15. A Move Full of Fighting Spirit
Leaving Behind Troubling Aji

by Richard Bozulich

Kiai means 'fighting spirit'. In go, the word conveys a defiant attitude in which a player refuses to be bullied. If the opponent attacks him strongly, he will fight back aggressively rather than answer passively. A go player who has this kiai attitude is always searching for the strongest move and does not always play the expected move or the joseki move. When a move is called kiai, it is a move that is special. It may take a game in an unexpected direction and create complications. To have a kiai attitude means that you are ready to defy conventional wisdom. This is when your go becomes creative.

Here is an example from a recent professional game.

Highlight Diagram
Highlight Diagram
Before Black can consolidate his territory on the right side and the top, White plays an erasing move with 1, preparing to whittle down the size of Black's moyo. Black is also concerned about White's moyo at the bottom, so he plays an erasing move of his own at 2.

Next, White attaches with 3 and Black wedges in with 4. These are standard moves.

Suddenly White attaches at 5. This is a startling move. It is full of kiai and leaves behind all kinds of troubling aji that Black, and White as well, will have to consider.

Dia. 1. A conventional move
Instead of 5 in the Highlight Diagram, the atari of White 1 is a conventional move. After Black 4, the points 'a' and 'b' are miai; if White plays one of them, Black will play the other. Either way, Black will secure a large swathe of territory.

Dia. 2
Dia. 2. An alternative way
White could also atari on the other side at 1, then isolate the marked stone on the 3–3 point by forcing with 3 and 5. However, a stone on the 3–3 point is quite resilient, so it is unclear how White can effectively attack it.

Dia. 3
Dia. 3. The natural response?
Against White's attachment at 1, Black 2 seems to be the natural response. It follows the proverb 'Answer an attachment with a hane.'

However —

Dia. 4
Dia. 4. White has settled his stones
White ataries with 3, then at 5, and again at 7. He finally connects at 9, threatening to capture two stones. Black answers with 10 and White threatens Black's three stones in the corner with 11.

Aside from whether or not Black's three stones can live (they can, but in gote — see Essential Go Proverbs, page 115), the important point is that White has settled his stones (made sabaki). In so doing, Black's moyo on the right side has been erased.

Next, White can aim to invade the top at 'a', exploiting the aji of the marked stone.

Dia. 5
Dia. 5. Decoys
Black could answer White 1 with 2. If White 3, Black 4 neutralizes the two marked stones. In the meantime, White plays 5. establishing himself in the corner. Black can no longer expect to turn his moyo on the right side into territory. If Black follows this path, the two marked stones will have acted as decoys.

Dia. 6
Dia. 6. Black should cut.
Instead of 4 in Dia. 5, Black should cut with 4. If White connects at 7, with the intention of securing the corner with 9, it will not work out well for him.

Next —

Dia. 7
Dia. 7. The squeeze
Black descends to 10, then squeezes with the moves to 16. After White captures with 17, he is confined to the corner and Black has consolidated his moyo on the right side and ended in sente.

Dia. 8
Dia. 8. White should settle his stones.
Instead of Dia. 7, it would be better for White to settle his stones with the moves from 7 to 15. White's stones have good shape and Black has some bad aji on the upper right side. For example —

Dia. 9
Dia. 9. White builds a thick wall.
White 15 in Dia. 8 was well placed. Later, if White gets a chance, he will want to build a wall with 1 to 7. Black 6 runs right into the marked stone and White continues to force with 9 to 15. After Black captures two stones with 16, White exchanges 17 for 18, and the clamp of 19 leaves Black with little territory and a lot of bad aji. In contrast, White's wall is overwhelming.

Dia. 10
Dia. 10. How the game continued
After White attached at 1, Black ataried with 2 and White descended to 3. Black then connected with 4. These moves simplified the position. With 4 in place, White 5 at 6 would be dangerous. Moreover, White 'a' in response to Black 6 would also be risky.

For example —

Dia. 11
Dia. 11. A vast moyo
After Black 6 in Dia. 10, if White hanes at 1, Black will cut with 2. White must reinforce his stones at the top with 3 and 5, so Black can push along with 6 and 8 in sente. Black now plays 10, trapping three white stones inside his moyo. White must crawl at 11 and Black expands his moyo with 12.

Dia. 12
Dia. 12. Extending into the center
Therefore, White should continue to extend into the center with 1 and 3. He could then fall back to 5 and live at the top. He should be satisfied that he has significantly reduced Black's moyo.

Dia. 13
Dia. 13. How White actually played.
Instead of extending to 1 in Dia. 12, White suddenly fell back and turned at 1, making eyes for his group at the top. Black immediately played a hane at 2 aiming to confine White's group to the top. This he does with the moves to 18. Up until White 1, the AI monitoring this game had both sides even, but suddenly AI favored Black.

Figure 1 (1–65)
Figure 1 (1–65)
The position in the Highlight Diagram arose in a game played in the 32nd Ryusei tournament between Seto Taiki 9-dan (black) and Yokotsuka Riki 7-dan on May 15, 2023.

Figure 2 (66–100)
Figure 2 (66–100)
With the moves to 92, White has established a strong position in the center while Black has neutralized White's wall on the bottom.

AI still favors Black.

Figure 3 (101–200)
Figure 3 (101–200)
Both sides solidify their territories and the endgame begins.

Figure 4 (201–251)
Figure 4 (201–251)

251 moves.
Black wins by 1½ points.

The move-by-move game record can be found at Yokutsuka versus Seto