Guidelines for Fighting and Sabaki

    Keywords: Books & Publications

Guidelines for Fighting and Sabaki
series: NHK Lecture
By: Ishikura Noboru
Publisher: NHK, 2005
ISBN10 4-14-016135-3
221 pp.

Guidelines for Fighting and Sabaki, (NHK囲碁シリーズ 石倉流 攻めとサバキの法則, ISBN 4-14-016135-3 ) by Ishikura Noboru, NHK (2005), 221 pages.

This book grew out of an NHK lecture course, "Ishikura's Keys for Improvement", which ran from October 2004 to March 2005. According to the preface, the material is aimed at kyu players who want to make shodan, but is written to be useful to players ranging from 10 kyu to about 3 or 4 dan.

Ishikura's plan is to dwell on joseki, attacking, and invasion. Particularly for joseki, his goal is not to teach variations so much as to teach methods of fighting in various contexts. He says, incidentally, that even a shodan-level player need know at most ten joseki; but that "knowing" means understanding the meaning of all the moves, having the ability to punish unreasonable deviations, playing variations which fit the position, and having an inkling of how to continue afterwards. The book addresses all of this.

Every theme diagram in the book, including the joseki material, is a whole-board position -- apparently there is no such thing as an isolated corner. In fact every diagram, except for some very local tesuji or life-death sequences, is whole-board or at least half-board.

Ishikura teaches fighting techniques by starting with quite simple positions and introducing applicable rules and guidelines as they are needed. As the positions considered grow more complex, the rule collection grows longer until eventually, about halfway through the book, he assembles them into a convenient one-page digest. But throughout the book, almost each time a significant rule is applied he quotes it in bold-face type so that we'll be conscious of its application. Incidentally, the one he singles out as most important is "when attacking, defend yourself by building out from your own weaknesses." Of course, you have to study his examples to see exactly what he means by this.

Every example he presents is completely practical -- these are all positions of the sort which would arise in amateur games, many of which, Ishikura says, are frequently misplayed, even by mid-dan level players. Furthermore, here and again he supplies recently invented move sequences that he feels will be unfamiliar to most readers, but which he encourages them to try.

Readers of my previous Ishikura reviews know that I am a great fan of his books. The secret of his appeal is his blend of just the right amount of general principles with a superb choice of theme diagrams, along with the inclusion of just enough variant sequences and follow-up detail to convince readers that his recommendations can actually be made to work in their hands as well as in his. Whenever I wonder, "but B might play here instead", on the next page I find, "you may worry that B could play here instead; but the way to cope with that is...."

Below are included a number of diagrams -- some fairly simple, to illustrate his approach to teaching basics, and others more advanced, to hint at some of the goodies in this book.

There are four chapters:

  1. Star point joseki (48 pages)
  2. 3-4 point joseki (46 pages)
  3. Attacking (54 pages)
  4. Invasion (66 pages)

CHAPTER 1 deals exclusively with the small knight's kakari against the 4-4 stone, and the first section deals exclusively with the one-space high or low shimari response. For instance, the first diagram in the book is as follows:

Diagram 1  

Everyone except a brand new player has seen this, but Ishikura gives a detailed account of what these moves mean and what they accomplish. What if B7 had been played at 8? What if B9 had been tenuki, allowing a W pincer? How can B handle W10 at a (thereby demonstrating that the 2-space extension is sound)? Why can't B9 be a 3-space extension?

Diagram 2  

Next, we look at a variation on the right side: B2 is high rather than low to balance the marked stone on the third line, and B4 pincers rather than block at the 3-3 point so as to take advantage of the lower B star. Naturally, there will now be a fight. Wa is shown to be futile, so Wb is recommended instead. Then B will try to seal W in, while W resists.

Note that we are not being taught "joseki selection" as such; rather, we are being shown individual moves that are thematic to the position, and then learning how to handle some of the tactical consequences. The lines of play which work out reasonably for both sides are the joseki, but this emerges at the end of the explanation rather than at the beginning.


Next, starting again from the first diagram, we consider B7 there replaced with the present B1 then followed here by W2. B pincers immediately this time, to take advantage of his existing stones. W must respond. He could jump out to a -- and this is shown, later to lead rapidly to interesting whole-board issues -- but here he jumps into the corner with W4. The reasons for the moves through B7 are given, and the dire consequences of W tenuki at 8, instead of responding locally, are demonstrated.

At this point, three plausible continuations are considered -- starting, respectively, with Wb, Wc, and W8, along with likely followups. W8, which Ishikura characterizes as increasingly popular among pros, is given particular attention. He remarks that it is more difficult to play than the common Wb, but he urges the reader to work through the variations and become comfortable with them.

Diagram 4  

Eventually, Ishikura reaches the climax of the first chapter, namely, B's moves B1 in this diagram and in the next, both described as recent innovations. (B1 in the next diagram was studied in the second installment of the Go World series on Korean joseki innovations, a few years back.) These are characterized as interesting, exciting, and leading rapidly to violent fighting; and the reader is exhorted to master these moves (seventeen diagrams worth of analysis given for each), thereby stepping up to a higher level -- and by all means to spring them on his own opponents!

So, the chapter ends at a much higher level than where it begins. But there is something for everybody.


In CHAPTER 2 the positions are all based on the large knight's approach and the one-space high approach to the 3-4 point.

Diagram 6  

In the first few diagrams of the chapter, for instance, we are advised that the small knight's approach at a branches into so many variations that it is far less burdensome to play W6 instead. If B plays B7 then W8 is the natural defensive move. If B9 were at b, say, then W10 at c would be a key point, as we will see. W10 prevents B from getting double wing extensions.

(Later, we are shown that if B7 is a pincer at d then playing W8 anywhere other than the 3-3 point, right against B3, results in grief. The play at the 3-3 point then gives Ishikura his first chance to discuss cross-cut fights, a topic to which he returns in a variety of positions.)

Diagram 7  

Next, B plays the marked stone on the left to prevent W from getting a double wing, initiating a joseki, and then eventually takes sente with with the marked stone on the top; and W responds with the marked one-space jump. At this point B is under no specific threat, so he stops to take stock.

Ishikura's rules: When the action is at a pause, survey the whole board and do the following, in this order:

  1. If you have a weakness, defend it.
  2. If your opponent has a weakness, attack it.
  3. If neither of the above, play a big point.

B has no particular weakness. However, W has a serious weakness which he should have defended with his own last move. Namely, since "four die on the third line" and W's two-space extension on the right is hemmed in from both sides, if B can seal it in from the outside then W must seriously scramble to stay alive. So...

Diagram 8  

B1 and B3 are a standard tesuji for sealing in a hemmed-in two space extension on the third line. Up through W10 W has an eye at B1 and an eye on the side, and so is alive; but B has enlarged his upper right moyo and, following Ba, Wb, and Bc, has a solid corner profit on the lower right.

If W omits W10 and B can play there instead, then the eye at B1 is gone and, as Ishikura demonstrates, B can hold W down to one eye on the side; so W dies.

Ishikura goes through other W responses to show that no matter what happens, B gets a lot of profit from the attack. So, in the previous diagram, W's marked move should have defended at a. Further, in diagram 6, if B9 were at b then Wc would have been a fine defensive move, as well as simultaneously obstructing B's shimari.

The chapter also discusses pincer attacks on the initial approach stone, as well as an assortment of fights arising from the one-space high approach.

In CHAPTER 3 we move into middle game fighting. The positions include attacks on unreasonable invasion stones, early B splitting invasions in 4-stone handicap games and, finally, a pair of positions with devastating attacks that, Ishikura says, should be new to many three dans.

Some of the positions with unreasonable invasion stones are similar to the one illustrated under the title "Fighting aginst an unreasonable invasion" in the review of Ishikura's How to Break Out of Beginning Kyu Levels, Immediate Results; but the present book includes variant diagrams where the invader has more friendly stones in the area, so that the attacker has to expect to settle for a less crushing outcome.

Here is the basic handicap position that is studied:

Diagram 9  

Ishikura devotes 22 of the chapter's 54 pages to this and a companion position in which the marked W stone is played on the left side instead. W has just played the marked stone, a gote move, and B has four solid shimaris with no weaknesses; so according to the three rules discussed above, B should look for an attack. In fact, another rule: in a handicap game, B should go on the offensive as early as possible, while the advantage of the extra stones is still proportionately large.

Ishikura's five rules of attack are:

  1. Steal the defender's base.
  2. Don't make indiscriminate contact moves.
  3. Defend your own weaknesses by building out from them.
  4. Use leaning attacks.
  5. Take profit while attacking.

Here, the attacking move is the base-stealing and splitting move B1, and among the many variations explored, W responds with a cap. Ishikura has discussed, earlier, the virtues of being ready to sacrifice in return for compensation elsewhere; but he says that under no circumstances should B consider sacrificing this valuable B1! So B3 runs.

Several W responses are examined. W4 and W6 are a tricky combination meant to lead B astray, but B must fight the ko, or else he gets a poor result. After B9, the ko threat of Wa is answered with Bb, and then W retakes at 4. Now B enlarges the stakes with a move at c. As Ishikura shows, if W were to respond by connecting the ko then B would simply connect at d, and W cannot capture the corner! So W plays at d himself and B recaptures. The ko is now so big that no matter what W's ko threat -- say, a cross-cut at e -- B captures at f, and also comes out way ahead in the ensuing fight in the lower right.

Finally, here is one of the two "special reserve" examples that close this chapter:

Diagram 10  

The last moves played before the action starts are B's marked stone on the right followed by W's marked stone on the left. W apparently felt himself safe enough to play a big point; but the tesuji combination of B1, B3 and B5 tear into his position. (If W2 is on top of B1 instead of a side block, B easily connects out to the marked B stone and sets the whole W group adrift with no base.) Just one of the simpler variations is displayed here -- it continues with Ba, Wb, and Bc -- but in all cases W gets torn into two heavy eyeless groups, or one clumpy, live but sealed-in group, while B gets outside thickness and sometimes sente.

So as in diagram 6 above, a two-space extension on the third line does not automatically remain safe forever.

Ishikura exhorts, "Please be sure to use the moves B1, B3 and B5 in your own games."

CHAPTER 4 studies invasion. It is not organized as a kind of mini invasion dictionary. Instead, it presents twelve whole-board positions in which the best move happens to be some particular invasion; and usually, non-invasion alternatives, or invasions at the wrong spot, are briefly considered in order to show why they are inferior.

Ishikura does not present invasion joseki? as such; rather, in each position, he looks for the best moves given the opponent's responses, in light of his precepts of fighting, sabaki, and living as quickly as possible when sealed in. In the end we see why certain move sequences keep appearing; but he organizes some of the positions into sets in which the defender's stones are only slightly rearranged, and yet the reasonably likely outcome changes. So nothing is automatic.

The trickiest positions presented are ones where the invader does not make a connected live group but, instead, plays sabaki and sacrifice techniques either to get a live group near the original invasion point, or to split open the defender's position by escaping. Here is an example. Ishikura has already introduced the notion of sabaki and applied it in some earlier positions:

Diagram 11  

B has just played the marked stone on the left and so, as Ishikura explains, the time to strike B's moyo is right now, before he gets in a reinforcing move; and the place to do it is W1. We are shown that capping W makes it too easy for the invader to live inside B's moyo; so B plays B2. Then since, as we are shown, the space is too narrow for ordinary extensions to be effective, W must resort to the sabaki contact move of W3. If B4, then a standard response would be to play W5 at 6, followed by a jump to y if B descends to x.

Although that is playable, in this position W ends up a bit constrained. So an interesting new procedure is to play W5 hane -- as repeatedly explained, sabaki calls for diagonal rather than straight moves -- with perhaps the displayed sequence, continuing with Wa, Bb, Wc, Bd, We, Bf, Wg. The original W1 has been sacrificed, but capturing the corner is a big success. Enough variations are provided, with alternate B responses, to demonstrate that W's invasion is sure to succeed.


See Also:

Tamsin: I am currently reading this book. I think it`s a very well organised and beautifully explained guide to many joseki that occur time and time again. What I like especially about it is the way Ishikura seems to know what you`re thinking as you read - that is, several times I have read his recommendations in a particular line and wondered "but what if?" only for Ishikura to tackle the "what if?" variation in the very next paragraph. Above all, there is a good, logical flow to each discussion, which makes it much easier to remember what is being said (although right from the beginning Ishikura states that repetition is fundamental to learning). This book illustrates well the difference between memorising joseki and studying them: because it helps you to understand the joseki and their applications better, I think one should have no trouble remembering how to play when the same situations occur in real games. At least, I already feel like I have learned many new lines, without making any attempt to memorise anything.

I definitely think this kind of book should be translated and made available in the English-speaking world. I can`t think of any English-language books with a similar approach - for sure, Rui Naiwei's Essential Joseki contains some good commentary, but for me it lacks the continuous flow and context that Ishikura achieves.

As for the middle-game-specific later chapters, I haven`t yet reached them, but judging by what I have read so far, I`m in for a treat!

Guidelines for Fighting and Sabaki last edited by velobici on August 20, 2008 - 21:39
RecentChanges · StartingPoints · About
Edit page ·Search · Related · Page info · Latest diff
[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library