Example game

The example game shown here is played on a 9 by 9 board, and illustrates most of the rules in action. It is a game played between two professionals. Try to see how the players use the threat of capture to develop their positions. Notice also how they try to connect their own stones, and separate those of the opponent.

Most games of Go start fairly peacefully, with each player loosely mapping out territory in different parts of the board. In this example on a small board, Black plays first in the centre. On a full size board, play usually starts in the corners near the handicap points.

The numbers in the figures show the order in which the stones are played. In later figures, stones which have already been played are not numbered.
With 1 and 3 in Figure 1, Black exerts influence over the right side of the board; while with 2 and 4, White lays claim to the top left corner. With 5, Black aims to exclude White from the bottom half of the board. White leans against the lone Black stone with 6, reducing it to two liberties. With 7, Black strengthens the stone at 5 by extending to 7, and now this string has four liberties.

If Figure 2 seems somewhat alarming, you may find it easier to look back at Figure 1 and imagine adding the stones one at a time. Better still, play the game out on a board.

Figure 1 (1-7)
After the 8 - 9 exchange, White pushes towards the bottom with 10. Rather than defending the bottom left corner, Black changes direction with 11, and now tries to fence off the top right. Again White leans against the Black stone, and again Black strengthens this stone by extending to 13. White pushes into the gap with 14, and Black blocks at 15.

If Black succeeds in surrounding all of the area to the right and bottom of the board, Black will have more territory than White has in the top left. Accordingly, White cuts Black into two with 16, aiming to destroy the Black area at the bottom in the course of this attack. Note that the three Black stones to the left of 16 now have only two liberties.

Figure 2 (8-16)
Black must do something to avoid the imminent capture of the three stones cut off by White 16. In Figure 3, Black 17 and 19 are both threats to capture White, who flees in turn with 18 and 20 (can you see why 17 and 19 are threats?). With 21, Black has stabilised these strings, and White's three stones are trapped inside Black's sphere of influence.

The outcome of the game now hinges on the fate of these stones. If they die and White obtains no compensation, White will lose. If they live, or can be sacrificed in order to reduce Black's territory, White can still win the game.

Figure 3 (17-21)
White plays 22 in Figure 4 in an attempt to expand his position along the edge and to reduce the liberties of the Black stone at a. Black blocks at 23, preventing White from forming a living shape along the second line. With 24, White threatens to play at 25. Due to the presence of 22, this move would simultaneously threaten the capture of the Black stone at a, and of the two stones to the left of 25. Since either of these captures would save the White stones below, Black plays 25 himself, putting an end to any possibility of the White stones' escape.

Unable to escape, and with insufficient space to be able to form two eyes, White plays 26 on the outside. White's plan is to sacrifice the stones on the right and in the process to destroy Black's prospective territory at the bottom.

Figure 4 (22-26)
Figure 5 shows White's plan put into effect. Black really has no choice about 27. Black would like to defend the stone to the right of 26, but if White gets the chance to block at 27, Black's advantage in the fight will be lost. White's plays at 28 and 30 are a device to increase the value of the sacrifice; Black must play at 31 to prevent White from getting an eye by playing there.

With 32 and 34, White captures Black 21. Now Black must capture the sacrificial White stones with 35, 37 and 39, while White creeps along the bottom with 36 and 38. Note that a play to the right of 38 is White's privilege. It is not urgent since Black cannot play there. Can you see why?

Figure 5 (27-39)
With 39, the fight in this part of the board comes to an end. Although White has lost 7 stones, White has captured one of Black's and succeeded in destroying the bottom area. White has even made a couple of points of territory in the bottom left corner. Furthermore, it is still White's turn to play, so is free to take the initiative elsewhere: to expand White's own area or reduce Black's; to exploit Black's weaknesses or to patch up White's own.
Before looking at the next figure, try to decide for youself where it is most profitable for White to play.
If your guess for White's next move was somewhere near White 40 in Figure 6 you can congratulate yourself. This is where the boundary between White's territory and Black's is still most uncertain, and the first to play here will make the greatest gain. White 40 removes White's only weakness, the possibility of a Black cut at this point. It also prepares for White to slide into the top right and destroy prospective Black territory there.

With 41, Black blocks White's path, and 42 to 45 complete the boundary between the two territories here. The game is almost over. Can you see the best place for White to play next?

Figure 6 (40-45)
White 46 in Figure 7 pushes into the one remaining gap in Black's wall. 47 shuts White out, and 48 prevents the capture of 46. Strictly speaking the game is over at this point, since there is nowhere that either player can play to increase their own territory or decrease their opponent's. Black would like to play at 50, but if Black did so, the Black stones would have only one liberty, and White would capture them with a play to the right of 50.

Black 49 and 50 complete the formalities. After 49 and the removal of the 6 White stones, Black could play at 50. This would make the point to the right of 50 Black territory, so White plays at 50 to prevent a Black play there.

Figure 7 (46-50)
Similarly, the moves in Figure 8 make no difference to the score but are played to clarify the situation and make counting easier. It is not necessary for Black to complete the capture of the White stone at a - White admits that it is hopeless. There is no point in either player playing inside the other's territory. Territory is so called precisely because it is an area which is secure against invasion. Any stone the opponent played inside it would be killed. Neither player could hope either to form a living string inside, or to escape from, the other's territory. Neither can the players hope to kill any of the opponent's stones. All their stones - except White's hopeless stone - are effectively connected, forming living strings with at least two eyes. Black passes, handing a stone to White. White then passes, handing a stone to Black, and the game is over. Figure 8 (51-52)

The result of the game

At the end of the game, any hopeless strings are removed from the board. This results in the position shown in Figure 9.

There are 18 vacant intersections inside Black's territory, and Black has taken 8 prisoners altogether, including one when White passed, making a total of 26 points. White's total is only 21, made up of 19 points of territory and 2 prisoners including one when Black passed, so Black has won the game on the board by 5 points.

The process of counting is usually simplified as shown in Figures 10 and 11.

Figure 9 Hopeless strings removed

The result of the game

  1. Any neutral points, that is unoccupied points which lie between Black stones and White stones, are filled by either player. In this game there are no neutral points to fill.
  2. Each player puts the prisoners they've captured into their opponent's territory. This produces the position shown in Figure 10. The players' territories are reduced by one point for every stone they have had captured.
  3. The territories may be re-arranged to facilitate counting. This produces Figure 11, in which we see that Black has 16 points and White has 11 points.
Figure 10 Prisoners replaced

The scores in Figure 11 are the result of each player subtracting from the value of the opponent's territory the number of prisoners captured, rather than adding them to their own total; but the end result is the same: Black wins by 5 points. If komi were 7 points then White would win the game by 2 points.

Figure 11 Territories re-arranged
Now for
some problems.




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