Category Archives: Strategy

Chinese 5 Dan

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:

1. Judgment
2. Reading

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.

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Filed under Strategy, Weiqi/Go/Baduk

Tewari & Efficiency

Baduk can sometimes teach us a thing or two about life if we think about it properly. Of course, if you ask a golfer, she will also tell you that golf equals life. This could even be true if you ask anyone who is a major fan of anything, say anime or playing checkers or listening to Bach etc., and they will tell you that the object of their passion equals life itself and all the wisdom of the universe can be found in that obscure object. Let me then do my part to promote Baduk a little bit.

How often do you find yourself saying lines similar this (or having someone say this to your face): “Ah, I should have done it this way. It would have saved me so much time and money!”. Of course, all the wisdom in the world can be found in hindsight, or put in another way, what the Chinese often refer to as “Horse behind the Canon”. One of the key idea in process re-engineering is to layout all the steps in the process and identify which steps are worthless and do not add value. By eliminating these steps, the process becomes more efficient.

This concept is nothing new in Baduk. When evaluating moves, strong Baduk players often perform “tewari” analysis. Tewari analysis can be defined as “Breaking down a position by eliminating an equal number of stones in order to analyze the efficiency of the moves”. By doing this, players get to analyse on how to make better and more efficient moves, why some variations are better than the others etc.

This can be applied to any daily chores that you do. Try to think of something that you do, step by step, and map it out on a piece of paper. Then systematically look at each step, backward, forward, and think of the steps that can be eliminated and the steps that can be combined and after eliminating and/or combining them, you still achieve the same objective of that chore. It is like how John Travolta suddenly clicked in the movie “Phenomenon”. Suddenly, he seemed to be an expert in tewari analysis and found better ways of doing things. In real life, by simply putting some thoughts in how we do things, we become significantly more efficient, more lean, more productive.

Ok, here’s an example from the Baduk tewari analysis. Remember that in my earlier entry (featuring the diagram above), I have posted on a variation of the Hoshi joseki? In one of the variations, it was mentioned that a certain variation played by Ma Xiaochun against Lee Changho was deemed to be not really good based on a tewari analysis. I did not include that tewari analysis performed by Cho Hunhyun in the file earlier and am making it good in this post. If you are interested in this tewari analysis, you can download the .sgf file here:

Hope that you will like it. This is a transcript of the same lesson presented by Wang Yuan 8p.

Yes John, Tewari is your answer

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The Hedgehog Concept

It just amazes me, this thing called politics. When tens of thousands of people are going to the streets and demand your resignation, you retaliate and threaten to declare a state of emergency. What emergency? You just quit and there are no emergencies. When so many people come to the streets in earnest, there must be something badly wrong with you. This thing called politics, if you are good at it, you can do whatever you want. Even the King cannot do much. This also applies to office politics.

What then is the key in getting so much power that gives you that much measure of immunity and arrogance? The key is in knowing the system inside out (so that you can manipulate it at will if you need to) and knowing the right people and get them in your gang, and at the same time, convince them that they should be led by you.

After reading “Blue Ocean Strategy” as noted in my earlier entry, the desire to read more business books kept growing. The new job that I am getting into may also be a reason for me to want to read back these books. I have even bought Kaplan and Norton’s latest book, “Alignment” and get a refresher on the Balanced Scorecard concept and especially the Strategy Focused Organisation, the best book and most outstanding idea from their oeuvre, in my humble opinion.

However, that said, I felt that the best management book that I have read, best being defined as the management book that actually affected me from inside out, is Jim Collin’s “Good to Great”. Read a good article of it here.

The book has great ideas but the idea that hit me really hard was the Hedgehog concept plus the elaboration on will and discipline.

What is the Hedgehog concept? It is at once easy to understand and at the same time, hard to grasp. Here’s an excerpt:

“Picture two animals: a fox and a hedgehog. Which are you? An ancient Greek parable distinguishes between foxes, which know many small things, and hedgehogs, which know one big thing. All good-to-great leaders, it turns out, are hedgehogs. They know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea — the kind of basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions. That’s not to say hedgehogs are simplistic. Like great thinkers, who take complexities and boil them down into simple, yet profound, ideas (Adam Smith and the invisible hand, Darwin and evolution), leaders of good-to-great companies develop a Hedgehog Concept that is simple but that reflects penetrating insight and deep understanding.”

Great Baduk players, for example, display this Hedgehog concept. The politician mentioned above is a master of the Hedgehog concept. Jack Welch is a master of the Hedgehog concept. Gandhi is a great master of this concept as well. In fact, it is true. All the great people that comes to my mind are great Hedgehog concept pracitioners. To be great, I reckon, I must learn this Hedgehog concept and with great will, humility and discipline, things should work out well. I hope.

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Filed under Books, Business, Strategy, Thoughts & Commentaries

Baduk and Blue Ocean Strategy

I am currently reading a book called the “Blue Ocean Strategy”. I have always enjoyed reading books on strategy and about business (recently also acquired and read “The Google Story”, “The Apple Way” and “How Dell Does It”), a habit acquired during my student days, when reading “In Search of Excellence” and “The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China” gave me a lot of kick and motivation. A very fulfilling feeling.

“Blue Ocean Strategy” (BOS) is something quite new and to me, is very refreshing after reading a string of books by say, the Michael E. Porter, Robert Kaplan gang. The book is about “how to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant.” The idea is that there is no point competing in the existing market space where every company in the market is fighting to death to protect and expand on the limited market. The pie is constant and even if the company wins the fight, the reward is also not very great. Blue Ocean Strategy is about creating a new, uncontested market space, where the reward, if successful, is far greater. The book goes on to provide case studies and tools on how to use this new strategic concepts and with case studies ranging from “Cirque du Soleil” to the movie theatre industry to the manufacturing and services industry, the idea is very convincing.

One part of the book hit me hard and banged the idea into my head. It says, “..Part of the explanation for this [i.e. competiting in existing markets] is that corporate strategy is heavily influenced by its roots in military strategy……. Described in this way, strategy is about confronting an opponent and fighting over a given piece of land that is both limited and constant. Unlike war, however, the history of industry shows us that the market universe has never been constant; rather, blue oceans have continuously been created over time. To focus on the red ocean is therefore to accept the key constraining factors of war – limited terrain and the need to beat an enemy to succeed – and to deny the distinctive strength of the business world: the capacity to create new market space that is uncontested.”

After reading all that, I begin to think about the game of Go. The nature of Go is Blue Ocean. Yes, the board is limited in size, i.e. 19 grids times 19 grids, 361 intersections. It is finite and limited but in the course of the game, the players carve out new territories (“market space”) all the time and as part of the strategy, to sometimes exit a particular section of the board and play at another part of the board, the “uncontested” market. Unlike international chess for example, there is no focus of only one market, but many markets can be created and losing in one market does not mean losing the whole thing (think, for example, the Luo Xihe vs. Choi Cheolhan triple ko game).

Going down into a bit of detail of the strategic implementation as stated in the book, it said:

“Formulation principles:

Reconstruct market boundaries
Focus on the big picture, not the numbers
Reach beyond existing demand
Get the strategic sequence right”

The above is so relevant to playing Baduk!

Let me finish the book and see if I can learn more, and hopefully this also improves my baduk skills along with my management skills.

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Filed under Books, Business, Strategy, Weiqi/Go/Baduk