Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Round 13 - Playoffs 5 of 2016 US Tak Open

This past week saw a number more exciting games. SultanPepper and Unsweet have successfully locked themselves into the top 3 for this playoff.  Trailing behind them are other playtak veterans: Simon, Abyss, NohatCoder, Turing, Ally, and Simmon. Personally, I'm particularly interested in watching the upcoming match between Turing and Simmon.

As a bit of a prelude to this, the game I'm focusing on this week is the second in the match between Turing and Tayacan. This week, I wrote a brief, high-level annotation of the game that can be found at https://goo.gl/1co2QM or in the viewer below:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Round 12 - Playoffs 4 of 2016 US Tak Open

Having reached the end of round four, we begin the last 8 matches of the season. As a result, tensions are rising and any mistake can spell the last and make or break players.

In following this week's hubbub, I found myself particularly intrigued by the first game between ira212 and Abyss:

In particular, I spent a decent bit of time considering the position of the board after the white's 11th move:

[11. c4]
There's quite a lot I would have personally preferred to play for the opening lines, but this play creates an interesting setup for the board. A quick glance shows that black is slightly ahead - at least in terms of flat count and tempo. On the other hand, white has better control over the center, a stronger capstone, and more opportunities to develop road threats. The question for me, then, is which is more valuable - black's tempo or white's position?

If black chose to press tempo with f5' then white is forced to respond to the tak threat. There are four major lines here to consider: f6, e5-, d1>, and f1<, as shown in the corresponding image below:

{f6 / e5- / d1>  / f1< }
Of these, the best option is easily f6. For one - it maintains the flat differential. Secondly - it prevents breaking up the current structures. Finally - even if black were to follow up with e6', then white can respond with f6-, stopping any real immediate tak threat in its tracks:

[{12. f6 e6' 13. f6-}] 
At the end of this, it doesn't seem like black has gained much. Black no longer has tempo, his pieces are disconnected, and doesn't even have any real good control over white's area. That being said, with black at the helm, he can now interfere with whites center control. In the original game, Abyss played c5 to contest white's control. My initial reaction was to play b4, expecting white to respond with c5':

[{13. ... b3 14. c6'}]
Note how despite black's ability to hinder white's progress, white is definitely in control here. Black's earlier procedure leaving a flat on e6 doesn't even help his position. In contrast, White has a lot more flexibility.  Regardless of black's response, white has a lot of good options: d5- --> b3; b4>c3+ --> d4<; c6 --> b6'.

This in stark contrast to the types of maneuvers seen in the 5x5 games. In those games, these sorts of tak and tempo would have easily been able to turn the tide, putting white on the defensive. Instead, with the extended time on the 6x6, the positional advantage wins out.

Note, though, that the power of white's last move - c6' isn't simply the tak threat. That's some of the pressure. More so, white is strongly increasing position across the board and vying for control over the northwest corner. The tak threat only really limits black's responses and prevents black from gaining more ground. 

For the sake of 'completion', I also played this out with 13. ... c5 - closer to Abyss's original play. Following this line, I would actually play 14. b5 as white. In the original playthrough, (14. b4), black is able to close white off from reaching ranks 5 or 6. By extending now, and connecting diagonally to a current stone, white is able to extend control onto rank 5 - aiming to a north-south road potential. (and still having some good west-east potential)

[{13. ... c5 14. b5}]
Here too, white has a much better position and more flexibility to build towards future tak threats. Overall, these lines reinforce the importance of position in the 6x6 game - especially the value of the central squares.

Let me know what you think. Does white's position put him in the lead? How would you play this position out from either side?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Round 10 - Playoffs 2 of 2016 US Tak Open

With the second round over, the first set of 8 people has been eliminated, bringing us down to the top 24 players.  Interestingly 3 of the 16 games ended in a tie-breaker. While this may not seem like a lot, it really shows how closely matched some of these players are and will be important to look at as part of the post-tournament analysis.

In addition, next week will feature more exciting matches. I personally am looking forward to the match between NohatCoder and SultanPepper. Whoever you may be rooting for, the tension is palatable.

One of the games I particularly enjoyed this past week was the first game between Gray_Mouser and SuperJujuAwesome:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Round 9 - Playoffs 1 of 2016 US Tak Open

With the first round of the playoffs, there has also been quite a bit of additional media surrounding the tournament games. Both BenWo and Baweaver have streamed some of the matches to their respective channels. For myself, I found it particularly helpful and interesting to watch through parts of a game, try to figure out what I would move in certain situations and what responses I expected. Playing these out - either physically, digitally, or mentally, I believe can help a lot to familiarize with various patterns and trades.

Perhaps one of the most pernicious and difficult patterns for players - even at this level - is Tinuë. By the time one notices the tinuë, it's usually too late. And the Road to Tinuë is often not so straightforward. There's a really interesting example of this in this week's match-up between Kakaburra and Doodles:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Round 8 of 2016 US Tak Open

With the Swiss stage complete, we have our line-up for the next stage of the tournament - the final double elimination. I want to offer a sincere congratulation for all of you who participated, regardless of whether you moved on or not. If you have managed to make it to the next stage, well done! I'm excited to see this play out. For the everyone else, I have seen a lot of improvement in play from everyone and some great matches. I want to compliment all of you for raising the bar and level of play and providing a challenge and I hope to see you continue to play the game, give feedback on the current tournament, and participate in future tournaments.

This week, I decided to explore the game between Ally and Turing. These are fairly experienced players, who are exploring the meta and tend to be quite intentional about what plays they make. So, in reviewing their game, I was hoping to find what moves lead to Turing's eventual loss. In my high-level overview, I've noted a few places where I play slightly differently, or I would explore a different line than the ones Turing and Ally chose. You can follow this commentary, as usual, at the following link and in the viewer below (https://goo.gl/Cu1bTa):

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Round 7 of 2016 US Tak Open

As we close in on the last match of the Swiss stage, tensions are rising. The last match could make or break a lot of player's inclusion in the next round of the tournament. Regardless of whether you've made it or not, I wish to congratulate all of you who have stuck with the tournament thus far and played through all the rounds. As of the time of writing this, over 360 matches have been finished as a part of the tournament.

This week, I wanted to look a bit deeper into the first game between nebel and r_so9. I've covered neither of these aplayers games but .Based on their current rankings and the game played, though, they seem to represent of mid-tier players. As with my last post, I've included brief, high-level comments on the full game (https://goo.gl/61mf60):

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Round 5 of 2016 US Tak Open

Now that we're past the halfway mark, our final line-up is really starting to take shape. Quite a few of the high rankers are notable participants from previous informal tournaments, such as Turing, Fwwwwibib, maron, Simmon, applemonkeyman, and kakaburra, amongst others. Watching and following these games can really help demonstrate the level of play possible.

In particular, this week, I decided to delve into the first game of the match between Fwwwwibib and NohatCoder. Both of these players are quite strong, so parsing through their moves can be quite educational. Like last time, I notated a brief, high-level full game comments, using ptn ninja (https://goo.gl/NZaH8h):