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:

Consider the position of the board after white's 16th move:

[... 16. d6]
There's a lot going on here for black to contend with. white has a number of threats going on. Perhaps the strongest, and not the easiest to spot is 3c3-12'!, which produces tak two ways - north-south through d6< and west-east through e3-. Notably, both black and white seem to miss this until a few moves later when white actually uses this to create tinuë.

At this point, then, it seems like the best option for black is to directly counter one of these Taks or to provide a counter to white's inevitable 3c3-12. With this goal in mind, there are a few interesting moves that jump to mind. 

The first of these is e1+: 

[{16. ... e1+}]

This accomplishes a number of things. For one, it prevents the e3- component of the tak noted earlier. Secondly, it anticipates 3c3-12, with a potential throw from e2 to c2. Yet, white still has a number of tricks up his sleeve. In this line, white would probably follow up with 17. b1'!, creating a double north-south tak threat. Note, though, that this position still isn't quite tinuë, since black has a few moves that could counter both roads, at least temporarily (b6- or a4>, for example). 

Alternatively, black could try 16. a4>:

[{16. ... a4>}]
This move opposes the white's north-south threat, while even providing some west-east potential to pressure white in return - if black can manage to wrest control. Unfortunately for black, though, white still can maintain pressure. 3c3-12', for example would capture more of black's precious flats, while promoting white's west-east tak threat. And even if black follows up with e1+, white can navigate around with d1'. (17. ... e4- would also work, but navigates from a position where black can press tempo if white messes up somewhere). :

[{17. 3c3-12 e1+ 18. d1'}}

Note that in this line, black can continue to stave things off a bit by playing (S)e1. Following this, I would probably anticipate 19. a4 a5, pressing up against white's other threat, and even black's road potential. 

With these alternatives in mind, let's return to the original position in question:

[... 16. d6]

Having run through a few of these lines, it definitely promotes the idea that white has a significant advantage. (And that there is no straightforward tinuë - if black is careful) White has a fair bit of potential to make significant threats, in addition to white's significant lead in flats. That being said, black's pieces on the board help defend against these threats - at worst temporarily and at best creating some viable counters.

At the core of each of these alternatives, though, is a deeper recognition of the various ways in which white can create a threat and press his tempo. A move like d4<?? seems to imply that black was too focused on white's north-south threat to notice the additional west-east threat created by the following 3c3-12''. While not easy, it is the cognizance and careful watchfulness for these patterns that help to make an experienced Tak player.

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