Go Proverbs

The past month I've been really busy with my job, so I haven't had much time for blogging. This post is another short one on strategies for a board game. I do have some good ideas for a few more in-depth posts this year; hopefully I'll have time to write them soon, so keep checking in.

Go is a board game I enjoy playing and would like to get better at. The rules are simple, but the possible moves are almost infinite (there are ≈1025 possible combinations after only the first ten moves). To deal with this complexity, students of the game over the years have come up with numerous proverbs (good advice in general but not necessarily applicable to every situation) about strategy. In this post, I'll share a few that I think I have at least a rough understanding of by now. They come from this list:

  1. "If you don't know ladders, don't play go" – a ladder is a sequence of play where you have a chain of stones, but only one possible point to add another stone; after you add it, your opponent can play their next stone to cut off all but one possibility for your next play. Ladders often have a staircase shape. Once they reach the end of the board, you'll run out of room to play and your opponent can capture the whole chain. So as soon as you recognize you're in a ladder, you should abandon that chain of stones.
  2. "[You] should resign if one player has four corners" – the edge of the board provides a natural wall, making it easy to secure territory in the corners, especially in the early game. So if you fail to capture any corners, you are at a strong disadvantage. However, if you secure all four corners, you've probably neglected the rest of the board to the extent that coming back to win is unlikely.
  3. "The empty triangle is bad" – the empty triangle is 3 stones forming a right angle (if there is an opponent's stone inside the angle then the triangle is full and it's not a problem). This shape basically wastes a move with its inefficiency.
  4. "The one-point jump is never bad" – leaving a one-space gap between stones is almost as strong as a connected chain but covers territory more quickly.
  5. "Four die but six live (on the third line)" & "Six die but eight live (on the second line)" – these two proverbs tell how long a chain has to be to be sure of forming two "eyes" (and thus staying secure on the board 'til the end of the game). Note that it takes fewer stones to form an alive group on the third line from the edge than on the second line—forming lines on the second line is very inefficient.
  6. "The enemy's key point is yours" – this proverb basically encourages you to make the move your opponent would like to make before he/she can.
  7. "Capture stones caught in a ladder at the earliest opportunity" – if a player can escape a ladder (e.g. it connects to some of their other stones before running into the edge of the board), it can turn into a wall that will help them surround more territory. Therefore, if you have a chance to take a ladder off the board, do so.
  8. "Do not peep at cutting points" – a cutting point is where a chain of stones is not quite connected (e.g. at a diagonal) and a peep is placing a stone adjacent to where it would prevent the full connection from being made—as a threat rather than an actual cut. A peep gives your opponent a chance to complete the connection.

I've also been watching some videos from this playlist by Jonathan Hop. He explains different concepts of the game in 10 minutes. For example, in his video on the Endgame, he explains about sente (initiative), which is a move that your opponent has to respond to. At the end of the game, especially, it is important to consider whether a certain sequence will end with yourself or your opponent having the next stone to place.

(If you're looking for a different kind of Proverb, click here)