Let the Enemy Off in order to Snare Him

  Difficulty: Advanced   Keywords: MiddleGame, Strategy, Proverb

Part of Secret Art of War

Careful delay in attack will bring destruction to the enemy.

This stratagem tells us not to make an all-out attack on the opponent, when the situation does not heavily favour us. Of course, the question arises: why, for example, not kill a group if one is able to do so?

Several points come to mind:

  • If you kill the group you are now burdened with keeping the group dead. Your opponent may gain many ko-threats or threats from the outside that may help them build thickness.
  • If you don't immediately kill the group, but keep it weak, your opponent has to take into account that you might eventually capture it. It may even be possible that the group dies a "natural" death after all its escape routes are blocked.
  • If your opponent tries to save the group, it becomes larger. Thus it becomes increasingly difficult (or even impossible) to sacrifice the group later on.
  • If you don't kill immediately it is you who has a lot of ko threats for other fights. This may prove to be a deciding factor for winning a game. (How can you use a killing move as a ko threat if the oppenents resistance is by definition futile?)

In short, it's better to create a weak group (and keep it weak) that can be used to gain important points somewhere else on the board, than to make a (small?) capture that leaves a lot of aji behind.

-- Arno Hollosi

If the opponent has a weak group you can chase them building territory as you play. When you run out of ways to make territory by chasing, you can work on cutting off escape routes, which will strengthen your position. If you should be lucky enough to accomplish all that and find that the group is in danger of not having two eyes, then you will be in a good position to kill it. By delaying killing, you have a better chance of winning the game even if the group ends up living.

Jasonred - Does this have anything to do with tenuki, by the way? I mean, logically, this situation should only apply if we have NOTHING BETTER TO DO... or should it? Should we delibarately make some pointless or unimportant moves (filling in dame and such) when we could kill a group? Or are we talking about even sneakier stuff here, like, not killing a group when it looks like a shaky victory, but instead playing nearby... which was a two pronged move, as it was not only to reinforce that position, but to strengthen the attack on the flank?

kiko - Surely you should not play dame when you can kill a group. Most discussions on Sensei's are about proper play not sneaky techniques. And I don't think this strategem is talking just about dual-purpose moves. My reading of the strategem is that it is better to keep your opponent's groups weak than to try and kill them completely. I don't understand why you say this only applies when there is "nothing better to do". It applies at all times -- weak groups have significant disadvantages (they provide sente moves for the opponent), whereas dead groups have advantages (they provide ko threats). Tenuki is a local concept -- it applies to local fights (tactics) and not to attack. Amateurs often confuse attack with tactical fights. They are not the same thing.

If you have examples from games insert them here.

Let the Enemy Off in order to Snare Him last edited by on August 27, 2005 - 04:26
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