Guidelines for Common Situations

These guidelines are intended to help teachers and parents who run events in the UK Go Challenge, in case they are asked to clarify the rules of Go or to adjudicate some particular position.

For the UK Go Challenge, we have provided Andreas Fecke's cartoon booklet Go - An Introduction both in printed form and on the BGA web site. This booklet is suitable for both children and adults, and we recommend all beginners to read it before considering these guidelines. Even if you already know Go, we recommend you to read this booklet before attempting to resolve queries in the UK Go Challenge, since you will then know what the children have read and will be able to explain your decisions in terms they will understand.


1. Help that may be given.

During games in which your children are competing for prizes, you obviously won't want to affect the outcome by giving advice suggesting good ways to play, but there are some kinds of advice that may be given if needed, especially for younger children and complete beginners. These include:

2. Overlooked Captures and Suicide

It is quite common in games between beginners to see stones that have no liberties but have not been removed from the board. This can arise from forgetting to remove stones when they are captured, or from an accidental violation of the suicide rule. This can result in strange situations, and you may be asked what to do. The principles are:

3. Mixed-up and Spilled Prisoners

Prisoners may occasionally get spilled, used as playing stones by the players at the next table, and other slips that prevent them from being accurately counted.

This situation is easily sorted out if you bear in mind that after each move played by White, both sides have played the same number of stones, and each stone played either is still on the board or has been captured and is a prisoner. Therefore the following procedure will give you a correct result:

First, have both players give back any prisoners they still have. Then, if it is White's turn, have him play his move. Then count all the stones on the board of each colour. If one side has X stones more than the other on the board, then he has also captured X prisoners more than the opponent, so have the opponent give him X prisoners.

This procedure also works after the game has ended. If White played last, do exactly the same thing. If Black played last, it means he has played one stone more than White in the game, so, when you count the stones on the board, subtract one from the count of Black stones.

4. Other requests for adjudication

If you are asked to adjudicate the life or death of stones at the end of a game, do not do so except in the cases of overlooked captures addressed above. In all other cases, have the players to reach their own conclusion by following the procedure for settling questions of life and death (section 6 of the rules), guiding them through the procedure if necessary.

One kind of position you are quite likely to be asked to explain is the one shown in this diagram of part of the lower edge of the board:






Consider the three marked white stones in this position. They are in an area entirely surrounded by black stones and there seems to be nothing to do to save them. Similarly, the four black stones are surrounded by white ones and seem to have the same problem. This kind of situation may easily confuse inexperienced players.

The truth will come out if the players are guided to resume play according to section 6 of the rules. Let's suppose it's Black to play first. He could play on one of the liberties of the white group, but if he does so, his own group will end up having only one liberty as well, and it will be White's turn, so it's Black who would end up being captured.

Therefore Black's best option is to pass, handing White a new prisoner. Now White finds himself in the same predicament as Black was in: any move he plays will lead to his capture. So White, too, needs to pass, handing a new prisoner to Black.

Now, we have a resumption in which both players have passed immediately, without making any board play, so the last provision of section 6 of the rules comes into operation. It declares that the stones are alive.

This is the correct outcome. The point at which the confusion arose was when the players thought "... there seems to be nothing to do to save them". The correct argument is that there is nothing that can be done to capture them - and that means they are alive.

Situations like this, where stones are mutually attacking each other but neither side has a way to capture the other, are called seki, and the stones involved are said to be alive in seki.


Back to UK Go Challenge Last update: 11th November 2004