Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Round 3 of 2016 US Tak Open

With the 2016 US Tak Open tournament's 3rd round behind us, participants are entering the halfway mark of the swiss stage. Now, more than ever, match wins are important. Even a single win could push some players into the coveted top 32.

In reviewing some of the games, I've noticed that some of the reporting hasn't been the most consistent. Please remember to include links to the PTNs when submitting! In addition, when scores are tied please remember to reference the tie-breaker rules (Appendix A) to determine the match winner. At the end of the tournament, I have plans to do a meta-analysis of the games played, and having accurate and complete information will really help in this (in addition to making sure that all players are at an even ground).

With that aside, I want to delve into the game I'll be looking into today: the first game in the matchup between nelhage and abyss:

Like the past few weeks, I will dive into a particular position to analyze it and share some of my insights. In addition, though, I created a full-game annotation, covering my top-level reactions to various positions and moves. In the end, none of these will be as refined as the treatment I hope to give here, but I hope it can give some insight as to how I approach a game and the way in which a game unfolds.

In this game, I wanted to focus on the position at the beginning of the tenth move:

[... 9. d5 c5<']
The bit that particularly interested me was white's choice to respond with a5> (highlight above). At first glance, this is a reasonable move. Even more so, it's almost the default recapture of the b5 stack. More importantly, it responds to black's tak threat. Because of black's threat in this position, white's moves are more limited. White must make a move that directly counters tak. a5> moves a piece that isn't doing much elsewhere. In addition, white could be anticipating that after b4+ (black's most likely response) playing Sa4, trapping black's capstone in the back rank. (Which, is not the sequence white follows, probably to a slight detriment).

The key issue is that even with a wall at b4, black's primary road threat and presence is the north-south threat with the stones in the b-file. And some followups from black at a5 or b5, can press black's tempo and force white to concede some territory. Instead, white should consider entirely disrupting black's road presence with a simple c3<!. This move accomplishes a number of things. First of all, it responds directly to black's tak threat. Secondly, it cuts off black's main road line, splitting black's north and south stones. Finally, it even builds some potential west-east road for white by infiltrating the west side of the board.

In truth, neither of these moves are necessarily ideal. And, earlier moves, as noted in my full analysis, may have been problematic, contributing to the weak choices that white had here. The important lesson, though, is that the 'obvious' defense isn't always the 'right' defense. Even in the case where there seems to be a natural response to recapture a stack or to block a forced tak, sometimes a second look can unveil a more powerful move.