Go Blindness

    Keywords: Theory

The inability to see the truly obvious, as in What! Oh! Those stones are/were in atari?. Examples include:

  • Losing a group of cutting stones and allowing a group of the other players stones to live.
  • Playing ko and forgetting to play the ko once your opponent has responded to a ko threat.
  • Filling your own eye in an attempt to convert a group alive in seki to an unconditionally alive group.

Go Blindness usually strikes near the end of the middle game or into the endgame. Amateurs are not the only ones to suffer from this malady. There have been at least two cases of professionals suffering go blindness:

  1. Rin Kaiho lost a title match game, if not the title itself, due to bout of go blindness
  2. Ishida Yoshio won a game against another Japanese 9p when that person suffered go blindness and self-atari'ed five stones.

Go Blindness is not a case of shortage of liberties or failure to read accurately or deeply enough, rather the absolute obviousness of the situation hides the significance of the position from the player, as if the unconscious perceives the situation, desperately tries to alert the conscious mind, which is too busy with some deep reading or careful consideration of a different matter bothered to listen to so blatantly obvious a statement!

This is not limited to atari. Sometimes, especially during the endgame, stones that have been captured are not removed from the board even by experienced players. This mostly occurs when the capture happens in the course of a simple protecting move.

The blindness to atari can be cured by training to see what is an atari. Probably with some exercises one can see an atari by intuition. Head over to spot the atari.

Niklaus: I think the problem occurs only when the move has another meaning besides the atari, for example taking away a point in yose or something like that. You think your opponent has played a one or two point gote play, which makes you think it is the right time to play the fancy complicated sequence you just figured out. Stuff like that sometimes happens to me in fast games once in a while.

Alex Weldon: Certainly, as one gets better, one misses these things less often... it's been a while since I've missed seeing an atari. It's not just a matter of being able to recognise an atari, though. I would still occasionally not see an atari or auto-atari myself when I was around 10k, and a 10k certainly understands what atari is. I think the reason I don't do it anymore is that I'm in the habit of keeping track of the numbers of liberties my groups have... so if someone plays adjacent to a group I knew was at two liberties, it's unlikely that I'll fail to notice that it's in atari.

Miikka?: Thats a good tip, Alex. This blindness has begun for me to remanifest now at 16k, although I was clear of it for a good while. It mostly manifests when I'm sleepy and tired, for me I think my brain is playing tricks on my vision for I have caught a few times and I've carefully went to capture a group, evaluated the situation and placed a stone of mine to finish the capture, and suddenly when the opponent stones don't disappear on my screen a linking stone appears in front of my eyes. Bizarre and frustrating.

Go Blindness last edited by on February 10, 2014 - 20:09
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