[Tidbit] Yu Bin Talks About Calculation In Weiqi

Calculation in weiqi is a combination of three factors: Reading Depth, Selection and Position Judgement. This kind of calculation occurs in every game played. Pure calculation strength is the path I follow, a path you must follow: Being able to calculate fifty or more moves ahead. Now we come to the problem of selection and also the problem of positional judgement. We must face selection when we consider the variations which follow a move and what results can be calculated for these variations. We must use positional judgement to consider which path is the best choice. We must also consider positional judgement from the point of view of our opponent and the choices available for their response; only then can we know which direction the game is likely to head towards. When we blend all these elements together, we get calculation.

Players still have not reached perfection. Most positional judgement is ambiguous and the so-called reading depth is merely a general idea which incorporates an artful outlook. How we feel about a situation is another heavy consideration. We might feel that a safe move might yield 6 points whereas a riskier move might yield 8 points. With players having different characters, some who enjoy punishing their opponent would select the high yield risky move whereas steady players would likely select the lower yield safe move.

Therefore it’s not a matter of having positions which can’t be calculated thoroughly, such positions can be calculated thoroughly, but as players have different characters their selection of moves in the same position can be very different.

In my view, from the opening to the latter half of the middlegame, I would generally not estimate the score but instead concentrate on looking for the most efficient way to play according to the global outlook and wait until nearly the end of the game when I would then accurately count the points to calculate the winner of the game. Many players are similar to me, but others begin to make early detailed counts as they approach the start of the middlegame. This reflects the differences in the habits of the players.

When I was young, my ability was limited and my thinking was relatively simple, calculation was focused on local situations. Now I am somewhat narrow-minded and focus on the global picture. Pure calculation has been superseded by positional judgement based on a foundation of calculation.

After I became a high dan, I often encounter a new type of confusion and this is my not being clear on which move is the better move. This makes me hesitate even more than when facing just one unalterable path to calculate. Perhaps it is because I haven’t reached a high enough level of understanding yet.

Only local area life and death problems have universally agreed upon answers. With regard to playing globally, players with different styles and different levels of understanding will have different ways to play. With just a single move, players and kibitzers may have many heated discussions. As said previously, some people do not like playing moves which are unclear and would rather take a small loss; while other people prefer making moves which generate high profit but which carry high risks. For example there might be two choices and Nie Weiping would consider my choice to be lax where as I would consider Nie’s choice to be overly aggressive. Such would be caused by our different weiqi styles.

I very much agree with Kobayashi Koichi’s idea to prefer playing at a place he understands clearly even if it results in an unsightly shape as this very practical. Whereas I don’t agree with Takemiya Masaki and Otake Hideo who both chase after shape above all else. Of course this is because our judgements are different which results in our selections being different.

Calculation strength is developed slowly along with your level of understanding in playing weiqi. Naturally at our professional level of understanding, pure calculation is already at a very useable level and very rarely do we encounter cases where our calculation strength is not enough. The crux is based on positional judgement and selection of what we discover within the depths of our reading. To raise our level of understanding is mostly a matter of positional judgement and selection.

The games with long time settings for the professional is not played as outsiders might surmise with calculations based on summing up each point on the board and this process leading to finding the right place to play each move. Professionals can often find a play based on their first instinct. In fact, most professionals will play 8 out of 10 moves on locations based on their first instinct. In other words, whether playing a quick game or a game with long time settings, 8 out of 10 moves will be the same. The remaining time is used for verification, positional judgement and seeking out an even better move. I had thought that only in quick games would there not be enough time for introspection. But I must point out that professionals who thrive in long time setting games rarely play quick games poorly. They are prudent, especially Cho Chikun who often uses up all his main time in the early few moves of fuseki and upon entering byoyomi continues to play exciting moves. His instincts are very good, even when he is in byoyomi, he can still play moves which seem to have deep thoughts backing them up.

When the situation is tense with both sides being very close and positional judgement not showing much of a difference, this is the time which really requires careful thinking.

When my confidence is high, my style would be rather steady and my plays would be quite tranquil because I believe I will perform well in the latter half of the game. But if my positional judgement is rather pessimistic, thinking of how to play in a tranquil steady manner would lead to losses. I would therefore proactively seek to stir up some fighting.


Loosely translated from a Chinese article posted on a Chinese forum.

Read SL for more info on Yu Bin

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One Response to [Tidbit] Yu Bin Talks About Calculation In Weiqi

  1. lcorlan says:

    Thank you for the translation! Very insightful in general, and in particular I greatly admire Yu Bin games.

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