Go opening strategy
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Go opening strategy is the strategy applied in the game of go, in the early part of the game. On the traditional 19×19 board the opening phase of the game usually lasts between 15 and 40 plies.
There are some conventional divisions that are applied. Firstly there is the distinction that may be drawn between go opening theory, the codified variations that resemble chess openings in the way that they occur repeated in games, and go opening principles. Since there is great freedom of choice, the fundamental opening principles are more useful for all players before they reach dan player level.
Examples of principles that are generally useful are comments such as 'corner-side-centre', which says that the corner areas of the board are more valuable than the sides (points near an edge but away from the corners). Occupying points in the centre may be good for early fighting, but these points are weaker from the aspect of developing one's territory.
Developments over the last century
The opening strategy in Go can be said to have undergone some major changes in the twentieth century. Not only have new joseki been developed, but some important shifts in thinking have occurred. For example:
- from 1900 to 1930 the strategy was traditional, the so-called Shusaku style
- in 1933 and for a few years afterwards, a very different and experimental style called shinfuseki dominated professional go, at least for the younger players
- from around 1936 there was a compromise of styles, sugou fuseki, which mixed some of the more successful ideas from shinfuseki with older techniques for a more balanced approach, forming the basis of modern professional play
- the introduction of komidashi of 4.5 points in most top tournaments of the 1950s led to a tighter, territorial style for Black, for example in Sakata Eio, with greater use of the 3-3 point for White also.
- the Chinese opening dominated thinking from the early 1970s, and many further ideas were tried, for example the mini-chinese formation which is a side opening, rather than a corner opening or whole-board opening
- the entry of South Korean professionals into international competitions in the early 1990s saw the use of 'prepared variations' of whole-board openings, in a way not seen before.
Contemporary Go opening strategy is more complicated than the old corner opening/whole-board opening distinction suggests. The 4-4 point is used by professionals in about 70% of corners. Corner openings for the 4-4 point are still being developed, but it is more accurate to say that almost all contemporary opening theory is implicated in the patterns around the 4-4 point.
The Japanese term joseki, literally meaning "set stones", as in "set pattern" (jo means "fixed" or "set", and seki means stones), is the sequences of moves in game of Go, which results in a fair outcome for both black and white sides. Joseki, however, are not exclusive to the early game but can occur mid-game as well.
The Japanese term fuseki is sometimes taken as synonymous with 'whole-board strategy'. More accurately, it means the 'scattering' or thin distribution of stones that occurs in the early part of the game.