Calling Out Atari

  Difficulty: Introductory   Keywords: Culture & History

This discussion considers the practice of saying “atari” to one’s opponent when one puts a chain in atari and whether this is good etiquette or a bad habit.

The following claims are made:

  • It is helpful for raw beginners.
  • It is unusual among experienced players and very unusual at tournaments.
  • The equivalent in Chinese is to say “``"da"^3"chi"^1``” (打吃), which some Chinese players do.
  • It is similar to saying “check” in chess (also unusual with experience), although check and atari differ considerably.
    • “Check” in lightning chess may be a trick.
  • Some players may be annoyed with others for saying or for not saying atari; both reactions seem futile.
  • Some players think it is traditional Japanese or otherwise good etiquette:
    • Early books (e.g. Korschelt) said that it was traditional.
    • Sometimes they do not want the game spoilt by a blunder when the opponent overlooks an atari.
    • They may only expect it in lightning games (ˇand/or for [ext] unobvious ataris!).
    • It is worth pointing out in a friendly way that most players do not expect it.
      • Some other players make fun of players who do say atari.
  • Some players regard it as poor etiquette and a bad habit:
    • Some regard it as insulting to the opponent.
    • Some only say it when they want their opponent to answer!
    • It increases the noise level, which is undesirable at a tournament.
    • Some see it as spoiling the game.
    • It suggests that atari has to be answered.
    • There are other situations such as nets about which could also warn.
  • Some people say it as a joke!


exswoo : I'm not exactly sure under what section this belongs in, so I guess variants are as good as any (either that or bad habits).

I put it under GoEtiquette and GoodHabits, though personally I think it is to avoid. —Dieter

I've met a number of players who insist on calling out atari (much like calling check in chess) in friendly games (in real-life games, of course) and I was wondering how other players feel about this "rule".

inserted by Andrew Walkingshaw: For what it's worth calling out check in chess is generally regarded as an insult/breach of etiquette, for much the same reasons Andrew Grant goes into later. I've never seen it happen in an adult tournament.

  • I don't think it's a breach, calling out check is quite useful, you don't know that your opponent has seen the check, so just saying check is a reassurance that he knows what position he's in, if you intend it as an insult, then you will assume that other people do it for this reason - that is your own fault.


  • Is saying check a breach of etiquette in Chess? Certainly you can't do it in a tournament, but I think it's fine between friends. ~ian~
  • Crimson: No, but chess isn't go, and check isn't atari.

Leira: Most certainly, the check analogy couldn't be more inaccurate. Calling out atari is not like calling out check... it'd be closer to rather calling out every time you put whatever of your opponent's piece under risk of capture. Can you figure chess players saying "Check on your pawn"??? because I do not.

  • TFK As a kid I used to play in amateur chess tournaments, and it was considered impolite to not declare a check. You may smile at the mention of children, but those matches were quite formal, even if not ranked. I suppose the habit was discouraged with age.

If you ignore check you lose (actually you can't ignore check), and if you ignore atari, in most cases it will not make you lose the game, and sometimes, for example snapbacks, you rather atari yourself, no?

  • Yes, announcing check is only done when you are teaching complete beginners or in very, very informal games when players may be doing other things at the same time as playing. In formal chess games the only thing you would say barring a medical emergency would be "j'adoube" or a (just about acceptable) request for your opponent to adjust their pieces. Even in the unlikely event of an experienced player making an illegal move you would signal that with a raised eyebrow before actually saying so. Even in informal games announcing check is an insult. It is useful for beginners, so I hope now that I am learning Go opponents will say "atari" for me whether it is appropriate at a higher level or not!

It doesn't apply to your opponent playing into an atari, so it does't really affect the game too much, but it does seem to encourage players to not read the entire board situation as hard as they should be. What do you guys think?

Charles Matthews I don't know of any group of active players in which saying 'atari' is current (except in a facetious way). They say it was part of the old Japanese etiquette. I'd make it a bad habit.

~ian~: I keep saying j'adoube in time controlled games purely out of habit as I'm used to doing it in chess. I'd never say atari though unless in a teaching game against a beginner to point out a stone was about to drop.

Migeru I like to say atari in teaching games, but not consistently, and as the people I teach become stronger I say it less and less.

Michael Richter: When people start calling "atari" out to me, I start calling "coleco" or "nintendo" or "sega" back at them. They either get annoyed and never play with me again (which suits me fine) or they shut up and stop calling atari. Is this wrong?

Tamsin: No, not at all. They should have a sense of humour about it! :-)
Bignose: It's a bit of a stupid joke, though. The term "atari" has usage in go much older than the game console name -- and its makers have stated that it inspired their name for the game console. So, while it might be funny if the two were completely unrelated, I don't see the point in light of the actual derivation of the name.
I've never seen someone habitually saying "atari", but if I did, I'd probably stare in disbelief for a while and answer with "tsugi" (connection), "hane", "nozoki" (peep), etc. depending on my answering move. If the opponent does it enough for it to start grating on my nerves, I'd start calling out the names of all further moves just to teach him some Japanese (and manners).
xed_over: Just a few weeks ago (early summer 2006) I witnessed two 3-4kyu players playing several games together. One of the player consistantly called out "atari" every time. I think I did stare in disbelief for a while. From my observation, he clearly wasn't being rude or intensionaly irritating about it. These two fellows had obviously been playing Go together for many years. It was almost endering to hear him as they played (with their southern accent).
Korenn: When I play friends we don't always take a serious attitude towards the game. Then I tend to call out atari in semeai or oiotoshi to point the situation out to my opponent, it can speed up play py nudging my opponent to look at the right place, so that he can figure out he's already lost.

Andrew Grant: I think it's worth realising that most, if not all, players who call "atari" (usually beginners) are doing so because they think it's the polite thing to do. I don't think making fun of them is really appropriate, and might just put them off go altogether. On the occasions when a beginner has made a habit of saying "atari" to me, I have just quietly told them it isn't necessary and that some players might even take offence. Sorry if this isn't funny or clever, but it's more important to keep these people playing go.

PJT: Very glad you made that point: spot on!

Schnitte: I totally, totally agree. A player who calls out atari does so, very probably, with good intentions - at least we should assume that as long as there are no indications to the contrary. Most likely they think that the rules or etiquette require them to call it. So don't mock them for doing it. If it bothers you, politely tell them that it's not customary in go to call out atari. If it doesn't bother you, just ignore it. But don't ridicule them for it.

xialushi?: When I play Chinese weiqi players (usually university students), they usually call "dachi" (pronounced "dah churr") when there is an atari. I asked about it and was told that was etiquette at least for the amateur player.

Niklaus: I've met several players who sometimes in friendly games make comments about the game using intentionally inappropriate Japanese or self-made expressions, which can be quite funny. This often includes saying atari even though there is none on the board. Don't do this to the 37k who is playing his first game on a 19x19 board against you. He's confused enough already :) Another situation when I say atari is when my opponent obviously misses that a huge important group is in atari and is thinking long about where to tenuki (probably I wouldn't if I was losing a tournament game :-).

Andrew Grant Announcing "atari" is a bad habit for three reasons:

1. Many opponents find the implication that they're not capable of spotting an atari by themselves insulting.

2. The constant background noise of people saying "atari" is distracting to the opponent and to other players nearby. If you've ever played in a room full of Ing timers you'll know what I'm talking about here.

3. It gives the subtle impression that atari has to be answered in the same way that check must be answered in Chess. Beginners who have come from a Chess background could easily fall into this trap.

The only time when it's sort of OK to say "atari" is when you're teaching an absolute beginner who hasn't quite got the concept of keeping track of liberties yet. But even then you should wean them off it as soon as you can.

Jasonred : Heh, would be quite funny during a ko fight wouldn't it? And what happens during double atari's?

Dieter: It all depends of place and time of course. Me and my clubmates can have lots of fun shouting out loud whatever Japanese term may be applicable to the move we're playing. It starts with onegaishimasu and invariably ends with makemashita.

holosys: Imagine a board with lots of ataris which are left unanswered, a very common sight in more advanced games. Whereas check must be dealt with in chess, atari can be ignored quite deliberately to your advantage. If you call atari then you might as well call 'one eye already' or 'ko' or dozens of other local situations which, in themselves, are not necessarily of much significance. I'd say it's useful for beginners, where it can be tricky to spot ataris, but in any case new players soon need to break the habit of responding to every atari with a rescue.

worf: I don't want to win a game because of my oponent hasn't seen an atari, If a situation is complex and my oponent could miss an atari I would never omit saying atari!

DrStraw: The implication seems to be that you want to opponent to answer the atari to ensure he does not lose. But surely, you would not want him to lose by answering an atari unnecessarily. So I have to assume that in those cases you do not tell him. Ergo, "atari" from you means "I think I can read better than you and you better answer my move, or else....", where as failure to call "atari" means "I just put you in atari but you do not need to answer it as I am stupid enough to play a gote move in this situation". Either you have an interesting philosophy or I am missing something :)
worf: No, you don't understand me. I just respect my oponent. I don't want to destroy an interesting game by a missed atari - I don't think that I never miss an atari. But after this I say it more cautiously - and it doesn't feel more polite, if I just say nothing till just before my oponent makes an error, just 100ns before the game get lost by a blunter "" - "oh yes, thank you" this is more embarrassing for both.
Rakshasa: If you don't want your opponent to make those kinds of mistake, why don't you tell him early on, "If you play there you will fall into the trap i'm setting up here." Then you won't feel bad at all. Besides, if he can't see an atari perhaps he should get some new glasses instead?

Hikaru79: Isn't telling your opponent "Watch out, don't fall into my trap!" a lot more disrespectful and offensive than simply saying atari? "Atari" doesn't annoy me, but having my opponent warn me whenever I'm in a risky spot would.

minismurf: Some people (mostly go players I would think) think calling "Check" in chess is OK because it has to be answered. Conversely, they think calling "Atari" in go is wrong because it does not have to be answered.

But really, if you didn't see or fore-see the Check or Atari, you are strategically lost anyway. I think that the conclusion is that except at the beginner level, calling either Check or Atari is at least meaningless, and perhaps rude or disrepectful.

On the other hand, when teaching a beginner, showing ataris, ladders and other traps during the game is a completely different matter. You should be careful you are not playing the game for him, but giving some hints to avoid big mistakes is not a bad thing I think.

Vesa: Must be somehow a Swedish thing. [ext] A true story. Personally, I prefer silence during the game, was it a tournament or a server game. If you want to achieve the teaching game goals, you should make the ataris in that kind of position that the answers are forced.

Anonymous(regarding the true story above): Calling a blitz tournament a lightning tournament is somewhat funny btw...

Bonobo Are you aware that “Blitz” is the German word for lightning? ;-)

minismurf: A funny story I must say. But here, I am talking about when you give a beginner 4 stones on a 9x9 board, or 6 stones on a 13x13 board. I find this a better way to teach one person, than to do a formal lesson, and in the case of playing such a teaching game I would sometimes point out ataris, ladders, etc.

When my opponent is stronger than 15k, so that I give him perhaps 9 stones on the 19x19 board, I'd certainly let him fend for his own. I agree that best kind of a game is a silent game.

Joshual000: One of my 'regular' opponents points to or touches a stone or group that he has just put into atari. Sort of a casual point or touch while withdrawing his hand after placing his stone. I found this method so unobtrusive and agreeable, I've adopted it in my own play. A hand-talk for handtalk of sorts.

ProtoDeuteric- That seems worse than calling out atari because it is saying that not only can't you see that a group is in atari, but that either you don't even know what "atari" means or that your opponent is a mute (slight sarcasm).

puripuri: If calling out atari makes sense, then shouldn't nets and ladders and loose ladders and snapbacks be called out too...? And how about kikashi?

jfc: Yes yes yes! And let us shout out, at the top of our lungs, oiotoshi, keima, haengma and hamete too! Also, you should cough loudly (to warn him) if you see your opponent reaching to make a stupid move.

Bill: I learned go in a milieu in which saying atari and taking moves back was the custom. People played for fun and did not take the game too seriously. In tournament play the one is illegal and the other may be insulting. But in club play, a friendly, casual atmosphere is not a bad idea, particularly in the West where it is always nice to recruit new players.

Moi, I do not remember the last time I said atari, but I will allow weaker opponents to take moves back. As for what is proper, well, as Confucius said, take heed of time and place. :-)

ThaddeusOlczyk: The early books (Lasker, Smith, Korshcvelt, etc ) describing Go play all say that it was required to say atari. In the one club I played in, people would say it, but it was said quietly and almost mumbled.

GeorgeCaplan: I believe, in serious, non-teaching play not saying atari is the best practice. What is clearly inappropriate are folks who say atari when they want a connection, and are silent when they do not. And yes, such folks do exist.

fatoudust: In club settings I've found it worthwhile to ask before the game starts if my opponent wants to play a "tournament style" game in silence or if they want a friendly "learning"-style game where we may call atari and can go back a couple of moves to explore possibilities and converse about the game while it's being played. I've usually gotten a favorable reaction to this suggestion whatever my opponent chooses. Describing it as a "learning" game instead of a "teaching" game seems to not bruise egos as much, as it implies that we each are looking for the most enjoyable and educational game possible from our opponent.

turpin?: Saying "check" is usually NOT required in tournament chess. In normal tournament rules, it is usually not required, although an illegal move (such as not answering the check) might not result in an automatic loss. However, with touch-move rules, which are typical in tournaments, not saying check could mess-up a hasty opponent pretty badly.

In blitz tournaments, an illegal failure to counter a check, or a self-check, typically can be countered by capturing the king, resulting in an automatic win for the player who captures. In blitz tournaments, saying "check" is typically not required, but is often used as a tactic so that the other player won't notice that his king is in a less obvious check later on.

Saying "check" is done for your own convenience in non-tournament games, when illegal moves are to be taken back and touch-move does not apply. This is because its just a waste of your time if the other player doesn't see this and proceeds to make an illegal move. This convenience is misconstrued as "etiquette" by novices, the uncompetitive, and people who have never read tournament rules.

Now that we have established the situation for Chess, it should be obvious that saying "atari" in Go because you say "check" in Chess just indicates a profound inexperience with tournament rules in both games.

ilan: In my experience, no one ever says "check" unless they are complete beginners. The only exception was in blitz games for money in which people said check when it wasn't, e.g. after making a rook move one column away, hoping that the person would then move into check losing the game (in the rook example, if he believes your utterance, then it gives a 50% chance of winning). This tactics works surprisingly well, and once again goes to show the general mindset of chess players. Speaking of which, one point I never resolved was this: It makes sense that any move in an illegal position is illegal, so if you leave your king in check and your opponent doesn't take it, then you should be able to claim a win. For some reason, no one ever took my loophole in the rules seriously.

Tigg: My cuz is a national chess player and he says that you can or cannot call out check: I assume that you'll get a feel for it. But furthermore, I never even thought of calling out atari -- as stated before, it implies that something needs to be done about it. Also, why are we even comparing go to chess?!?

kevinwm: Calling out "atari" is not like calling "check" in chess - that the game can be won in one move. It's more like calling out "I'm attacking your bishop." It's overkill.

Tas: Its funny reading this. I haven't played much chess. But every one I've played called out a check. I was taugth that it was against the rules NOT to say check. How wrong I was aparently.

Tapir: In KGS games I'm sometimes calling out atari or "Eh", "Look there" when the opponent plays self-atari and doesn't correct after my first tenuki, because I don't want to win by such a mistake while filling dame points.

Tas: If my opponent misses a big enough atari that no one could be in doubt that it really was a mistake, I might ask for an undo, as a way of asking don't you want to reconsider that. If he refuses I will take the group.

ThorAvaTahr: Calling out atari is one of the most funny parts about go. None of you have realised that Go is a game where bluffing plays an important role. So calling out atari is a nice bluf when you want your opponent to connect. If you don't want him to connect, you don't call it out of course. It can be helpful in keeping sente :) Especially against beginners :)

OneWeirdDude: Why would you want to bully beginners? That sounds cruel.

OneWeirdDude: True story. My opponent (who claims to be 28 kyu but I think she's at least three, maybe five stones stronger) wrote "atari" in the comment box, which was true, but I immediately felt insulted. I asked, is that a question or a statement? She didn't repeat it at first, but the next time she did, as politely as I could, I told her to knock it off. I look forward to showing her a shicho and mentioning how annoying that could get.

Hummingbird Cyborg?: Taking an act, probably well intentioned, as an insult is just silly. Politely suggesting that it isn't necessary and then afterwards explaining that atari's needn't always be answered is fine, but anybody who took offense to saying check or atari deserves to be offended if you ask me.

If I go to England and don't bow to the queen and she feels offended and it changes her mood. she deserves to have it affect her mood.

In fact, a part of me kind of hopes that somebody who would be offended by this act would have it happen to them as much as possible. They obviously want to be offended or they wouldn't go out of their way to be offended; might as well give them what they want.

AnonLinguist: I never saw the need to get in the habit of saying atari. If I'm playing someone who's new at it, I'll just point at where they should be playing, and if they look confused, I'll say why. The very idea of someone calling out atari seems odd to me. Same goes for calling out check. What's the point in announcing what someone near my skill should be able to see immediately? It cheapens the game, as if you're not actually thinking very carefully of where, how and why to play. It doesn't insult me, as such, I just think it degrades the one who's announcing it.

isd: I note that in the British Go Championship Match of 2008 one player said Atari during a game.

Calling Out Atari last edited by Bonobo on August 29, 2020 - 16:54
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