Order of play

  Difficulty: Advanced   Keywords: Tactics, Go term

Chinese: 次序 (ci4 xu4) 手顺 (shou3 shun4) 顺序 (shun4 xu4)
Japanese: 手順 (tejun)
Korean: -

The order of play as a go term refers to the order in which plays are made (in a game position, or perhaps a problem or variation).

If for example Black can play at A, which should be answered by White B, or at C which will be answered by White D, and the plays A and C are largely 'independent', then we can say there is an order of play question for Black, first at A or first at C? This will matter, perhaps, because after the A/B exchange White could answer Black C in some other way. Or in other words the order of play matters, because the verdict of a closer analysis is that plays are not as independent as might appear.

Typically, the question of the order of play comes up when a player faces the question of which vital point to play in a local skirmish. Often it does not matter which to play first, but also often it does.

This topic may be discussed from a number of general points of view, such as sente and gote relationships, timing, aji and aji keshi, and so on. There are also many subtle points special to particular areas. In books on joseki it is frequently pointed out that small differences in the order of joseki plays have important consequences.

To become reasonably strong at go one should try to be sensitive to these points.

Questions about order of play can be treated as part of a more complex discussion (involving timing and omission of plays).


Endgame example

Here is a conventional example on endgame plays:

Which hane to play first  

In this case, Black p is better than starting with Black q.

Which hane, wrong order  

If Black starts with q and plays p later, white does not have to defend after B7, because W4 is sufficient to defend against the cut at a

Which hane, right order  

Starting with p black gets a better result, because white has to defend at W8. White makes one point less territory than in the previous sequence, and black gets sente.

Which hane, possible tesuji?  

If white tries to be smart by defending at W1 after Black's connect, black will cut. Clever sequence B6 and B8 captures the white stones.

Joseki Example

Order of play in the Onadare joseki  

The sequence up to W10 is the Onadare (Large Avalanche) joseki. At this point, black has several options. One of them is the move at a, discussed in depth at Large Avalanche - Turn Inward.

After black plays a, there are important order of play issues.

Order of play in the Onadare joseki  

Order of play issues:

  • After B1, white must first play W2 and not W4. If white plays W4, black plays B5, reverting to a different joseki, Large Avalanche - Turn Outward, but with the B1-W4 exchange giving black two extra points.
  • After B3, white must first play W4 and not W6. If white plays W6, black will respond at a and the resulting sequence will allow white to live just barely while giving black enormous influence.

In both these cases, if white gets the order of play wrong, he will make a loss compared to the correct order. See Large Avalanche - Turn Inward for more in depth treatment.

See also


An amateur was showing a game of his to Lin Haifeng (Rin Kaiho) and said as an excuse for a mistaken line of play, "Well, I only got the order of play wrong."

Lin replied, "Go is the order of play."

Guo Juan 5p also said something similar ("Go is in the order of moves.")

Order of play last edited by hnishy on December 24, 2022 - 05:19
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