How do you approach pro games from eras with different komi?

Since we often see pro games end with a 0,5 difference, and I’d wager their counting skills don’t suffer, my guess would be their whole way of thinking would slightly shift, depending on the komi value.

Of course, the fundamentals will always be the fundamentals, but do you ever find yourself sensing a move that would make sense with a “then” komi, but not with a “current” komi?

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I’m far from being an expert but I think the examples are often in the opening, e.g white on move 4 knights move approach to a 3.4 stone to prevent the enclosure rather than taking the last empty corner.
I’m sure I read something about this being because white had to play more aggressively/assertively without komi.


Komi is an invention from the 20th century. Any game older than about a century did not have komi at all. So black would usually be the weaker player, getting some advantage from playing first as a small handicap.
The common idea in pre-komi times was that black tended to play safe in the opening, perhaps a bit slow, because they could spare a few points and still win.

A famous example of this trend is the “Shusaku” kosumi: move 7 in this opening: Shusaku opening - Wikipedia. Shusaku had great success with it, avoiding complications and still win.

After the invention of komi a century later, that move was considered a bit slow during most of the 20th century.

However, AI seem to like that kosumi, so nowadays it regained popularity a century after it lost popularity.


That’s why they are pros, though. I do not think that any of us can assess the worth of any move down to 1-2 points. We might play in some area and think “this place is worth 10 points” and come the endgame it can be anywhere between 12 and 4. Now extrapolate that to the 100+ moves that we are likely to make in a game with our estimation of each move being so erratic. With that in mind does a couple of points difference in komi (or the total absense of it) even come into consideration? :man_shrugging:

As far as I am concerned, I cannot/do not count and that is something that I need to improve, but it is not something that affects my perception of what a good move on some old pro game might be. I just do not have the level of knowledge and experience to judge anyway so I just go by the “did this move work as intended or not?” basis.

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According to this video

(graphs at 14:00), if a pro needs leads by n points and has a 80% winrate, then a Fox 1d needs approximately a 4n point lead to get a 80% winrate, so that a pro who plays as white without komi would get the same feeling as if I play an even game against someone who is 2 stones stronger: the game is winnable but difficult. On the other hand a difference level of 0.5 stone is insignificant at my level.


I don’t think pros can do it either, but I think they don’t base their positional judgement in the opening just on counting territory.

Pros have a strong sense of what kind of exchanges are even (no net gain or loss), so when both players play that kind of good moves, they just assume the score doesn’t change. Only when some potentially unfair exchange happens, they would investigate to assess any gain or loss in terms of efficiency (shape + aji + tempo + influence + territory) from that exchange.

Tewari analysis is an important tool to make such exchange assessments during early game development and middle game fighting. A dubious exchange would lead to a sense that a player lost a bit (like 1 or 2 points), which cannot be recovered easily.

I think that only when the endgame started, all the territories are sufficiently crystalised to allow pros to evaluate the position accurately (to within a point or 2) just by counting the territories.

I think this way of thinking may be more applicable to the endgame.
Earlier in the game, I think one would be working more with comparisons when evaluating development moves, like “my move here is just as good as his move there, or maybe x points better/worse”.

As for urgent/fighting moves, it’s harder to evaluate those in term of points. It’s more a case of “just play urgent moves, because it’s bad not to” (just as you shouldn’t hang your queen in chess, don’t bother to evaluate how bad it is exactly).

In a high level game, I think it’s usually not really a matter of "did this move work as intended or not?”. The “working sequence” shouldn’t appear on the board, just as a ladder shouldn’t appear on the board. If it does, one player made a big mistake. You typically only see a “working sequence” in a diagram offered by a commentator to show what was under the surface.

When comparing a game of go to a boxing match, strong players dance around each other all the time, rarely leaving an opening for their opponent to land a good punch. So a high level game of go without a good commentator may be a bit boring for regular spectators. A lower level game of go is probably much more spectacular.


This is a very important point.

Now that you mention it, even in my own games. If I play a move and it actually develops how I read it, maybe this means my opponent is making a mistake and there is a more profitable move somewhere else?

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Not necessarily. If you played a sente move, you should expect that your opponent plays as you read. Or if you start a joseki, you can expect the sequence to be played until the end.

On the other hand if you play a move that puts pressure on a small group of stones, you read a sequence which you judge extremely good for you, and your opponent plays the expected sequence, then maybe your opponent made a mistake and should have sacrificed the group. Or at least he should have compared the board situation after saving the weak group with the board situation where he makes the sacrifice and tries to soak up as much profit from the aji of the dead group as possible.


By a “working sequence” I meant a sequence that would end up as a big gain for one player, not a series of fair/even exchanges.

So one should determine which it is.
If the sequence leads to a lopsided result, the would-be victim should avoid it or disengage from that sequence as soon as possible.
If the result is fair/even, neither player should be greatly concerned about continueing/responding.

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Yes, both @jlt and @gennan you are correct, I didn’t phrase it properly. I meant a sequence that I read to my advantage, like a ladder that doesn’t work. If my opponent keeps playing it, then at some point I should check to see where to next (as long as I make sure I don’t end up with double ataris everywhere across that ladder, because I’ve done that as well :woman_shrugging: ).

I’m not sure I understand what you say here.
When you have the upper hand in a “working sequence” (like a ladder that is good for you), your opponent would be the one who disengages sooner or later, so typically they will take sente and decide where to play next, not you.
You shouldn’t count on them dying in gote.

I had a game where my opponent I think hadn’t noticed they couldn’t live. I could have tenukied at least twice during that phase, but I kept playing responses because they couldn’t see it.

I think I should have stopped responding to their attempts and just went for a different area of the board.

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Yes of course it’s always better to play elsewhere and let your opponent die in gote. However I’ve sometimes played as you did, when I assumed that my opponent was making a desperate attempt to live and probably thought “if I die I’ll resign”. So I answered all his moves to speed up the resignation process.


OK, so they did actually die in gote after all. I didn’t understand your previous question, I guess because them dying in gote was outside of my thoughts on regular game flow.

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#danproblems :stuck_out_tongue: