Miai counting

  Difficulty: Intermediate   Keywords: EndGame, Theory

Chinese: -
Japanese: 見合い計算 (miai keisan)
Korean: -

Table of contents Table of diagrams
Example diagram (gote)
Black's play
White's play
Example diagram (sente)
White's play
Black's play


Miai Counting is a method to assess the value of a move in a particular position.[1] It assigns a count to the position, and a value to a play in the position. The value of the play is how much it gains, on average, if it is a gote or reverse sente, or how much the reverse sente would have gained, if it is a sente. It indicates the significance, importance, or degree of necessity of a play. We say that a play with a larger miai value than another play is the hotter play.[1]

In a position whose value does not depend upon ko threats, M, the miai value of a play, is given by:

M = S/T

where S, the swing, and T, the Local Tally difference, are found by comparing the count and Local Tally (1) when Black plays first, and (2) when White plays first

  • S is given by subtracting the count in situation (2) from that in situation (1).
  • T is found by subtracting the Local Tally in situation (2) from the Local Tally in situation (1). Here the Local Tally is (the number of stones Black played) - (the number of stones White played) in the position.

In a gote sequence of play, the first player plays an extra stone, while in a sente sequence of play, the players play the same number of stones. Hence, T=2 if the position is gote and T=1 if it is sente.

Example 1 - gote

Example diagram (gote)  

The swing, S, is 2 and the Local Tally difference, T, is 2:

Black's play  

Black's hane-connect gives a count of 3 points (8 for Black minus 5 for White) and a Local Tally of 1 (2 black stones - 1 white stone),

White's play  

and White's hane-connect gives a count of 1 point (7 for Black minus 6 for White) and a Local Tally of -1 (1 black stone - 2 white stones).

Therefore, the miai value M is equal to 2/2 = 1. Otherwise stated, each play gains 1 point.

The miai count of the initial position is (3+1)/2 = 2 (see Miai Counting With Trees for formulas for determining the miai count).

Example 2 - sente

Example diagram (sente)  

Here the count is 0. Each side has 5 points. (It will become clear why the two white stones are counted as captured already).

White's play  

W1 is sente, threatening to connect to the two white stones. (The move is sente, because the follow-up of it is bigger than the move itself. We don't bring in the possibility that White saves the stones, because this will typically occur only in ko situations. Otherwise, Black would have a play elsewhere that is bigger than capturing the stones, but then White would not have played here to start with. This reasoning depends upon the concept of temperature.)

Each player has made one play, for a tally of 0 plays, and the count remains the same. (This is what is meant by the proverb sente gains nothing.)

Black's play  

B1 is reverse sente, gaining 1 point. So the miai value is the swing (1), divided by the local tally difference (1), which equals 1/1 = 1.

We call the sente a 1 point play, too, because it becomes necessary for White to play it when the size of other plays (ambient temperature) nears 1 point, and Black threatens to play the reverse sente.


You can compare miai values directly. In general, you make the play with the largest miai value. Also, miai values add and subtract like ordinary numbers. Neither is true of deiri values.

Thus a 1 point sente, like the above example 2, and a 1 point gote by miai counting have the same urgency.


The Japanese amateur Ban'nai Jun'ei is credited with some of the development of miai counting.

More examples

See also

[1] Charles I think the development and discussion of the miai values list indicates clearly that miai values are attached first to positions, by means of pairs of sequences (best play for Black/best play for White).

[2] The example is not a full board, but part of a board. The stones framing the example are alive. That is a convention started in Mathematical Go, by Berlekamp and Wolfe.

Miai counting last edited by Malcolm on November 16, 2023 - 18:24
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