I have always had trouble with the concept of maek [맥], the “vital point”; I think this is best considered to be similar to the Japanese concept of tesuji, but if you want to have a fight in the comment section about the finer points of discernment between these two concepts, go right ahead; for the the purpose of my blog, maek equals tesuji. Anyway, I always had trouble with it, I knew in theory what it meant, but applying it needed a serious amount of reading ability (my opinion), so I rarely engaged with this. I did play a few maek in an earlier game, but in the one here, I really managed to use it in a decent way.
This game is a 9 stone handicap game with a 9k on DGS, I played a game earlier with her but that ended up in my resignation. The game lasted several months, so I started out not really knowing the basic jeongseok [정석; joseki] for attachments that I was playing in response to knights move approaches in the corners; it’s funny how I can see my own progress in one game, but at least it shows I’m progressing (in the right direction). She started with a knight’ s move at C14, I attached, and she extended with 3; instead of moving to F15 or F16 to finish the jeongseok off, I extended to B15… mistake… the following sequence, gave me some of the corner, but gave her two stones for breakfast and influence in all other directions… So to start off, I wasn’t at my best in retrospect.
So we mucked around the board for a while, and by move 128 I was kinda ahead…
Overall, I had the potential of large territory in the lower right corner, the middle (a little to the right), and I had the upper left corner. The four white stones around P5 were under pressure, and with 128 at C9 I was moving to kill three of white’s stones, and potentially make more territory there.
However, 129 to 134 set up a pae [패; ko] fight, which I was dreading… After 134 white took by playing at A, I created the pae by playing at B, and white made the pae bigger (I think) by playing at C, after which I retook the pae by playing at C9. I wonder if I could have avoided the pae fight, as usually that is my preferred way of doing things; somehow pae fights are scary to me, I never manage to assess pae threats correctly, and often lose because the threats I play aren’t big enough to warrant a response.
So, into the pae fight, I the following threats were played: white played at A, and I had to respond at B; then I moved to C, and white responded at D; then white played her next threat at E and I responded by taking the white stone at A7 with F. I could have responded by connecting my group instead, but I somehow decided that it was better to take, not sure what the best response would have been. So I was settling in for a long fight, and went looking for my next threat.
I played my next threat at B4 (marked stone), because it threatened to capture the two white stones, but also threatened a follow up at A… I personally thought this was a huge threat as white had to respond to keep her corner, and the entire corner would be worth 20 points or so for me. This little maek made me swell up with pride, this was truly the vital point, when I read it out, if I played A, I should be able to kill the entire corner! so the follow-up at A for this threat would be assured. But somehow, white decided to end the pae fight with A10, and I took the corner… Perhaps it was a calculation on her part, that she decided that the territory around the pae fight was worth more than the corner, and she might have been correct… probably 30-40 points against 20? I’m not entirely sure… Still, this maek made me happy, I would never have seen this a few months ago.
So after this, we started moving into the endgame, and slowly started solidifying our borders. White tried an invasion with 151, right inside my biggest territory, but I responded and I managed to stifle the invasion. I played a one space approach with 152, which is a different response than I would have made months ago, back then I thought that the best way to defend was to attach; now I know better. White made a knights move, but then I decided to attach… the sequence up to 161 might not have been the best way to deal with it, but it kinda did the job. I blocked white with 162, as I was scared they’d connect.
After a few more endgame moves around the board, I decided to put something into practice that I recently had learned: the bima [비마; saru-suberi], also known as a monkey jump. I moved with a large knights move to A12, and sequences after that would be standard, and steal away around 6-7 points from white. Again a moment of pride – applause, applause – and we moved to finish the endgame, and started filling in the neutral points… But here I miscalculated.
As we were filling in the gongbae [공배; dame], my opponent finds a maek at A… it put the entire group (marked with X) in dansu [단수; atari]… my only option here was to connect at B, after which white can play C, which resurrects the white stones like Lazarus from whatever pit he was stuck in (in a very dead way)… also the stones marked with a circle were having some sort of duitmat [뒷맛; aji] effect… and thus my opponent gained at least 6 points, and took a whole lot away from me. Up to this point the game was close (within 5 points or so I think) but this maek swung the game decidedly in white’s favour…
Overall, I think I learned a lesson about vital points, and I applied a monkey jump for the first time; I also survived a pae fight, and managed to (initially) stifle an invasion… My play by the second half of the game was good, I think, but I also learned to read carefully, as maek can be used as easily against me as by me. I did really enjoy this game, and I’m playing a rematch with her; though, she asked to reduce the handicap to 8 stones this time… 8 stones might be enough, I’m not sure, but we’ll see.