Joseki Popularity

    Keywords: Joseki

Joseki go in and out of style among pros. Among the games available in modern electronic databases, this can be tracked and quantified. The phenomenon of joseki popularity (or lack thereof) has been noted on numerous pages in SL. I'm interested in thinking about what amateurs can learn from the phenomenon. Some questions swimming in my head follow.

  1. Joseki appear, sometimes become popular, then sometimes lose popularity and rarely get played (or sometimes stop being played completely). Do the same joseki ever regain popularity? Any examples?
  2. If a joseki is no longer in style today among pros, how often is it because it has been discredited--i.e., it has been found to not be joseki?
  3. Or, are many joseki not in style due to some social phenonmenon that isn't totally based on merit of the joseki?
  4. How much weight should amateurs give to joseki popularity among pros?
  5. If pros don't play some joseki, does that imply that it isn't good for amateurs to do so either?
  6. (Really open ended question) How can we amateurs learn about why joseki become unpopular? Database searching alone cannot solve this one. Some analysis is necessary. But, need it be pro-level analysis?

I know that (some, all, most???) pros dislike fixing shape and, thus, might not play certain joseki because they too completely finish off a corner/side, leaving little room for future developments. Suppose we can identify a joseki that has lost popularity and we know (from pro comments maybe) that the reason is that it too completely fixes the shape. Isn't it possible that it would be a good joseki for (some) amateurs precisely because it does fix shape? That is, could a joseki unpopular among pros in fact be a good one for amateurs?

All of this points toward a more general question I've been pondering for some time. Namely, to what extent should amateurs emulate pros? Or, to add more nuance to it: there are many differences between amateurs and pros. Among the differences, which can and should be eliminated for optimal progression in one's skill? Are there differences that should not be eliminated because they serve as useful crutches that are necessary to get from skill level A to B even though they must be abandoned at skill level C?

Bottom line question: what can we learn from pros and what should we just view as differences that we can't expect to benefit from eliminating? Perhaps some (professionally unpopular) joseki? Perhaps other things?

I dunno...


PurpleHaze replies:

  1. I am certain some do, consider the case where a joseki becomes popular and is then discredited, there must be a resurgence of the joseki it had displaced.
  2. I would suspect the majority of the time. The number of innovations must be large compared to the number of balanced sequences.
  3. All else being equal pros will choose the joseki that creates the most aji for both sides.
  4. Zero. Learn a joseki lose two ranks.
  5. Not at all. Often it means it is more suitable.
  6. Win/loss ratios can give a clue. Though sometimes a single game will be decisive. But many become less popular because they've been played-out and have little scope for innovation.

There was a series of articles in Go World about 15-20 years ago analysing how much certain non-joseki moves gave up. Often they concluded that it was one point or even zero points.

BobMcGuigan: I think there are fashions and fads in professional go just as in other areas of life. Certainly some sequences that were considered joseki have been discredited and hence aren't played by professionals (and some of these are recommended in the English version of Ishida's dictionary). But often a relatively less played sequence is simply out of fashion. As an example consider the Shusaku kosumi which was played a lot 100 or so years ago, then fell out of fashion for decades but is now often played. As for amateurs like us, the usual wisdom is not to avoid joseki study but rather to study and learn correctly. Purple haze's loss of two stones in strength results from memorizing sequences without understanding them move by move. If you learn joseki correctly you'll get stronger, not weaker. As for how many points a non-joseki move loses it is true that sometimes it is fairly small but sometimes it is large. We have to make the best moves we can and when we are at a stage of go development where we can appreciate why moves in a joseki are made then we should study them to develop a sense of what is an equal result in various corner situations.

See also Discarded Joseki

DJ: Uh, why are we so fixated with Joseki's??!? ;-)))
I take the liberty to refer you to a page I've written on A Zen Way To Joseki, you may find some answers there...

SnotNose: My interest in joseki are the same as those I have for studying pro games. They are a source of (at least locally) good moves and shapes--ones that I might not have thought of or seen on my own. Seeing them and studying them (so that I understand them to the extent I can) helps me create my own good moves. If we don't call them joseki and just call them "good moves that some pros have played" wouldn't we all agree they're ought to be some merit in studying them?

Finally, during actual play, I need to read ahead not just my own moves, but those of my oponent. Well, my oponent could play any legal move, right? What am I going to read? To cut the tree down, I read the joseki sequences unless they are all obviously bad and I can see something better that my oponent might see and play as well. That is, knowing joseki helps me see a fair result quickly. That's a big short cut and really does help my game.

Joseki Popularity last edited by SnotNose on October 20, 2003 - 13:54
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