Annotated Palago Game #1

The following game was played between Mike McManaway and the AI player Dumbot on the server on June 23, 2009. Mike was the highest ranked player at the time and Dumbot ranked approximately 50th. Yellow (Dumbot) starts.

Mike is a naturally aggressive player while Dumbot will generally defend until something better turns up. This game demonstrates the balance between aggressive and defensive play and culminates in a surprising hole sequence.


Game Reference: PA-Dumbot-mikem-2009-06-23-1826
Yellow (Dumbot)           
Red (Mike)     

1. Standard opening pair.  



2. Red immediately attacks to gain the initiative (dotted).

Yellow must answer this threat next turn or lose.



3. Yellow plays a typical defensive move that:
a) Neutralises the threat, and;
b) Sets up a potential threat of their own (dotted).

Note that Red retains the initiative as this potential threat does not require an immediate reply; only immediate threats gain the initiative.




4. Red ignores Yellow's potential threat and plays another immediate threat to maintain the attack.

It is reasonably safe for the player with the initiative to ignore potential threats like this, as immediate threats force a more immediate reply.



5. Yellow again neutralises the immediate threat to make their own potential threat.

This neutralising move is the staple of the defensive player.



6. Red attacks again...



7. ...and Yellow defends again.

Note that Yellow now has several potential threats, any of which may be converted into a winning fork if Red loses the initiative.




8. Red now has several spare tips scattered around the board, but most point in different directions and cannot be exploited.

Red's move this turn is a different type of immediate threat (dotted) which maintains the initiative, while at the same time creating a dangerous pair of Red tips facing to the left.



9. Yellow curls the attack around, closing off a two-space hole and creating their own immediate threat (dotted) to gain the initiative for the first time.

The situation is now critical for Red, who must address this threat but also wrestle back the initiative.



10. Red makes a brilliant move that:

a) Creates an immediate threat of their own to regain the initiative (dotted), and;

b) Neutralises Yellow's threat. Yellow cannot close their group as that would also close a Red group to lose the game.



11. Yellow complicates matters by making an immediate threat within the hole.

This move is deceptively good as it also neutralises Red's threat; if Red closes their group they will also close a Yellow group to lose the game.

Perhaps Red's last move was not so brilliant after all?




12. Red ignores the threat and attacks elsewhere.

Either Red failed to see the threat (perhaps too relieved at surviving the previous attack?) or this was a last-ditch effort to distract the opponent into a mistake.





13. Yellow makes no mistake — computer players seldom do in the end game — and closes the Yellow group to win.


Yellow wins.    


Yellow could have made a more obvious winning fork on move 11 but was apparently sure of victory and in no hurry to end the game. Computers can be very cruel sometimes.

In hindsight, Red's fate was sealed after move 9. Move 8 was therefore a losing play, however the sequence of moves leading to defeat from such a seemingly strong position would have been difficult to envisage and beyond the skill of most players.

It looked as though Yellow may have made a mistake by leaving a dangerous pair of Red tips facing down after move 7 while Red still had the initiative. However, Yellow had a nearby support group that would have made this pair a dangerous play for Red (can you see why?).

This game demonstrates the competing philosophies of aggression and defence. A defensive player may take a passive neutralising role to develop their position and often win the game, however this relies on the aggressive player making a mistake; if the attacker never loses the initiative they should eventually be able to force a win. The aggressive player must walk a tightrope as most attacking moves will generally worsen that player's position in other parts of the board, hence the longer an attack goes on the more critical its success becomes.