Mochikomi/ Discussion

Sub-page of Mochikomi

Bill: Stones can be stranded without being mochikomi. It is not uncommon to see a stone or a few stones stranded without help in professional games. Such stones have been strategically sacrificed or temporarily abandoned. They may or may not be saved later, but running with them would have been a blunder. Mochikomi stones are lost without compensation, or without sufficient compensation.

Bob McGuigan: I'm sure you had it in mind, Bill, but I thought it would be good to emphsize that when stones are sacrificed there is usually compensation of some sort. Thus sacrificed stones are not mochikomi, as you say. Even invading stones, if there is a local response, might be sacrificed for the compensation of bigger reduction of a moyo. If there is compensation then the invasion would not be a failure.

John F. in response to the current main page:

John F. Sorry, but I think this is way off. I don't know who invented the term "failed invasion" but it was an excellent choice. The base meaning of mochikomi has nothing to do with stranding. It just means here "handing over" (on a plate), or "putting in the other person's hands". A fuller Japanese phrase would be aite no naka ni ishi wo mochikonde torareru koto. A Japanese description of the result of mochikomi would be maruzon - total failure. So there are three elements to the term: (1) playing inside territory, (2) handing over stones, (3) failure. "Failed invasion" - QED.

Bill: I do not recall ever seeing an invasion referred to as mochikomi. Here is the definition from [ext]


Rough translation: In terms of results, having a stone or stones end up being taken for nothing. There is not much effectiveness like that of a sacrifice.

There is no requirement of an invasion, although there is some suggestion, OC, since that is typically how mochikomi happens.

OTOH, from [ext]


Rough translation: Taking a loss when the stone or stones you play inside the opponent's territory are taken.

That certainly talks about an invasion.

One more, for good measure (added immediately after John's comment below)

from [ext] :


Rough translation: The reason I lost was that I made a mistake and even though I ran with them, some stones I had played as keshi ended up as mochikomi.

Well, there we have keshi, not an invasion.

John F. I don't wish to exaggerate the "invasion" part, and I think I can see why you want to pick up on this part of the English usage. Certainly mochikomi is used (though rarely) in Japanese in cases where we would not use "invasion" at all, e.g. as the result of a karamiseme. It is fairly often used in cases where the Japanese would never use the term uchikomi, but many English speakers would be happy to use the word invasion nonetheless. I refer e.g. to what I prefer to call an encroachment, i.e. coming in from the side, but others may call an invasion, or to cases where the Japanese might use a term like oki or eguri, etc. I personally tend to keep invasion specifically for uchikomi, but there's no rule that says that Japanese and English terms have to be totally equivalent. And then of course there are the many cases where the mochikomi really is the result of a failed uchikomi.

If I did not know the phrase "failed invasion" was in regular use in English go, I would tend to translate the word mochikomi in some way such as "(Black) has ended up just giving stones away". That sort of rendering loses the feel of having a specific technical term. In general, I'm inclined to believe that the more specific technical terms we have the better (ease of conceptualisation, common language, etc). I therefore welcome "failed invasion" as a valuable addition to the English go lexicon. If necessary a note can be added in places such as SL to say that the range of use of mochikomi is slightly broader in Japanese. However, that's only something for translators to worry about, and I'm half tempted to say that if translators come to SL looking for help they shouldn't be translating :)

Bob Myers: John, with all due respect, could you provide us with any examples or real-world cases which could validate your interpretation in the minds of us doubters?

Consider this definition on the web, which I realize should not be given any more credence than any other:

Mochikomi towa, ishi ga aite no ji no naka ni ishi wo okisari ni natte shimatta koto wo iimasu.
"Mochikomi" means stone(s) that ended up stranded within the opponent's territory.

Moves 43 to 46  

This position is from a Yoda-Yamashita game played 2003-10-01 in the Meijin tournament. An amateur commentary (note disclaimer above about credibility) characterized the three black stones in the upper left as mochikomi. Clearly this has nothing to do with an invasion, failed or otherwise.

Yes, Yoda knowingly sacrified the stones, but the point is presumably that he did so (was forced to do so) in a way which left virtually no aji in the position.

End position  

This is the final position.

Your analysis does not seem to fit with the fact that the verb form, "mochikomu", is never used (at least I have never seen it). This foots with the idea that "mochikomi" is not something you do, but something that happens, usually by virtue of subsequent play. The point is not that there was anything wrong with the move(s) when played, but that in the overall context of the game the following moves led to a position where the stone(s) were stranded aji-less.

Another piece of evidence, albeit circumstantial, is that go rarely assigns a technical term to failures. For instance, there is no specific technical term to describe making the wrong move in a life-and-death situation that leads to your death. You just say "I played the wrong move and died". In the case of a failed invasion, all you need to say is "failed invasion" (uchikomi ga shippai). That would indirectly argue that mochikomi must have some more particular meaning, which I argue is the "stranded without compensation" meaning.

Of course, I have little to confirm my interpretation either, other than my personal experience and the data points above, so I welcome someone pointing out where this might be wrong or what I am missing.

John F. In my experience, when two people appear to be saying similar things but claim to be disagreeing, they are often just inadvertently disagreeing about one key word. Possible candidates here are "stranded" and "invasion".

Bob Myers: Thanks for your comments. There's certainly ample common ground.

In an attempt to cut through the confusion, I will (1) restate my position, (2) comment on some specifics in Bob M.'s note, (3) give some examples.

(1a) My plain, unvarnished view of the meaning is that mochikomi is used to describe a situation where stones have been needlessly and uselessly given away. Possibly we agree on that.

Bob: Yes, but isn't there an additional nuance? Your definition would better fit a simple tactical error.

Bill: Well, as I hazily recall, the first place I ran into the term, mochikomi, was about the result of a tactical error in joseki which left a stone mochikomi.

(1b) It is a legitimate technical term in Japanese, and the meaning needs to be explained even to a Japanese. The full go meaning cannot be deduced from the everday meaning (bring about, etc.) I think we agree on that. Because it's a technical term we need, in my view, to find a set English equivalent, if possible. We possibly disagree on that.

Bob: I agree a good English term would be preferable. Otherwise we end up with the amarigatachi situation where no-one knows what it means or people invent random meanings.

(1c) I (and Bill) disagreed with the attempt to define this situation as "stranded stones--stones which end up within the opponent's territory with virtually no aji." To me "stranded" has connotations of still being rescuable and happening either accidentally or, at worst, through carelessness. Indeed, stranded stones can still be alive. Mochikomi stones are, however, beyond salvation in normal play and this result happens through fundamentally bad play rather than mere carelessness.

Bob: I think "strand" has more the "hopeless" nuance. Is this a UK vs. US thing? Some dictionary definitions I dredged up included phrases like "little hope of rescue" and "leave in a difficult or helpless position". If we need to clarify this, instead of abandoning the promising "strand", how about "permanently stranded"?

(1d) Bob (and possibly Bill) seem to disagree with any definition based on "failed invasion". The source is not clear but it appears, for example, in Go Almanac: "A gift. A failed invasion in which the invading stones are captured without compensation" Bob seems to disapprove on the grounds that (i) there is no "invasion" in the base meaning or definition of the word and (ii) his experience and the example above suggest that mochikomi does not necessarily result from invasion. Always assuming I have interpreted him correctly, I'd then rather say that I do not disagree, rather than that I agree. I think there's more to it.

Bob: At a minimum, the "without compensation" part is wrong in the above--they're confusing it with aji-less. In the Yamashita-Yoda game, Yoda did get compensation, by approaching from the middle top.

(1e) It is my belief that in practice mochikomi more often that not does result from what many or most westerners would call an invasion. The force of point (ii) therefore falls away somewhat. Furthermore, I think that Japanese have the same feeling, with the result that many definitions in Japanese specifically refer to playing inside an opponent's territory, or, if not that, at least to playing inside a sphere of influence (and the import of -komi is definitely to connote some nuance of going inside).

Bob: Is -komi here really "inside"? It can also be an intensifier, leading to an interpretation such as "completely (-komi) captured (motte ikareru)"--think "migaki-komu". Or, it could mean "enter into a state of being captured?--think "kangae-komu".

(1f) It is my experience that westerners use "invasion" for a much wider range of tactics than merely "uchikomi" - as mentioned above, it could cover tactics such as oki, eguri, oyogi, monkey jump, etc. I personally tend to use "invasion" specifically for uchikomi, and I have a hunch that the other contributors so far, being familiar with Japanese, do the same. But I think it is a bit of a trap to assume that all invasions are uchikomi to people not dealing with Japanese. At any rate, I have no problem with the wider usage by other people. I think it's worth adding that pros tend not to make mochikomi errors too often, so the term is commoner when discussing amateur games. And we all know that amateurs' favourite tactic is invading!

Bob: Hmm, I see your point, but it seems slightly odd to perpetuate the expanded Western meaning of "invasion" by using it in another term--unless there's really nothing better. Assuming "invasion" in English does have this broader meaning, I think "failed invasion" still suffers from the problem that 90% of English speakers will immediately assume it means there's a moyo or area which is being invaded, and the stones get captured; they would skip over and miss the other aspects of mochikomi.

(1g) Part of the reason I have no problem with the wider usage is that I put a high store on having a set equivalent for a technical term, especially if it refers to a concept. One of the hardest things in go is making an assessment of a process. I think it is valuable to be able to look at a position and sum it up by saying "mochikomi" or "failed invasion". In itself that may seem rather trite, but it is also the springboard to pointing out the corollary - there are situations where an invasion may appear to have failed but in fact it can be labelled as acceptable because it leaves aji or a later semedori, etc. To "ban" the use of "failed invasion" because it may not fit every case in Japanese seems to me a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

(1h) Even in the example shown by Bob above, I think most western players would both understand and accept if someone referred to the result as a "failed invasion" as an ellipsis for "tantamount to a failed invasion". Ellipsis is much underestimated, but I think it's perfectly allowable among consenting adults. Looking at the position and assessing it is the important aspect - not how you got there.

Bob: Seems to be stretching it.

(1i) There is also the lost cause aspect. "Failed invasion" has become entrenched. A huge number of go players will have already absorbed the Go Almanac/Go World usage (and from what I overhear in discussions on games, find it useful).

Bob: No doubt it's widely used, but do you think people really use it to mean "mochikomi", or just a run-of-the-mill invasion that they screwed up?

(2a) In Bob's comments, as mentioned, I have difficulties with the word "stranded". I see nothing in the Japanese that would lead you to think that it is a good idea to *rescue* these stones, which I do think is implicit in "stranded".

(2b) I haven't collected citations, but I'm sure mochikomu can be used as a verb, if for no other reason it is used that way as part of the definition below by Hayashi. Agreed though that it tends to be used in phrases such as mochikomi ni naru.

(2c) I don't understand the point about "do" and "happen" because I can't see that anyone is talking about any "doing". "Failed invasion" is describing an end state, something that has happened. "Gift" or phrases along the lines of "has ended in..." also describe an end state. Having said that, though, I think both mochikomi and okisaru imply some sort of prior process (and thus imply "failure"). Okisaru is not a standardised compound, and so the two parts should be read independently. Oku is to "put" and saru is "go away". So the implication is that the player has gone forward but found he has to retreat or give way. (PS In this example it is ji, not chi, for territory)

Bob: I beg to differ on okisari. One dictionary gives "desertion; leaving behind or in the lurch".

(2d) Equally, I can't pretend to see the significance of the circumstantial argument (and I would have thought that shippai was a perfectly good way of describing a failed move in tsumego).

(2e) For reasons above, and also in the context of when these terms would be used in real life, I can't really see the value of trying to distinguish between "failed invasion" and "stranded without compensation" even if the latter was found to be acceptable. "Failed" seems near enough to "without compensation" for all practical purposes, and "stranded" would then seem to imply going inside somewhere where you didn't really oughta - which is certainly true of an invasion that fails.

Bob: Your logic is that if the phenomenon P1 (stranded) is a superset of phenomenon P2 (failed invasion), then a term for P2 can legitimately be applied to any P1.

(2f) Of the four Japanese examples above, two refer to playing inside territory, one to inside a sphere of influence, and the fourth is neutral. (I'm implying there a disgreement with Bill, by the way - I would find it acceptable to call a keshi an invasion, i.e. not all invasions are uchikomi).

(3a) My memory of the Hayashi definition was spot on - aite no naka ni ishi wo mochikonde torareru koto (one more day without a senior moment!) though he adds a bit more and gives an example: Maruzon matawa sore ni chikai torarekata. The example he gives is:

Bob: I guess I'm not supposed to disagree with the erudite Hayashi, but in the Yamashita/Yoda example above the mochikomi stones were not "mochikonde" into "aite no naka ni". And I've never heard the expression "mochikomu" to refer to playing stones in any other context. He may be trying a bit too hard to make things fit. It does not seem too logical that a construct of the form "A and B" (mochikomu and torareru) would be simplified to just the A part. To me, and I have absolutely no evidence for this, the "mochi" part seems like "motte ikareru" (be captured).

Hayashi example  

(3b) The Nihon Ki-in's Hayawakari Yougo Kojiten is, as so often, a crib of Hayashi but usefully has one important difference here (plus a different example). The base definition is aite no ji no naka e ishi wo irete torareru koto. Thus ireru is being offered as a synonym here for mochikomi. It then continues like Hayashi: Maruzon, aruiwa sore ni chikai son dearu. The example is from a Takagawa-Fujisawa Hosai game. Black 1 was an oversight, it says, and after 4 White had "mochikomi ni shita."

Kojiten example  

(3c) Neither of these examples start with a move that could be called "invasion" but it is clear from the Japanese definitions that there is an element of "insideness". As I said above, I would in any event expect some people to call the end result a failed invasion, and I would accept that. As I also said, my own preference in a run-of-the mill commentary would be to say something like "X (has made a mistake and) just given some stones away." But if we are talking concepts, I would not feel awkward about saying failed invasion.

I think that last point is important. I can't remember where it was now, but the last time I contributed to SL in some depth on a terminological question, I tried to make the point that it is important, before you expound, to explain what you are trying to achieve, to state what the limits are. This is a good example, If you are trying to promote awareness of the concept of positional assessment and help players become strong, you would do well to go with the Go Almanac definition. If you are trying to help a translator you'd probably want to favour the maruzon aspect. You can do both, or more, but I do think it's useful to keep the strands apart.

Bob: All in all, even with your reasoned considerations, and including the "water over the dam" element, I remain troubled by "failed invasion". At some point, of course, we'll need to put this to rest, but how about a bit of brainstorming about other possibilities? Ideas? How about "(completely) emasculated stones"?

Bill: Quick response. First, I think that stranded is too weak. Lost is more like it. Second, mochikomi describes the stone or stones, but is a koto. (Something I misunderstood before.) Third, it's not an invasion, either. Fourth, any compensation for the loss of the stone or stones is woefully inadequate. That's the main point. Otherwise we say there was an exchange, or a sacrifice.

John F. Bob, I think I'll make this my last contribution on mainstream SL. I have become increasingly reluctant to enter the fray lately, for a variety of reasons. The fracas over goban tipped me over the edge. Neko ni koban.

Among the other reasons for my reluctance is the format. I see people attempting to make a cogent argument, only to find that someone breaks it up with interpolated queries or disputes. There's no malice involved, but the end result of the interpolations for the original poster is that he ends up fighting fires all over the place instead of attending to the central point. New readers come in, inevitably lose all sense of orientation, and make matters worse by highlighting only the parts that interest them. Pseuodnyms and the lack of dates compound the problems. I have been as guilty as others. I don't think this aspect is the fault of people. It's a problem with the way the SL format has evolved away from a true wiki. It's become too much like

But before going, I'll comment on your points.

1. "Your definition would better fit a simple tactical error": I was giving a view not a definition. I don't think a view needs to be as watertight.

2. "Strand": I don't think it's a US/UK thing. At least Bill seems to share my reservations. I may be influenced by living near the seaside when young and hearing the word a lot because of a particular problem area we had there. An Oxford dictionary to hand says, for the figurative meaning, "in difficulties, for want of resources" which seems to fit both our senses of the word, but I still cleave to the nuance that a stranded person is rescuable.

3. "Without compensation": I didn't introduce this phrase so I don't feel the need to defend it. My own preferred phrase was "beyond salvation".

4. "Is -komi here really inside": I already quoted the Japanese dictionary that replaced mochikomi by ireru, so I think that case is made tout court. In e.g. kangaekomu I'd say the idea of "in" is clear - sink into thought, be in deep thought. None of this precludes use as an intensifier. The original meaning of "up" in "listen up" or "in" in "listen in" may be weak but is still there (lift up your heads and listen, crane forward towards the centre to listen).

5. "Okisari": If you insist on this as a fixed compound, it's okizari, surely. But I can't really see it matters much. The meaning is still to abandon. I was just trying to get inside the mindset of the person who first used the word, which in turn resulted from trying to get inside your distinction between do and happen. We have a disconnection, it seems.

6. Hayashi: Of course it's possible to disagree with him. He would face the same problems as we are in trying to make a definition watertight. But it's also possible to argue, as I think you did, that even other Japanese writers, especially amateur web users, may not always use terms correctly. So a single example is not really enough as a counterargument.

7. All your other points seem to relate to "invasion". I already said I didn't want to stress this word too much, and that it would not be part of my own definition. I was defending its use by other people, in a practical sense not a logical one. If mochikomi appears in a Japanese text, I assume that a translator, before he makes a decision as to what term he uses in English, looks as the position. If he then judges that the end result looks like a "failed invasion" he might use that phrase. I would support him. I further assume (but I get the sense you don't give him credit for being able to make this adjustment) that if what he sees is not what he judges a failed invasion, he would change tack and use a different phrase (e.g. Black has simply gifted away three stones). In short, translators have to be pragmatic, not dogmatic.

Going back to my original carp, given the limitations of the format on SL, I think another way has to be found if you want to discuss definitions. I suggest that the way to do it is *not* to start by offering a definition and then offering it up to be torn to pieces. There's a bit of wolf inside most of us. Better simply to make a long, long list (without comment) of examples of where it is used in real texts. Once it is judged that no new nuances or grammatical usages are forthcoming, then it is time to try to attempt not just a definition but a description of usage, both of which have to fit all the observable facts.

Mochikomi example  

Bob Myers: In "Shin Hayawakari Hamete Kojiten", published by the Nihon Ki-in, it says that after the hamete sequence shown here, W1 is now "mochikomi" (p. 164). (The hamete was initiated by the marked Black stone. The refutation is to play W3 rather than W1. For extra credit, what is Black's follow-up move?)

Anon: The follow up is at a.

Bob Myers: How about using "orphaned stones/group" as the preferred English for "mochikomi", and "orphan" as the verb?

Mochikomi/ Discussion last edited by BobMyers on November 17, 2005 - 01:39
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