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):

Overall, going through this game was really interesting. There are parts of the early and late game that I'm interested in delving into a bit more deeply in longer segments about the early and late games. I would really recommend newer players play through this game and think about the motivation and ideas behind each play.

In this post, though, I wanted to focus on the position and decision at the 9th move:

[... 8. e4' 1c5<1 ]
In the last sequence of moves, white had created a tak threat (8. e4', threatening c3+). In response, black blocked the tak by shifting his wall over to the bridge. There's a lot else to be said about the lead up to this sequence and benefits of the wall in this sort of defense, but let's focus on white's options at this point.

It's clear that at this point that white has a pretty significant tempo lead and a slight flat lead. This means that if white wants to, he can continue to put pressure on black until he can either force a tinue or a good flat win. Given this, white is primarily looking for moves that will maintain his flat lead while either adding to tempo or adding support. a5-, for example, would be a way to renew tak,  maintaining pressure on black, but sacrifices potential to play more pieces and build influence. (And in this particular case, 2b5- would be a good response. ). 

White then, is well motivated to play d5':

[ 9. d5']
This placement has a lot going for it. It adds a piece for white, adds pressure by adding a n-s road threat, and builds white's control in the north-east corner. Notice how even though it's a single piece, it's able to accomplish each of those goals. The structure and control of white's pieces enables this flexibility that black is desperately trying to contest, which he valiantly pursues with his response of d2+.

There was, however, another move that stood out to me for serious consideration: 9.c3+:

[9. c3+']

Initially, this may seem a bit weak, since it loses the opportunity to place a flat. In addition, now white has a pretty gaping hole at c3. These weaknesses, however, are mitigated by the necessity of black to respond. As it stands, black only has three possible moves to block the tak: a4>, 2b5-, and b4+.  Were black to play any other move, white would be able to win. In each of these cases, white can move onto b4 with his capstone (1/2c4<), creating a threat towards the remaining pieces on the b-rank. At this point, white can now leverage this threat to make significant plays that cover black's pieces while simultaneously grabbing significant control over the board.

Overall, I think this line and analysis shows a few things. First of all, I hope that it helps verbalize some of the ideas and concepts that go into a play at a higher level - the integration of tempo, influence, and structure. More so, it's a prime example of how significantly tempo can help to shift the state of the board and control. Even though white's move had some potential weaknesses, the force of the threat was able to force black to respond in a way that allowed white to gain greater value.

I would encourage my readers to look for examples of this sort of play. In particular, if you find any good examples of tempo or a shift in tempo that translates to a significant change in position value, feel free to share it with me in the reddit or by replying to this post.

Finally, I wanted to express thanks to all of the people who have been reading my content. Given that the current stage of the tournament is only a few more weeks, I'm looking to review a bit of what I've done and what my plans are for the blog going forwards. In order to help this process, I would really appreciate your contributions by filling out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/sE7IRzBRX8VCGFxf2.  As a slight incentive, if there's a particular PTN or game you would like to see annotated, add it in at the end and I will choose one at random to annotate. Thanks for all you time!

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