Difficulty: Intermediate   Keywords: Opening

Zen-Style is a new fuseki invented by Cullen Mott in late June 2018. It is a tengen opening that, as of this point, has only shown real success when it’s played as Black. It is characterized by exclusively playing focal-points. Zen-style can be considered a technique instead of a fuseki as focal points have been shown to be playable at least until the beginning of the endgame.

A common Zen-style position, with 1 and 3 being the focal points when played  


Zen-style is influenced by the strategies of computer programs of AlphaGo and Leela, as well the ideas of a currently anonymous American mathematician. The first recorded game of Go in which Zen-style is played occurred on June 24th, 2018 in an online match between KGS accounts “Awesomeman” (the account of Cullen Mott) and “dunedin,” with Awesomeman taking Black, starting with the tengen, and winning by resignation. The name comes from its parallels to Zen itself–a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty. Like Zen, the fuseki is a technique of detachment to cause singularity. Mott admits that the name “sounds a little pretentious,” but “strongly {sees} the commonalities between the fuseki and the religious practices {sic.}” Mott postulates that the fuseki of AlphaGo Zero and Leela Zero will look more and more like Zen-style with time.


The player playing Zen-style tries to assess the focal point of a position and then play it. This is drastically different from all other fuseki–which are all characterized by specific distributions of stones and common patterns of development.

Focal point: a unique critical point that enables the largest number of possible paradigm-shifts. With every move before the endgame, a new focal point is created, and so a player may play almost an entire game exclusively trying to find and play them. In this way Zen-style is a purely responsive fuseki.

Paradigm shifts: a variation where one or (usually) both players change their local or global strategies.

Continuation: Black to find the focal point of this position  
5 is the focal point: a unique point and a critical point that creates the largest number of paradigm shifts. See [ext] 3-3 Invasion for more information  

Zen-style last edited by on March 8, 2020 - 16:40
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