Difficulty: Intermediate   Keywords: Tactics, Strategy, Go term

Chinese: 先手利 (xian1 shou3 li4)
Japanese: 利かし, 効かし (kikashi)
Korean: 강요 (gang-yo)

Table of contents

Kikashi, a Japanese go term, is a sente move or sequence that produces a whole-board and subtle positive effect in preparation of future sequences. It is light and may not require an immediate follow-up. It is usually translated as forcing move.

In practical terms, the fundamental idea behind using kikashi will be to make individual stones work as much as possible. This involves the steps of considering the whole board, and playing moves immediately that will prepare for upcoming situations.

Main features of kikashi:

  • Sente
  • Has a positive future effect or gain
  • Possible to lead to a counter-attack
  • Uses whole-board thinking
  • Works in the context of the whole board
  • Creates an abstract or subtle effect


Kikashi is said to be the timely use of kiki. Without proper timing, the move ends up seeking immediate profit only. The features of such a kiki:

  • Sente
  • Immediate effect or gain
  • Possibility of counter-attack is low
  • Local effect
  • Works in the context of a local fight

Downsides due to misuse of kikashi

Possible downsides for the misuse of kikashi (see also aji-keshi and thank-you move):

  • Reinforcing the opponent's shape
  • Finalizing a shape and losing opportunities for other kikashi
  • The opposite side of a kikashi becomes thin
  • Loss of ko threats

Examples of the effects of kikashi

Also see Kikashi/Examples.

  • Making your opponents stones more heavy, making them harder to throw away.
  • Collapsing the shape of your opponent's stones, making it more difficult to sabaki.
  • Playing in a vital point of your opponent's eye shape, making preparations for attack.
  • Making your own eye shape more abundant.
  • Playing a sacrifice that makes your next move bigger, and captures sente.
  • Has a 'plus' effect for upcoming situations.
  • Performs as a ladder breaker for the opposite corner.
  • Playing in an area that will become smaller later.
  • Playing against a vital point, leaving a stone in place.
  • Helping to observe the situation.

Quotes from well-known authors

From Attack and Defense by James Davies and Ishida Akira: A forcing move may be defined as a sente move that brings its player some potential advantage without having to be followed up or defended.

From Strategic concepts of Go by Nagahara Yoshiaki and Richard Bozulich: A kikashi is a forcing move played to produce an effect. That is, a kikashi is a play which must be answered, usually in just one way, the exchange of the kikashi and the answer being useful in some way to the player of the kikashi. The terms kikashi and sente may seem to have the same meaning, but kikashi is applied to moves which are more or less incidental to the main flow of play. Once played, kikashi stones can typically be abandoned without any great loss.

Rob van Zeijst in his column The Magic of Go: For an amateur, it is often hard to determine whether a move is a kikashi or a waste of potential. The average player will decide that a move is a kikashi if it is answered, as this will indicate that he has kept sente (initiative). There is no simple description for a kikashi. If in doubt, follow this rule of the thumb: A kikashi has outside significance while the answer to it usually has no or little value.

From How to Sacrifice Stones by Sakata, in the Sakata no Go series, vol. 5, p. 1: Sente is certainly a condition of kikashi, but it is not the case that every play that is sente is also kikashi. If we compare the value of my play to the value of the opponent's response, only when my play does more work does it become kikashi. Accordingly, the value of kikashi, unlike that of plays in other situations, cannot be reckoned as so many points. On the one hand, the work done may be worth a mere fraction of a single point; on the other hand, a kikashi stone may later come to play a decisive role in winning or losing the game. In any event it is a subtle matter.

We professionals exercise a good deal of sensitivity in regard to kikashi. Often in game post mortems the question of whether a certain play is really kikashi or not becomes the subject of debate.[1]

See also

[1] Sakata was known for playing kikashi early. On the contrary, Takagawa played kikashi late, and sometimes not at all. Games between these two are quite interesting in that regard.

[2] The essay is now quite outdated, and I may return to write a second, shorter one sooner or later. Kikashi can be translated quite compactly and losslessly into "good exchange", whereas kiki stands for "forcing". -Antti Tormanen

Kikashi last edited by hnishy on March 6, 2023 - 06:15
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