Basic Instinct/ Discussion

Sub-page of BasicInstinct

aLegendWai (9k? KGS): Note to authors of this page.

  • I added some of my comments/explanations to this page. Correct me if wrong.
  • I put a name beside my comments/explanations. So if there's a mistake, you will know the mistake is made by me (or other authors)
  • I changed the subtitles of "Reasons" and "Exceptions" as "Argue for" and "Argue Against". It is because the word "Exceptions" appears to give beginners illusions that the case said in "exceptions" occurs on rare occasions (that is wrong!).

Dieter: I cut and paste aLegendWai's additions here, because I feel they should be debated.

Disadvantage of BasicInstinct


  • You may be too sticky to your own basic instinct and play within your frame. It is not good to stick to one's own instinct to find the best move. Reading is a fundamental tool to find the best move.
  • Trying other unusual/strange moves may surprise you once in a while.

Note to the beginners.

aLegendWai: All the following cases are analysed in a completely isolated situation or in a restricted local concern.

In real games, stones are inter-affected by each other, and the whole-board view has to be concerned. So you should take the proper move suggested in the basic instinct with a large pinch of salt (ie not rely on them).

markgravitygood: I think it's very important here to understand that Basic Instinct is useful for beginners who, having no experience in the conduct of a full-scale game of Go, tend to stare at the board in awe and mystery and are lost. Even if you do reply dogmatically with Basic Instinct to your opponents moves, there is a certain learning process one goes through by making mistakes and seeing them punished. Basic Instinct will help the beginner (like myself) navigate a complete game with some semblance of continuity. That cannot be bad.

About connecting against a peep

aLegendWai: Don't be misled by the above proverb "Even a Moron..." that connecting against a peep is not nearly always true (eg 99%). It is not true. Other responses against a peep is not uncommon.


  1. Am I really a moron if I don't connect against the peep
  2. When Not to Connect Against a Peep

Bill: I am nominally one of the authors, but this is really Dieter's work. I made a few comments at some time or other. The aim of this page is to give rank beginners some very basic ideas.

As for exceptions, that's what Dieter meant. Arguing for or against something as a "basic instinct" play is really to say that it is *not* typical or usual. The exceptions are really exceptions.

Since this page is aimed at rank beginners, I think it is better to keep the page itself fairly simple, and discuss things in more detail on the /Discussion page.

Dieter: aLegendWai, thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions. I obviously agree with Bill. The whole purpose of this page is to give beginners a "basic instinct". In all of the situations below the basic instinct is best in, say, 90% of the cases. It is NOT true that all options are equally valuable. This is precisely the misconception that I wanted to tackle with this page. You may want to read Lessons in the fundamentals to learn about blocking the thrust and other cases.

Please copy the appropriate stuff to the discussion page. As for this page, I really would like to see the "reasons/exceptions" titling restored.

aLegendWai: Hi, Dieter. Correct me if wrong.
Probably I am even worse than a beginner. I don't think the following basic instincts are correct, say, in 90% of the cases. To me, some may be 50%. Some may be even lower. You may have a database search for the following patterns to see if it is 90%.

  • How many times do we try not to save a stone in atari? Is it really an exception to try not to save a stone?

Dieter: it should be. I should add that I assume the atari was a good move as well.

  • How many times do we not connect against a peep? Is it really an exception not to do so?

''It should be. In particular at low amateur level, a peep is often a thank you move: you connect with pleasure. Even if the peep made sense, connecting still is very likely to be correct.

  • How many times do we not block the thrust? Is it really an exception not to do so?

''It should be. This one too follows the principle of connect and cut. Giving way may look better sometimes, but even then it often turns out to be worse.

But if you are suggesting the following basic instincts in a theoretically isolated situation (no ladder, no surrounding stones etc.), all may be nearly 100% correct.
When the basic instinct is going to be applied generally to the real games, I'm afraid they won't work well to find the correct moves.

Besides in my humble opinion, a beginner has already known most of the basic instincts before they visited this page:

  • do you think a beginner doesn't know how to save a stone when it realises the stone is in atari?
  • do you think a beginner doesn't know to connect against a peep?
  • do you think a beginner doesn't know to block the thrust?

I think leaving some ideas/reminders are better than clipping them. However since you are the author of this page, you are in a better position to choose which are to clip. So feel free to cut and paste anything you feel inappropriate in the page. ^^

crux: Since I also think the page was fine and has now become too cluttered, I've moved more discussion to the subpage and deleted some of your additions. Sorry. If I may make a suggestion, wait until you're stronger than 9k before you start thinking about making serious additions to these pages.

Dieter: Well, I encourage anyone to question so-called wisdom. I am only 2D myself. The point I wanted to make is not to tell beginners how to connect against the peep. I want to convince them that they should connect against the peep. Very often. Almost always. The moves described in basic instinct are stronger than they look. Are often, very often, correct, and much more often than beginners think. I think that you underestimate them as well, alegendwai.

Reflections about this page

aLegendWai (9k? KGS): Correct me if wrong.
I think most newbies should know how to play by their basic instinct without reading the page. It is just common sense.

Atari -> extension  

It is the very usual way newbies are playing. It will be surprising if they don't play in that way.

However I would rather say our newbies' basic instinct is considerable unreliable, not to say very. Otherwise newbies will not be badly defeated by a kyu in a 9-stone handicap game. And a single-digit kyu can be defeated by a dan in a 9-stone handicap game.

I am one of the victims of basic instinct. When I was a newbie, I usually hane and hane because I would like to reduce their liberties and capture the stone. I usually play atari when I see it (Beginners Play Atari). I try to save every stone.

My silly mistake in the endgame  

It is my basic instinct to hane-block the stone by basic instinct without thinking.

"Basic instinct" is often the cause of loss!

Without the instillation of Go sense, our instinct is never reliable. But when we know more about Go, our instinct will be sharpened and can think with good Go sense. Only at that time will our instinct be reliable.

So instead of teaching them to play by their basic instinct (that they shoud know most of them), it seems to be more worthwhile to tell them to judge when we should trust our instinct; when we should not.
Since I believe people know when to play by their basic instinct, is it better to emphasise more on when not to play by basic instinct?

ilan: My basic instinct tells me that White's move at 1 is the silly endgame mistake.

aLegendWai (9k? KGS): ilan, you are right. W's best move should be "a" as far as I know.



tderz: my instinct tells me to play the shape move B2.
But it loses 2 points over the ugly/efficient empty triangle move B6 (as B2).

I think that's a better basic instinct than to block the Hane at the Head of Two Stones with black a.
B2 is often naturally safer against L&D-threatening, white attachments W2(at B2) in case Black had played b(as B2).
Of course, if the space is so limited, white c after B2 is still a threat.

How best should B respond now?  

a) If W is ko loser, how best should B respond now? b) If W is ko master, how best should B respond now? Based on our instinct, would anyone get the answer offhand (say in 1-3 seconds)? ^.^

bud1027 (6-7d KGS) aLegendWai, I agree most of your saying, but I think your requirement is too hard work for ordinary amateur players.

Aa far as i know, including pro players, no one has succeed to explain general and well defined principles or criteria about when we should trust our basic instincts.

anyway, in my veiw this writing(basic instinct) is an excellent guide to Go for beginners.


aLegendWai (9k? KGS): Thanks for your idea.
Yes it is an excellent guide to Go beginners too. It would be more grateful to beginners if counter-examples are provided for each case of basic instinct. So amateur can get more ideas of all basic instincts.


(Sebastian:) Couldn't most of the problems discussed above be solved if we put as a first rule: Tenuki is always an option?

Calvin: Most, yes. Dieter makes an important point about the responses depending somewhat on whether the original move is good to begin with. These are tactical moves, and if they are made in an unimportant area, maybe they're not important. It some cases, the original move is bad and tenuki is indicated. Probably in more cases when the original move is bad, the basic instinct is a reasonable punishment. (A bad kosumi-tsuke is particularly common at my level, for example, but I still extend in response almost all the time, because there is no better punsishment I know of than to accept the thank-you move and let my opponent retain delusions of sente.)

aLegendWai (9k? KGS): Do you mean all issues/problems in the basic instinct? Or the case of blocking the thrust?
If so, it is true in some extents; but not in some other extents in my humble opinion. Just like the case of blocking the thrust, playing elsewhere tenuki can be a bad answer.
It is no hard and fast rule to deal with these problems. Otherwise a lot of people can be dan.
Any idea is welcome.

(Sebastian:) I meant all issues. It's something I currently find very helpful. But maybe that's not for real beginners. And the Thrust -> dodge diagram may be even be a good counterexample, if it's generally better than tenuki.

xela: Quote from the main page: "Of course, there are always exceptions, but one should not consider other options first! Only if investigation of the Basic Instinct shows a bad result, then other possibilities can be explored." I don't know who wrote these sentences, but I would wish for them to be deleted. What do others think?

There was a famous chess player who said something like (I'm quoting from memory) "When I see a good move, I sit on my hands and look for a better move." Yes, the basic instinct is a good first guess, but one should always (unless maybe playing blitz) have at least a brief look for alternatives.

Dieter: As for most of the content, I wrote these words. I've reached the mental state where I can let go the authorship of this page, so please go ahead as you see fit, although I haven't changed the opinion behind the statement.

Much of the confusion in the game of Go comes from the misconception that beginners must be taught without violating any advanced principle. Basic instinct is not the final word on how to play Go. Its intention is to reduce the enormous complexity of the game for a beginner player.

xela: This is a good principle, and one that I agree with. For me, teaching (not only in go) often involves an uneasy compromise between what will be useful to the student now and what will lay a good foundation for future study. The page as a whole strikes an excellent balance in my opinion. It is only the introductory text that bothers me. I think the first three sentences ("In all cases, the suggested move is the first move one should think of. They are natural moves. If this move seems to bring no bad result, then it is highly probable that this is the best move.") say everything that is necessary.

Of course different people will have different opinions on this matter. That is why I wanted to have some discussion before I edited the main page. If noone else expresses a preference one way or the other then I will leave the page as it is.

Bill: "Of course, there are always exceptions, but one should not consider other options first! Only if investigation of the Basic Instinct shows a bad result, then other possibilities can be explored."

I would cut the second sentence, myself. OTOH, I know that there are beginners who think and think, but don't know what to think about. They would probably do better just to play and then learn from their mistakes. So maybe telling them not to think too much is a good idea. But that is a separate question from that of what is basic.

Dieter: Rereading my own statement that only under certan conditions more than one move can be considered, that surely doesn't sound like good advice, for beginners or anyone.

xela: I've just looked at the revised page, and the phrase "inefficient usage of the brain" made me laugh out loud! I love it! If only one could get through life avoiding such a mistake...

Bill: Thanks, Dieter. :-) You know, there was a book called the user's manual for the brain.

Basic Instinct/ Discussion last edited by markgravitygood on March 9, 2009 - 17:08
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