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Bill Spight:

A common and useful pattern

The tap pattern  

I had some trouble finding a name for this pattern, since several candidates already refer to plays in go, but I have finally settled on the tap, because it looks like Black is reaching out and tapping the White stone. The played stone (B1) is adjacent to one friendly stone (B), one enemy stone (W), and two empty points at right angles. (The blank spaces could be empty or occupied by stones of either color.)

Most experienced beginners pick up the tap unconsciously. The play that forms it is not necessarily a big play, but it is a workhorse. The tap occurs frequently[1], in all phases of the game, from the opening to the endgame. There are several types of plays that form the pattern.

If you are a new go player, learning about the tap will give you a leg up. It is a simple pattern, but learning its properties will help you understand some ideas about the game.

What does the tap play accomplish?

First, the tap play takes away one liberty from the enemy stone (along with any stones it is firmly connected to). It may even capture it (or them). If that stone is not yet alive, it weakens it.

Second, the tap play typically adds one liberty to the friendly stone.


Before the tap, B has a liberty at a. Afterwards it has two liberties at the b points. The tap play adds one liberty to it unless one of the b points is already one of its liberties through the stones connected to it. If B is not yet alive, the tap play typically strengthens it. It may even give it life.

Third, the tap exerts influence on the adjacent empty points, as a rule. What influence it exerts, and how much, depends upon the surroundings. Here I shall talk about the typical case.


B1 exerts the greatest influence upon a. Typically it cuts off W from it. It may even make it territory.

B1 typically exerts less influence upon b. If c is empty, too, we may get the following sequence of play:


After W2, B3 cuts. We do not know the effect of the cut without seeing the surroundings, but typically it separates W and W2, weakening both.

In summary, the tap play typically weakens the enemy stone, strengthens the friendly stone, and exerts influence on empty points. That is why it is such a workhorse. These are basic aims in go. Even if it does not accomplish all of these aims, it will usually accomplish one or more of them. Typically it will accomplish more than one of these aims. In general you should try to make multi-purpose plays.

Plays that make the tap pattern

Plays that may form the tap pattern include the following:


Here I give ten examples from top level play that make the tap pattern.

Example 1, Block  

This example comes from a game between Dosaku, White, and Doetsu.

W1 is called a block. Feel its power. It strengthens white+circle and puts pressure on black+circle. In addition, its influence extends beyond the adjacent points and works with white+square.

Example 2, Push  

Later in the same game.

B1 is called a push, as is B3, for obvious reasons.

The push is often defensive in nature. Here B1 and B3 strengthen black+circle and, with B5, make territory in the corner.

Example 3, Blocks  

Later in the same game.

The blocks, B1 and B3, work with the black+circle stones to create a framework. To appreciate the power of B3, compare it with a White play on that point (next diagram).

Example 4, Turn  

W1 is called a turn. It is very big here, weakening the black+circle stones severely while working beautifully with all the White stones on the right side.

Example 5, Crawl  

Later in the same game.

B1 is called a crawl, again, for obvious reasons. Here it takes away a little bit of potential White territory on the side, but mainly it produces a weakness for White, the cutting point at a.

Example 6, Block  

Later in the same game.

W1 strengthens white+circle. Together they radiate influence towards the center, working with the other White stones facing the center.

Example 7, Atari  

The following examples (7 - 10) come from a famous game between Shusai (White) and Go Seigen.

W1 has characteristics of the block, but its most salient feature is that it threatens to capture black+circle. So we just call it an atari.

(Sebastian) Even though it forms an empty triangle it is a good move because it retains sente for White.

Example 8, De  

W1 pushes into Black's position. Such a play is called a de. With a de the main influence is forward, in this case at B2.

Note that if Black had the move he could seal territory off with a block at B1.

Example 9, Block  

W1 blocks against Black's hane, black+circle, and threatens to take the stone. B2 saves it.

If White ignored the hane, Black could play a crawl at B1.

Example 10, Block  

B1 blocks, putting some pressure on white+circle and preventing a de at W1.

See also the touch and the step.


Between 10% and 15% of the time, or so.

BillSpight/Tap last edited by on April 30, 2015 - 13:21
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