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The Spirit of Enquiry - April 1979
by Graeme Parmenter

"If I had played that move, I think perhaps I might have won?"

"Ah, but if I had played this move, then surely I could have won?"

"Yes, but if I had played this move, then surely I should have won?"

"Well if I had played this move then there is no doubt that I would have won!"

It's not that I don't think there is a place for the competitive spirit in Go, it's just that I can't see it's much use once the game is over. The preceding example of a typical post-game analysis in the average go club achieves only one of two things, depending on who is the superior arguer. Either the winner feels that it was an evenly matched struggle, and the loser feels robbed, or the winner feels he could still have won with his eyes shut, and the loser feels tired. Neither result has much to do with ensuring that in their next game both players will be stronger at go, and yet the post game analysis offers us one of the best opportunities to improve our game.

The most important benefit of a more enlightened analysis of the game, is the chance to identify the origin of unfavourable results that developed during the play. If we can identify points at which we got less than an even result, then we can work backwards through the moves leading up to the position, looking for more favourable variations, until we have found the source of our loss. If this is done a few times, repeated faults may become apparent, and once identified will be easily corrected. Without this sort of analysis, weaknesses in our game may remain undetected, blocking our development as go players.

Another interesting gain from good post-game analysis, is the chance to view the game as the opponent saw it. There is often a big difference between the way each player sees the whole board situation - which groups are weak, which strong, who is ahead etc. By sharing opinions on the state of the game, we get the chance to reconcile differences by identifying the reasons for them. This sort of activity will soon develope a balanced appreciation of the board situation and help to avoid the strategical errors that result from over-optimism and paying too little attention to our weaknesses.

The possibility of experimenting with new approaches to various game situations is a third advantage to be gained from post-game analysis. Every game has points at which strategical decisions have to be made, e.g. whether to sacrifice stones rather than create a burdon by trying to save them. After the game we have a chance to try out some of the alternatives we considered, as well as some we didn't. This sort of experimentation can show us why orthodox or ordinary plays are ususally the best, but it may also suggest new possibilities, increasing our flexibility and making the game more interesting for our opponents and ourselves.

Picture the following scene ... a typical New Zealand Go club. It is 8 c'clock. Two games are in progress. One spectator waits for another arrival. The players hunched over their games are straining to see the far side of the board in the dim light of a flickering candle, in this their regular meeting place - the cleaner's store room in the local school. The players on one board begin to rearrange their stones - the game is over. The single spectator squeezes past the floor polishers to see the final result. The other players look up. The count si made. The players shake hands, then clear the stones from the board. They begin to replay the game. After a few moves, one player expersses dissatisfaction with the result. He removes some stones and tries a different arrangement. The players discuss the merits of the new line. The spectator, kneeling beside the board, removes a stone and suggests a more even variation. the players are happy with the sugegstion, and revert to the game sequence. Again they pause. "This can't be good for black" mutters one. A player on the next board looks up. He leans over and points to a stone, suggesting an alternative play. Approval is not universal. The other player on the next board takes a few stones and lays down another sequence. A beautiful tesuji is revealed. Black is happy and the game continues.

By now all five players in the club are clustered around the board. Stones are played, removed, variations tried, theories expounded - fingers point, hands gesture and the Wit of the group injects a little laughter now and then. The candle begins to splutter. The game analysis is not finished! One of the players tosses the nearly extinct candle into a pileof old oily rags lying in one corner. Illumination improves noticeably and the analysis continues. They have reached the endgame. Relative values are conirmed and different orders of play are now tried. The optimal sequence is agreed upon. With blissful smiles on their faces, they sweep the stones into their plastic containers, stack the boards against the wall, stamp out the smouldering remnants of the rag pile, and grope their way towards the door.

ahh - watch out, you chinese devils.

©2004 Leon Phease