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  Ando Meritee's Blog
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The history of d11 opening - past 20 years2008-02-20 22:23:19
Ever since I started to play renju 20 years ago, most renju openings have been very stable - they have always been either black advantage or white advantage, rarely changing from one side to another.

However, d11 opening is unique. It has switched from nearly white win to nearly black win, forth and back several times in 20 years.

Since my experience of renju starts from 1988, I can only analyze the history from that year on.


During years 1988-1990, the opening was balanced, whereas during 1990-1997 the d11 opening developed towards white benefit, and it was considered too good for white, almost like i1 or i5 openings. The main reason of the d11 being nearly white win was the absence of other 13th moves.
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
The attempts of changing the 11th move did not work well either - both 11-j7 and 11-i11 usually resulted with white win. During that time, players were desperately trying alternative ways to keep black hopes up. For example 5-j8. I remember having won an important game with such 5th move as black in Leningrad New Year Prize tournament in 1990.


The year 1997 brought a big change in the theory of d11. All of the sudden the opening had become very equal - both black and white sides had fair chances to win. It is all thanks to the 13th move that was found by Japanese. See below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
During 1997 the d11 was considered better for black, because good black variants were developed quite fast. The typical development was like this:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
It took about one year for players to invent resistance for white because the situation on the diagram above was too much under black's control - even if black did not win, he could easily force the draw later.

As a result, different kind of 14th moves were introduced during 1998, the best of which was 14-j7. For quite some time, the 14-j17 turned the tables - d11 was once again considered to be very good for white!! See below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
The year 1999 - the move 14 was no longer a surprise, the proper black responses were found, and as a result d11 was considered nearly black win!! The games of World Championship 1999 were a good proof of it. Black's response was following:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
For quite some time, black dominance was terrifying. White tried several 18th move, but no good came out of those. Then, some other 14th moves were re-tried again, but yet without success.

The year 2000 brought two new 12th moves, almost at the same time. They offered a slight resistance at first, because the optimal black moves were not found yet. The white inventions were:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
Because black side players had no experience of handling these new situations, so they often tried to transfer the position to something well-known, such as the variant below. But of course, such attempt failed because white can utilize the position in better way. It was a big disadvantage for black and white gained a lot from this hesitation. See below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
Year 2001 - players prepared well for coming World Championship. Both 12th moves were analyzed well and as a result, the d11 opening became nearly black win again. See the two examples below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
Soon after that, during 2002-2004, the situation equalized - d11 was considered as an equal opening. As a result, it became extremely popular among players. In some tournaments nearly half of the games were played with d11 opening.

Below there is an example of a balanced situation of d11 opening:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
By 2005, the balance shifted towards white side again. The d11 was then considered to be very good for white and black side was lacking good ideas for development. Typical situation is shown below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
Years 2005-2007, the d11 opening is balanced. Black has several ways to keep the initiative which is enough for draw with careful play. Typical pattern below:
alt="Your browser does not have Java installed. Please go to www.java.com and press Download Free Java."
The situation today: the t11 opening has been carefully analyzed and at present it is considered as a solid draw by most strong players in the world. If one of the players tries to turn away from the optimal course, then he can risk with facing disadvantage and often even loss. Of course, changing from the main path has its elements of surprise as well.

So what is the future of d11 opening then? It is hard to say. Since the d11 has changed sides so many times in the past, and each time it has been the opinion of world's best players, so there is no 100% certainty that the top players are correct this time with their judgment about d11 being draw. However, the number of players have increased and the results of research is more accurate year by year.

Most likely, d11 will lose its attractiveness among top players because it is not easy to make good fighting games there now. Perhaps the change of opening rules might refresh d11 opening a bit.
The summary of the history of d11 in past 20 years:

1988 - 1990 - balanced
1990 - 1997 - white advantage
1997 - 1998 - black advantage
1998 - 1999 - white advantage
1999 - 2000 - black advantage
2000 - 2001 - white advantage
2001 - 2002 - black advantage
2002 - 2004 - balanced
2004 - 2005 - white advantage
2005 - 2008 - balanced
Such frequent changes of sides makes the d11 to be one of the most popular and most analyzed opening in the history. It might be interesting for new generation of players to see this overview of history. This article is my quick and perhaps a bit superficial summary of past 20 years, and may contain some slight mistakes, but at least it can show how much the d11 opening had changed forth and back during two decades.

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