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Vital points in fights and stone efficiency
I happen to be looking at high SDK games in OGS recently and in over a half of those games I've noticed that sometimes players wouldn't know how to deal with the classic contact moves such as the kick and the shoulder hit.
I think that the concept is very easy to grasp shape-wise and many (well, at least a half, from my observations) 6k-2k players would instantly say "I would've never played like this". However, the concept goes slightly beyond those particular shapes. It's just easier to explain it using those classic shapes. It often appears in fights and sabaki, where vital points are... vital.
Vital pointsDiagram 1. https://i.imgur.com/wJNtHvM.png [game between 3k and 2k] White has approached black and got pincered. White decided to firmly split the pincering stone from the corner by playing kosumi, which also happens to be a shoulder hit. Triangle is the vital point for both black and white.
Diagram 1a. https://i.imgur.com/SvlMFCU.png This would be the natural continuation. The exchange is about even. Along the way black can choose to fight white's hane moves, but we will not be going over them. Small quiz: try finding the next local vital point for black
Diagram 2. https://i.imgur.com/A4SgMYf.png In the game, black chose to jump away, letting white take the vital point. One very important concept to grasp here is in seeing the difference between either side taking the vital point. Compare the strength of white's group in this diagram with the strength of white's group in diagram 1a. However, it is also very important to read out whether something is the vital point or not. Take a look at the triangle - do you think it's the current vital point? Intuitively, it might appear so, but you should take in account the surrounding position as well.
Diagram 2a. https://i.imgur.com/uXpYht2.png Let's look at what happens if black plays what seems to be the "vital point". Black's corner needs a move, as it has been approached from one side and never defended since. Black's group on the bottom is now fairly safe, so white's focus switches to the corner. With 5 white threatens to completely enclose the corner, so black has no choice but to push and cut. In the sequence of 5-12 white completely nullifies black's formation on the left side, making the nearby hoshi stone way less efficient. With 13 white takes one of the directions of the black's group, so black is forced to take the remaining one along the side. White's group is almost settled. It's probably too early for black to cut yet, as black might suffer even more damage on the left side with no apparent benefit. Black's position is low on the bottom, which makes white's tengen much more efficient. And black also needs to figure out the left side.
Diagram 2b. https://i.imgur.com/Pi7Oxmf.png As you could've deducted from the commentary to the diagram 2a, the actual vital point in this position is the defense to the corner. One/two space jump from the corner is needed. White bends around the stone, which has currently become the vital point. Black secures the other stone and white finally encloses his corner. Compare this result to the diagram 2a. Vital points can be tricky like this, as they are not always directly local and related to shape. This sequence is a good damage control for black and the position shouldn't be game ending at the 2k level. Hint: open both positions in two different browser tabs, and switch them back and forth. You can see that overall black has exchanged the move 2 (diagram 2a) for the entire sequence on the left side. This would've been a very good exchange for white. Which further proves that the defense of the black's corner was the vital point, not the move at 2.
Diagram 3. https://i.imgur.com/0kNr0Mv.png [same game, 3k vs 2k] After getting kicked, white chose to take the "shape point" of black's ahead of the time, ignoring the move at triangle. There are many ways to respond to a kick than just extending up, but extending up was the vital point in this position.
Diagram 3a. https://i.imgur.com/ROuweJw.png This is what would've happened if white had taken the vital point. White's group is now all good, black calmly takes the left side, then white gets a chance to disrupt the upper side. Black can choose to fight against white's 4, but that's beside the point. The position is good for white overall due to black's poor play on the bottom left, but it didn't change significantly after white 2. White has just continued being ahead.
Diagram 3b. https://i.imgur.com/Boq8T7W.png And yet, this is what happens after black takes the vital point. Black separates white with 6, so white takes the next vital point that is 7. Black defends the corner with the intent to profit from his formation, letting with go up with 9-16. However, white's group has no base yet, as black can play at A and rob white of their base. If white chooses to claim their base, later there's an invasion around B (4th line to cut off the hoshi stone, 3rd line to live inside). Look at white's stones marked with squares - they have became dame. They don't contribute to the group anymore in any way, as black has nullified their presence with his stones of 10-16. You can look at these exchanges as negative for white. In addition to being inefficient, white's group is only partially alive right now. Black can play the tiger's mouth under white's group and then take the corner stone in sente. All in all too many ways for black to further squeeze this group. If you compare white's efficiency to that on diagram 3a, you can notice that white has lost a lot just in the bottom left group alone, let alone getting into a tough situation with another group. Although minor at this point, you can also see how white stopped using his tengen stone whatsoever comparing to the diagram 3a.
Diagram 4. https://i.imgur.com/epCdyYf.png [game between 2k and 1k] Black has failed to read out the double hane and got punished for that by white. But what is the vital point right now for white?
Diagram 4a. https://i.imgur.com/r6bg1SU.png This is what happened in the game. White played 3 in dreams of reducing black's liberties and possibly capturing the stones. But it doesn't work after black plays the net at 6 and forces white into a dumpling while significantly strengthening himself. Now that black has become pretty strong, white needs to hurry to help their group by playing the vital point at the triangle. Other than that, it completely ruined white's approach in the upper right corner.
Diagram 4b. https://i.imgur.com/4cpsQdt.png White 3 was the actual vital point. White has gained about the same amount of territory as on the diagram 4a, while keeping black weak. White still needs to help his group with the move at the triangle, but you can clearly see how it will be a mutual running fight, instead of the one sided fight as on the diagram 4a. This diagram is much better for white. White is still behind, but a few more favorable exchanges like this will help white to come back to the game.
How to apply the concept to your gamesI can't really give a hint on that, just getting exposed it through reading the article should be enough.
One note though: you need to read. You won't be able to use this concept without reading. Intuitive vital points aren't always the actual vital points in the game. If you decide to stop reading and just roll with what seems to be the intuitive vital points and shape points, you'll be fighting much weaker than you actually can. And you will probably get stuck at the high SDK level of fighting for a while.
For some reason, reading is a forbidden topic in the western community. But there's no way around it. You need to read to play to your full strength. And you need to read to improve at reading.
Long birth story! TW: arguably traumatic, although I prefer "Triumph of Medical Science"
I'd been having regular Braxton-Hicks since ~30 weeks, and occasional but extremely painful 5-minute-long "WTF is this" contractions since ~38 weeks, so in my case, those signs were useless as a tell. My blood pressure had slowly been creeping up the past few weeks, to just under 140/90, but I hadn't had any other pre-eclampsia symptoms, so I'd been monitoring with a home blood-pressure cuff to make sure it stayed that way. Baby was well-positioned but not terribly low; I don't know how dilated/effaced I was beforehand because I wound up not getting a full cervical check (I found it to be extremely painful to try, and my awesome OB said it really wasn't that useful a metric anyways, so we called it off mid-check). I had no sudden spurt of psychotic nesting, no emotional changes outside of what I'd already experienced during pregnancy, and no changes to my food habits/cravings. About a week beforehand, I did have a very slight return of nausea, and a slight trend towards diarrhea. More interestingly, I started passing my mucus plug. It passed over the course of about 3 days--mucus only, no blood. My Braxton-Hicks started getting more frequent, but it wasn't a huge step change.
I woke up Monday morning, two days before my due date, with an uncomfortable cramp--just like I had for the past several weeks, no news there--and went to the bathroom, since peeing/pooping often alleviated my morning cramps. I got up to flush and--string of blood in the toilet! I immediately bellowed for my husband. He blearily woke up and stumbled in and very calmly said, oh hey bloody show, well there's another sign that you are in fact approaching your due date. No reason to panic. He was right--or should have been, except for the fact that I then started having a contraction right then and there. Unlike the Braxton Hicks, it hurt, like a really bad period cramp. And unlike the WTF-are-these cramps, it only lasted about a minute. Five minutes later, another one. I had him start timing them on an app and got into the shower. I sat on the yoga ball and washed my hair, calling out the start and stop times of my contractions as I went. They averaged 50-60 seconds, every 4 to 5 minutes. This was not the gradual ramp-up we were expecting, and they were getting more painful, like Worst Period Cramps Ever (and mine used to be really bad before I got on birth control). I switched to kneeling on a towel in the shower and resting my chest on the yoga ball, rocking around a bit, still calling out the contractions for my husband to record. After almost an hour in the shower (the water felt reeeeally good), we agreed The Time Had Come. I (reluctantly) got out and called my OB's office, then got dressed between contractions. It was bizarre to be in so much pain for one minute and then feel completely fine for the inter-contraction minutes. Pain that bad feels, instinctively, like it shouldn't be that transient. I texted my mom and dad to drive down and sent an IT'S HAPPENING, SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE email to my work while my husband loaded the car with the nice-to-haves (the Go Bag and car seat had been staged in the car since I was 34 weeks) and we started the 90-minute drive to the hospital. I splayed out like a writhing starfish in the passenger seat every time a contraction hit--by the time we got to the hospital, I wasn't even feeling great between contractions, and they were coming every 4 minutes or closer.
Aside from my water not having broken yet, it was totally the cliché "laboring woman enters hospital" scene from the movies. I stagger to the entrance and bend over a bench while my husband deals with the car. A guard comes over and is like, "Are you all right?" and I'm like, "YEP, JUST IN LABOR, THANKS." Husband and I head up to the maternity ward and immediately get shown right in; he checks me in while I grip the edge of the counter, crouch down into a squat, and generally make a spectacle of myself with barely contained "aaarrrggghhhh" noises. They show me to the assessment room, where I change into a gown, pee in a cup, have my blood pressure checked, get hooked up to a contraction monitor, and start throwing up with every contraction. They also tried to do a cervical check, but even compared to the contractions it hurt, so once again they called it off. However, my contractions were regular and strong, I was barfing, my blood pressure was high--over 140/90--and, I found out later, there was just enough protein in my urine to constitute "mild" pre-eclampsia, so they went ahead and admitted me.
Per my birth plan, I got a saline lock. I then labored for a bit on hands and knees, puking up the last of my breakfast, rocking on the bed and occasionally getting up to pace around, with a cordless monitor on me. Also per my birth plan, I wound up escalating to a walking epidural. I let the resident try administering the epidural... twice. It didn't work... twice. The second time, we didn't realize it until the initial Fentanyl wore off, at which point I had the attending anesthesiologist come do it, quickly and correctly. By this time, I had dilated to past 5.5 cm (the cervical check went fine on Fentanyl) in a very short amount of time for a first-time mom; I was done with the bullshit and opted to get a full-on epidural. (Still per my birth plan; no regrets.)
Epidurals are the pinnacle of medical breakthroughs, I am now quite certain. I have never been so exhausted from "just" sitting/lying down, and the epidural actually allowed me to take a nap; contractions bow felt like uncomfortable pressure, not animal-in-trap gnaw-off-a-limb pain.
TW: Scary stuff
My dilation did slow down after the epidural, but given how fast it had gone before I was not super worried. My water still hadn't broken a few hours later, and I was only dilated to 7.5 cm, and the resident making the rounds started urging me to let her break it. I told her if it still hadn't broken by the next time she came around, I'd go for it. Half an hour after she left, my water broke on its own. It was like a very hot never-ending pee; I could feel it trickling out steadily even through the epidural.
Unfortunately, that's when things started going wrong. Once my water broke, the baby's heart rate decelerated with every contraction. At first, it was just "keep an eye on it" level; the nurse told me that if anything got hairy, I should be prepared to have a whole lot of people rush in at once. Then I had a really long contraction. Like one of my pre-labor WTF 5-minute long ones. The baby's heart rate slowed to below 90 and kept dropping. Sure enough, within moments, about 8 people piled into the room. One of them hit the baby-panic button on the wall, a couple started messing with my belly monitor, one put an oxygen mask on my face, and one of them gave me a shot in the arm to stop all contractions. The shot worked, the baby's heart rate came back up to normal, and I had no contractions for about 15 minutes. Side effect to the contraction-stopping meds: racing heart for like 45 minutes, although at least part of that was mounting terror. Every time I had a contraction now, his heart rate would drop. My husband and I just stared at his heart rate monitor, holding hands. Apparently, these "decels" were the signature sign of an umbilical-squish problem; either it was wrapped around him somewhere, crushed between some part of him and some part of me, or he'd gotten it in his hand and was literally strangling it. Now that my water had broken, I had no more cushioning to alleviate the umbilical squish.
The nurses started having me roll over more often, trying to find a position that didn't cause decels. No dice. Then I had one contraction where his heart rate dropped... kept dropping... and then it disappeared entirely. At that instant, I was too stunned to have real emotions; I just thought, "Oh... I'm going to be one of those women in the stillbirth statistic." Which is a weird way to process that moment, but in retrospect that was probably the worst moment of my life. Fortunately, the Baby Crisis Team rushed in again and attached one of the wires-up-your-vag baby monitors to his head and found that, now that my contraction was over, his heart rate was coming back up again. They also kindly but firmly told me that I needed to start mentally preparing for the possibility of a C-section.
You guys, I really did not want a C-section. I was 100% logistically onboard with one, because you gotta do what you gotta do--I even had a part of my birth plan written up to deal with an unexpected/emergency C-section--but it turns out that, emotionally, I was way more invested in the vaginal birth experience than I had realized. I wasn't intentionally "visualizing" my birth process beforehand, but all my imaginings included pushing with my husband holding my hand, nurses encouraging me, calls of "I can see the head!" and "Almost there!" Also, I am terrified of surgery.
There were a couple more things we could still try, though. And I will say I am super impressed and grateful with how reasonably the eventual escalation to C-section was handled; I didn't feel pressured or rushed, and they were keeping my OB in the loop and getting her input even though it was getting to be really late (technically early). The first thing we tried was the tube-up-the-vag "refill" of my amniotic fluid to reintroduce the umbilical cushioning that had been lost when my water broke; it constantly leaks out, but they also keep a constant flow going. That kept the decels from getting worse, but it didn't make them any better, either.
Finally, as a Hail Mary, I asked to try laboring on my hands and knees, even though I had the full epidural, in case that was the magic position that un-squished the cord. This was the one time where I overrode the medical recommendation; the nurses really didn't want to let me try anything other than left side/back/right side, but I knew I had to try it or else spend the rest of my life wondering if I had "caused" a C-section to happen by getting the epidural. So while the nurse was like, "I really don't think you..." I was hauling myself over onto all fours with my arms and the warm meat that was my legs. I don't know if it was terror, willpower, or my history as a gymnast, but I actually didn't have that difficult a time getting on all fours and staying there. And even that made absolutely no difference; his heart rate decelerated just like every other contraction.
The resident conferred with my OB, then came back into my room then and laid it out plainly: the baby was just barely managing now, during contractions, with extra fluid, with an oxygen mask, in every position. The odds of him surviving the actual pushing were not good. I could go for an urgent-but-controlled C-section now, or extremely high odds of an emergency C-section later. My husband and I unhesitatingly opted for the former.
The staff promptly brought me a few papers to sign, a hair net, a cart for our belongings, and scrubs/hair net/beard net for my husband. I had a terrible case of the shakes; I thought it was due to stress and fear, but when I apologized, I was told that hormones during (and after) labor could cause shakes like this and were the more likely culprit. So they wheeled me down to the OR, shaking like a leaf, and got me and the room prepped for about 15 minutes before letting my scrubbed-up husband in--the poor man had to wait out in the hall until everything was ready. They taped the "sterile field" sheet to my abdomen, had the anesthesiologist run a poke-test to verify the epidural was working, did a bunch of other mysterious medical puttering that I mostly missed because I was very inside my own head trying to cope with the fear and disappointment, and ran through a verbal checklist that included me stating my name, birthdate, and anticipated procedure. I clutched my husband's hand in one hand and an IV pole in the other--I was irrationally scared they were going to tell me to let go of the pole and I wasn't going to have anything to grab, but they didn't--then they began.
There was no pain at all when they cut, just tugging. Very careful tugging though; you could feel how precise and intentional the movements were. After the tugging, there was pressure. In addition to whatever was going on at the incision site, I'm pretty sure somebody was pressing from the top of my abdomen to squeeze the baby out like a giant zit. The pressure increased until suddenly it released, and the unmistakable newborn wail began. I immediately started sobbing. So did my husband. And the staff immediately starting reacting, mostly with laughter, to the fact that he came out not only screaming, but pissing.
The pediatric staff (different colored scrubs from the OB staff) brought him over to the baby checkout station; my husband followed to perform the purely-ceremonial cord cut, since the first cut is already made by the staff for a C-section, but we got some great photos of it nevertheless. Meanwhile, I'm on the table still, bawling, "My baby! I'm so excited! I can't wait to meet him!" I had a brief moment to see him as he was held right next to me, but he had to stay with my husband for prolonged skin-to-skin, because once again something went wrong; I'd started to hemorrhage.
I didn't realize at first what had gone wrong. All I could tell was that the OB staff's tone of voice had changed, and I was starting to feel pain in my upper abdomen from whatever it was they were doing in there; it felt like they were repeatedly poking and pressing the "north pole" of my now-vacant uterus. I let them know it hurt, so the anesthesiologist gave me a hit of something through my IV. It helped for a moment--barely--and then the pain escalated. So they gave me a hit of Propofol next. Several hits over time, it turned out.
This is the only part of the delivery experience I feel like they handled poorly. Not the Propofol itself, which was, frankly, a great idea and totally warranted--but they didn't tell me they were doing it. Or if they did, they didn't tell me within the timeframe for me to form memories about it, because I didn't know until days later that it had been done. I thought they'd closed me up in like 15 minutes--I had fuzzy impressions of more tugging and of copiously shitting a river of uncontrollable diarrhea (a side effect of anti-hemorhaging medications when they don't have a chance to treat you with the anti-diarrhea medication first), and of apologizing for such--and I was mysteriously too groggy to hold the baby reliably when they brought him back over after all was said and done. In reality, it took them an hour to stop my bleeding and get me stable and closed up. I needed a 2-unit blood transfusion later that day. But I had no idea--I thought that I had just so run out of steam that I couldn't safely hold an infant, and my failings as a pansy-ass patient meant I wasn't capable of holding my son. I felt like I was recusing myself from my first duty as a mother due to weakness of moral and physical fiber, and I apologized over and over and over. My husband said it was very confusing for everyone within earshot. I actually cried with guilt-relief when he explained, a couple days later, that I'd been repeatedly Propofol'd just prior to trying to hold our son.
Speaking of my husband; only a few hours after watching his son's heartbeat disappear, he watched his wife start to bleed out while holding a brand-new human in his arms. Through it all, he remained a calm, rational, and loving presence. He arguably had the largest emotional burden to bear, and he handled it like a champ.
I was eventually neatly sewn up and sent to recovery, where I proceeded to be thirstier than I ever have been in my life yet, maddeningly, restricted to sucking on ice chips. After that, we all got sent to the Maternal-Fetal Care Unit (MFCU), which is like a low-key NICU but for when the mom's the one with the problems, not the baby, on the grounds of my hemorrhage and my persistently high blood pressure. We spent a couple days there before transitioning over to the regular postpartum recovery area. My baby and I were in a race to see who could be released first: me with my blood pressure, or him with his newborn jaundice. He won; his jaundice cleared up after a few days in the phototherapy box and supplemental formula to flush the bilirubin out, but I wound up on medication to control my blood pressure (Labetalol) before I could head home.
I did a lot of crying during my 5 days in the hospital, but I knew it was normal to do so even for women who hadn't had the rough birth I had so I didn't feel too embarrassed about it. I could literally hear other women crying as I passed their rooms on my surgery-recovery shuffles down the hall. I felt a kinship with these unseen women, like we were all in some sort of sorority of hormones and stress.
My baby just turned 4 weeks old and we are both doing fantastic. Despite the C-section and having to use formula for a couple days postpartum to flush the bilirubin out, exclusive breastfeeding has been going spectacularly well; I'm fountaining excess milk like a punctured water balloon and he latches like a hungry little shark. He's growing well and sleeps in 3-5 hour chunks at night. My incision doesn't hurt at all any more; I'm only a little sore in the underlying muscle, and it's well-controlled with just Tylenol. The abdominal binder from the hospital helps me from feeling like a saggy scrotum, and I'm already back in my pre-pregnancy pants, albeit only my Fat Pants. My blood pressure has normalized, so I'm off the Labetalol, and my hormones have stabilized to the point where I only cry once every few days, and it's a sentimental happy-cry half the time.
It is exceedingly likely that both my baby and I would be dead had we not had access to the interventions available at the hospital. Statistically, this birth was notably worse than average, but I would still urge all you BabyBumpers to please please PLEASE reconsider if you're planning on a home birth. My pregnancy was relatively uneventful, and I am a fit and healthy person; compromised umbilicals and postpartum hemorrhages can happen to anyone without warning.