There was once a guy who came from China to KL to study and his weiqi/go strength is 5dan China. 5 dan China is really very, very strong, unlike the Japanese dan. A Chinese 5dan can probably give a Japanese 5dan 2-3 handicap stones, i.e probably 2-3 stones stronger. While he was here, we all had the benefit of playing with him and learning from him. It was very fun.
There was one time when asked, he said that weiqi is really only about 2 things:
By reading, he did not mean reading as in reading books but rather reading the moves. Reading skill is very important because it is the source of tactical strength.
Judgment is strategic. It involves issues like what direction to play, judging the strength and weaknesses of stone groups and how to profit from it, judging territorial areas to make sure that the territory points are at least balanced, etc.
In short, reading supports judgment. Strategy needs tactical implementation. Without sound tactical implementation, strategy will fail, despite how brilliant it is conceived. However, one is probably tempted to put more importance on reading, and I know many players do. They use all their spare time solving life and death problems, tesuji problems. But without a solid strategy, a better strategist with slightly inferior reading ability will win the game.
Strategy, whether in weiqi or in war or in business, cannot escape certain principles and as such, books like Sun Tzu’s Art of War is still very popular. In the meantime, books that pay importance on tactical implementation such as The Book of Five Rings are also still very popular. There was once I was told that there are three books that anyone aspiring to be great should read.
1. Sun Tzu’s Art of War
2. Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings
3. Machiavelli’s The Prince
Recently, one of my bosses said that one needs three books too, number 1 and 2 above plus a Marketing 101 book. Perhaps The Prince is too dark for him. But I believe we must be aware of it. If The Prince is dark, try the Thick Black Theory as explained in the book Thick Face, Black Heart.
Ok, back to the game of weiqi. There are certain principles that I always try to follow when I play. This is from reading books and also understanding gained from the hard knock of fighting in the games.
1. Do not play in an area where the enemy is strong.
2. If you need to play there, play lightly, always with an escape route in mind. Sacrifice some stones is very often necessary.
3. Attack where the enemy is the weakest.
4. Always ensure that the stones have a base, put the stones in an undefeatable position.
5. When your stones are strong, attack invaders in the strongest possible way, head-on with brute force, often include the use of strong handed tesuji.
6. Play at a place that has greatest potential. The best strategy to win is to win without the need to fight. The most profitable market are blue ocean markets.
Tactically, I make sure that I follow the following when I play:
1. When reading, always read at least 10 sequence ahead with at least 3 variations, not including branches. It is ok to take my time.
2. When doing 1 above, always have a strategy in mind – what do I want to achieve? Building a wall? Creating territorial potential? Spoiling opponent’s shape? Split attacking? Pretending to attack east but intention is to attack west? etc.
3. Always assess the relative strength and weaknesses of stones. If the stones are weak, settle them as soon as possible. Strength and weakness is always relative.
4. Always play moves that can achieve two or more objectives.
5 Begin with the end in mind. Visualise the end result. If you like the end result, play it. If you don’t, play another strategy.
6. Don’t play blindly and follow opponent’s moves and let him/her push you around the board. Always seize the initiative.
7. Always be aware of territorial balance.