Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
We have millions of friends around the world... and they all play go!

Blind Points of the Endgame

From Kidō, January-February 1983

Blind Points of the Endgame


By Rin Kaihō 9 dan

This is the start of a study of the endgame, and please do not take this as a joke, but let’s enjoy it as we go along.

The endgame is very important, but since it exists solely in the realm of mathematical calculation, one’s head begins to ache and the subject is then considered disagreeable. Therefore, in this examination the focus is not confined exclusively on matters such as calculation, but the idea is to think of the endgame from a variety of angles and take pleasure in the perspective that is to be gained.


Model 1: Black to Play

First, let’s take this problem for the subject.

It illustrates one of the commonsense factors of the endgame.


Diagram 1: Failure

Doing something like pushing at Black 1 is the worst idea.

After encountering the block of White 2, there is nothing more to hope for.

If this is how things are going to turn out, it is better that one do nothing at all.


Diagram 2: Correct Move

The diagonal move of Black 1 is the Correct Move.

Please commit this to memory as one of the tesuji that appear in the endgame.

This is directly connected with the life of the corner, so White cannot play elsewhere, but…


Diagram 3: Turning

In the face of Black’s diagonal move of 1, for White’s part the atari of 2, and when Black captures at 3, turning with White 4 is standard in this situation.


Diagram 4: Kō

Blocking with White 4 invites Black to start a kō with 5 and create a big problem.


Diagram 5: Reduced

Consequently, Black 5 through White 8 is the follow-up, and the corner is reduced to this degree in sente.


Diagram 6: Tesuji

For these reasons, the jump of White 1 strikes at the same vital point.

Should Black capture at 2, White can leave things like that and play elsewhere, making the endgame play in sente.


Diagram 7: Descending Move

When White plays at 1, if Black plays elsewhere, White is left with the big descending move of 3.


Diagram 8: Failure

Playing atari with White 1 is no good. After Black captures with 2, the hane of Black A remains, so the position reverts to the one where Black played the correct endgame move.


Model 2: Black to Play

This is a simple endgame shape. It revolves around the matter of 1 point, making it a kind of a miniature problem.


Diagram 1: Failure

It is popularly said that even if one is a poor player, a hane is worth 2 points, but the hane and connection of Black 1 and 3 is a failure.


Diagram 2: Correct Move

Simply descending with Black 1 without fanfare is the Correct Move.


Diagram 3: Seki

When Black plays 1, White cannot answer with 2 here. That is because with the attachment of Black 3, in the blink of an eye the corner is turned into seki.


Diagram 4: Empty Point

If White is going to answer, when Black plays 1, the move to play is White 2, but in this case the point of A becomes an empty point. From the perspective of theory, that is the empty point that Black occupied in Diagram 1.


Diagram 5: 1 Point

When Black plays the marked stone, White will perhaps play elsewhere, but then sometime later Black can make the attachment of 1, the endgame move that remains here.

White 2 and Black 3 follow, with Black gaining a point in gote. This is better than nothing, you know.

If one is going to play in gote in the endgame, descending with the marked stone is correct.


Diagram 6: Seki

In response to Black 1, White cannot hang tough with 2.

Black 3 and 5 follow, making this a seki corner with 1 point of territory (when accounting for the captured Black stone).


Diagram 7: Gote

Even if it is White’s play here, White 1 and 3 are not sente endgame moves. White must add the stone at 5, so this is a simple gote 2 point endgame play.


Model 3: Black to Play

A common real game model. In terms of the endgame, there are various ways of thinking about this.


Diagram 1: Sente

Descending with Black 1 and then after White 2, playing hane with Black 3 and connecting with 5 fixes the shape in sente, which is fine, but there is a fear that White might play elsewhere with this model.


Diagram 2: Solid

The hane of Black 1 and connection of 3 are moves that are very frequently played and are solid. Except that it is also true that they are gote.


Diagram 3: The Same

Following the hane of Black 1, the shape can be also fixed with Black 3 and 5.

This is gote, too, but potential moves [aji] have been completely eliminated.


Diagram 4: When Gote is Unattractive

In situations when playing in gote is unattractive, the hane of Black 1 and atari of 3 and 5 are forcing moves, and then leaving the position as it is, one can also consider playing elsewhere.

For beginner players it is inconceivable to play elsewhere at this point, but there is a wonderful theoretical foundation to justify it. In other words…


Diagram 5: Defending

…White is prevented from making the hane and connection of 1 and 3.


Diagram 6: Big

In any case, the endgame points of White 1 and 3 are big and played in sente. Through Black 6, the territory is substantially reduced. However…


Diagram 7: Cut and Capture

White can capture a single stone [ponnuki] with 1 and 3 when Black has played elsewhere. These are big moves, but the subsequent play is different.


Diagram 8: Simple Hane

White can play the hane of 1 in sente, but after Black draws back at 2, there is nothing further to hope for.


Diagram 9: Effective

In short, the marked Black stone works effectively, making it impossible for White to play the endgame point of 1.

With this model, it seems that Black has thrown away many stones and lost territory without compensation, but that is not the case.

Comparing this to the simple hane and connection in Diagram 5 proves that it is so, but White’s territory is the same.


Model 4: Black to Play

The shape here can easily appear in an actual game. There is a subtle factor that one must bear in mind.


Diagram 1: Failure

It is no good to blithely block with Black 1. Letting White connect at 2 incurs a loss just like that.

No, that should be rephrased as the move is not correct.


Diagram 2: Throw-in

The throw-in of Black 1 is correct.

Of course, if it is played at too early a stage in the game, there is the fear that White would ignore it to play elsewhere. So it is necessary to take care over its timing.


Diagram 3: Leaving it at That

In response to Black 1, should White capture at 2, leaving it at that is fine. Black must not rush to block at A. The effectiveness of Black 1 is that afterward it will be necessary for White to add a stone at B. Besides that…


Diagram 4: No Moving Out

White cannot move out with 1. When Black blocks at 2, White cannot connect.


One plans to play a good endgame move, but it does not turn out that way.

This is a common case, but what is worse is when the move that one plays turns out to lose points.

This is the kind of trouble that arises when one does not understand shape in go very well.


Model 5: Black to Play

White’s two stones within Black’s group create potential problems [bad aji], but at this stage there is no move to worry about.

The boundary for both sides is set, but how is Black to play here? Along with that, is it all right to do nothing at all?


Diagram 1: Actual Game

In an actual game, one might play Black 1. The reason is that one would want to play this as a “reverse endgame move” [gyaku yose]. That might be in one’s mind, but above all the move is nonsense.

The situation is to be understood as follows.


Diagram 2: No Move

In this shape, at the present time should White hane over Black’s stone with 1, there is no follow-up move. Black cuts at 2, and even if White hanes at 3, Black 4 eliminates further play due to White’s rapidly disappearing liberties.


Diagram 3: A Move

Even though Black believed that the move played was a valid endgame play, in the final analysis, when the liberties are completely filled, the cut of White 1 is an effective move.


Diagram 4: Seki

White 1 takes advantage of Black’s shortage of liberties, so Black has no option but to make the turning move of 2. However, after incurring the throw-in of White 3, Black cannot push on either side and the position becomes seki.

Since the group has eyes it will not die, but ending up in seki is terrible.

That is why Black’s move was called “nonsense.”


Diagram 5: Conclusion

In conclusion, Black 1 is the move to play. On the other hand, there is no rush to play at the moment.

The point at A is an empty one, so even playing here there is not even a single point of profit to be made.

If one does not look carefully at the go shape, the trouble in Diagram 4 is the kind that can easily develop.


Model 6: Black to Play

This is a board position where there is absolutely nowhere to play, but the border between the two sides in the upper right corner has still not been set.

At this point one may feel a little uneasy, so how should this be handled?

This often occurs in actual play.


Diagram 1: Correct Solution

The Correct Solution is to leave things just as they are.

There is no necessity to make a move.

Even if one plays, neither side’s profit or loss will change, and the game will end just like that.

Of course, when it comes to the stage of finishing up, the board will be counted with White having a stone at the point of A.

In this way, ending the game without playing, without filling liberties, illustrates the beauty of Japanese go.


Diagram 2: Unnecessary

Naturally, playing the diagonal move of Black 1 cannot be said to be bad.

However, when White defends at 2, Black’s territory has not increased by even a single point. At the same time, White’s territory has not been reduced, so it is a move without meaning.


Diagram 3: The Same

Even if Black plays elsewhere, there is nothing to worry about.

If White 1, Black wedges between White’s stones with 2, so White’s territory is not increased.

And yet, this is just a matter of territory, and things like kō threats are another question.


Model 7: Black to Play

At this point, White has played a hane and connection in the corner.

The question here is how Black should play, and it is not particularly difficult.

But there are not a few cases where one does more than one should and ends up losing points.


Diagram 1: Mild

It is all right to mildly connect with Black 1, not getting particularly worked up about anything. However…


Diagram 2: Playing and Losing Points

There are some players who only think about the value of getting in a move in sente and play Black 1. White is forced to make the hanging connection at 2 and then Black defends at 3.

This is not mild.

In fact, more than that, rather than taking profit in sente, there is an immense minus connected with this way of playing.

Playing in sente to incur a loss.

As might be expected, it may be said to be the offense of not looking carefully at the go shape. Thinking slackly about the endgame is no good.


Diagram 3: Move Order

No matter what, if one wants to get the most out of the endgame play here, starting with the hane of Black 1 is the correct move order. The cutting point at A is left, but life and death is involved here, so White has no time to cut at A.


Diagram 4: Perfect

In response to Black 1, White has no option but to draw back at 2. At that point, Black wedges between White’s stones with 3, and this is the correct move order.

Well then, White 4 could also be used to connect at A, but in order to make a comparison with the next diagram, this way of playing has been selected.

This is a perfect endgame move order, and it is fine to postpone the connection of Black 5 until the end of the sequence.

Of course, if it is considered small, Black 5 could also be omitted.


Diagram 5: A Comparison

In that case, why is Diagram 2 no good?

By forcing White to play the marked stone, when Black hanes at 1, the block of White 2 is incurred. By comparing this with Diagram 4, the loss is obvious.


Model 8: Black to Play

This is a model that often appears in actual games.

The importance of move order in the endgame has been related in regards to the previous model, but this may be said to be a basic model of that factor.

This is a simple, commonsense model, but…


Diagram 1: Move Order

Playing the hane over White’s stone with 1, and in response to White 2, making the placement at the vital point of the eye shape with Black 3 is standard move order in the endgame.

Black 1 will be captured, but it is no loss.


Diagram 2: Perfect

Next, White has no choice but to connect at 4, and then when Black hanes at 5, it is essential for White to play at 6 and the rest is an unforked path.

Black 7 forces White to capture at 8, a beautiful finish to the endgame sequence.


Diagram 3: Failure

Black 1 and White 2 are fine, but the atari of Black 3 is no good.

White connects at 4.

Then the endgame plays are Black 5 and 7, but when White captures at 8, the difference with the Correct Solution diagram is clear. That is…


Diagram 4: A Loss

With this result, the marked Black stone cannot escape, so there is clearly a 2 point loss here.

One cannot say that this is just a small 2 points.

If one commits three mistakes, then that is 6 points. One ends up instantly throwing away the value of the komi.


Diagram 5: A Huge Failure

The hane of Black 1 represents a huge failure.

The defensive move of White 2 is incurred, and there is nothing further to be done. One can understand at a glance the numerical size of the loss.

There are a large number of commonsense patterns like this that the reader is urged to commit to memory.

Tagged as: , , ,

Leave a Reply


book cover

Go on the Go Collection: Volume I

Three booklets have been assembled into the collection here.

Buy this Book at Amazon

Go For Everyone

Go For Everyone

A New Method for Learning to Play the Game of Go

Buy this book

Book Cover

Journey to the West

This is a semi-autobiographical novel that depicts a unique American success story; a rags to riches tale of a man escaping his humble origins to make millions of dollars, but then he throws it all away due to the ancient character flaw of hubris.

Buy this Book at Amazon