central rook opening popularity

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Oct 31, 2020, 8:59:19 PM10/31/20

On wikipedia Shogi Openings article, there is a graph showing that the most
popular shogi opening game is a central rook type of opening.  Any thoughts
on why the central rook opening is the most popular?  Is this opening more
optimal than the other openings?  Or are the five most popular opening games
equally optimal?

Eric Kuniholm

Nov 15, 2020, 12:23:27 AM11/15/20
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Johnny, since no one else seems to have answered you, I will. 
The reason is that a central rook variation has become very popular recently, especially with players who want a double edged game with Gote/White. I actually got to speak with its inventor, Masakazu Kondo 6 dan, and he said it was also a conscious attempt to by younger players to take more experienced pros into uncharted waters. It's called the Gokigen Nakabisha and there's even a Wikipedia article about it. Hope that helps, Eric.

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Nov 15, 2020, 9:33:30 PM11/15/20
an oddly circular response....
Central rook opening is popular because the cheerful rook variation is popular?  Because younger players "want to
take experience pros into uncharted waters?"  I would think that the pros would be better at wiping out younger
players when uncharted waters occurred.
I suppose my main question is that by putting the rook in the center, the shogi player is trying to control the center,
but is controlling the center actually important in shogi?  how would a central rook opening be more optimal than
a double wing attack or side pawn picker opening, for example, or an opening leading to a yagura castle? 
can it be scientifically proven that one opening is better than another? 
or do computers give the final word on which openings are best in shogi?
or does anyone have a clue about what optimal play is in a game with 10 to the power 170 game tree?

Eric Kuniholm

Nov 15, 2020, 10:37:35 PM11/15/20
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I'm sorry my response seems circular. I attempted to explain that the Central Rook's current popularity was due to one variation becoming a fad. In other words, its recent frequency appears due to external competitive considerations, and not due to any intrinsic strategic merit. As to why it has become a fad, I believe the players themselves are better judges of what increases their odds of winning than you are.

That said, the value (or even the definition) of the center in Shogi is another issue entirely, and perhaps you should ask that question separately. I do not believe simple popularity of recent openings can provide an answer. And computers too, as in Go and Chess, are probably the final arbiters of the issues you raise, and I for one am as curious as you.

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Daniel Toebbens

Nov 16, 2020, 8:56:06 AM11/16/20
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The initially mentioned data at wikipedia regarding the popularity of the openings are both quite sparse. The newest entries are from 2016, with only two previous dates in 1999 and 1983. So, we are not looking for brand new developments, but for changes that happened during the last 20 years. During this time, in ranging Rook openings in professional games the previously utterly dominant Shikenbisha declined very much. This percentage mostly went to Nakabisha instead. At the same time in static rook games the Yagura opening continued to lose in popularity. What the figures do not show is that ranging rook in general has increased very much, while in ancient times (that is, before 2000) it was Yagura, Yagura, a long time nothing, and only at the bottom of the popularity everything else. The combination of these trends resulted in a much more diverse zoo of professional openings compared to the 80's.
So, why did professionals loosing interest in Yagura gave benefit Nakabisha more than anything else? I suggets to read "Lectures on the latest strategies, chapter 5", linked below, about the Gokiken Central Rook and its history. Basically it boils down to this: Nakabisha is good against Anaguma. When many static rook players switched to using Anaguma instead of Yagura, their opponents had to face static variations of the Anaguma. Against those the strategies developed against ranging rook Anaguma did not work well. But in 1996 Gokiken exploded into the scene and ended the age of the Anaguma. And as it also works quite well against many other strategies it remains popular. Until someday someone will find an effective counter.
Gesendet: Montag, 16. November 2020 um 04:37 Uhr
Von: "Eric Kuniholm" <ericku...@gmail.com>
An: "sho...@googlegroups.com" <sho...@googlegroups.com>
Betreff: Re: central rook opening popularity


Nov 18, 2020, 7:25:28 PM11/18/20
good explanation.  rational and convincing...
many tempos are needed to form yagura or anaguma castles.  then the gold and silver generals are tied up in these castles.  These are both costs of
these castles.  Theoretically, then, it should be possible to have an opening that can attack yagura or anaguma castles.  While a player is spending time
and tying up generals to form one of these castles, the opponent gets free tempos to build up a force against the castles.  I guess nakabisha is one of those
openings, and gokiken. 

The link to the english translation of the shogi is useful.  Well-written book, lots of insights even in the translation.  Wonder if there are copyright issues
with the translation.  The book provides good insights into the overall system of shogi openings, and which is best.

Eric Kuniholm

Nov 19, 2020, 12:30:00 AM11/19/20
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Daniel, thank you so much for your explanation. Should have thought about the anaguma issue, seeing as I use the Fujii System myself. Eric

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