Hanging Out at Dan's

Charles Matthews 3-dan introduces the game of Go

Under the Stones

You'd like some examples for the "playing under the stones" concept that came up in general discussion of reading.

Certainly snapbacks qualify. These and other immediate recaptures are some of the most frequently seen cases.

Diagram 1

Here it is a good endgame play for White to play 1 as shown, capturing the two black stones in a snapback.

Diagram 2

Completing the capture this way is slow-moving, in comparison.

Diagram 3

But in this position White shouldn't try the same idea. Black simply forces White to capture the block of stones.

Diagram 4

Following that, the way is clear for Black to capture three white stones.

This sort of "hyper-snapback" is sufficiently rare in practice to come as a surprise even to quite strong players.

Diagram 5

This life-and-death problem might come top of a popularity poll. Black to play and live.

Diagram 6

The route to life avoids having the second eye made false, by giving up stones and then recapturing to make the second eye.

Diagram 7

There is another typical way to give up four stones and set up a recapture.

Diagram 8

Now Black is dead. This example is taken from "The Art of Capturing Stones" (volume 2 in the Art of Go series from the publisher Yutopian, by Wu Dingyuan and Yu Xing), a book completely devoted to the odd and even odder possibilities of playing under the stones. Many of the problems on these techniques appear again and again in collections, going back to the great Chinese compilations of many centuries ago. Because many of them are obviously enough composed positions, the surprise element is there whenever they come up in a real game.

A striking case was seen a few years ago, involving Kobayashi Koichi, one of the great champions of recent times and much feared as a practical player.

Diagram 9

In a title game against Takemiya, Kobayashi misread a ko fight, because he didn't see an under-the-stones technique and so miscounted the threats. Black 1 was a good ko threat, local to the ko fight proceeding just to the left of it.

Diagram 10

White can't go through with the connection at 2, the slip made by Kobayashi. You should be able to see the under-the-stones capture coming by now: Black 9 will be able to take White by playing in the freshly-cleared space. (Game 3 of the 1995 Meijin match - see Go World magazine issue 75.)

First published 24 August 2000 as On Your Side on MindZine, Go Learning
© Charles Matthews 2000.