Joseki

Shygost told an interesting anecdote which I think I can repeat since it was in a public lecture. We’re accustomed to viewing joseki as an even trade for both players. The Sensei’s Library page says they result “in what is considered a fair outcome for both players.” Sometimes one player gets territory, while the other gets influence, or one gets more territory but also worse aji, etc, but these factors are supposed to cancel out.

Shy told us that during a lesson, he said “I just don’t know about this joseki, it doesn’t seem even” and Zhujiu Jiang came back with “even..who said joseki had to be even?” To illustrate the point he laid out the following position:Distant low approach

It’s a common joseki, but black is clearly better. Black has close to ten points of territory, while white has perhaps four. Both sides are secure, if anything Black is more secure, and neither side has a ton of room to grow. What makes the sequence joseki is that white has established a safe group in black’s area, in a situation where black would have liked to attack. Perhaps a better way to view joseki is as known sequences for producing a desired result. This maintains the fact that a joseki serves a useful function (what leads people to call them even) but allows that they may not strictly be even.

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