American Go E-Journal

The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go #11

Wednesday October 31, 2018

By Bill Cobbart poster-purple

I’ve been working with Yuan Zhou on a new book about the astonishing degree to which pros are adopting an AlphaGo tactic that is a direct rejection of traditional theory about how to play. The move in question is invading on a 3-3 point behind the opponent’s 4-4 point stone very early in the game—even as Black’s third move! Any strong player would have laughed (or screamed if it was your teacher) if a relatively weak player had done that a year ago. But now, even the very top pros do it. I have seen several games in which Ke Jie 9p of China, considered by many to be the best player in the world, has done this, including invading with move 3 as Black. If you browse through the games in any pro tournament, you will find a lot of these early 3-3 invasions. I don’t know whether amateurs are picking up on this—the people I play on DragonGo often seem somewhat startled when I do it. But it is an amazing instance of how much freedom there is in playing go. The fact that AlphaGo has pretty much proved that go is not going to be “solved” so that a knowing player with first move can always win (even AlphaGo can’t do that), you can enjoy participating in something that truly offers a real opportunity for creativity and freedom. Of course, this doesn’t mean that anything goes and can be freely tried. Starting on the 1-1 points is not going to lead to a happy result. In that regard, go continues to be a lot like life. There are a lot of quite appropriate restrictions on our behavior, but no one really knows the limits of what can be done. Don’t just stay with the same old routines all the time—look for new possibilities. They could be revolutionary.