This article is about the strategic concept. For the software by the same name, see Sabaki software.
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Example 1: Sabaki
Example 2: Clumsy
Sabaki is a Japanese go term and English loanword that is most commonly defined as the settling of a weak group inside an opponent's area by means of light and flexible play. Since means of creating light and flexible play include a wide range of techniques and concepts (such as sacrifice, shinogi and shape) the term has often been defined in a broader context.
This sequence by White started with the sacrifice cut at is an example of sabaki play. White may then continue at a, treating the other stones lightly. Threatening ko with is also notable as White can afford to lose a ko here, but Black can not. Ko techniques are one of many techniques that can be used for creating sabaki.
For another way for White to play here, see light play example 4.
If White just plays ordinary moves such as and here, the feeling is clumsy and the result a heavy group.
It helps that in the Example 2 Black stretched with , but in Example 1 Black captured instead (to where White would play ).
See sabaki examples for more examples.
Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki: [...] the art of handling stones that are in dangerous situations.
While sabaki involves making light shapes and occasionally settling groups through shinogi, it doesn't exactly equate to either of these. For example, the process of sabaki could involve other aims, such as reducing in sente by means of sacrifice(s) or tempting the opponent into a disadvantageous large-scale fight. The local objective may only be a means to a global (larger) strategic objective. As such, the exact rendering of sabaki can vary depending on the context and, as a result, has seen broader attempts at defining.
Broad definitions of sabaki are more like the following:
- skillful process of successfully handling an awkward situation
- sidestepping the attack (see: dodge)
- techniques that are the opposite of clumsy play
Though sabaki does not refer to shape; rather, it is a way of playing, it is often used to avoid heavy shape. A group that ends up as heavy has failed to make sabaki. To avoid a heavy group, one can kind of reposition , step aside, with a light move that aims to utilize a coming attack for the (quick) development of stones, i.e. use forcing moves before playing a vital point. This often involves a sacrifice which serves to force the opponent to go around capturing before he can resume to attack. Meanwhile, one makes sabaki by building outside thickness or a formation where eyes can be attained. The opponent may not like the result and play different, in which case one can then be satisfied with the indirect defense of a weakness and better follow up moves for making good shape.
In Japanese dictionaries, sabaki is translated as handling, treatment, management, and disposal; manipulation. In ordinary parlance, sabaki means handling or treatment. Going to court, for instance, often requires sabaki to ensure a good result.
The term is used in Kendo (the art of swordplay), where it means fancy footwork. In Judo and Jujutsu, tai sabaki (usually translated as body movement) is used to describe the various pivots and movements of the body to defend against an attack or to off-balance your opponent. In other words, those body movements that put you in a good position (or your opponent in a bad one). Lightness is implied in the Judo context.
- Sabaki examples
- Staircase sabaki technique
- Diagonal attachment knight's move angle play sabaki technique
- Attachment on the second line
- The driving tesuji and its sabaki application as a threat in flying off orthogonally.
 First printing, p. XIII. An almost identical sentence can be found in Go World 83, published autumn 1998: [...] make good shape, rich in eye potential, so that your stones, if attacked, can easily make eyes or escape. (p. 55)
 p. 4
 Fifth printing, p. 40
 p. VI
 Strategic Concepts of Go, fifth printing, p. 40: Please note that sabaki does not refer to shape; rather, it is a way of playing. However, the idea of shape is often related to the method of sabaki. Sabaki is often used to avoid omoi katachi (heavy shape).
 Repositioning is an important aspect of sabaki. In go this is not different. Instead of moving against the attack with something like solid defense, one moves out of the line of attack, welcoming the attack, for the direction in which the attack is geared, can now be absorbed into our own movement, will give it momentum, so that it not only makes the attack ineffective, it is also used to our own advantage.
 Strategic Concepts of Go, fifth printing, p. 45: [...] sabaki consists of two steps: first, kikashi moves and then the moves which occupy vital points. The kikashi moves usually turn out to be blocking moves in that the opponent must, in a sense, go around them in order to attack the main body of stones. Sabaki, How to Manage Weak Stones, p. 20: Don't take a gote move unless you see a nice picture. Use forcing moves to make sabaki. If necessary, play to generate forcing moves.