Japanese Counting Example

  Difficulty: Intermediate   Keywords: Rules

Here is an example, step by step, of Japanese counting.

The position is taken from the page example game.

End of the game  

Prior to counting: Note the territories

  • White has two live groups, top left and bottom edge.
  • Black has two live groups, bottom left and right side.
  • White has two dead stones on the right.
  • White has captured one black stone during the game.
  • Black has three dead stones on the top left.
  • Black has captured two white stones during the game.

Strictly speaking, status and territory assessment and removal of dead stones don't actually belong to counting but to scoring.

Dead stones removed  

Prior to counting: Remove the dead stones

The dead stones are removed and placed with any prisoners captured during the game (in the lid of the stone-bowl). The points where the dead stones were are marked with circles in the diagram.

  • Black now has four white stone prisoners.
  • White now has four black stone prisoners.
Prisoners and dead stones filled-in  

Step 1: Fill prisoners and dead stones in

The prisoners and dead stones are now filled into the territories of the same color. Generally, the smaller areas are filled in. The filled in stones are marked with a circle.

Hint: Fill in small areas first.

Black rearranged  

Step 2: Rearrange areas

Three of Black's stones are moved from the top of his area to the bottom. This leaves a nice rectangular area, three by five. The moved stones are shown with squares where they used to be, and circles where they were moved to.

Rearranging areas makes counting easier.

White rearranged  

Two of White's stones are moved similarly.

Step 3: Count

Black has one area: 3 x 5 = 15 points. Black's score is 15.

White has one area: 3 x 3 = 9 points. White's score is 9.

Black is the winner(if komi is not used). He won by 15 - 9 = 6 points.

Note: Komi is usually added at the end of this step.

Counting in tens and twenties

I've played many, many games on-line (where scoring is trivial) but only a couple dozen or so in person. After playing a game in person, I'm often amazed at my opponent's quick re-arrangement of the stones and rapid tallying of the score. I'm sometimes afraid to touch the stones after the game ends for fear of confusing things. (Seems rude to me not to help out, but I'd rather be rude than mess up the scoring.)

I wonder if anyone can comment on a technique that my Japanese and Korean friends seem to use to simplify the actual counting.

I'm figuring this out as I compose this, but they appear to arrange the stones to form areas of 10 or 20 points of territory. They use two stones to indicate 10 points and 4 stones to indicate 20 points. The confusing thing is that they use stones already on the board, so a 10 point territory is actually 2x6 with two stones in the middle (and a 20 point territory is 4x6 with four stones in the middle).

19x19 diagram  

So at a glance you can tell the score in this is example is white: 65, black: 50.

One subtlety is that sometimes they get a little sloppy moving the stones around so that the other player's stones are sometimes used to form the borders (like the indicated stones on the left). The colors of the 2 or 4 stones in the center of the open areas indicates the owner of the territory.

Do I have this right?

-- RexWalters (wrex 12k on KGS)

Robert Pauli: I like that very much for its flexibility at the borders and its ease to perceive. However, I prefer 10 as 3×4 with two in the center. 3×7 with one inside also is handy.

Useful shapes for counting  

At the top left corner is the basic "10" shape, which is very easy to recognize. Below it white has two such shapes side by side to demonstrate it.

Upper right is 2 x 10. Such an area is easy to construct on the side, as you know the star point (marked) will be on the 10th row.

On the right side black has yet another easily recognizable shape of 20.

At the bottom the stones are in "multiples of 5" shapes. A big territory will often be easiest to count by arranging it to this kind of shape. Also, 2x5 sometimes fits where 3x4 wouldn't.

Also note that when there is a large lump of stones of the same color, and elsewhere on the board are some scattered small areas (of the same color, of course), you can make a 10 size hole in the lump to fill the scattered points.

There are also a couple of "tricks" to making counting easier:

  • always place the prisoners in hard-to-count areas first (typically small groups, or eyes within a long thin string of stones)
  • when filling in the dame points, take scoring into account
    • so is it correct to say you could take unplayed stones -- ie, stones from a bowl -- and place them in the dame, as this wouldn't change the scoring either way? -- geno
      • Correct.
Putting, arbitrarily, black stones on the dame points  
Even if we shift stones around to facilitate counting, the result is still black 6, white 5+komi  

or, of course, the ultimate solution:

  • always win by resignation :-)

-- Bass

Japanese Counting Example last edited by RobertPauli on January 7, 2019 - 13:14
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