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Let’s Play “Go”! – Terms and Strategies

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Traditional Culture ,

In our previous posts about Go, we learned that Go is a game which originated in China (Go History) and we also learned its basic rules (Go Rules). In this post, we will learn about strategies and other terms in Go.

Go Terms and Strategies

Here are some terms and strategies use in the game Go:


Instead of placing a stone, a player may choose to pass. This usually occurs when they believe there are no more useful moves left. When both players pass consecutively, the game ends and is then scored.


A player may not place a stone such that it or its group immediately has no liberties, unless doing so immediately deprives an enemy group of its final liberty. In the latter case, the enemy group is captured, leaving the new stone with at least one liberty. This rule is responsible for the all-important difference between one and two eyes: if a group with only one eye is fully surrounded on the outside, it can be killed with a stone placed in its single eye.


Keeping one’s own stones connected means that fewer groups need to make living shape, and one has fewer groups to defend.


Keeping opposing stones disconnected means that the opponent needs to defend and make living shape for more groups.

Stay alive

The simplest way to stay alive is to establish a foothold in the corner or along one of the sides. At a minimum, a group must have two eyes (separate open points) to be “alive”. An opponent cannot fill in either eye, as any such move is suicidal and prohibited in the rules.

Mutual life (seki) is better than dying

A situation in which neither player can play on a particular point without then allowing the other player to play at another point to capture. The most common example is that of adjacent groups that share their last few liberties—if either player plays in the shared liberties, they can reduce their own group to a single liberty (putting themselves in atari), allowing their opponent to capture it on the next move.


A group that lacks living shape is eventually removed from the board as captured.


Set up a new living group inside an area where the opponent has greater influence, means one reduces the opponents score in proportion to the area one occupies.


Placing a stone far enough into the opponent’s area of influence to reduce the amount of territory they eventually get, but not so far in that it can be cut off from friendly stones outside.


A play that forces one’s opponent to respond (gote). A player who can regularly play sente has the initiative and can control the flow of the game.


Allowing a group to die in order to carry out a play, or plan, in a more important area.

The strategy involved can become very abstract and complex. High-level players spend years improving their understanding of strategy, and a novice may play many hundreds of games against opponents before being able to win regularly.

In the next post, we will talk about the game Go in modern times.


1. Go (game). Wikipedia


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