.

One reason why people will mislead because the proverb itself use absolute wording, pretending to be absolute.


The first statement misleads beginners that big dragons will never capture.

The second statement misleads beginners that a ponnuki is really worth exactly 30 points! Some are asking why it is worth 30 points? How about 2 ponnukis? - 60 poins?

The last suggests if you don't connect, you are worse than an idot.

Then how come beginners will not follow proverbs blindly?

crux: As an example, you may have noticed I deleted one of the "arguments against" you gave in Basic Instinct for the hane at the head of two stones: "When the cut is not protected by any other friendly stones. You can't afford being cut!" This, I felt, is wildly inaccurate: the hane in such a situation is a powerful move, and experience shows that in many cases the person playing it has little to fear from being cut, since it gives such a large starting advantage for any fight that follows. Of course, in some cases the cut is problematic, but any attempt to describe these cases is, I believe, doomed to failure. Experience cannot be written down.

aLegendWai: Hey! "When the cut is not protected by any other friendly stones." and "You can't afford being cut!" are the variants of a Chinese Go proverb "Don't hane when you can't afford a cut!". Will you feel it is much more accurate when I put the proverb (instead of my statements) as a reason?

crux: If they are indeed proverbs, you misapplied them. The point of the hane at the head of two stones is that typically you don't need extra friendly stones to protect the cut.

aLegendWai: By the way, I realise you not just deleted one, but every and all my comments (except a few minor sentences left) (I restored some back). Originally there are more than 500 sentences. I always don't know where my comments are gone under your magic hand.

And I'm afraid it is rude to delete people's comments. WikiEtiquette.

If you don't agree with people's comments, you simply delete them. Next time, if people feel your comments are wrong, can they delete yours?

Anyway, I think you are not meant to do it.

crux: Just like proverbs, I believe this is not an absolute rule. For one thing, it obviously doesn't apply to vandalism, and there's some discussion about whether your comments are just that. WikiEtiquette also gives one precondition, "unless you know what you are doing". In the case of Basic Instinct, both Dieter and Bill suggested in a friendly way that you move your comments to the discussion page and restore the main page to its previous state. Since that didn't seem to be happening, I decided a more direct approach was needed. I would have tried to preserve more of it if it hadn't been so confused.

crux: To go back to the computer programs, I believe that to a certain degree human playing strength depends on having a large number of guidelines such as those in Basic Instinct to choose from, and the experience to choose or ignore the right one at the right time. The last bit is the one that's hard to convey through either human or programming languages.

Chris Hayashida: Well, just to add my two cents. Proverbs are just that: proverbs. Proverbs are more a sort of observation, or a guideline, not an absolute truth.. Just because a proverb says to do something, it doesn't mean that it should be done all of the time. I think your reading of a position should override any proverb. I don't think there needs to be any preconditions for a proverb, as I think your judgement when to apply the proverb is important.

For example, "If you have all four corners, resign." Does that mean you should resign, even if you are ahead 50 points on the board? Of course not.

alegendWai: Why if "you have all 4 corners, resign?" Is that a proverb or just a statement?

Chris Hayashida: Yes, it's a proverb.

[Pål Østerud]: "if you have all four corners, resign" is not a proverb. It is a quotation of Toshiro Kageyama from the book "Lessons in The Fundamentals of Go", where he cites the original proverb "If you lose all four corners, resign.", and later on demonstrates that you can build power by sacrificing the corners. He reasons that you should not always follow proverbs and in some situations it might even be correct to say "if you have all four corners, resign"

Bill: As we say dans la belle France, it is the merde of the bull. IMHO.

alegendWai: If it is a statement (suggested by someone), I will completely disagree with it. Take it literally. You get 4 corners, you at least get 50 points. How come it is bad?

Here just states you get all 4 corners. It doesn't necessarily mean your opponent can shut you in and occupy all 4 sides. If the someone suggests so, the guy is too one-sided!

But if it is a proverb, I will definitely agree with it. Try to understand the proverb in this way. Don't take it literally.

When you aim to get all 4 corners, your opponent will shut you in and occupy 4 sides and excellent influence. So you should resign. Yes, perfectly correct!

Chris Hayashida: What I was trying to explain was the point of this page. I do understand the proverb, and I do understand the concepts. But, you shouldn't resign automatically when you have four corners. (In other words, Don't Follow Proverbs Blindly.) Get it?

Chris Hayashida: I think that is exactly what this page is talking about... There are no absolutes. I don't think watering down each proverb page with preconditions will help clarify the matter. In fact, I think that it will be more confusing for the beginner in the long run.

aLegendWai has a point: they don't always apply. But I truly believe that teaching the idea, "proverbs don't always apply" is more important than listing exceptions on every page. Often, I find that my position changes as I grow stronger at go.

For example:

  1. I started to understand that connecting groups was stronger than letting them be cut apart.
  2. After a while, I realized that it wasn't urgent to connect them if they could live separately.
  3. Then I realized that even if they could live separately, I could fight more strongly in the surrounding area if the groups were strongly connected.
  4. Finally, I realized that if I kept them connected together, then some of the endgame moves around the group were not sente if connected together.

Does that mean that I'm flipflopping on the idea of connecting the groups together? No. I think I am starting to realize that there are more conditions to Go than I previously had thought. Does that mean that "Keep your groups connected together" is a good proverb? Should it be listed with a whole bunch of pre-conditions? I don't know. But I think that "Keep your groups connected together" is good advice for beginners, as it is correct more often than not.

Charles That seems to be correct. The exceptions to proverbs in many cases rely on some higher-order concepts, which one may understand better if they are introduced as ways to organise exceptions. In any case, this is one way to approach go's articulation problem.

IanDavis I am astounded by the length of this page. Proverbs exist as a framework which describes some of the fundamentals of Go. Once you understand the proverbs, or the fundamentals, then you no longer follow them, you apply them. A wise man creates proverbs, a fool repeats them.

Charles You certainly can't get your money back; some people like to read the fine print on the warranty, nonetheless.

Dont Follow Proverbs Blindly/ Discussion last edited by on August 27, 2010 - 10:49
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