17k game going wrong from the start

So, in general I stopped trying to understand games where I lose, but this is a perfect example where right from the start I have no idea what is going on. Right from the start, not only do I have to defend (which of course, not always is necessary) but from move 10 or so, it is clear that white is trying to lock me into the corners and edges. So I try in whichever way I can to get out, and hence the crazy escape towards the centre. Useless in many ways (it only gives me 4 points) but without that, all the centre field would have been his. And all my other attempts to get some centre-field were impossible. I still get 3 corners and quite some edge, I even thought for a while I could be winning, but one look at the score told me I had wasted my time.
It’s the sort of game that makes me wonder whether there’s some kind of magic or mysterious secret involved. I have no idea how to approach a game like this. Should I just have concentrated on corners and edges and let him have the centre?

Dropped a few variations for the first 60 moves; from my point of view, the rest isn’t all that relevant to your question.

Thanks for your help. There are two things in your analysis that I don’t understand.

  1. Move 53: You say that my move at “K3” is wrong. “you just gave up the left side in order to create a weak group in the center”. As much as that is true, at this point it’s already very clear that White has a huge territory/influence in the centre. So I have to do something. It’s true that C10 is weak, but in my experience, defending without attacking is the same as giving up. While I defend C10, he will take the entire bottom.

  2. Move 55: “if someone touches your stones like that, take advantage of it.”. Yes, I always tell myself that: if someone touches my stone, prove him wrong. The problem is: “how”? If I touch back, he escapes. So, I figured, let’s put a stone close enough so I can connect and make a better base. Wrong, I am sure, but I don’t another option

Move 55, if you play a move like the hane on the right side of the white stone you can push up into the center. The move you picked let’s white push you low against the side and you end up with cutting points you need to defend, which is exactly what you said happens in your post where you talk about being closed into the sides. You make bad shape, and suffer the consequences by playing the 2 space jump.

I added a few things. I would recommend you let go of “if I fix my weaknesses, I’ll lose”.

First, learn to not create any weaknesses. Once you’ve got that down and you notice you’re losing because your shape is so thick it’s overconcentrated, you can loosen up a little and see how you deal with leaving weaknesses on the board.

If I had to pick a single ‘losing move’, it’s the tenuki after W K15. An iron pillar by itself is not thick. It’s heavy.

As alternative to thick play, you could also try light play. Light means you don’t stake the game on the life/death of a stone or group of stones; you play the long game. In that case you should establish an outpost on each side which can ideally run into the center. This kind of game is very useful to train endgame (because in all likelihood, nothing important is going to die). :slight_smile:

ALWAYS try to understand games where you lose! They’re the games most likely to highlight your weak points.

There’s never any magic in kyu games. We blunder through games, and whoever blunders less wins. Any loss represents the culmination of many serious errors. Any win is still probably a blunder-fest, but one in which your opponent’s errors were worse. Figuring out what those mistakes were, especially in games you’ve lost, is critical if you want to improve.

Well, you see, this is my problem with reviews. It’s like I get contradicting advice, depending on the game. At my first beginners games, it was all about: “first corners, then edges, then center”. Fine, that makes sense on a 20k level. Good advice. Then I found out: it’s not good enough. So I put some games in review where I was told: don’t defend too much. If you think a stone is safe enough, or only attacked from one side: don’t defend it but play big somewhere else. This seemed to make sense too, because whenever I did not do it, I ended up with little points.
So now I try to play big. Maybe too big, I don’t know. But I guess it the continuous struggle of “how big”, finding some kind of balance. And I have no idea how to judge that balance.
In this particular game, on a very early stage (10 moves or so), it was clear what was going to happen: W was going for the center, locking me out. This happened to me in other games and it’s very frustrating because you’re in the middle game there’s no point in trying anymore. So, I tried again and again to find some jumps into that space. To no avail. (In an earlier game for review, people adviced me to go towards the center earlier in the game). The bottom game, K3, was a despair move, which I didn’t expect to survive but it did and although it only got me 4 points in the center, it did get me some edge at the bottom: more than I expected. Without K3, my result would be even worse.

And now you tell me: "It’s usually easier to make life the wider the space, therefore it’s counterproductive if you build something on the bottom first, letting white seal off the center". I don’t understand this. You are telling me to widen the space (so: make a wide base at the bottom) and then you tell me not to build on the bottom first? Maybe I misunderstood?

My problem - in general - with analysing GO games (losing or winning) is that in the next game the best strategy might be the absolute opposite. So in the end, it seems it doesn’t matter much “what I learn”. I play on intuition, and lose against (1) players of 16k or better or (2) players who do crazy moves.
Still, with this particular game, it’s so obvious what my opponent is trying to do, and I understood that right away, and still I could not find the right counter-attack. That’s what surprises me about this game: there doesn’t seem to be any kind of clue to it.

No black stones on the bottom = more space for a center group to survive.

Now obviously you’ll get lots and lots of different and conflicting advice depending on who you ask, their own level of play, their experience with reviews, personal preference etc. Pick whatever works for you. There are many other teachers around - here’s one of the few amateurs whose lessons I really like:
Shygost. Highly structured, highly repetitive.

Back to my story though. From my point of view, the main problem with B in this game (perhaps your other games show different tendencies, I don’t know) was a lack of focus on access. Now the saying ‘corners, sides, center’ is useful if you interpret it as ‘it is easiest to make safe territory in ~’ in that order, but it doesn’t mean you should secure all corners, then see what sides you can get and then stare at your opponent’s huge center in awe.

Perhaps it’s more useful to think of it as “in corners, I can get away with a friend/foe stone ratio of 1:3 before I absolutely have to do something, sides probably become unsafe in a 1:2 situation unless I’m already alive or have a safe route toward the center,… and if I want to make isolated life in the center, I need at least an empty 9x9 box”.

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You have hit the nail on the head. I’m no expert but Go is all about balance. You need to play safe but not heavy, big but not too big, attacking but not over aggressive, light but not thin, good shape except where they shape doesn’t work, avoid bad shape except where that’s the best move, have a plan and stick to it but be flexible in your plans depending on what your opponent does, etc, etc…
This is the beauty and terror of Go!


Well sure, the best strategy is entirely dependent on what your opponent is doing. There’s certain commonly applicable proverbs, such as corner-side-center, but Go is ultimately a game between two people. A game against a strongly territorial opponent will play very differently than a game against a wildly aggressive opponent or someone that goes all-in on influence. There’s no “best move you can play, regardless of what your opponent does.” You learn certain strategies, and certain things about the game, and try to match the best response to whatever your opponent is doing.

Even if you learn all of the Go proverbs, there’s also still a lot of learning to do in terms of figuring out how to best apply them. For example, focusing on big moves is a great thing to do, but only if there isn’t an urgent move. If you play a big move when you’re too weak to withstand an attack somewhere, things are going to go badly. On the other hand, if your stones are safe, and you play a useless move further defending them, your opponent will get a free move somewhere else. However, applying that knowledge is dependent on understanding when a move is necessary or when a move is useless, which takes a lot more time than just learning the basic principle you’re trying to apply. No review is going to tell you some secret advice that’ll let you win against 10ks. Instead, a review can point out that you’re consistently failing to understand what moves are necessary to defend, at which point you can work on things like life and death problems, or shape.

Here, you made such a mistake on move 23: you weren’t strong enough to tenuki effectively, and your opponent got a lot of profit by attacking your weak group. On the other hand, move 33 isn’t really necessary, since your opponent can’t gain much by leaving it out. Both of those moves are representative of the same problem, though: not understanding whether your groups are strong enough, locally, for you to play away. Don’t “defend everything” or “not defend as much” because a review pointed that out. You’ll improve more if you seek to understand why a given defensive move is important or unnecessary, and focus on deciding what to do accordingly.

Your opponent played a lot of contact moves, in this game, which necessitate a different response than what you’d want to do if your opponent were playing approaches. Fundamentally, though, the question is the same: do I need to respond to that? If so, what way of doing so will best suit my goals?


So, there’s no general principle of how to defend against an attack that is using contact moves?

I think this is the video (only an hour most of the end is blank for some reason)
My recollection is: count liberties of each group, yours and your opponent’s. Help your group with least liberties, attack opponent’s group with least liberties. Preferably both at once!
Apologies if this is the wrong vid

Depends on what’s being attached to. If your opponent is attaching to a weak stone, that’s generally urgent, so you want to respond by strengthening your stone. There’s usually two hanes and three extensions. The extensions tend to be solid, the hanes are more aggressive and often lead to complicated fights. Which of those is appropriate is largely dependent on what’s going on locally. If you’re strong, it’s often better to hane, if you’re weak, it’s better to extend. Extensions can also be the best ways to respond to overplays, though, since they leave less aji. On the other hand, if your opponent is attaching to something that’s already strong, responding is less urgent. If they’re attaching to something strong when there’s still an urgent move elsewhere on the board, ignoring their move and taking the urgent move (which your opponent probably should have played instead of the attachment) is probably best.

That’s all just for the first move, though. If you hane, what do you do if your opponent plays a cross cut? What if they extend? If you extend, does your opponent have a good follow up? What are they trying to do? What are you trying to do? All of that will influence what the best decision is.

So yes, there’s a general principle of “respond to attachments,” but the best way to do so is hugely context dependent. Attachment plays tend to be complicated, and nothing is one size fits all.

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