In an old book on strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart called “The Strategy of Indirect Approach”, he conducts a study of wars throughout history and digests his findings into one basic principle and eight axioms of strategy. I think it is worthwhile taking a look at this as to how it might be applied to the game of go.
The principle of war can be condensed into one word: CONCENTRATION — concentration of strength against weakness. Attack you enemy when and where he is weak and don’t give him time and freedom to build up a resistance.
He then continues with eight axioms which aid in the execution of the above principle:
1. Adjust your ends to your means.
Make a positional judgement of the wholeboard situation and assess the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. Calculate the possibilities and avoid exhausting your confidence on vain efforts.
2. Keep your object always in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances.
There may be many ways to reach your object and there may be slight deviations which help along the way. Make sure you know what your main object is and that all the deviations you take help you reach towards the main object. Don’t wander too far off track or you may get lost in distraction.
3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation.
Try to prepare an attack that you opponent won’t expect. Attack where he is weak but make sure it still works towards your main objective.
4. Exploit the line of least resistance, so long as it can lead you to any objective which would contribute to your underlying object.
5. Take a line of operations which offers alternative objectives.
Having multiple objectives highly improves your odds of seizing at least one of them. And if you have multiple objectives from which to choose, you keep your opponent guessing about which one is your true goal. In process, you force your opponent to create weaknesses as he cannot handle all the threats and has to choose where to allocate his resources. Do not confuse multiple objectives with multiple lines of advance. Focus your effort along a single line which threatens several targets.
6. Ensure that both plans and dispositions are flexible — adaptable to circumstances.
Think about how you will handle things if your plan succeeds or if it fails whether fully or partially. Be mindful that even if things go your way where you’ve concentrated your strength against the enemy’s weakness, you still need to beware of the enemy’s ability to strike back at your weaknesses.
7. Do not throw your weight into a stroke whilst your opponent is on guard — whilst he is well placed to parry or evade it.
Psychological warfare is a direct result of effective physical warfare. Both play their part in softening up the enemy so he can be finished off.
8. Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed.
If it didn’t work in one part of the board, your opponent wlll be aware and ready to answer the same tactics in other parts of the board. Probe for a different weak spot. Keep your opponent guessing.