Kokiri/introduction to the 3-3 invasion

Sub-page of Kokiri

Basic Concepts of 3-3 invasion

The information on this page is meant to be introductory in nature. Stronger kyu and dan players are advised to look at 4-4 point 3-3 invasion joseki instead.

3-3 invasion って何?(introduction)

The 3-3 point invasion  

The classic 3-3 invasion is where one player takes the 3-3 point underneath their opponent's star-point stone, as in W1 in the diagram below.

Beginners encounter this situation a lot due to the number of handicap games they play, but the star-point is much more common also in modern go than the classical style (i.e. pre-shin-fuseki).

Invasions such as this represent an exchange of territory for outside strength. The important questions here about timing & direction seek to find the answer to the question of which is worth more, the territory white gains (along with potential black territory eliminated) or the outside force that Black develops.

This page looks at the ideas behind the invasion for both black and white, before a summary of the standard sequences that result.

Black's point of view

In high handicap games, black often sees his 'territory' destroyed by a direct white invasion, such as at the 3-3 point. Nevertheless, Black should often welcome this development. Black shouldn't see this move as an attack on his territory; the 4-4 point is not meant to take the corner with a single move, but to make thickness and seek a balance between territory and influence. The white invasion stone is separated from the rest of the board by the black stone on the 4-4 point. By playing correctly Black will get a strong position and early in the game, the thickness black develops is more valuable than white's territory.

These two points outline the key strategic decisions that need to be made with an invasion at the 3-3 point. In summary, if White can invade and live, then white is going to gain some small territory in the corner and black is going to build a wall which is hopefully thick and which will outweigh the value of white's tiny life.

Some points for Black to consider:

  • Don't be afraid to let white live; sometimes an invasion is unreasonable, and can and should be killed, but often Black can allow white's invasion to live, and still come off better.
  • Do try to seal White into the corner (or side); preventing white from access to the middle limits the influence that the group can have on the rest of the board.
  • Try to Block on the wider side; try to build strength in a direction that maximises its usefulness

White's point of view

White's perspective is the reverse of Black's. The key concern for white is the value of the thickness that Black will build in response to the invasion. This is a question of timing; invade too soon and Black's thickness will overwhelm the whole board, wait too long and the invasion will be prevented. One rule of thumb is:

  • Seek to invade the move before black would protect the area. i.e. White should invade at the 3-3 at the last possible minute, meaning that Black's thickness is developed as late in the game as possible, limiting its usefulness.


This is all too much chat and too few stones on the board. Let's take a look at an example:


This example comes from a game between GoSeiGen and KatoShin in the 1940 Oteai.

With white to play, Black has built what looks like a fairly thick group in the centre, at the expense of some corner territory. Black has a big moyo on the right, and whilst white has a moyo on the top and left, it's smaller than Black's so the time has probably come to do something about black's moyo.

An invasion around one of the points marked a would be likely to undergo a severe attack as black has ready made pincers.

When White invades, black has to decide on which side to block. Block on the wider side says the proverb, but which side is wider? There are two clues here. First, of the two marked Black stones, the one up the right hand side is one stone further from the corner than the one on the bottom. Second, the marked White stones will allow White to undercut black's position on the bottom, reducing any potential territory there severely. Therefore Black plays B2, to block the right hand (wider) side.

Moves 34 to 43  

This is how the game continues. After Black blocks, White plays along the edge at W1, W3 and W5 whilst Black keeps the group low with B2, B4 and B6. The sequnece ends with White bending around the bottom, and black making shape at B10. White takes Sente to play elsewhere.

As can be seen, white has taken some territory in the corner, but black managed to make thickness which is well placed with regard to the other black stones on the right. Shin used his sente to play at a, expanding white's moyo at the expense of Black's and went on to win by resignation

3-3 Invasion Joseki

The way that the invasion was played out in the example above used to be the old standard, before AI bots discovered a better line for white in the late 2010s. This line is now called the two-stone wall variation.

The Old Standard Variation  
The Two-stone Wall Variation  

The modern way of playing the 2-stone wall variation begins as follows: to white+circle Black answers with black+circle, checking first that he is blocking on the wider side.

W1 is the natural move to begin to build life for the corner group,

B2 prevents white from making progress out into the centre. Note though that it leaves a cut behind at a. To Tenuki here would be a disaster for black.

White plays at W3 to avoid Black playing at the same point, shutting him into the corner and black replies again with B4. This is the basic continuation, although the severe double hane of B4 at 5 is playable.

W5: Usually crawling along the 2nd line is bad, but W5 is important to prevent Black turning here in sente.

B6: again Black answers. Black has successfully kept White to the side, whilst building a wall facing outwards.

W7: Historically, white would play at a, allowing black to form a tiger's mouth on the outside after black at b, white at c, and black at d. However, that exchange is now regarded as better for black. Instead, nowadays white would simply extend again to make sure that white's corner is living.

B8: Again black answers. Black has built a wall on the outside, however, it is still weak and has no eye shape, and if white has extra stones on the top side of the board, white could attack the black wall at e.

White has Sente to play elsewhere.

The Three-stone Wall Variation  

Since black no longer gets thick influence in the two-stone wall variation, black usually foregoes playing the hane at W3 in the diagram to the left and instead plays at B2, allowing white to extend at W3 before playing the hane at B4. Play continues, following the same logic as the two-stone wall variation, ending in the displayed position.

While black has allowed white an extra point in the corner, in exchange, black's wall is much stronger with three stones instead of two, and a white attack at a no longer threatens black's wall.

This is the modern joseki for both sides if black is looking to build influence and white is looking to take corner territory and sente.

The Modern Joseki  

However, white still has sente in the three-stone wall variation, and in modern go, sente is very important, and thus black has moved on to other variations that allow black to take sente. In particular, instead of playing B6 in the above diagram, black usually takes sente there and tenukis, resulting in this following position to the left. This is the modern standard joseki for the 3-3 invasion.

Further Considerations

Yesterday i was having a comversation with a beginner, and he said "stronger players' advice always seems to boil down the phrase 'it depends'." Well, of course subtly different situations sometimes need to be handled in completely different ways, but this is one of the beauties of Baduk. Whilst the sequence given above is a useful template consider, the suitability of the 3-3 invasion is highly dependent on the number and location of neighbouring stones. In certain situations the invasion may require a different sequence, or may result in ko.


Here is an example. The invasion behind black's large knight enclosure is still playable.


B1, W2, B3, W4 are all the same as before, but because of black+circle, B5 can be played more aggressively than at a


W1: white takes the atari,

W3: then plays the Hane.

B4, W5, B6, are all standard, but then White needs to go back to play W7, making the group alive.

B8: this protects the group by limiting the W1 stone.

Thus White has invaded the corner successfully but because it was stronger than before, Black has made the corner smaller.

There are other pages con sidering the 3-3 invasion under different local conditions, for example:

There is more detail at 4-4 point 3-3 invasion joseki and the following pages:


Kokiri/introduction to the 3-3 invasion last edited by Dieter on April 6, 2023 - 13:26
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