Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #4
Tactic #1: The Wedge
Here is a scenario that occurs quite frequently in games.
White just played the one point jump. Black to play.
Trick question. The answer is to tenuki. Nothing beneficial can come out of playing here locally. Leave the aji for later on when it might be useful. (If any stronger players think anything to the contrary, please let me know!)
Up until recently, I was in the camp with the rest of the players who stared at the situation and thought, “Why don’t I just wedge in?” First off, from the reading I’ve done thus far, the wedge is a tesuji. Secondly, I have read this out thoroughly and I can successfully cut the two groups apart without losing my cutting stone. (See variation below).
While you get brownie points for reading out the variations properly and succeeding in your original goal, there is a one earth shattering reason why this misuse of the tactic will consistently cost you game after game:
Your opponent gets to choose the variation that results from it.
As you are probably well aware, one of the most critical aspects of go is the sente and gote relationship. As a rule of thumb, players ideally want to keep sente for a majority of the game. The reason for this lies in the fact that you are essentially forcing your opponent to go where you would like him/her to. In other words, you become his/her puppet master!
This type of wedge, while seemingly effective in disconnecting your opponent’s stones, is the equivalent of handing the reigns of the game over to your opponent and say, “Pick whichever variation you like! I care not whether or not it benefits me, because I am satisfied knowing I was able to disconnect your stones for the time being!” And so unless your opponent gives no heed to which variation is to his/her benefit, you’ll often find yourself in a regrettable situation before you know it.
So… when does the wedge make sense?
This new scenario is similar to the original diagram, but there are two differences to take note of. First, white is offered a second one point jump for reinforcement. Secondly, and most importantly, black is much stronger this time around. With this crucial difference, the wedge that was once to white’s benefit is now a strong weapon for black to use.
As you can now see, regardless of which variation white chooses, his triangled stones are destined for impending doom.
With the wedge tesuji, the key thing to remember is that your purpose must extend beyond simply cutting off two groups from one another.
After all, which of the following options would you prefer to offer your opponent:
“Please, choose a variation that is best suited for your purposes.”
“Your stones could die this way, or that way. Your choice.”
Many thanks to fellow ASR member sita for helping me grasp this concept.
All diagrams were generated using CGoban3.