It has been quite some time now that I have last blogged about Weiqi. I think I have mentioned previously that there are a lot of insights about life that one can get from playing and understanding Weiqi. And I qualify again, fans of other games will without doubt protest that this is the same for the game of their passion but somehow, since I have also played other games ranging from Monopoly to Hold’em to Golf, Weiqi fascinates me the most and inspires me about life the most, especially during periods in my life when I needed understanding the most.
For example, I sometimes find myself in situations where things can be really frustrating and I think you will agree with me that most frustrations are brought unto us by some nasty and mean people and not really by events. When we encounter these nasty people, especially at work where these nasty people seemed to be very well connected and can put an end to your career with as much effort as killing an ant, what do you do?
I may be wrong but naïve and idealistic people will protest loudly and demand for justice. I don’t know if this really work but my honest guess is that it will not work. It is easy to protest but it is not easy to be subtle, which may solve the problem better than using pure force and power, if there is any force or power to start with. For lone rangers that do not have connections, there is no power to talk about. The next best thing is to resign the job but unless you have lots of dough in the bank, it will not seem like a viable option, not to mention a major dent in one’s career.
So how could Weiqi offer an insight? There is this concept of “thickness” in Weiqi. “Thickness” in Weiqi means that a group of stones are very strong and powerful, with no defects in its formation and therefore not vulnerable to attacks. The general rule of thumb when encountering thickness is not to play near it.
While studying Weiqi recently, I came across two different books that reinforced my understanding of thickness. One is Yuan Zhou’s book, “How to Play Handicap Go” and the other being Yoda Norimoto‘s “Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki”.
Here’s from Yoda’s book:
“The time that sabaki comes into play is when one is weak. In Weiqi it is an ironclad rule that in weak positions initiating a frontal assault for a strong fight will not produce a good result. For that very reason judgment about strength and weakness is essential.”
Here’s from Yuan’s book:
“It is not good to attack when you can’t see a clear benefit. Black seems to be just attacking to see what will happen. This can lead to your own positions getting damaged.”
Both of these quotes refer to a position where you are weak and the opponent’s position is strong and on the art of attack and defense. In our day to day life when we are faced with situations where we are at a disadvantaged position, we must arrive at a judgement on our own position and from there to think how to re-act. If we want to attack (i.e. stomping and protesting), can we be sure that the attack will bring us benefits without doubts or is it just that we hope we will arrive at a better position but could not really work out exactly how? If yes, then we may end up in a much worse position than before we even started.
So if this is the case, what should we do? As Yoda’s book recommended, we should handle the situation subtlely and skillfully, i.e. use sabaki techniques (develop the stones quickly, lightly and flexibly) and as Yuan indicated, we must be patient and attack only when we can work out exactly how the benefit can be derived. In short, do not be stubborn but be patient, look at the big picture and don’t worry about losing out a bit now for the realisation of a longer term plan/strategy.
But sometimes, when you’ve got to fight, you’ve got to fight. Knowing when is key and Weiqi too can offer some insights on when and how to fight.