MAsterdam / Playing Guide

Sub-page of MAsterdam

The goal at any moment in a go game is easy: find the biggest move and play it.[1] That is not much help though. (See for example greedy go.)

A helpful ordered list of goals should be a little longer and be an aid in what to look for when facing the usual dilemmas.

Which opportunities are there on the board? What kind of threats? What can the stones do for you? These change in the game and are different in different games. Your priorities change and depend on situations and different types of games.

Nowhere can these lists be absolute. There will be counterexamples for most if not all orders of importance. Blindly following these heuristics is a sure road to loss. Furthermore, preventing your opponent from doing something Ooba (big) or Kyuuba (urgent) is potentially as effective as playing such a move yourself.

The priority of what to look for, and where to look, both change as the game proceeds. Addressing a combination of goals into one move makes for strong moves.

Table of contents

The beginning of the game: Fuseki

During the first moves the central theme is the division of claims to territory (immediate, local profit) and influence (potential, nonlocal profit). Strictly territory-wise both players usually try to grab the cheapest (maximum points per stone) spots first.

  1. Corners: enclosure, division (kakari) and extension (hiraki).
  2. Side (gradually: extensions from the corner, and suddenly: invasions and making a base).
  3. Center.

See corners then sides then center.

However, negotiation-like exchanges happen, where

  • one side may claim territory in one area and the other side somewhere else
  • one side may claim territory while and the other builds thickness
  • the board may immediately get messy

What exactly to give priority is not strictly a technical matter, it is largely a matter of playing style[2].

In order to prioritize one should be able to assign comparable values to territory and thickness. The value of thickness itself should be somewhere between the deadweight value of thickness and the potential value.

Most of the standard pattern?s of these exchanges are in the opening of the game. These Joseki, sequences of best moves for both sides, have been studied by many generations of players.


Priority of extensions, according to in the beginning:

  1. Make a base for lonely stones, extend from the weaker stone
  2. Extend from corners (extending from an enclosure)
  3. Other extensions

As soon as there are a few stones on the board

  • this list gets complicated by (the possibillity of) pincers. What takes priority? Should you extend, pincer, get out of the pincer into the center?
  • Secondly new goals arise:
  1. Make your groups work together (and prevent ...), see also Joseki context
  2. Make good eye-shape
  3. Get ahead - push
  4. influence in the center

The first non-joseki fight marks the end of the opening.

The middle game: Chuban

Where there are black and white stones in each others' vicinity potential territorial borders appear. Territories and frameworks come into existence with two insides: your opponent's and yours, and an outside - the rest of the board.

Underneath the pushing there is always (as always double, yours and your opponent's) the consideration of life and death. Can I make life here? Kill or prevent life there?

Eye space

The question of eye space breaks down to several goals:

For your weak groups, you should:


The second and third goals are another way of saying "Dont let your groups become surrounded" and generate a new overall goal: achieve and destroy connectivity.

Cutting and connecting

For your strong groups (thickness):

  1. support weak groups
  2. extend influence
  3. make potential territory bigger
  4. realize territory from potential

For your opponent's group:

  1. kill it (NB: not the ultimate goal, but a nice bonus/threat)
  2. isolate it
  3. limit its eye-space
  4. limit its destruction of your potential
  5. keep an eye on ko-threats
  6. remove or diminish aji

The endgame: Shuban

When stabilizing the border becomes the main task the endgame has started. The type of move that does this (Yose moves), can occur early in the middlegame.

    1. Keep / get sente
    2. Know the size of plays. See Endgame reckoner and miai values list.


There are some Go proverbs that deal with priorities

See also

[1] Besides, it's wrong. See Tedomari, for instance. -- Bill Spight

  1. Could you give some more examples?
  2. Maybe I just get it wrong. To me it seems Tedomari does affect the size of the originally planned move - so why is the statement wrong ? -- mAsterdam

Bill: No, tedomari does not affect the size of a play. It is a global feature.

[2] There is a page on that subject but it really needs editing by a sensei.

MAsterdam / Playing Guide last edited by Dieter on December 1, 2011 - 14:39
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