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Topic: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
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jasonb

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Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 2, 2010, 9:10 PM

My experience has been that the first few moves of the game often determine the outcome. The player with the better opening moves has a clear advantage to win the game. Of coarse, one also has to have common sense during game play (ie. don't relinquish initiative).

Since a strong open is important, and there are hundreds valid opening scenarios, it would seem that memorizing proper responses is essential to being a good player. I would much rather understand the game than memorize it; just part of my nature I guess.

Is there a way to examine the current state of the board and determine what the next best move is . . . without relying on memory?



xtraclassy

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 3, 2010, 1:54 AM

The answer is simple but not so simple as it may seem. You have to always know which player has the initiative.

Most mistakes arise from that.

A player has the initiative and doesn't realize it or vice versa.

If one tries to defend when one has the initiative, it is often a fatal mistake.

If one tries to attack when one doesn't have the initiative, that is usually a fatal mistake as well.

NB(Note well). Accurately recognizing which player has the initiative while playing black doesn't always result in a victory.

jasonb

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 3, 2010, 2:28 AM

I agree completely with what you said Classy. In short, knowing when to defend and when to attack is an essential part of being a good player.

What I'm trying to figure out is how to gain a better understanding of what makes a good opening sequence without memorizing 100 or more possible scenarios. I find myself making some of the same mistakes because I've forgotten a particular move. Right after the mistake is revealed to me, it all comes back, but of coarse it's too late at that point. I think that understanding the game will be better in the long run than trying to commit a bunch of moves to memory.

up2ng

Posts: 542
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From: Northeast USA
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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 3, 2010, 2:57 AM

Interesting topic jasonb.

It is correct that the first few moves of the game generally determine the outcome. In general, the mark of a player getting better and better is the one who thinks of an earlier and earlier move as "the critical" move of the game. Beginners tend to plunk down 7 or 8 stones and then think to themselves that they should really concentrate on their next move because this is the most important part of the game. Meanwhile, masters will sometimes burn through half of their clock on their 2nd and/or 3rd move of the game.

In terms of your question "is there a way to examine the current state of the board and determine what the next best move is ..." this is phrased as if you are looking for a punchline answer, some easy catch-all solution or step-by-step instructions to follow. The answer, of course, is not simple at all. In fact, the answer to this question IS the whole point of the game. Mastering this decision making ability within the context of the rules of the game can take years of study and experience. To be vague, as you gain more and more experience playing the game, you'll become better and better at selecting the "best" moves earlier and earlier in the game, when the positions are more and more complex. There are lots and lots of factors at play in exactly how this best move is determined -- whole books can and have been written on the subject.

However, in terms of understanding the game vs. memorizing it ... I am a HUGE proponent of understanding the concepts of the game and applying that understanding in great detail for each and every decision you make -- even when you've seen the exact position dozens of times before. Reinvent the heck out of the wheel. You'll find that the act of thinking about and re-thinking about the same positions will make you a much stronger player over the long run. I believe that at the very highest levels of the game, a player that plays based on a deep understanding of the concepts of the game will demonstrate a greater degree of mastery than a player that relies only on memorization. The conceptual player will be the creative one who can invent new novelties in the midst of an important, high-level match against another master player. The player who only memorizes lines can only rely on what's been done before and will not be able to surprise his opponent with anything new. In addition, if a player memorizes immediate responses to certain opening moves and follows these blindly in all games, they are not broadening their skills and they are not taking into account their specific opponent's strengths and weaknesses, for example.

It is important to note that players that rely heavily on memorization have risen to extremely high levels in the game to the point where they are considered masters, and maybe only a handful of players can really tell their skill level apart from the very few players who outclass them.

To get to the highest levels, I believe both skills are important. It is important to be able to study positions in advance and to commit a large number of lines and opening sequences to memory -- especially when playing in matches with a timer. However, I believe too many players spend too much time with their noses in the database memorizing lines and openings and never really try to put any original thought into the game's advanced concepts and how they could be applied. Players who are able to develop both skills to highly sophisticated levels will be able to demonstrate the greatest mastery over the game.

jasonb

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 3, 2010, 4:29 AM

Thank you up2ng for your insight. You are right about the intent of my question. I'm looking for the thought process that goes behind making a good move; not necessarily step by step, but more like a collection of rules of thumb.

As an example, when I'm considering moves, I'll ask myself questions like:
What was my opponent trying to accomplish with their last move?

Can I put my opponent on the defense while blocking their intended line at the same time?

Can I ignore the shape they are building and create a stronger shape that forces them to react first?

Is the shape they are building capable of sustaining initiative? If not, can I continue working on my shape?

Can I create a double threat?

Do they have any keystones I can capitalize on? Do I?

If I take that pair, will I give up initiative? Would it be better for me to work on my shape?

Can I force my opponent to start protecting their pairs?

Which side of my opponent's open 3 should I block? Which direction do I want to prevent them from extending towards?

Can my opponent extend any of their 3s to reach another line to build off of? Can I?

alisontate

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Age: 30
Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 4, 2010, 9:24 AM

Great topic Jason.

As usual, up2ng has written a clear and concise response.

I cannot respond to you as a master (mistress?) but as one who understands where you are coming from as an aspirant.

My tendency has always been to avoid trying to memorize openings until I felt I had achieved a reasonable understanding of the game. Otherwise, I am making moves that I don't understand, and I can't see the point in doing that (that is not to say that I really understand many of the moves I make now - lol).

I am now at the point though that when I look at master level games and their opening 3 moves I feel I can make more sense of them than I used to. While I don't think this understanding really shows in my play yet , I do feel within myself that I am at some sort of threshold, one that is only possible to pass through with deep understanding. I am still a long way from this at the moment, but I can at least appreciate that it exists.

Your checklist is a good practical approach and these thoughts constitute a good discipline to acquire, but for me there is also another level of understanding, a subtle and multi-layered logic within the idea of initiative itself that must also be understood. Knowing this can shortcut some of the steps you have listed and the right approach/move can often reveal itself.

From where I am now to becoming a master is a long road, and without the time to commit to a large amount of memorization, I am forced to take this approach anyway, but for me it is the right way. Eventually, when I have the time, I hope to also have the understanding that allows that memorization to become easy as it is far easier to remember things that you understand.

Alison

zoeyk

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 4, 2010, 10:39 AM

so many things i have to say on this subject. and i know that some of the players in this discussion have a misunderstanding in my views of memorization. at some point when im ready ide love to add more to this.

i'll just say that although up2ng has said much, there is still much to be said to clarify here.

Ps. just so you know, there is a unwritten formula that when used will reveal many of the memorized answers as correct. so there is a way to arrive to those answers through formula with out memorizing them. those moves are for a reason... in the opening of moves 1-4 for player 1, where black is doing long range first moves, there is a reverse engeneering formula. in game theory this is more commonly known as a form of "Backward Induction". how ever, where player 2 starts with a more local move, like K9 or L9, or mid range moves, like M8 for example, there is a slightly different logic used.





z


Message was edited by: zoeyk at Oct 4, 2010 5:10 AM


Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
jasonb

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 4, 2010, 6:53 PM

Thank you Alison and Zoey for your comments. I look forward to the development of this topic.

Alison, you said "for me there is also another level of understanding, a subtle and multi-layered logic within the idea of initiative itself that must also be understood. Knowing this can shortcut some of the steps you have listed and the right approach/move can often reveal itself." I would love to learn this shortcut. Is there anything more you can say on the topic?

Zoey, your formula sounds very interesting, although I'm probably not smart enough to capitalize on it.

zoeyk

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 4, 2010, 11:42 PM

riddle me this..

for applying backwards induction, the 2 best examples are to look at both N8 and O9 as blacks first moves. they share a commonality. (pointing out that O9 can be trumped by parralel is a difference, but we are looking for what is in common, so ignore the 10 line for O9 in this excersize). O7 does too, but has a interesting phenomenon happen in the 4th move of P1 that sets it into a slightly unique category. these are hints,..throw away white's 2nd 3rd and work backwards assuming black does the basic key stone attack. use sound logic when investigating this. a 1 jump or a draw will be the answer. and in the O7, uniquely, unlike the other 2, K10s initiative is transferred to the 4th stone. this is the difference setting O7 apart from N8 and O9 i.m.o.

and O8 is still in question as to its placement due to the secondary attack, after the primary was answered. it might be placed into the N8 and O9 category, but im not certain yet.
M10 and M8 might seem the same category because of distance, but because of angle to the key stone they are not. M10 is probably one of the more annoying to categorize. almost as much as O8. N10 and M8 and N7 seem to be more in common. not from distance but from angles to the key stone. although M8 is slightly more inside and tends to take a more obscure approach where as the other 2 seem to like to box up more often.
and in opening conversions, is M10 and K9 the same? what is stronger, M10 or N9? and why did masters long ago switch from using O10 to N10 when answering L9 or N9?
should N8 and K7 be the same?
sure, there is more than one way to skin a cat, but a sharp object is usually involved.

someone will get this... most will not.


Message was edited by: zoeyk at Oct 4, 2010 6:12 PM

Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
jasonb

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 5, 2010, 12:40 AM

"someone will get this... most will not."

I'm afraid I fall into the most category. Way past my level of understanding.

alisontate

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 5, 2010, 9:44 AM

There is a fair bit in other threads discussing initiative and so I don't want to cover old ground here, and at any rate I don't know if there really is a universally agreed definition, which I think you will see if you read those threads.

The last thing I want to do is give the impression that I know anything more that you. I am definitely no expert, but merely a plodder. I really only respond to these threads because I know that there are players in the lower ranks who look to higher ranked players to write about the game and provide some insight. Which is why I think it is a good thing that you started this thread.

zoeyk

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 5, 2010, 10:07 AM

initiative,.. dont get me started on that again.
many of you use that word incorrectly imo.

and, understand vs memorize,... why is it again that you cant do both?

and if we are talking about a player that just memorizes but has no tactical sense.. and he plays a person who has never studied, but has strong tactical sense, the advantage leans towards the tactical player.

majority of the world's top 10 players study moves.
but they are also very strong tactically as well.
having this combination is important in top level play.

your not limited to the P1 responses that are popular with high level players. but if you studied them, they can yield to you realizations of why they work, and this realization you can take and then apply to other things.

there is a difference between following moves blindly like a lemming jumping off a cliff,..and studying moves to learn thier logic and follow them if they make sense to you, and you feel that they are most optimal compared to other potential choices.

there is often several different paths for P1 to show perfect play.
some times the top players will all do a different 2nd move answer as Player One, to show thier unique sides.
and some times the majority of top players if not all of them will do the same exact move as Player One.

some times a Opening evolves. a novelty is found. it exploits a flaw in Player Ones popular offense. the popular Player One offense will switch to something else until a solution is found.

in the N8 open,.. although many players do different white seconds, the popular was N11. the nosovs found a novelty sequence to exploit a flaw of karlw's popular white 3rd in the sequence. but the second move (N11) became suspect. then nosovs started using N12. not because N11 was flawed, nosovs knew better. but other players assumed so. and so they all switched to N12 too.
well, not all of them.. but many.
now 2 solutions have been found to nosovs's novelty exploit. simply changing the 3rd one of 2 different ways.. and N11 has been saved..

then there M10,.. karlw's popular white 3rd in a certain P2 sequence. it turns out his 3rd was sure loss. so now players copy nosovs white second at N10, to answer the M10 open. just another repeat of the N8-N11 confusion.

what the hell was my point,...

popular openings evolve. they change. they change when a novelty exploit is found.
for this reason it is ok to reinvent the wheel. but also trying to solve the exploit issue to then return to the resurected offense is good also.
having more than one "perfect play offense" to switch up on players, who bring planned attacks, is ok too. although i do not do this. it is not my style. but one example of who does this is nosovs. richard too. and many others actually. ive always felt that, your P1 should be beleived as perfect. stand by your offense. let them bring thier best planned attack, then beat them. but i suppose there is a place for the other logic too of switch up to win if your unsure of your own moves during tourney time. but its just usually not my way.

im straying off subject so ....

Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
up2ng

Posts: 542
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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 5, 2010, 6:38 PM

Hey Jason, I'll see if I can expand on some of my thoughts while also trying to stay brief and concise.

To clarify what I think about "understand vs memorize", the best players are strong in both areas. But in my opinion, many "average" players trying to improve their skills spend too much time trying to memorize moves and lines, often using the database as more of a crutch than as a learning aid. Strict memorization will improve a player's game pretty dramatically to a point, but I believe they will often hit a plateau that they have a lot of trouble getting beyond because they just do not have a strong enough grasp of the fundamental (and advanced) concepts. If that player would have spent the majority of their effort trying to improve their understanding of the game, the progress might be slower at first, but can eventually improve to a higher level as their understanding of the concepts and their ability to apply them improve.

Of course, there is a place for memorization. One of the first things a beginning or intermediate player looking to improve their game should do is to commit the first 7 or 8 moves (for each side) of the standard "Wedge" opening to memory. Practice the sequence until it becomes easy. There is no good reason for a relatively advanced player to lose a P1 game because they cannot remember how to execute the Wedge opening. Just memorize it. Meanwhile, you should also be experimenting throughout your development with intentionally creating variants and seeing and learning why they are not as strong. Really try to understand why the opening moves are what they are. But, in the end, trust that many expert players have analyzed it to death and the standard moves are what they are for a reason -- go ahead and memorize it.

Now I'll try to summarize some of the thought processes I go through when trying to "determine the best move". This will be very incomplete and will generally avoid the X's and O's since the subject is way too vast to cover in a forum thread.

First, the mindset will vary depending on whether you are playing as Player 1 or Player 2.

As Player 2, I tend to try to be as aggressive as possible, while being mindful of the fact that I am still losing and need to respond appropriately to what Player 1 is doing until I notice a mistake that I can capitalize on. You generally want to pick moves that cause your opponent problems in the lines he is trying to develop, while simultaneously creating as many options for your own lines as possible -- should you ever get the chance to use them.

Here is one thing I started doing long ago as Player 2 and that I will still often try today. Early in the opening, once player 1 goes "into the tank" and burns up some clock before picking a move, I will look very closely at the move that they finally chose. I ask myself, what are they trying to do with this move? ...

... and here is the important part -- where does Player 1 EXPECT me to move next? In other words, Player 1 just spent some time looking several moves ahead, saying to himself "if I do this, he will do that, then I will do this and then he will do that..." and so on. He has a line in mind which is built on Player 2 responding with some "obvious" answer. Now, I identify this move that he expects me to play. Next, NO MATTER WHAT, I WILL ELIMINATE THIS MOVE FROM MY OPTIONS! Unless it is a forced move of course. But early in an opening, you will often have some options. Often times, one of those options will seem like an obviously good move. AVOID THIS MOVE against relatively strong players! One of the comments I will often get from my opponent is "Hmm, I really was not expecting that...!" Well, that's the idea! They just burnt a bunch of clock coming up with a line in their minds that would be successful if played out. Now, they have to scrap it and start all over trying to respond to my "unconventional" or "creative" response.

An interesting side effect, while I started making a conscious effort to do this, was that I would often end up picking an even stronger move than I would have if I just played the obvious one. Things like pairing up two stones early or avoiding a capture trade, etc would often be unexpected by my opponents, but would also be more advanced moves that I was playing sort of by accident, until my understanding of the game started catching up with my creativity. Try experimenting with this sort of approach, it will improve your game.

But to be more general, the thought process for player 2 is:

-- What is player 1 trying to do with this last move (and prior moves)?

-- What can I do right now to disrupt the most player 1 options, either now (like a block) or down the road (like a keystone attack)?

-- Which of these few ideas will simultaneously improve my shape and/or future options to create a sustained line when the opportunity arises?

-- Now, think of the move you are leaning towards and begin playing the game out in your mind. If I play here, what are the 3 or 4 most likely responses from Player 1? (All of the same thought processes now apply to this next theoretical move, and so on, sort of recursively...) Do any of those responses put me into obvious big trouble? For a couple of those moves, how would I respond? For the most likely few scenarios, try thinking 3 or 4 moves each down the line and see if there might be a favorable, or at least a messy outcome for you.

-- Now, do this again to some extent for your 2nd and 3rd choices -- keep a lookout for "out of the box" moves and quickly see if any of those have any validity and then think about them a bit deeper if they seem ok at first glance.

-- Finally, choose the move that seems to provide Player 1 with no immediately crushing options and where most of the scenarios 3 or 4 moves down the line appear to be favorable or complex.

Obviously, exactly HOW any of these moves will appear strong to you will come with experience and improved understanding of the concepts. For example, a keystone attack or a draw move or taking an inside line or trying to block and counter, or trying to set up a counter which pulls the action away to a different area of the board, etc, etc, etc are all vastly different concepts and not any one of these will always be the best answer for all situations -- each position is unique and will need to be evaluated with all of the tricks in your bag as available options.

Now, I won't go through the whole process as player 1, but many of it will be the same. The main difference is the overall mindset -- as Player 1, you need to KNOW that you are winning and that you should be continuing to apply pressure towards a decisive victory.

-- When your opponent makes a move, think about what he is trying to do to disrupt YOUR endgame.

-- Which of my possible responses will fall into his traps either now, or in the future? Eliminate these moves.

-- Remind yourself that there really SHOULD be a solution to any attack that Player 2 is throwing at you, it is just a matter of finding it. If you are now clearly losing and have literally no continuation besides just defending, then you've already made a critical error in a previous move (sometimes quite a ways back).

-- Remember that a solution does not always involve forcing moves until achieving Pente -- winning by captures can often turn a nearly hopeless situation into victory. Keep searching for ways to win.

-- Be very slow to "give up" and go on the defensive. You should be burning a lot of clock before doing this -- you should keep searching and searching with the expectation that there IS a winning solution somewhere.

-- Use the general "look ahead" thought processes described in the Player 2 section above, but with a different mindset.

Anyways, I'm aware that this is all extremely vague and incomplete -- again there is far too much involved in this question to be completely answered in one forum thread. But hopefully some of this is helpful!

Good luck!

zoeyk

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 5, 2010, 11:57 PM

ah yes nice post up2ng.

ide like to point out that P2 and P1 are different when talking about studying.

P2 you can study standard moves to an extent, but the point of studying P2 is generally to make a move that has never been done before. this is called a novelty move.
i asked nosovs before if he studies players when designing a P2 line. he replied that he studies lines, not players. this is probably true to an extent. understanding lines in general that can work on any player is more to study but is better, because a player can switch up on you but you'll still probably be within the lines you've studied.
where just targeting a players predicted P1 path, is only strongest in timed live play if they don't deviate generally.

so that is the VS of; studying entire sub game tree VS narrow branch path, predicted and based on previous bread crumb trail left by opponent.

P1 is a little different than P2. P1 does not use novelties to trick the opponent. P1 might create a new move, but this is for an answer or reaction to a new move P2 did first, it is not for to make a question or novelty.
P2 asks the questions, P1 answers them. P1 might lead the win, but P2 leads the dance, and P1 reacts to this lead.
P2's first move will narrow P1's option for his second move to answer, and so on.

so memorization applies more to P1 for creating a consistent tree of unbending answers.
P2, is a creator of new branches attempting to broaden the length and width of the tree to put P1 into unknown territory. either to exploit a flaw of P1's known answers, or to create a unintuitive choice juncture of both win and doom doors for P1 to select from, in attempts to provoke human err.

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jasonb

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Re: Pente - Understand vs Memorize
Posted: Oct 6, 2010, 12:05 AM

alison, You are no doubt a better player than I, but I'm trying hard to gain on ya.

zoey, Those are some good points. I have had the tendency to gravitate towards popular opens, to the point that it takes the fun out of the game for me. I really want to get creative with my play, but I need to be able to better evaluate the strength of a move. I'm improving in that area, but have a very long ways to go. I'd be very interested to hear what your thought process is when determining your next move.

up2ng, Thank you for the detailed and well thought out response. Lots of meat there. You are an excellent writer, and play one mean game of Pente. Great stuff!

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