The Japanese name for the 3-4 point on a go board. The Komoku has a history almost as long and rich as the game of Go itself, as it was played almost exclusively as an opening move up until the early to mid 1900s. To attempt to fully explain the depth and variation that can come from playing the Komoku is beyond the scope of this write-up (in fact there are many large books that attempt to tackle the subject and even they are incomplete). In spite of this, I shall attempt to give a brief rundown of some things you might want to think about when playing (or playing against) the komoku...so without further ado:

# A Basic Introduction to Playing the Komoku

The komoku is what is known as an asymetric corner. Asymmetric corners attempt to strike a balance between influence and territory. While there is a balance, the Komoku tends to be more on the territorial side of things. The territorial aspect of the komoku comes from it's ability to cover the corner and make a shimari with a second move like A, B, or C (dia 1.). Making this enclosure helps secure points in the corner, effectively settling black, and preparing him to begin development. It is because of the effectiveness of these moves that white will often play one of those points first to prevent the corner enclosure.

```
Diagram 1: A Komoku and Potential Enclosures
(A note on diagram conventions:
X is a black stone, O is a white stone
Numbers denote alternating play with black moving first,
All other symbols are merely reference points for discussion)
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . B A . . . . 17
16 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . C + X . . 16
15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
10 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 10
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09
08 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08
07 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
06 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 06
05 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05
04 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 04
03 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
02 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
01 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
```

Let's take a look at what happens once black makes an enclosure (dia. 2). An important thing to note from this position is that while moving towards the corner (in this example towards the top with P17) is good for making territiory, continuing in that direction as a follow up is not very effective for continuing development. Playing at A will leave black with a flat looking position, whereas playing at B will give black a nicely developed formation. The conclusion that can be drawn is that while black moves toward the corner for territory, he must move away from it to properly develop. This holds true regardless of whether or not black encloses the corner with P17.

```
Diagram 2: An Enclosure and Potential Follow-ups
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X . . . . 17
16 . . . + . . . . . A . . . . . + X . . 16
15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
10 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . B . . . 10
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09
08 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08
07 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
06 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 06
05 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05
04 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 04
03 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
02 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
01 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
```
The Low Approach

So what happens when white approaches black's corner to prevent a shimari? Let's take a look:

```
Diagram 3: White's Low Approach
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
17 . . . . . . . . . 6 D C . . 2 . . . . 17
16 . . . + . . . . . + . . 4 . . + 1 . . 16
15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 . . . 15
14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A . . . 14
13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . B . . . 13
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
10 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + 5 . . 10
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09
08 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08
07 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
06 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 06
05 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05
04 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 04
03 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
02 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
01 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
```

Black's first move claims the komoku. White approaches black's corner with 2 to prevent a shimari. Since black's territorial option has been removed, he will now focus on development with a play moving toward the right side. Q15 is a classical play that is very solid. It continues pressuring white while still moving down the side. Other possible alternatives for black that work on developing faster are A and B.

Since white wants to make sure his group gets a chance to develop, he too will jump down his respective side with 4 (other possible moves include C and D (M17 and L17), but the idea remains the same, white wants to make a base along the top for his group).

Continuing this sequence, black too wants to secure a base and finish his development, so he will do so with 5. Now black has a loose claim on the right side, and his stones are safe for the time being, thus he has accomplished the 2 main aims of a corner fight - to settle and begin development. White has started this process but a move near L7 may leave him feeling cramped, so he generally will choose to add another stone. After playing 6 the white stones will have a base, so now he is settled. Now that both sides have achieved their goals, and black is free to play elsewhere.

The High Approach

Another possibility that has become more and more popular recently is that white will choose to use a high approach against the Komoku (Dia. 4). In this case, Black still has an option to take part of the corner, however the same concepts will still apply, namely black's goal is to settle his stones and begin development.

```Diagram 4: White's High Approach
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
17 . . . . . . . . . B . . . 4 3 5 . . . 17
16 . . . + . . . . . 8 . . A 6 2 + 1 . . 16
15 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 . . 14
13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
10 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 10
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09
08 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08
07 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07
06 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 06
05 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05
04 . . . + . . . . . + . . . . . + . . . 04
03 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03
02 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02
01 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01
a b c d e f g h j k l m n o p q r s t
```

The high approach leaves P17 open for black. Here black chooses to take it, and in doing so reclaims the corner. This aims at making black a good bit of territory and works to help him settle. White's block at O17 is a natural move to prevent black's advance. It also creates an urgent shape weakness for black at Q17 which must be addressed immediately. Black protects the cut and in doing so finishes settling his shape, now he is sure to at least live in the corner. By making himself strong, black has exposed a weakness in white's own position, and white must now protect the cut at O16. Once the cut is protected (with either 6 or A) white's shape is safe. The sequence is not over yet though. While both players have worked on settling, they still have development to consider.

A move like 7 starts black moving down the side. Note that his development is slower in this variation (Dia. 4) than it was earlier when he started with a move toward the side (Dia. 3). This is one of the many tradeoffs in go, and by choosing to take a larger corner, black has reduced his potential on the side. White follows suit by developing his own stones down the side with an extenstion (Move 8, or possibly B if desired). This also gives white a base to make life should he need to. If white were to omit this step, then a black play on the top side would bring a severe attack down on white. After this black can play elsewhere.

Summary

As the examples have shown, the Komoku strikes a nice balance between influence and territory, while tending to be a bit more on the territorial side. The player is not forced immediately to commit to one or the other. The down side of the Komoku is that while there is no commitment to strategy, there is a commitment to direction. Unlike the Hoshi, the Komoku cannot readily develop to both sides. Also, the corner itself has an apparent weakness and requires a second move to settle completely, unlike the instantly settled San-san.