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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Space Available

Immerse yourself in the scenario below:

You have been working on your opening game and are 8 turns into the game, on the way to crafting a robust road and a powerful board position. Your spirits are high and you are looking ahead a few moves and seeing good things happen. You make a capture with a flat to reduce your opponent's tempo and smirk a bit to yourself. But, then your opponent drops a wall or capstone in the open space your piece just vacated. He/she just found the one chink in your armor. Your hopes crumble just like your road is about to.

You opponent was only able to do this because there was an empty space on the board in which to slide his/her knife. What makes it worse in this case is that you opened that chink in your own armor.

Most of the time, I view the board by focusing on the filled spaces; looking at numbers of flats, patterns of flats (ladders, partners, trios (groups of 3 contiguous flats), triangles (a ladder in a triangular shape), citadels, etc.), types of walls that are placed, tempo, Tinue patterns, et al. I guess you could call this the positive space of the board. But, lately I have tried to force myself to look at the negative space as well; the murky unknown of possibility surrounding the filled board spaces. 

And the murky unknown is scary. What is already on the board is a known quantity; you may not know exactly what your opponent has in mind, but you certainly know what moves can be made with the pieces already in play. You opponent can move this or that in these ways, and that's it. So, placement becomes the murky unknown.

So, how can you fight back against this fear and bring the murky unknown into the light? Here are a couple suggestions:

1.  Keep your tempo up, especially with moves that force flat captures by your opponent - If your opponent is too worried about about stopping your threats by moving pieces, he/she will not have the opportunity to place threatening pieces. And each time they make a forced capture, they have opened up an empty space which you can fill with your own threatening piece and gained a liability in the form of a prisoner.

2.  Try to fill the board - not all the way, of course. If there is not an empty space, there is not an opportunity for your opponent to fill it.

3.  Get your capstone and a wall on the board early - I would advise finding a way to do this that increases your board strength; don't just throw a wall or capstone onto the board because it's turn 4.  Make sure all your placements are relevant.

4.  Always ponder what your opponent could place in negative space to trip you up. If you consider all the possibilities (or at least the likely ones), then you can change that childish fear of the murky unknown into an adventurer's wariness. The better you get at spotting what he/she might do to you, the better you will get at knowing ways to hamper their game.

5. Leave bread crumbs - When moving a stack (especially with a wall or capstone*), consider leaving pieces behind you, even if they belong to your opponent. There are situations ("icing the cake" Tinue pattern jumps to mind) where your win depends on you not leaving any negative space around you.

* As an aside - I'm getting tired of typing "wall or capstone". So, I'm going to start calling these pieces the Noble Pieces or Nobles. I will make a full blog post about this later

The following is a game where I use a deputy wall to disrupt black's roads and then use lack of negative board space within my road to get to Tinue.

Negative Space Cadet

And, as always, let me know if you have a good example to add or a question/concern brought up by my blog.

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