I’ve been playing go almost weekly with my old friend Vox for over 3 decades now. The more we play the more interesting the game gets. I rarely write about individual games though. Go has few rules but it is very complex and each game has its own complicated story, with various themes, many battles and border skirmishes, and plenty of diversions along the way. Last night we played several games but there is one in particular I want to write about, because it was most unusual and featured such a spectacular turnaround.
In this particular game, Vox emphasized development of one corner of the board on a huge scale. The character of the game is such that when you focus your development in one area, it means you are ignoring other areas. The danger is that when your development becomes over-concentrated for the sake of territory, you might give up too much elsewhere. In this particular game, though, my opponent was accumulating huge amounts of actual territory, and while he was giving up a reasonable amount in return, it wasn’t going to be enough to compensate for the cash territory he had accumulated. I had a problem, and it was looking like my game was almost certainly lost.
Vox had a large snake-like group outside of his massive corner, whose job it was to limit my territory everywhere he could. The group was big and spread out. It seemed as if he could make the moves needed to provide the structure needed for life-shape anytime, or at the very least he could go back and connect to his massive force. It didn’t really seem like his group was under attack. I poked out part of his shape fairly early on, but it didn’t look as if he was in imminent danger. As long as his group was alive, the damage he had done to my potential was too great. I could find no way in to reduce a corner territory which was taking up much of a full quarter of the board.
Being able to connect is not the same as connecting. When it seems as if you can surely connect your stones or give them life shape independently, actually making a move to connect can be slow. Sometimes it turns out to be necessary. Had Vox taken the time to connect, he would have given up some kind of opportunity elsewhere and I don’t think he wanted to make what he considered a slack move. As it turned out, I was able to disconnect his centre group from his corner force. That meant to survive he would have to make life shape for his group.
Unfortunately for him, it was too late. To survive a group in Go, you need to surround 2 empty spaces, which we call eyes. He had one solid eye on a huge group, but there was no room left on the board to make the second eye he required. The kill was so big it ended the game. Vox’s big corner was worth many many points but it paled in comparison to the area I was left with once his group perished.
Prior to cutting off his stones, I had considered resigning. I simply couldn’t see enough potential to make up for his actual territory. I’m not sure why I didn’t. I didn’t really think I could kill his whole huge reducing group. I just thought, don’t resign quite yet. Play a few more moves. This kind of game with a massive kill representing a startling turnaround happens from time to time. It was the sheer the scale of this one which made it remarkable.