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Topic: Opening variety
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karlw

Posts: 970
Registered: Mar 7, 2006
From: Eugene, Oregon
Age: 36
Opening variety
Posted: Oct 22, 2006, 2:18 AM

I've been looking at the old games of scott, dmitri and dean, and it seems like until recently, most professionals only played L9. Is this true? When did N8 become accepted as a strong opening for black? Hasn't K9 been known to be superior to L9 for a while?

It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

up2ng

Posts: 542
Registered: May 9, 2002
From: Northeast USA
Re: Opening variety
Posted: Nov 12, 2006, 8:25 AM

I think the answer to that is sort of complicated, and may not be what you are looking for.

To start with, all of these "professionals" you speak of eventually had an epiphany of sorts where they developed a very deep understanding that every possible 1st move that player 2 can make is absolutely and utterly futile. The resulting position of one stone on the board for each player results in Player 1 winning 100% of the time no matter how the stones are arranged (under Pro-Pente rules).

Given this fact, the very best players in the world (in the 1980s, for example) would enter tournaments and approach individual matches with a strategy in mind that was precisely tailored for the specific opponent he was facing. He would study his opponent's previous matches and learn his tendencies and look for possible weaknesses -- certain lines that it looks like that player has played suboptimally in the past, indicating that he doesn't understand a certain position or concept well enough.

On a more general level, if you don't have that much information about your opponent, the basic idea then is to just try to steer the game into positions that are inherently complex. As the position becomes more complex, the human mind under time pressure is more and more likely to make a mistake. For many years, the "Wedge" position was considered to be one of the most complex positions in a perfectly played pente game (and still is). Therefore, for a long time, most players started playing L9, knowing that their opponent would very likely (and correctly) play moves that resulted in a "Wedge" position, and try to scrap out a win in a complex position.

In general, K9 results in certain lines that can be memorized which are actually less complex and lead to more crushing victories, and since these lines were memorized by all the top players, it was generally avoided.

I actually believe that theoretically K9 should be stronger since it blocks on the horizontal/vertical, which is usually more threatening than a diagonal (in general). However, it is also clear that L9 leads to the Wedge, which is quite complex.

Anyways, since those times, many of those players have "retired". Many of the new players could see right away that the wedge was played quite often. This led many players to study the wedge in great detail before they even had a great understanding of the fundamentals of the game and also before studying specific lines from the K9 opening. As a result, many of today's top players have no fear at all of the Wedge because they are so well prepared for it, and actually struggle with less complex positions because they have less preparation or less conceptual understanding of the game.

As for moves such as N8: Those fall under a completely different category of openings which are mostly based on keystone attacks. N8 is really not better or worse than any of the others and can be effectively countered with pretty much the same concepts as other keystone attack openings. It is a bit unique because the opponent is not able to play along the axis and place a stone right next to it to transpose it into a more familiar opening type, but it still can be countered in other ways quite easily.

Anyways, I don't really like giving the "Pente is as futile as tic-tac-toe" speech since it puts a bad taste in the mouth for all of the newer players that really enjoy the game (and of course, the futility of it is easily solved by just recording the result of a set instead of individual games), but I think it was appropriate to give my take on your question. Hope that helped!

karlw

Posts: 970
Registered: Mar 7, 2006
From: Eugene, Oregon
Age: 36
Re: Opening variety
Posted: Nov 12, 2006, 9:21 AM

It helped a lot Dean. My thoughts:

-I agree that discussing the futility of playing as black leaves a bad taste in one's mouth: it does not speak to the control you have in playing as black, and the fact that across the board there is only a slight statistical advantage to playing as white. Of couse that is practice, not theory.


In general, K9 results in certain lines that can be memorized which are actually less complex and lead to more crushing victories, and since these lines were memorized by all the top players, it was generally avoided.

This is news to me. Unless the common response to K9 hasn't always been N10, I know of several openings off of K9 that lead to complex games, the wedge being one of them. I think that K9 is a significantly stronger opening than L9, simply because the best answer to both is N10, and N10 is stronger against L9 than K9.

N8 is really not better or worse than any of the others and can be effectively countered with pretty much the same concepts as other keystone attack openings.

Not true. N8 is by far the strongest of the keystone attack openings. N9 is close, but N10 reduces it to the traditional K9 opening.

I agree with much of what you are saying, but I am still reluctant to subscribe to the "black is doomed from the beginning, so it doesn't matter what his 1st move is." I believe that, even disregarding the personality of your opponent, some openings are stronger than others, even if they all lose.

It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.
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