The meaning of a pass

    Keywords: Rules

What is the meaning of a pass?

This is a question of interpretation, and so this page is a discussion page. As such, it may become somewhat messy and amorphous. It is not a page for pronouncements from on high. Please sign your contributions and give your opinions.


Bill: One curious aspect of the 10,000 year ko rules dispute was the uncertainty over ending play. Was Black required to fill the ko? The Japanese pros had no single word for pass, and talked about relinquishing the right to play instead. But was it simply a right, or was there an obligation to play (at least, in some circumstances). In a more recent rules problem[1] a question for the referee to resolve was whether a player had relinquished his right to play. (The Japanese rules did not specify how to do that.) Western rules and Ing rules explicitly talk about passing, and define ending play in terms of passes. (Japanese rules also allow a player to say pass, by which he relinquishes the right to play.)

On one level, a pass means what it does. At his turn a player does not make a play on the board. Pragmatics justifies the assumption that if he thought that he had a better play, he would have made it. So an additional meaning of a pass is, "I do not see a play that is better than passing."

Sometimes a pass is treated as meaning, "I want to end play." Under rules that end play by passing, that is a reasonable assumption. However, if the passer is under a ko or superko ban, then he may not actually want to end play, he might want to take the ko or play in the superko. This assumption may be used to justify rules ending play by consecutive passes, but that sweeps the problem of ending play when one player would like to continue playing under the rug by denying that that is the case.

[1] Bill: I meant the 2002 problem in the Kisei game between O Rissei and Ryu Shikun. I thought we had a page on that here on SL, but I cannot find it. Does anybody know? Anyway, if we do not have a page on it, shouldn't we?

unkx80: The O Rissei and Ryu Shuken game is probably not on SL, but some other examples exist at rules disputes. The Go Seigen examples come to my mind.

Fwiffo: Should there simply be two kinds of passes? Players could "pass as ko threat" which lifts the ko ban, but does not end play, and a regular pass, which ends play (assuming the other player passes and whatever other conditions for end of play under the ruleset are met). Or does that create other anomalies?

Herman: Rather than "I want play to end", I'd say that pass means: "I do not think there are any legal moves for me, at this point, which can either increase my score or decrease that of my opponent".


  • "To avoid pass-fights."
  • "To avoid having to convey strategic information to the opponent."
  • "To standardize the turns without board-plays."
  • "To express formally 'Currently I do not want to make the next board-play.'."
  • "To maintain the rule principle of alternation while enabling a player to dissolve a ko later in that currently he is prohibited to play."
  • "To maintain the rule principle of alternation by enabling a player to make a move during his turn even if each available board-play is prohibited for him."
  • "To have a means with that to define the procedural moment of the end of alternation."
  • "To create standardized game ending phase changes in rulesets with a non-trivial procedure."
  • "To make the rules unnecessarily complicated by introducing several move types of passing."

srn347: What about passing in the fuseki against someone who refuses to take a handicap?

MrMormon: Then the weaker player passes his/her second turn, thus winning the game with tesuji. :P

The meaning of a pass last edited by Dieter on October 23, 2023 - 11:21
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