Jordan wrote: Maybe he shouldn't have had Qu Yi killed, as although Qu Yi had been pretty arrogant, he was pretty blatantly Yuan Shao's most competent officer.
Is that what happened to Qu Yi? I was never sure where he got off to. I always wondered why he was never mentioned as fighting against Cao Cao. I suppose I should have expected that's what happened.
Jordan wrote:A less obvious answer is that he shouldn't have fought Cao Cao to begin with, which some of his advisers actually did urge him to consider doing.
Some of his advisers also urged him to attack Cao Cao numerous times in earlier years, when Cao Cao was weaker and distracted by a plethora of other enemies (Zhang Xiu, Lu Bu, Liu Bei, etc.). I know he technically had to focus on Gongsun Zan up until 199 or so, but when did Gongsun withdraw to Yijing? I was under the impression that he was squatting there for years. Given Yuan Shao's support from the Wuhuan, you'd think he could leave some people behind to make sure Gongsun Zan didn't try leaving Yijing while the bulk of Yuan's army engaged Cao Cao somewhere.
I seem to recall that, when Liu Bei rebelled in Xu province, some of Yuan's advisers (Ju Shou comes to mind) suggested attacking Cao Cao while he was distracted by Liu Bei. Since Gongsun Zan was finally dealt with by that point, and he was allied with the Wuhuan, Yuan Shao had no enemies to then north. If he was going to attack Cao Cao, that would have been the best time.
Granted, he mobilized his army very shortly after Cao Cao defeated Liu Bei, so maybe that was his plan and things just didn't get going fast enough. In which case, he really should have invested in better logistics and communications officers. *shrug*
If Yuan Shao had taken advantage of Cao Cao's situation early on, before Cao could focus all of his resources on fighting Yuan, Shao-pal would have had a good chance of beating him. Even if he couldn't manage to finish Cao Cao off completely, he could have nabbed a big chunk of his land an possibly gotten his mitts on the emperor.