A joseki and it's explanation

by Paolo Montrasio
trascript of a comment by Masataka Saijo, 8 dan pro

One of the most popular person at the European Congress in Abano terme was Masataka Saijo, a Japanese eight dan professional. Every tournament day on 3:30 pm a professional player commented the games played in the morning. Sunday July 21 was the turn of Saijo Sensei. Assisted by Rob van Zeijst for the English translation he asked for a kyu level game to comment. Inspired by the very first moves of that game he started a sort of lesson on a well known joseki. I think this is of general interest, so here is the comment.

The game was between two 8 kyu players.

[Figure 1]
Figure 1 - moves 1-7

5. This move is correct. Black must make first the shimaris (corner enclosures) and then the kakaris (attacks to corners). White's priorities are reversed.

7. In this position (diagram 1) black should pincer. In this way he strengthens the area in front of the shimary at the bottom. This would give him the lead.

[Diagram 1]
Diagram 1

The 1-3-5 sequence played in the game is good for black, whilst the sequence of diagram 2 would be bad as white can approach black's corner extending from it's own corner. In this position white is better.

[Diagram 2]
Diagram 2

After white 6 black has three choices. The first one is a pincer, the second one is the move played in the game and the third one is the move of diagram 3.

[Diagram 3]
Diagram 3

This is one of the most popular josekis. It can also be played as in dia. 4.

[Diagram 4]
Diagram 4

This is the worst choice for black: his territory can't grow while white's territory can be expanded despite black's move in A (dia. 5). Black's A threatens B. Then if white C, black D.

Diagram 5

So the move played in the game is better. This move starts another well-known joseki. This joseki has two variations for black 7 (dia 6. and dia. 7).

[Diagram 6]
Diagram 6
[Diagram 7]
Diagram 7

The variation of diagram 6 seems better for black because white can't get deeply into the corner. Actually this move is very dangerous.

If white plays 1 (dia. 8) threatening A, black has to answer with 2 and his shape encloses only a few points.

[Diagram 8]
Diagram 8

The contact play of diagram 9 is bad as white builds a wall and his stones have a better shape than black stones. A diagonal extension is usually worse than a solid extension, like white's one.

[Diagram 9]
Diagram 9

So the best choice for black is diagram 7, unless it is really importat to attack white's stones. For example in chinese fuseki (dia 10) the marked stone is acceptable because black hopes to make points at the bottom to compensate the points he loses at the top.

Diagram 10

Let's look at move 8 of diagram 7. A 3 points extension is usually the best thing to do in this position because the stones are connected even if black plays a or b. If black plays a white can answer in b or in c. Answering in c will lead to a fight. A move in b is more prudent: black can live but white gets a wall facing the center.

If white plays a 4 points extension black can chose between disconnecting white as in diagram 11 or attacking and strangthening his group as in diagram 12.

[Diagram 11]
Diagram 11
[Diagram 12]
Diagram 12

Black can strengthen his group even if white plays a 3 point extension: he plays 1 in diagram 13. How should white answer?

[Diagram 13]
Diagram 13

If white plays 2 black goes on with 3 and white has still to answer or black plays a, starting the sequence of diagram 14. (Please note: I had only the final position, so I don't guarrantee that the order of the moves is correct. If someone can find a better sequence giving this position I'll change the diagram)

[Diagram 14]
Diagram 14

After 14 black can capture three white stones with a ladder. If the latter doesn't work he can threaten to capture in geta with 15. White captures three black stones and black gains a lot from the exchange because he built an excellent thickness in sente. Instead of 15 black can play ladder-breaker moves on the lower side.

White's problems seems to originate from white 2 in dia. 13. What happens if he plays a one point jump instead of extending? Black will play as in diagram 15 and he builds a wall again. Black 2 is the best counter to white 1. Playing directly at 4 is bad: you can play this kind of moves only if you want to cut, but here the cut doesn't work.

Diagram 15

Extending as in diagram 16 can be accepted, but this move loses two points and (Saijo says) "if you lose two points here, you're likely to lose two points in another place. Two points here, two points there and you lose the game." Going back to diagram 15, if white answers black 2 by playing in the point between 3 and 5, black plays 6 and he is still better.

[Diagram 16]
Diagram 16

We saw that diagrams 13 and 15 aren't good for white so he has to find a better answer to black 1. The correct move is shown in diagram 17. It is lower than the moves we discussed so it seems worse at a first glance. Nevertheless white strengthens his position and he threatens to cut in a or b. In the previous diagrams black strengthened his position much more than white and he had no cuts to care about.

[Diagramma 17]
Diagramma 17

Instead of a 3 point extension white can play a two points extension. In this case black plays 2 again to start building a wall (dia 18).

[Diagram 18]
Diagram 18

Let's go back to the game now.

[Figure 2]
Figura 2, mosse 1-42

8. This move is dangerous for white: black can play as in diagram 19. There are people who prefer to invade directly in a, but this isn't the best strategy. Black 1 makes white overconcentrated and black also takes the corner. This is enough to give him the lead.

[Diagram 19]
Diagram 19

10. With the shape of white 2 and 4 white should play 10 as in the chinese fuseki (between 18 and 13 or above this point). In this way it would be harder for black to play a kakari to the lower right corner.

11. As white made that mistake black makes the kakari.

12. This is wrong. Now black extends to 13 and he is happy. White should pincer to reduce black's space.

15. After this move you can clearly see the different style of the players. Black is very territorial, he played on the third line about all his moves. White prefers the fourth line.

16. White could play this move in a. A black move in b is very important now. However after white a black plays c building a shape that promise to turn into a lot of points.

17. Black continues to think about profit, but the sequence 17-19-21 is and overplay.

21. This move is nonsense. At the end of the exchange black has two weak groups and the game will be easy for white to win (white lost this game but at this point he has the lead, Saijo says).

37. This is a mistake. White is trying to capture everyhing with 36, and this is the right way to play. Black should play 38. If white tries to capture and plays 37, black plays as shown in diagram 20. The points a and b are miai: if black can play a he connects all his stones, if he can play b he cuts the three marked white stones. Black 37 makes good the bad move played by white.

Diagram 20

42. This move is slack. White should attack the black group in the bottom. If black tries to escape white can attack at a or extend to b (dia. 21). Trying hard to capture a group is usually a bad strategy because if the attack fails you discover that you have made no points. It is better to be less aggressive and built territory or influence when attacking. This is the strategy used by professionals players in handicap games. So in this case it is better to extend.

Diagram 21

The hour and half reserved for the comments ends at this point. Thank you Sensei!

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