"The 3k wall" - view from the other side

Recently @bugcat made me aware of this phenomenon called “the 3k wall”. The name of it speaks for itself - his theory is that there’s a natural wall at 3k for several reasons, but I’m not starting this topic to discuss this theory.
Instead I want to have a compendium of games where people just stronger than 3k would leave a few comments with the examples from their games as to why they felt ahead when playing ~3k players, or in other words what were some of the crucial mistakes that those players made against them, in their own opinion. With the initiative to highlight the mistakes made by the players of that rank in general. The emphasis here is on being just a bit stronger, because then the difference in strength is much smaller and therefore the focal points are much easier to see.
I urge people to leave comments about how they felt about the game in spite of what the AI says. Because this human feedback is something you can’t receive with the AI.

I can start with a few of my own:

vs 2k

  • Move 14 immediately made it easier for me because I don’t have to deal with any of the cutting stuff (for both sides). I expected black to jump because it’s much harder to play as white against it

  • Move 22 secured the profit from my corner even if black invades and instantly secured my group’s safety, which was just a stick before then. I expected black to invade on the left after the kick.

  • Move 43 this sequence made me certain that I’ll win from now on because I got a bunch of stones facing the stick from the “old joseki”, so now I can abuse it all I want and get strength in the area. I expected black to cover me at k13 or to poke me at m16 instead

  • Move 52 this sequence removed all the bad aji from my corner. I expected black to counter attack me at o14 or at least jump to r8 after exchanging q18. From here on out I felt like I was very ahead

vs 3k

  • Move 19 before the peep or anything like that gives me room to fix the bad aji of my corner. Sometimes I’d play m18 too, but I feel like black getting rid of being able to play s15 (and then threaten the double hane into the corner) is a huge gain for white locally. I expected black to pincer me around r10 instead

  • Move 23 was just too small for now I feel like, because white is alive after the cut at s18 if m18 is still open. I expected black to pincer instead of playing this endgame

  • Move 35 same as move 19, it helps me without forcing me to choose between the outside and the inside, and with f3 I can do that in a more forcing manner by sliding on the 2nd line. I expected black to either black at m2 or to pincer at h3 right away, threatening to block there

  • Move 55 I was meant to sacrifice this corner to get some outside moves in exchange. The reason why I think it’s good is because I simply moved black from the 3rd line to the 4th line in terms of territory with this sacrifice, but outside of this island of territory there’d be no potential in either direction, so at worst I see it as even. Here black denied this clean sacrifice and instead connected this strange shape. I expected black to play at l2 instead

  • Move 69 black should’ve just kept running away with the group and killed my corner passively, instead he passed me sente while still having a bad outside shape. After this sequence and letting black into my corner a bit I felt like I can’t lose anymore

vs 3k
A short one but very demonstrative. Though these mistakes are probably much lower level.

  • Move 18 letting me hane on the head of 3 is instant success locally. I expected white to extend once more

  • Move 21 the strength of the pincering stone is now so low that I consider my corner group to be fairly strong. I expected white to jump up with that stone instead

  • Move 37 I got handed a perfect connection and a perfect extension from my group that was meant to be a liability, so white got absolutely nothing from letting me hane at h3 and still managed to leave a weak group behind. I felt like I can’t lose this game anymore


I will try adding more middle game examples later because I think that there’s a big difference in that too, though it may be more attributive of the western style of play as I have an example of a player here who I would consider even stronger than myself at fighting and yet he seems to be stuck at 2k.

Thanks for these comments. I’ll go over them slowly.

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The main thing I noticed about the first game is that both of you ignored the matter of C18 for quite a long time.

That made it a bit hard for me to judge its development.

It wasn’t that big I think. It’s gote for black but it’s not like black had time to play a gote move, and for white it was just sente endgame too, whereas the strength of all the groups around the board is more important. I think I would only have played it earlier as white if it was sente for black.

Between white c12 and white h18, aside from taking the 3-3 invasion, every move had something to do with the strength of the groups. As soon as that got resolved for the time being came the time to play that. That’s how I see it.

That is if I’m not missing a kill or a sente squeeze there.

Though my definition of “settled for the time being” is way too lax. Against western players I purposefully leave a half settled group to be attacked to take some massive endgame instead. Sometimes everything collapses but often enough it doesn’t. I think in that game a more honte way would be to add another move to the bottom right instead of playing the way I did, which would postpone the slide on the upper left even further.

I agree with your comments about the third game, especially (21).

I don’t mind M3 all that much (it’s – 4 pt. bot eval, which is something but not game losing). But after M3 and White taking the 3-3, there’s no sense in him responding to (21). He could’ve played M5 or even N5; hell, O4.

I think there is a need to respond to 21. If white doesn’t guarantee sente to go back and defend it, which looks unlikely by human measures since black is stronger on the bottom than white (stronger = more likely to end in sente or have a lee way of forcing a sente), then when black pincers at d7 or so it will cost white way too much, since once again due to that hane and especially the extend, moves like b4/b5 are no longer forcing against the corner. After black d7 I wouldn’t even know where to begin as white if white decides to pull these stones out in the first place.