>But you are stopping right at the atari, and then pile on playouts that make 
>it seem work...

Yes, something like that may be the situation that turns the result. 

Suppose the tree stops at a point where there are two moves, a
blunder that leads to a quick end, and another move which leads
to an inconclusive continuation.   

If the tree can't grow, then random playouts will take the "blunder"
branch 50% of time, whereas if the tree were allowed to grow the
non-blunder branch would quickly dominate.

Overall, once the tree is frozen, some percentage of the leaf
nodes will be permanently giving bad feedback.

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