Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Intermediate Class Chapter Two

Intermediate Techniques: Wedge and Stoner Traps

In order to continue improving, it is highly essential for one to learn more advanced techniques such as the wedge and stoner traps.

The Wedge
Diagram 2-1
The following diagram shows a typical example of what would happen if you as a novice player with some techniques learnt, plays against one of your counterparts who is a maximiser (one who likes to grab edges and flip many discs at the start of the game). In this Diagram 2-1, we see that Black is left with no more "safe" options and is forced to play into either X-squares or C-squares which are dangerous since they would give your opponent corners.

However, is Black really sure to lose from here? Think again.

Diagram 2-2
From the first board of Diagram 2-2 on the left, the first we need to note is that White has two unbalanced edges. One on the bottom and one to the right of the board. These unbalanced edges are definitely weak points of White's game that Black could make use of.

On the second board, G8 would be one move that Black could play in order to perform what is called a sacrficial wedge. When G8 is played, the black disc on G8 threatens to take the A8 corner. Thus, White must defend it by taking the H8 corner. In this case, Black would have sacrificed the H8 corner to White.

However, after White has played the H8 corner, the shape shown in the third board on the right shows how H7 is an opening that Black could play and wedge in between the H8 corner and the unbalanced H column of discs that White already has on the board. If Black plays H7 here, it is interesting to note that White can no longer change or flip the H7 disc and that Black would be able to play and capture the H1 corner on its next move.

Black can be said to have sacrificed the H8 corner in order to wedge into H7 in exchange of the H1 corner. Also, in this case, once Black has capture H1 corner, it can also look to capture the A1 corner next. Essentially, it has sacrificed one corner for two corners which is definitely a great deal for Black.

This techinque is one of a more intermediate endgame technique that one could learn. It would prove very useful against players who like to grab edges.

The Stoner Trap
First played by John Stoner, the stoner trap is another technique one would need to be well versed in. Once executed correctly, the one who wields the stoner trap usually ends up winning the game due to the number of moves one could gain from playing it.
Diagram 2-3
Diagram 2-3 above shows a standard example of how a stoner trap can be executed by Black playing G7. In order to successfully execute a stoner trap, one must fulfil the main three conditions:
1) Momentary Diagonal Control
2) Access to the Attack
3) Poisoned Discs of your Opponent

Diagram 2-4

The first key here is to maintain this momentary diagonal control along C3 to G7 after the G7 move is made into the dangerous X-square shown here in Diagram 2-4 on the right.
This diagonal control move (with the whole diagonal being only the discs of your colour) sets up the stoner trap for Black because there is no way that White can immediately take the corner to H8 since it does not have any access to it at the moment.
Thus, G7 would be setting up the first condition of the three as the momentary diagonal control.

Diagram 2-5
After G7 is played, it is natural that White will try to capture C3 so it can target the H8 corner next. Thus, C2 or B3 may be played by White here. In this example, B3 is played.
The next move is the main attack move of the stoner trap which is F8 marked by a black cross here. Of course, the most important condition to meet here would be the access for Black to attack. The crucial disc here is F6 which gives Black access to F8 in order to launch the corner attack to A8.
To complete the stoner trap, this step is crucial to be executed successfully so the access to the attacking square at F8 is important.

Diagram 2-6

The first board on the left of Diagram 2-6 shows the shape after Black has attacked White with F8 move threatening to take the A8 corner. The natural response here for White would be to play G8 in order to flip the F8 black disc into white so that White can prevent Black from taking the A8 corner. However, by playing into G8 White will also flip the G7 disc because of the G5 and G6 poisoned discs. The result is shown in the second board on the right. If White chooses to play G8, Black would be able to take back the corner of H8 it originally offered to White by playing G7 and also at the same time get A8 corner next. Essentially, Black would be able to obtain both corners at the cost of nothing this way. Thus, White must not respond with G8 here.

The main reason why G8 could not be played is because of the third condition, which is having poisoned discs of your opponent along the vertical axis involved (in this case column G). In order to give White this "painful dilemma", you must make sure that these poisoned discs stand when executing the offense at F8.

Diagram 2-7
The first board on the left of Diagram 2-7 shows (after the discussion above) how White is left with no choice but to settle by playing the H8 corner. At least this way, White would be able to secure one stable disc which is H8 itself. The result is shown in the second board on the right.

Over here, Black will have to immediately follow by taking the A8 corner since White is already threatening to play G8 in order to secure the bottom edge. Thus, Black must take A8 now. This would be something similar to a wedge in a sense that there has been a one-for-one exchange in corners.

Although there has been an exchange in corners for both parties, what White has gained through the process is just the H8 corner which is the only stable disc it gained. On the other hand, Black has managed to gain not only the A8 corner, but also majority of the lower edge which consists of 6 stable discs!
Now which colour would you prefer? Most certainly, one who wants to win the game would prefer Black. Looking further ahead into the game, the 6 stable discs that Black has gained to the bottom left would act as a very useful anchor or leverage it could make use of in the later stages of the game to flip more discs at crucial positons.
I hope this example has clearly explained how a stoner trap may be executed correctly.

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