October 8, 2007 Volume 8, #69 - The Side

(Flash Goban Here)

In a previous column, I introduced the corner. This time Ill talk about the side. The 4th line is the seam between the side and the center. The side is a very productive place to build territory, although not as good as the corner. It is even more valuable if side territory is added to adjacent corner territory. Another feature of the side is that it is also quite easy to secure groups there, as the nearby edge helps make life quickly.

To see how easy it is to stabilize on the edge, look at Dia. 1 (r). The two-space extension of 3 makes white stable. Note that white is NOT alive. But black will not be able to get much profit from attacking white. Quick stability is the reason why white 1 is a common move used to break apart the side. If black played there -- or one line above -- black would have a structure including the lower side and both corners. When white plays there, since white has room for the standard 2-space extension in either direction, the single stone is already stable. The stable white group breaks blacks position into two smaller pieces. But remember that a single weak stone does nothing; when you play a move like 1 you must play the extension when the opponent approaches.

(Flash Goban Here)

Now look at the joseki in Dia. 2. This kind of pushing development is common in go. There is a rule of thumb that is invaluable in deciding if the development is better for you or better for your opponent. The rule is that the player whose stones are on the 4th line has the better position. By this I mean that if the player on the 4th line has territory, his territory is more valuable than the opponents center power. But if the player on the 4th line has center power, his power is more valuable than the opponents territory. This is why I call the 4th line the golden line.

This rule explains the development in the diagram. Black has the 4th line so white fights to get off the 3rd line onto the 4th line. The first step is white 6, jumping ahead. Obviously if youre not ahead you cant get off the 3rd line. White 8 is necessary to make a position strong enough to move up. Then white hanes with 10 and again with 12. Finally white has gotten off the 3rd line. Because white has so many cutting points black 17 forces white 18, giving black some corner profit. Then black settles the center position and takes sente. This is an equal divide because white was able to fight off the 3rd line.

Dont bother to memorize this joseki. But it is important to understand what happens and why. If you remember that the 4th line is the golden line you will be able to quickly decide if a pushing development similar to Dia. 2 is good for you or not.