tapir / Stages of Attack

Sub-page of Tapir

AIM: don't use the words aji, thickness, influence, use lots of examples from takagawa kaku games :)

The author is a European 1 dan player, so in no way an authority on good play, yet he always felt lost in the plethora of advice on attacking. Far too often an advice could be countered be the very opposite advice and both rung true. The following is an attempt to bring some structure into the pages on attacking in Sensei's Library and his thinking about attacking at the same time.

An attack proceeds in stages, with different stages requiring different kind of moves. The attributes of a good move change from stage to stage and a lot of confusion arises when a move appropriate for another stage is played at another stage.

The most important point: Go is a game of two players. Usually an attack (at least when answered) does not progress through the stages. A successful attack should bring benefits at each stage, an attack that only profits when it successfully concludes stage 5 by killing the group is usually ill-advised.

The stages are five, 1) limiting, 2) sealing in, 3) harassing, 4) threatening and 5) killing.


The first stage of an attack is hard to pinpoint, limiting is a rather general term and accordingly it includes many different maneuvres. Typical limiting maneuvres can reduce the path to the center / a friendly group or take away opportunities to extend the base on the side.

Good examples are checking extensions or capping moves. This is the stage advice such as "attack from afar?" is referring to.

Classical attacking maneuvres such as leaning attacks or splitting attacks happen here, a leaning attack typically is a way to limit a group by taking away an escape route in sente, while a splitting attack limits two groups simultaneously.

Sealing in

If a group already is severely limited the opportunity to seal it in may arise. This is the second stage, because sealing a group that is otherwise not limited, i.e. when it can live conveniently along the side without further opportunity for profit may do little good. That is, a move of this stage should be played after the play progressed through the first stage.

Both limiting and sealing in are spatial terms, thus with the progression of the game all groups are increasingly limited and finally sealed in. This offers more opportunities for the attacking moves of the following stages in mid- and endgame.




tons of sente moves


when even the answer wasn't enough

John F. Some suggestions. (1) You omit an essential stage before the first stage which is defence. You need to ensure your own weaknesses are plugged before you attack. (2) If you can't decide on the first stage of an attack that sound to me like trying to pin the tail on the donkey blindfold. Surely the real first stage is to decide whether an attack is possible, what the target is and what the expected gain will be. Once you know that, you can decide easily on how attack. (3) I don't think ijime belongs in this paradigm. It is more local than global.

tapir: Thank you for your comment. The page may well be too large and too small at the same time, which reflects that I came up with it when contemplating one of the SL riddles, i.e. the existence of contradictory advice in this case stay close enough and don't get too close (due to a remove request). I am annoyed by the antinomist tendency to add a contradictory statement to every page, advice there is, it is a good starter for conversation or a good riddle in a monastery, but at a certain point I want to learn from the Sensei in Sensei's Library and not be troubled with this anymore.

Your points 1 and 2 feel about right, I don't understand your point about Ijime. Aren't all the other stages more local as well? At least that is what I had in mind, e.g. a capping play (limiting), a tesuji to enclose a certain formation, a bunch of second line moves I can play out in sente, the deadly hane for the kill.

Currently, I am deeply embarassed by the horrible games I played recently, falling apart from at times comfortable positions by lack of reading. I will continue at a later date, when I am not necessarily better but at least more content.

tapir / Stages of Attack last edited by tapir on December 7, 2013 - 16:22
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