Keywords: Go term, Tournament

Japanese: 角番 (kadoban)

Kadoban is a Japanese word adopted by the English speaking go community.


  1. Players who often meet generally agree that after *x* games (often), the winner advances by one handicap grade. Kadoban refers to both the system being used ("Joe and I play three-game kadoban") and the condition of being at such risk ("You have won two games, so this is kadoban for me.")
  2. In a title match series, the game that could lose the series for one player. Or, in an old-fashioned 10-game series (jubango) the game which if lost will require taking a greater handicap.

English equivalents

  • do-or-die
  • must-win
  • back against the wall (or back to the wall)
  • up against the wall
  • on the ropes

Is it only kadoban for the potential loser?

It is common for kadoban to be applied only to the person who is at risk to lose (the so-called unilateral meaning of kadoban). However, it can also be used to generically describe the game where the title is at stake (the bilateral usage). A dictionary definition supports this usage:

in a series of go or shogi games, the one that will decide the match. In a best-of-seven, the game after three losses.

Sample: 'X became Meijin after a tense kadoban'.

Related expressions

  • Surviving kadoban: kadoban dasshutsu, kadoban wo shinogu, survive a kadoban
  • Falling into kadoban: kadoban ni oikomareru, kadoban ni tatasareru, kadoban ni naru, face kadoban (when the next game will be kadoban)

Sumo usage

The other known use of kadoban is in [ext] sumo. If someone at the ozeki rank loses two tournaments in a row, he is demoted. So if he loses one tournament, the next tournament is kadoban for him -- the one that if he loses he will be demoted. This usage is reported to have been borrowed from go and shogi. English usages include a kadoban tournament for the ozeki, Musoyama finds himself kadoban, Kaio is kadoban, the kadoban ozeki, under kadoban, in a kadoban situation, etc.


Does the kado of kadoban refer to a corner? Can kadoban be translated directly as in a corner? Is the kado of kadoban related to the same character in the term kak(u)kai referring to sumo? We just don't know.

Bob Myers: The above seems unlikely, given that the term is said to have been borrowed by sumo from go/shogi.

It seems at least as likely that kado refers to an outside-type corner, like that of a street, as the corner of a room. The fact that kado is written in hiragana and katakana sometimes leaves open the possibility that it is not even related to the corner meaning, and that the 角 character is an ateji (character chosen after the fact for its phonetic equivalence).

This word apparently does not exist in Chinese.

kokiri English language papers in Japan often referred to kadoban sumo wrestlers as being 'in the corner'. However I agree that in my experience kado is used in an 'outside' sense whereas the corners of rooms and the go board are termed sumi, 隅.

Bob Myers: I don't recall ever seeing this usage.

Neil: I suppose the corner translation is tempting because being cornered is a pretty good metaphor for the situation.

amadis: Here's my understanding of how kadoban normally works in amateur games. Whenever one player wins three games in a row against another, the handicap between them is adjusted by one stone. That's three-game kadoban. So, after a player wins two games in a row, the next game is the kadoban game.

Alternatively, they could play one-game kadoban, changing the handicap after each game.

Kadoban is a good way to get the competitive juices flowing in casual games between friends.

    I remember reading in the AGA Journal
    many years ago an article that agrees with amadis.

Sinprejic I have no knowledge of oriental languages, but reading this discussion brings to mind a slightly different metaphor that might also apply. If kado is an outside corner (like a street corner or the corner/edge of something you might fall off of) perhaps it refers to turning the corner as a large change... (such as the shift of handicap, or the decision of the match) ?

In geometric terms a corner is a point of change... a discontinuity in the slope of a curve.

Just a thought.

Bob McGuigan: The terms of kadoban are not rigid and can be any system agreeable to both players. The requirement of three wins in a row to change the handicap is actually more stringent than what was used in the old jubango. For example a sequence of WWLWWLWWLWWL ... could go on for a very long time with no change in handicap resulting. In the old ten game matches the handicap changed when one player achieved a four game lead in the score. According to this system WWLWWLWWLW would result in a change of handicap. Club players occasionally play "one game kadoban" in which your handicap drops by a stone if you win and increases by a stone if you lose. As far as I know there is no "official" rule for determining the kadoban system. It's important that whatever it is it should be agreed to by both players.

See Kadoban/Discussion

Kadoban last edited by kibi on January 2, 2012 - 20:02
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