How To Win With A 9 Stone Handicap Example



Example 1 (i)  

For B2 several dual-purpose moves come to mind, such as the marked points, which combine attack with making territory or moyo. I want to show you another one that is a bit unusual, but rather good for high handicaps, I think.

Example 1 (ii)  

At first glance, B2 looks passive. However, it is a good, dual-purpose move. It makes a base for black+circle while making it difficult for W1 to make a base. Black's plan, such as it is, is to solidify the lead while attacking White's weak stones, such as W1.

Example 1 (iii)  

A lot of Black players would respond to W3 at a, but that would be too passive. Divide and conquer is the rule, in line with Black's nascent plan. Black plays B4 - W7.
Now a is surely the best move. However, Black is looking for a realizable plan. If Black a and then White pushes and cuts, things get complicated. The plan might go down the drain. B8 is prudent in a high-handicap game. (Note that it is still dual-purpose, combining attack and defense.)

Example 1 (iv)  

White is busy, and thus not too likely to continue with W9, but I wanted to show you B10 and make a comment.

This position is similar to a double kakari joseki where White has a stone at a instead of white+circle. This position may be slightly better for White, but not by much, despite B8.

B10 is the kind of play that weaker players often overlook. It doesn't seem to do very much. However, it is a nice, thick play that solidifies Black's stones, casts its influence towards the center and left side, and attacks white+circle on a large scale: a triple-purpose move! :-)

You might think that Black b would be a better attack against the white stone, since it virtually assures its capture. But, by the same token, that would make it easy for White to give the stone up. The large scale attack risks the stone's eventual escape, or, more likely, that White will get some useful aji out of it, but it is the way to go. If either of those things happen, Black should be able to get compensation, not equitable compensation, (Black's taking nine stones), but good enough. Besides, White b would make it easy for White. Black's job is not to make it easy for White.

Example 1 (v)  

To W1 Black might respond, say, B3 or Ba, but then White might play W2 or Wb, and the plan to attack white+circle could go right down the drain. B2 continues the plan, attacking that stone on a large scale. It also attacks W1. It is OK to allow the double kakari.
In response to W3, Black can separate the two white stones and attack W1. However, I want to show you an idea of Maeda Nobuaki's.

Example 1 (vi)  

Black trades the iron pillar for the double kakari (all marked with squares). Now W4 would be intolerable, so Black plays there, inviting W5. Maeda's idea is to play tenuki to the first kakari, exchange W4 and B5 to the second kakari, and then play tenuki again.
Black could continue the fight, but is outnumbered locally. It is OK to play elsewhere. Why should Black fight where outnumbered and outclassed? Black can always come back, and besides, it is difficult for White to capture B4 and black+circle.
If Black plays elsewhere, there are many good plays. B6 is one you might not have thought of. It does not secure the corner, but it has a good relation to the nearby handicap stones. :-)

Example 1 (vii)  

You don't see W1 that often but Kajiwara Takeo likes it. ;-) B2 is a normal reply.
B4 initiates a battle where Black is locally outnumbered. A play at a or b may be wiser, but I wanted to show you something about approaching such fights, which are hard to avoid completely.

Example 1 (viii)  

Instead of B1, B4 is surely correct, but then the black+circle stones will undergo an attack. B1 - B3 secures them and makes territory while threatening B4: more dual-purpose plays. After W4, running with black+square may be the best play, but it is the kind of thing of which nine-stone disasters are made. Better to regard that stone lightly and threaten to run with it.
B5 is another nice, thick play, extending Black's framework while supporting a possible run-out with black+square.
Black's play may appear inconsistent, since Black initiated an attack, but then dropped the ball. However, Black still has some aji left, and has strengthened the position on the left side, making territory and extending influence. The attack has allowed Black to make this trade.
Has White gotten the better of the deal on the left side? Surely. But if Black keeps making deals like this, Black will win handily. ;-)

In short, make a plan, look for dual-purpose plays, think big, attack, make trades, sacrifice stones, play thickly. Good luck!

Klaus: Stangely I like the white position! (For being a nine stone handicap.) The marked black stones are weak. White might start to frighten them by playing a (after which a cap at b might be fun later, remembering the handicap!) White has succeded in making 3 stable groups, without being shut in. O.K.: almost all white stones are weak, but White has at least one target (marked stones). All the c points might lead to interesting invasions and even the overplay at d comes into consideration. I guess, White is fine, even without finding a black blunder.

Floris: Oh no, they are very strong strones. Much stronger than the marked white stones in fact. a is a big overplay, black will simply jump out at b still waiting for a good time to play either c or d. Whatever white does now, a will be in an awkward position.

dnerra: Bill, I really liked your suggestions of thick solid play -- until there came B5 in the last diagram. Letting white connect two dead groups with a ponnuki at a place where the resulting influence radiates over the whole board feels unbearable to me even in a 9stone game. You have probably taught go to many more people than I have, and have more experience with handicap games, so I am left puzzled. I have always recommended kyu against playing moves like B5 -- let me try to give some reasons:

  • I am usually much more afraid of losing a high handicap game when Black tries to use its strength. The player who would play B5 is probably the same that would respond at a instead of B4 right at the beginning of the game.
  • The most likely outcome by playing safe, submissive moves is a close loss in the endgame -- then what do you learn from the game?
  • Those players who are not afraid of fights are usually those that are progressing and getting stronger quickly. I think it pays to try things out.
  • I think it is also much more fun for Black to try to keep White weak. If a 5k almost kills two 5d groups he has at least a story to tell ("If I just ...") -- losing in the endgame seems rather boring.

Any other experiences/opinions?

Bill: Dnerra, as I said, I always fought like hell with large handicaps. I recommend doing that for those who have the stomach for crushing defeats. ;-) With this example I am basically trying to illustrate two things, dual purpose plays and plays that advance a plan, even if they may not be locally best, or even objectively best. I also want to point out that it is fine to sacrifice stones. You do not have to try to save everything. Maybe my example is flawed because B5 is too bad a play. However, it is not a submissive play. It is a thick play that carries a threat against White's group.

How To Win With A 9 Stone Handicap Example last edited by Dieter on November 2, 2007 - 06:15
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