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Melding Eastern & Western approaches to Mastering Baduk(1)

chae YG / 2016-11-16

Box Theory: Melding Eastern & Western approaches to

Mastering Baduk(1)


Beomgeun(Evan) Cho 7Dan

Howdo you study Baduk?

Thatis, how do you master such a complex endeavor, where the placement of a singlestone can affect the outcome of a game as many as one hundred or two hundred moveslater? Where strategies must be as strong as they are fluid, and players mustconstantly evaluate numerous possibilities of play, each of which swirls offinto several possible new lines, depending on how your opponent responds?

Ofall the questions about the game that I've been asked since coming to the U.S.,"How do you study Baduk?" is the most common, as well as the most difficult toanswer. But even as I offered the standard wisdom—"Play many games," "Study joseki,""Master life and death," and "Have stronger players review your games"—I feltthese replies were inadequate.

Theseapproaches made sense for me, coming from South Korea, one of the countrieswhere the game was developed back in the mists of time. In South Korea, Chinaand Japan, where top-notch professional Baduk players battle it out for largetournament prizes, we have an approach to mastering the game that works quitewell for us. That is, we begin studying at an early age, perhaps as young asfive years old, and focus on memorizing josekis, life-and-death situations, gamesby masters, and many other things. Over and over again, we place the black andwhite stones on the board, playing through the "avalanche," the three-threeinvasion, and hundreds of items more, hundreds of times apiece, until we canrace through them and all their variations as easily as we can chant a nurseryrhyme.

Thisbrute-force memorization approach is incredibly powerful, but it doesn't workwell for Westerners, who do not usually begin studying the game early in lifeand, in any case, are not content to memorize, memorize, and memorize somemore. I discovered this almost as soon as I arrived in the U.S. in 2012, havingbeen sent here by the South Korean Baduk (Go) Association to serve as a "BadukAmbassador" and teacher. My students were not content to simply memorize andparrot back what I taught them: They wanted to know why. Over and over again, they asked "why" and "what if¡|" and"suppose¡|." Their questions showed that they were more comfortable studying thegame top-down, learning principles and rules of thumb that would guide them tothe appropriate moves, rather than intuiting the principles by memorizingmoves.

Havingbeen in the United States since 2012, meeting and teaching players of all agesand skill levels, I have found that a combination of Asian and Westernapproaches produces the best results. In other words, the marriage of the "why"with a moderate amount of memorization has helped my students excel.

Ibelieve this combined Eastern/Western approach works well, for it plays toWestern strength—mastering the "why"—even as it draws Eastern strength, whichis built on developing a deep and broad database of josekis, sample games andother examples. Both analytical and computational, deductive and inductive,this combined approach is as powerful as it is flexible.

Ratherthan try to cover every possible Go topic, I will focus on the Theory of Boxes,which is perhaps the most important concept in the game, even if it isbarely-recognized by even very strong dan players and, to my knowledge, neverdefined and developed in a book.

To be continued....

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