July 2, 2007 Volume 8, #49 - Corner, Side, Center

(Flash Goban Here)

So far weve worked on building up your ability to see the patterns the black and white stones make together. Now its time to start learning about the board. The first thing to know about the board is that the corners, sides and center have different importance and meaning. You can take territory most efficiently in the corner because the board protects the territory on two sides, so you only have to build two walls to secure it. On the side the board provides one wall, so you must make three. In the center you must make all four walls yourself. Roughly speaking, a corner move gives you twice as much territory as a center move, and fifty percent more territory than a side move. The corner territory is a 4x4 box. The fifth line is the seam between the corner and the side. The fourth line is the seam between the side and the center.

Corner play tends to follow fixed patterns that give positions of equivalent value, called joseki. There are thousands of joseki because the corner can be divided up in a huge variety of ways.

Look at the joseki in Dia. 1 (r), which shows one way to divide the corner. You may have already played it. The interesting feature of this joseki is that the players get very similar values, just in different places. Black gets a bit of the corner and a position on the left side. White gets none of the corner, so far, and a position on the upper side. Both black and white have secure positions. At this point both players leave the area.

(Flash Goban Here)

Now look at Dia. 2 below. This joseki makes a strong contrast with Dia. 1. Here the players have very different values. In this case white gets the entire corner territory while black gets a power position dominating the upper side and strongly influencing the left side. It may look to you like whites territory is better, or perhaps blacks power looks better. But the two players values are quite equal.

One thing to understand from these two examples is that while corner moves are big moves, that does not mean your corner moves will necessarily give you corner territory. Wherever you get value from your corner moves, it will be big.

Some players memorize as many joseki as they can, but that is a mistake and a waste of time. Joseki are a model of excellent tactics, and most of the tactical moves in go show up in joseki. For this reason, study of joseki can be valuable for a more advanced player. For now, just focus on the many different ways the corner can be divided.