Approach Ko

  Difficulty: Beginner   Keywords: Ko, Go term

Chinese: 缓气劫 (huǎn q ji)
Japanese: ヨセコウ (yose-kō)[1]
Korean: 늘어진 패(neureojin pae)

A ko is called an approach ko if a player must make one or more approach moves in order to convert it into a direct ko; to win the approaching side must therefore ignore two or more ko threats.

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Approach ko


Approach ko  

Black and White are involved in a ko fight at black+circlea. Black to play can end the ko and win the fight by capturing seven white stones, possibly ignoring a ko threat to do so. White, on the other hand, can not end it immediately. First she will have to fill a liberty at b (or c, but b is better), possibly ignoring a ko threat. The ko is now a regular, direct ko. Thus, White may have to ignore two threats to capture the four black stones.[3]


The example above is a one-move approach ko, simply, an approach ko. Going on, if Black had even more liberties we could also get a two-move approach ko, a three-move approach ko, and so on.

It is important to distinguish this type of ko from a ten-thousand-year ko, which also involves a kind of approach move.

The exact phrases for the terms are not agreed upon.[2] The following occur: "indirect ko with one approach move", "one-move approach ko", "one-step approach ko", "one-move approach move ko", "one-step approach move ko". Also see the links for yet further variation. (Note: In SL the "step" terminology is deprecated: see Two-step Ko - Two-stage Ko - Discussion.)


Having to make extra moves means one must ignore two or more ko threats in order to win the fight, making it roughly twice as expensive; the details depend on the value of the threats and on whether finishing the ko is sente or gote. It also means that one must find more threats while ones opponent gets to retake the ko without a threat.

Ones chances of winning a ko of course diminish the more opposing threats one must ignore and the more threats one must oneself find.[4] A two-move approach ko can be considered a reasonable fight, but as the saying goes,

A three-move approach ko is no ko.

The count of an approach ko depends on the ko threat situation. (More on this kind of position at hyperactive.)

See also


[1] The Japanese term for it is yose-ko; here yose indicates approach, not endgame.

[2] Robert Pauli: Instead of talking about a two-move approach ko, which does not say who has an advantage, I prefer to talk about a ko where, say, White owes two approaches. E.g. rather than "White will have to play at b" I would say "White owes an approach at b".

Contemplating about how to convince Robert Jasiek not to glue qualifiers to nouns (X-ko), I developed a new terminology:
If they fight a needs-one ko she owes the move, and he runs out of ko threats while she possesses exactly one, he'd be glad to find a needs-one ko threat.
However, then I discovered that "needs-one ko" is ambiguous, it could (at least) mean

  • an indirect ko that needs one move to become direct, or
  • a potential ko that needs one move to become real.

[3] Robert Pauli: Well, you could as well say that Black has a ko threat for free . . . wrong. A free move enabled by a to-be-done approach gains points, a free threat does not, it only allows the retake.

[4] Robert Pauli: She might simply lose too much, as explained in the footnote above.

Approach Ko last edited by hnishy on November 1, 2022 - 00:31
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