And now, on to the next section of Kageyama’s Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go: Territory and Spheres of Influence.
One of the biggest points Kageyama makes in this chapter is that one should not count one’s chickens before they hatch; in the opening, players often think of an area where they have several stones as territory when it is still invadeable. This can lead to inflexible play where players doggedly try to hold on to what they consider their territory and miss the opportunity to use their sphere of influence more effectively. Letting the opponent live small whilst you build great thickness is very often better than hanging on to a little bit of territory. Instead of being distraught when an enemy stone is plunked down in your area of influence, Kageyama reminds the reader that this is a cause for celebration!
Kageyama also gives the reader a little pep talk about playing the opening that appeals rather than the opening that one feels one ‘should’ play. If ginormous enemy frameworks seem frightening, plays can be made in the middle of the side to prevent them. If terrtitory is preferred to spheres of influence, then tighter moves can be played.
That being said, Kageyama goes on to discuss when it is preferable to develop larger-scale spheres of influence and when it is preferable to play more territorially-biased moves.
When the board is completely open in the beginning, playing solid territory moves can be a bit slow. One needs to spread out and build up influence that can be used later; else one might find oneself stuck with some very solid, but very small territories at the end of the game.
When approaching a strong enemy position, Kageyama suggests that playing more solid, territory-creating moves is often better than looser sphere-of-influence-building moves. This is in keeping with the ‘don’t play too close to thickness’ proverb; playing loosely next to thickness invites an attack, so solid plays are preferable in these situations.
‘Don’t play too close to thickness’ applies to friendly stones as well as enemy stones. Once one has built up a nice, thick wall, play farther away. Seek out the opponent’s weak spots and attack. Hopefully, this will invite fighting in the shadow of one’s big, thick wall. As Kageyama says, “One cannot expect to turn thickness directly into territory. The correct strategy is to have it stare down at the enemy, silent and threatening”. The benefits come from the fighting that ensues elsewhere on the board; the opponent can’t expect a huge result in your sphere of influence, and if you can cause him or her to thrash about a bit, territory will build up elsewhere. (This is one of those things that is easier said than done, in my experience…but I’ll keep trying, Kageyama!)
In the final part of the chapter, Kageyama details some middle game situations that involve using thick walls. In one problem, he demonstrates a couple points that have been my downfall in some of my own games of late.
First, sometimes simply spitting the opponent’s stones isn’t very useful. If you’re simply wedging stones between two groups that are going to live without taking any profit for yourself, the moves aren’t doing you any good and may be helping the opponent take profit instead.
Second, sometimes there’s no need to make a big fuss trying to cut an enemy off when he’s simply running away and taking no profit. You don’t necessarily need to kill the opponent’s stones with your big, thick walls; sometimes, making them scrape for a living or run sheepishly to their friends is an excellent result.
Finally, sometimes that tried-and-true two-space extension along the third line isn’t the most appropriate move! If you’re stones are sandwiched inbetween two big, thick, enemy walls, then other moves might be called for – like a one-space extension on the third line or a knight’s move to the fourth line. (I have no idea when and how to play like this, but at least it’s something new on the radar!)