Two liberties

Difficulty: Introductory   Keywords: Tactics

Anonymous: In my games, I've noticed that nearly as important as atari is when a group has just two liberties. What kind of liberties they are determines whether they're safe.

When a group has just two liberties, unless both are eyes, it is one move away from being in Atari. In all of the below discussion, I assume that the groups don't have two eyes.

Make sure that your group can be saved, even if either liberty is taken.

Basic Example

Can Black save this group?

This group has two liberties, a in the northwest and b in the south.

Attack from northwest

Black can defend an attack from the northwest...

Attack from south

... but not from the south. The black stones die, because if Black tries to escape with , White can capture with .

More Examples

Three examples are inspired by my own games:

The stones are dead. My kosumi was half-cut by the stone, and cut by . If White responds at a, Black will capture at b.

After , the white stones are dead. If White plays at a, Black will capture at b. (See shunt.)

Is a a good move?

W moves at . What happens if Black moves at a?

Black dies

Black loses eight pieces, because he lacks liberties.

What is this called? --Anonymous

This state is generally called Shortage of Liberties for which the Japanese word is damezumari which supposedly translates to something like "short of breath". Plays like are popular endgame tesujis that spell ruin for players under 17k. --Patrick Taylor

Patrick Taylor: Thanks to the presence of , capturing at can't save the trapped black stones. If , black should just connect at instead of descending.

Watch your Liberties! - Part 2

Patrick Taylor: After , the marked black stones are caught in oiotoshi and so cannot connect at a to escape atari. If , white can capture at a. If Black plays b, White at c starts the ladder/net along the first line.

Many situations are related to having just two liberties.

In a ladder, an attacker repeatedly reduces a group of stones from two liberties to one liberty.

corner

A simple net keeps the number of liberties to two or less.

White has two liberties. If white moves to either a position, black will reduce white's liberties by moving to the nearest b position.

Double atari

corner

A double atari can occur when two groups with just two liberties share a liberty that's not an eye.

sh: Note that in this situation the defender can choose which of the two groups in atari to save. You can also atari at a or b and capture any of the two groups by oiotoshi.

Ko threats

Ko threat

Every group with just two liberties (not both eyes) can be used as a ko threat.

Auto-atari

Auto-atari, part 1

Auto-atari can only happen when your group had two liberties, you move into one liberty, and you gain no more liberties. In this diagram, I chased after , only to discover...

Auto-atari, part 2

... that I hadn't counted my liberties.

Same shape, different order.

A snapback is a specific kind of auto-atari.