Stubborn Play


There is a certain class of Go players who are stubborn and persistent beyond belief in continuing a futile line of play. You've all seen them, they are the ones who try and pull off completely ludicrous suicide invasions into solid territory, hoping by some outside chance that you might screw up. This is annoying on two fronts. One it wastes your time and takes enjoyment out of the game. This is not the same as wasting time in a lost game, because often, the game still isn't lost for either opponent. Secondly, it is insulting because your opponent is choosing a line of play that relies not on his skill, but on your lack of skill. Sometimes they actually succeed when you get frustrated and ticked off enough.

This style of play doesn't just annoy your opponent, it doesn't help you improve at all.

Snappy: The worst part about this style of play is that when you do fall asleep and your opponent does capture some huge group, they think it's their skill that won the game and they don't get any better. In their defense however, most of the time this bad habit arises from a failure to correctly read the situation.

Stefan: Could it be that we have a new proverb? "Know (and avoid) the time-wasting tesuji"? :-)

If this happens in the club, I don't mind asking somebody to already start another game on another board. And be it in tournament or club games, children, we should thank the opponent for training us in that most precious of Go skills: patience! Especially if he rips us off, because then the lesson will be really effective.

naruto3: I am one of those stubborn players who never quits when they have lost :-( it is a bad habit and i know i should not do it. lol

andycjp: Iam guilty too sometimes.I apologise to all those I have annoyed. I think it derives from investing too much self esteem into the game.If you are wise losing is a chance to learn but alas I am not wise.

ilanpi: A long time ago when I was 13K, I played an even game with a 9K player and made a completely ludicrous suicide invasions into solid territory. He started up in the chat telling me: "I agreed to play with you. Don't do stupid things." He continued by giving me baseball(!) analogies. Anyway, I somehow managed to understand what people on this page are trying to say, so I did another completely ludicrous suicide invasions into solid territory, but this time even more unreasonable. He immediately resigned. I am very proud of this game, especially because I managed to figure out how to win a lost game, but also because I dealt with unfair verbal harrassment by opponent during game.

That game was played exactly one year ago and my rating has since improved 10 ranks. The other player stopped playing with his ID shortly after the game, so his subsequent ranking is unknown. I just looked over the game, which is Vice-ilanpi here [ext] It doesn't seem to me now that the first "insulting" move which brought on the problems was that unsound, though my followup at the time certainly was. It does seem clear that what he thought was solid territory isn't. This seems to indicate that sometimes, what one player considers is a completely ludicrous suicide invasions into solid territory is actually a refutation of a players incorrect perception. As in my game, a player's opinion that a move is offensive is very likely influenced by the opponent's rank. I doubt if he would have made the same comment if I had made the move at my present (3K) ranking (and wiped out his pseudo territory).

I therefore basically disagree with pretty much everything written previously on this page.

ThaddeusOlczyk: ilanpi I think you have to be more specific. I could not find the Vice-ilanpi game.

ilan: Sorry about that, the correct address should be up there now.

gaius: heh, I just downloaded the game, and I just love his text...

Vice [9k]: okay

Vice [9k]: i agreed to play with you

ilanpi [13k]: great

Vice [9k]: dont do stupid things

It for sure cracked me up...

Charles: So, some etiquette tips. Playing one speculative invasion, when you are behind, and resigning when it fails, is possibly looking for a place to resign; and can be OK. That is, in a bad position you acknowledge by your play that normal moves are futile. Pros may do this.

Persistently invading just in case your opponent might make a mistake is a bad habit. It seems to peak, for some players, at about 8 kyu. It is annoying, not because it never works, but because go is supposed to be an enjoyable game of skill. Mostly stronger players feel some obligation to work out whether an invasion is good, before starting it (I'm not saying this happens 100% of the time). Otherwise, you may well lose both (a) ko threats and (b) points. You also lose the reading practice.

In fact it is a common observation that those who do this also (a) spend too many plays in the endgame trying to set up swindles and (b) play 'safety plays' themselves.

etrynus: Ilanpi - I enjoyed the story but I think your last sentence is going a bit far. Speculative invasions are always annoying. Would you say that at your level, if someone made an impossible invasion, and somewhere you accidentally, say, self-atari'd, that you would tip your hat and say good game?

I think that at any given level, there is a different standard as to what a pointless invasion is, and those standards should be kept to for the most part.

In your game against Vice, however, your first invasion (I think) was completely legitimate and in an even game Black could have probably made life. Your second one, though, obviously was not, but I can see why you'd want to piss that guy off for being such a jack***. Anyways, my point is, that even though you were probably right in your game against Vice, I would argue to others reading this that your specific example shouldn't be a reason to promote speculatively invading (because your first one was not), since it was a special case and your opponent was just plain rude.

ilan: Thanks, I agree with this.

Ian Davis: I am now thinking about the last time I played ilanpi. He is stronger than I am but I remember getting annoyed at his constant badgery play towards the end of the game. My own personal taste is to speculate with what I consider an endgame probe to see if my opponent does know how to defend against a rip off - but only if I myself find it moderately difficult to find the correct reply. This though is probably hypocritical, because during the rest of the game I'm sure most of my plays are attempted rip offs.

anon: In even games, I find it far simpler to have learned not to worry about winning. If I can't see a way to win then I resign. I might see "rip-offs" and "swindles" that work only if my opponent makes an error. But I don't bother with them if I see they don't work. The benefit of looking for them is doing the reading to see if they work or not. Once that is done, there is no value so I don't play them (if they don't work). In handicap games the story is totally different, of course.

ilanpi I find it really strange to read all these comments relating affect to opponent moves. I can't imagine thinking that an opponent's move is "annoying" except in the sense that it is a move which I don't know how to deal with, that is, a good move. Maybe I haven't played enough go to associate emotion with types of moves except for the simple "moves which help my position are a source of satisfaction and moves which make it worse are source of annoyance."

To answer your question etrynus, yes, I congratulate all my opponents if they win, unless I feel there was improper behavior, almost always when opponents make offensive remarks in chat. Unfortunately, I have failed to do this on a number of occasions, and I was wrong for that (Hu if you are reading this, I'm sorry for my bad behavior in our one game). If I make a self-atari after my opponent made an unreasonable invasion,

then I most certainly understand that his invasion was not at all unreasonable, since I was not cool enough to handle it.

My general philosophy (for all game playing) is: Do anything possible within the rules to win but do nothing that is outside the rules, and I expect my opponent to do the same.

I think the only legal play that has upset me is intentionally continuing to play after game is over in order to win on time. As most people know, this is the regular practice on Yahoo Go. I'm afraid that I have been guilty of this on one single occasion, a 9x9 game on KGS when my opponent was in severe time pressure. However, I do not know whether this practice is actually legal, as it does appear to be fairly unethical. Maybe someone can answer this question: there is a speed go tournament with absolute time (no byo-yomi) and one player has almost no time left, is it legal for the other player to continue moving after there are no useful moves left in order to win on time (time pressure person has to keep saying "pass" then press his clock!!)?

If even thinking up such a hypothetical situation seems unpleasant to many go players, I should specify that I am a veteran chess player where such scenarios are the rule rather than the exception. For example, one of my less pleasant memories is losing a speed chess tournament in the last round when both sides were left only with King + Rook each, and with 7 and 4 minutes respectively. My opponent refused to accept a draw and we spent the next 8 minutes shuffling our 2 pieces at the rate of about 2 to 4 moves per second. The tournament director was a relatively weak player, so didn't know enough to stop the circus. By the way, I invite people to use this story when discussing the relative merits of chess and go.

   Rookie is right, and you didn't know an important rule here. 50 moves w/ no capture and no pawn move -> draw. -JH

Charles I've taken to agreeing with people who say "I can't imagine X". Yes, Ilan, I agree with you - you can't imagine an opponent's play being annoying.

I also encourage people not to use Ilan's story...

Conan: this is a serious subject about go spirity. For what i read, i completely agree with Charles. Playing moves that dont work are a bad habit, and the main issue with players with that habit is weakness. U wont see 5d* up trying to pull silly tricks. And to Charles example of pros, its not that they try to pull silly stuff, they make game complicated, complicated for both, and its not the same as a hamete (which i was attent victim several times). Lets say i play a hamete, and my opp fell for it, then it was a good move? NO it wasnt, this goes to ilanpi. Its about go spirit, not about go result. U may win ur games, but believe me, u end up in that rank/ strengh forever, because u never reach a better understanding of go. The time thing is delicate, your case its clear that it was a bad spirit situation, but in some circumstances, i think its justified. Lets say u have 20 stones in 25 min, and the opponent spent 20min on reading the tesuji that captured a group. Game is over, in a matter of points, but the opp used more time than you, and that counts, so if you make game complicated, he wont have time to think, and will play either bad or lose on time. I think this is ok, BUT of course, if the opponent survives the byoyomi, thats time to resign.

Cheyenne: I believe that what it really boils down to, is respecting your opponent. There are three cases to take into consideration

  1. In a handicap game as white, some trick plays are par for the course, it may be the only way to win the game, however you should also remember that you are dealing with a weaker player and one of the goals of the game should be instructional. Therefor you should respect your opponents ability and remember that they should come away from the game in a positive experience
  2. In an even game, you should ask yourself before you play an impossible invasion, "If the situation was reversed, could I prevent my opponent from living there". You are respecting your opponent's ability as an equal
  3. In a handicap game as black, if you need to make a wild invasion in order to win, it is probably already too late. You started out with an advantage already. Respect the stronger player's ability to be able to out read you.

And to be honest, yes - I have been guilty of stubborn play. Not on purpose however, but on hindsight and in review of lost games there have been times where I should have simply resigned, thanked my opponent.

ilanpi: Hello Ian Davis, what a strange statement about our game. You didn't mention that you asked for a handicap so a little extra effort on my part was to be expected.

I looked up the game, which can be found here [ext] [1] I find my play to be rather careful to the point of being passive, so I would like to know which moves you are referring to. On the other hand, I might have had reason to be annoyed, since I was greeted with: "I can smell your brains" in response to my fairly innocuous: "hi there". I can't criticise your play in the game though, I wasn't able to do much against it.

Actually I meant the previous game, not this one. My mistake. I mentioned this one as it shows what some people might consider stubborn play. Although it was a handicap game it does I think feature some boring yose.

Neil: Surely there's a difference between stubbornness and merely not assuming one's opponent is perfect? I can see assuming consistently perfect play from one's opponent at the pro level and among top amateurs, but the rest of us haven't earned that assumption.

Blake: Sure--but if, in the last few moves of the game, your opponent blunders hideously and lets you kill something that you shouldn't have, did you earn the win? Is he going to go away with a positive impression of you? Do you learn anything from his failure to kill the rabbit-six? Do you learn anything from him playing an auto-atari with 20 stones? Or would you rather end the game in good faith, say "Thanks for the game," and maybe play again? If the game ends on a sour note, you probably won't be playing again too soon...

Neil: A mistake in the last 10 plays is as much a mistake as one in the first 10 plays, I say. Whether I learn from it is immaterial to a good-faith competition (instead of an elaborate system of ritual and social hierarchy).

If you consider losing becuase you made a mistake at the end a "sour note," then I suggest you learn how to win a won game instead of blaming your opponent for it.

Someone: Reading this page as a go novice, there seem to be several entangled disagreements in it, but one of them seems to be "would you rather win games now or later"--some people are saying that playing moves that shouldn't work, in order to get a cheap win, may win you the game now but will slow down your development of go skill in the long term...

Blake: In a situation like this, I always offer my opponent an undo. Frankly, a yose mistake costing you 20 points when it should have been 1 or two (as in auto-atari cases) is not the same as a mistake in the first 10 plays. I'd much rather have fun and enjoy the game (and not have my opponent remember it negatively) than win. Each game is insignificant. If there was money riding on the outcome, I would care more, but since there's not, I feel that I should try to make the game as fun for everybody as possible. I've been on the other side of these unthinking brain-farts, and they're just not pleasant. Usually, my opponents don't take the undo--but they do appreciate the offer, and I think it gives a better impression of me than it would if I took my unearned win, said "thx" and closed the window...

Arieh: I agree entirely with this attitude. When opponents suicidally attack my territory just hoping I'll blunder, I am annoyed or even insulted, but I take a breath and thank them for a lesson in patience, focus, and reading practice. If it "steals" the game from you, so what? Unless you're a professional it really doesn't matter. Just review the game and next time you won't make the same mistake. On the other side of the argument, trying to steal a lost game by invading territory and hoping your opponent blunders seems likely to hinder your progress. Especially if you're successful, you'll be reinforcing bad habits. However, I think there is great learning value in attacking territory that seems to safely belong to your opponent if you're not sure how your opponent can defend it (or if you are having trouble reading it out after reasonable effort.) In this way, you are effectively asking your opponent for a lesson in how to defend against similar attacks.

Bill: Stubbornness will generally hold you back in go. Flexibility is much better. OTOH, I know a dan player who would be about four stones weaker except for his stubbornness. He simply refuses to lose. ;-)

[1] W23 premature; W31 pincer at C14; B48 bad shape; W55 slow ... the point at issue would be W265. Charles

ilanpi Thanks for the game comments! Regarding your last comment, I don't see how my last move could be the point at issue, that is, how a single move could be interpreted as "constant badgery play" (kind of like in the Clinton-Paula Jones case in which one incident does not make harrassment). Moreover, if you read the above text, you may notice, with the help of the Recent Changes page, that my last paragraph above was actually interpolated by someone else, apparently Ian Davis himself. It is stated there that this game was not at all the one he was thinking of and the end of the game you looked over is described as "boring yose." The conclusion is that you fit your impression of the game to what you believed was an issue which wasn't.

Charles It seemed worth pointing out in passing that this is the type of play that bothers some people. And if there were more in a previous game ... perhaps Ian can replace 'constant' by 'recurring'. Anyway, it is more interesting to discuss game records than abstractions.

IanDavis I'm really not that interested in discussing it. The game I was referring to was [ext] in this game I found the yose boring. However this is not really a page to discuss IlanPi, I only mentioned it in passing because I remembered the game and thought it mildy relevant.

Charles B20 berserk (try F4); W49 bad; B88 hold back; B122 play tighter; W203 looks like nonsense. Played in 2003, so why don't we just let everyone off with a caution?

Somebody: Some people sometimes make "ludicrous" moves not because they hope for the opponent to screw up, but because they're not sure if it works or not and can't be bothered to read it out, so they just play it out. I do that quite often, and some of these moves are extremely silly (and I'm about 1 kyu at KGS as of april 2005). I usually play 1/3 games (considered blitz), so maybe that's part of the reason I think this way. However, even in slow games I've found that if I think too much about tactics, I'll end up not thinking at all about strategy.

I won't play lines that I can see for sure don't work, but sometimes I play a move that looks bad to me, but I'm not really sure why so I play it to get my opponent's opinion on it. Often the answer surprises me in a pleasant way -- I didn't think there was such a severe punishment for it. Weak player's thinking resembles sleep, so trying instead of thinking should be good, right?

Besides, there are many moves that look unreasonable to me in stronger player's games that really aren't unreasonable at all. Also, often when I make these "silly" moves, they end up working (due to my opponent's mistake, maybe).

Of course when I think I've lost, I may play all the ludicrous moves I can see that don't have an obvious refutation, and resign when there's absolutely nothing unclear in the position. I won't think much when playing them out, so it shouldn't waste much time unless my opponent thinks a lot (but if he does, the moves aren't that ludicrous, are they?).

Needless to say, I don't have a problem with someone else doing the same, regardless of their level. Weaker players see less. The only reason for complaint I can see here is WastingTimeInALostGame if you take too much time on the silly moves. In fact, some complaining on playing stuff out may be a case of BeingPresumptuous.

Somebody Else: This makes for a very interesting comparison of the different mentalities in chess, where the aim is to defeat the person who is sitting in front of you at the moment, and go, where the aim is to improve your ability and understanding of the game, regardless of wins or losses. I could play against all of the weaker players in my club, knowing that they would not be able to defend against my moves, and rack up wins all day, or I could play against my friend who is a 1 dan and get my butt kicked but also improve my game.

Some fool: I find this comment to be a bit off the mark. In this matter, I think the difference between go and chess is the way the game is won. Basically the social context of a chess game is not as relevant because a checkmate is not open to discussion.

iTengen: this comment is a gross caricature if it holds any truth at all. Regardless the game, some play to win, others to improve.

sjd123: Ilianpi, you were very rude playing like that, and then continuing to play them moves. You should respect opponents more, and not be so rude to them when they confront you about a move. Although that's just what I think...

Somebody's Listening: I'm a 4-5 dan on KGS. And I disagree with these players who suggest that you should follow some kind of etiquette in choosing when to resign. Resign when you run out of ideas.

You won't get better by doing what other people expect you to do. And its from some of the most dire straits that I've managed to realize some beautiful tesuji.

You don't play on so that you can win. You play on so that you can lose interestingly!

xela: Most of the discussion so far has been on whether the "silly invasion" is a good move or not. That doesn't bother me (I don't mind answering bad moves). The frustration is that when we get down to filling in dame, I tend to regard the game as practically over and am already starting to think of pleasurable things such as starting a new game or making another cup of tea...and then suddenly my opponent does something pointless and I have to spend another twenty minutes patiently demonstrating the error of their ways. (Of course there is always the possibility that I have actually made a dreadful mistake and now my corner dies. That never helps my temper either!) It's not so bad if it happens in a blitz game or if they have the good grace to play it out quickly--but if it's a real-life social game without a clock and they spend several minutes reading carefully after each move...

Uberdude: Of course some invasions are completely ludicrous, but often an invasion for some aji is a good move. The player who comes to mind is Huiren Yang (somerville or Hyang on KGS).

Gaius: This is actually what caused me to not play absolute-time blitzes online any more (which I used to enjoy greatly). It's just not fun if you have only 1 minute left and your opponent plays *every freaking single ridiculous invasion* that he can think of... So I now usually have 2 periods of 5 seconds at the end, only to prevent this from happening.

AnonLinguist: If you put in tight time constraints, expect people to try to game their time. Obviously, if it's a way of winning, it will be used. I would play complex attacks when I notice my opponent has less time left than me, to ensure they can't think it through, or run out of time. As for the late game invasion, first I tell myself, "That doesn't work..." but then, "Prove it!". If it's really so far beneath me and such a stupid idea, I should be able to make short work of it, and if I can't, I am obviously wrong.

Cregan?: "If it's really so far beneath me and such a stupid idea, I should be able to make short work of it, and if I can't, I am obviously wrong."

This says it all. If one makes a mistake after an impossible invasion, then the only one to blame is yourself. An invasion isn't impossible if it works!

The game is over when both players have passed subsequently, not a move before that.

It seems to me that high-level player tend to forget that low-level players can't always see how an invasion will end. I respect those who try, for those have a fighting spirit. Once again the quote: "If it's really so far beneath me and such a stupid idea, I should be able to make short work of it, and if I can't, I am obviously wrong."

togo: I would say the divide between being annoying and being just not perfect is, wether your talents are pinpointed to playing the chance tesuji and the boredom tesuji on the one hand or if you are just trying something out sometimes on the other hand.

ajs3: Some players here are assuming that Go is largely about elegance. I think that is one view; and subterfuge has no place at a tea party. Another view, which I find a little healthier, is that Go is a fighting game, where stamina matters as much as deceit. Starting a suicide invasion for leverage in a ko fight is standard; but even as a desperate ploy to come from behind (or to fail before resigning), I think it shows a fighting spirit. The original comment here was about relying on your opponent's lack of skill: but if a device catches him napping at move 180, how can he complain? I think the annoyance comes from one player reminding the other that he's holding his teacup with a boxing glove.

Stubborn Play last edited by PJTraill on September 3, 2018 - 01:30
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