Inventor of Myoshu by Go Seigen and nicknamed, ‘razor-sharp’ Sakata due to his fierce and brilliant moves during complex fights. He is considered one of the strongest players of the 20th century and, by many, one of the strongest players of all time. Source: Sensei Library
Cho Chikun 9-dan: Sakata played a very ordinary opening. He never schemed for an advantage there. It was when the stones started to become entangled that he displayed his true power. That was when he would start to read deeply, then read some more, and then still more. Therefore, it was natural that he often discovered exquisite moves during those times. Reading was his most deadly weapon, so concepts like 'the shape of stones' or 'positional judgement' did not even come into consideration. If he could exercise his reading skill anything was possible; by always searching for the best move there was no need to make a judgement about the position. Sakata's special strength lay in his determination to always keep the pressure on, not matter how much of an advantage he might enjoy.
Takagawa Kaku 9-dan: With Sakata intuition played the most important role during a game. Most players, including myself, analyze the overall position and decide on our moves as a result of this comprehensive overview, but for Sakata his first impression of the layout of the board was the most significant. Not only that but intuition was the essential part of his decision to 'play' a move. On an elementary level this philosophy of go is diametrically opposed to mine. I was always celebrated in a fashion for my endgame play while Sakata was not, but I think here he was terribly underestimated. His appraisal of the largest move on the board was always startling. I have rarely encountered anyone who could calculate the value of a move as well as he. But what startled me more than anything was the way he intuitively chose even his endgame plays. I would spend hours analyzing the final moves of the games only to find that Sakata, as usual, had outfoxed me. Sakata also played an ambitious, greedy kind of game. He was always intent on taking territory and as a result he often left weak stones scattered about the board. Yet he was unrivaled in his ability to make life for those stones (shinogi). It was simply splendid how he could create formations that defied analysis. Even top professionals like myself could not always determine if one or another of his groups could be killed or not. If one omits Go Seigen from the list he would have to be considered the strongest player of that era.
Yamabe Toshiro 9-dan: Sakata's go can be summed up very easily: he possesses an unparalleled mastery of reading which allows him complete freedom to pursue any variation to its conclusion. Also, his skill in the middle game is incomparable, whether he is attacking, lightly sidestepping a blow or making eyes for an endangered group of stones. He displays a bewildering array of moves, counter-moves, feints, and thrusts. His play is fluid and lively, never static. It is when the position becomes most complex that he plays his best. As a professional I can usually predict correctly 80 per cent of the time what the next move will be during a game. But Sakata has a knack of proving my predictions false time and time again. I find myself thinking, 'Indeed, what a clever move that is.
I find it truly fascinating what other professionals are saying about Sakata Eio, it is just beautiful. Sakata has always been one of my favorite players and I loved watching his games, especially these against Kato Masao, it is just irresistible to not watch such games at least twice. Although this example might be quite famous, I believe many people still do not know it, especially these who are new to Go and they came after AlphaGo. I enjoy watching modern games, however, sometimes I go back to some old masters, or more like legends and I replay some games of them. I got some feedback that the analysis in my articles are sometimes too complex, so I hope this time it will be easy for the reader to follow and to understand. Just a spoiler, to the AI lovers, Sakata Eio outplayed the strongest Leela Zero 40 block !
White is Sakata Eio, how would you play to settle this group most efficiently?
If you just play the block at 1, black will take outside and although white can live with the last move, it will be not enough and black will be still too much ahead. We could say that this way it is too passive.
This is Leela Zero 40 blocks, currently the strongest network and I let it analyze until 90k visits, which is for sure enough to analyze just a situation which requires reading skill. It does not find the marked white moved which is Sakata Eio brilliant tesuji.
Once you play this attachment and you let Leela calculate enough to stabilize the % , you can see that it is close to 2% better, which is of course not a lot, however it is just a local situation in which I would expect AI to outread professionals, but it doesn’t? What could be the reason?
After this attachment of Sakata, Fujisawa answered in a bad way, he has to still block at B, which might look really passive, but it still gives black leading position.
Leela thinks that after black blocks at 1 and let white escape comfortably, black is still quite fine, because he can put pressure on white’s group and protect his own shape.
If after exchange of A-B, black tries to push at 1, white can successfully connect due to the awesome exchange of A-B, if this exchange was not there, black could have ataried the three stones and white would have got cut. So the exchange is definitely profitable, wonderful reading !
Black pushed at 1 in the actual game trying to resist as much as possible, however, after white pushes at 2, the game gets easier for white and the situation will soon get even greater. If black just defended himself before and did let white go out, he would have saved himself from a lot of troubles, although it is a bit counterintuitive to play passive like that and let opponent get what he wants.
After A, Sakata pushed at B, however, AI likes this peep slightly more and is looking forward to make an exchange.
AI is looking forward to give up lower side group and to capture right side group. This is very interesting exchange, although white gave up lower side group, white managed to capture right side, which has higher value because this way the center group of white is safe and white won’t need to be worried about it later.
White captured the corner by cutting it with 1 and protecting his one stone with 3-5, black finally captured some stones, but it was not enough of compensation. Capturing the corner was a really good result, according to AI it is 80% for white right now. We could say that Sakata’s tesuji which was only 2% gain, ended up being 50% up, due to it’s psychological affect and his opponent continuous mistakes. Wonderful move to settle shape in most efficient way.
Below, you could watch the entire game, masterpiece.
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