Attacking a (or several) weak group(s)

I’m a relatively low level player (~15-17k on here) and I find that due to my “style” (probably more like weakness haha) I end up always trying to severely attack my opponent’s weak groups. However, since I am not very strong, I only sometimes succeed (almost always due to an error by my opponent and not due to any great play on my part haha).

I find that while I am busy stealing eye shape, my opponent is able to run away, and if I busy myself with sealing him in, then I create weaknesses in my groups which he can exploit to get out elsewhere or create eyespace inside what was previously my territory. I know that a better strategy is not to always try to kill the opponent’s weak groups, but to utilize them for my own group’s benefit, either making more thickness in my groups or directly making territory using the attack. However, I find myself unable to do either since every time I see a weak group, I just think attack attack attack. I think a major problem I have is, I feel like if I don’t attack severely (often overplaying, I’m sure), then my opponent’s groups will not be weak anymore after he either escapes or makes eye shape, and then my groups will come under attack. So, I don’t see where I can benefit because I’m always too busy just attacking.

Of course, I think if I can find moves which both attack him AND benefit me, then that would be best; however, I don’t seem to be strong enough to find such moves on the board. I am only able to recognize “oh, he can run this way” or “oh, he has the potential for an eye here, but not if I do this”. Both of these thoughts seem to lead me into overplaying.

Any advice on this? Thanks!


I have always been told, if you want to kill seal first, if you want to chase remove the base. Both sealing and chasing have value outside of killing too.

It’s hard to kill a group that knows it’s under attack. Very rarely should you actually go for the kill, rather you seal or chase and try to take profit somewhere else using the moves that you got from sealing/chasing.

Does that make sense? The moves you get from sealing or chasing are essentially free. Your opponent must respond or die (ideally :stuck_out_tongue:). So you use those free stones to take profit in another area.


Attack is fine, but not all in, so that if you can’t kill that group of stones you are still happy about the result. Play like that your opponent won’t feel lots pressure and that gives you a chance.

1 Like

Thanks for this advice. I do realize that I should “take profit” from the attack, but those moves are especially hard for me to find. I find that what happens most of time is I attack and I think I am “taking profit” in the attack, but really I’m just creating weaknesses in my own groups for him to attack, or surrounding way too small of a territory to balance me letting his weak group escape or live. Or, I make thickness elsewhere and then find nothing to attack with that thickness. It’s also hard for me to accept that my opponent’s invasion will be totally successful in taking away my territory by living inside after I seal him in. I feel like the result afterwards is my territory is gone, I might have gained some thickness on the outside, but since his one weak group is already alive, I got nothing to attack with that thickness…XD

When I was weaker, I would try to use the resulting thickness to gain territory in the center, but that totally didn’t work out for me very well lol.

Yes, I know this principle, but what I find happens in my “attacking games” is I often get to the point where if I don’t kill that dragon I’m going to lose. My territory is just not enough. I must have gone wrong at many places previously for that to be the case…

An important observation about Go is the necessity of making two substantial threats to gain some benefit. In the opening and middle game, an active group can always find a way to safety. Thus, it is necessary to have at least two simultaneous substantial threats on different targets to effectively achieve an objective.

The above is a quote which I just adapted from the book “Arimaa - Strategy and Tactics”.
I want to share it with you because it is also a very fitting piece of advice for Go.
Sure you know what miai is, if you’ve ever read the Japanese terms glossary in any Go book. You know that you must attack your opponent’s weak groups, that a good attack consists of a threat to seal or cut the opponent and that you are supposed to take profit from the attack.

However, since you are having difficulty with the practical application, maybe it will help you to see the same idea from a different perspective, formulated in a different way. I know I found it very enlightening for my Go, because I had never seen the clear necessity to make double attacks written in these terms before.

Actually, it’s not just about weak groups. Whatever your objective, the opponent always has the choice to reduce your influence, defend his weakness, remove your aji. The key is that they can only do one of those things. For example, given the choice that they may escape their group or erase your potential, they will probably move out with the group.

Finally, about taking profit from an attack: If you have attacked in the correct direction, your attacking stones will work to achieve their secondary aim (the second threat, see above). Any positive use of stones can be the result. Most often, you want to build a wall to attack the next weak enemy group. Sometimes you get influence (stones which face large open spaces).
If your attacking stones turn out in a useless position, then the direction of the attack was bad. If there is no good direction for an attack, don’t attack - play elsewhere.


Thanks for this advice! I’m sure it will be very helpful to me. So, if I see a weak group on the board, I should think not only “how do I attack it” but also “how can I attack it in the right direction so that I can gain benefit, thereby making a double threat”. Is that the rough gist of it?

So if a weak group happens to be in a part of the board where I can’t find an advantageous way for me to attack it (i.e. I can’t figure out how to attack it “in the right direction”), then I should just leave the weak group there and perhaps wait until the opportunity presents itself to attack? If my opponent spends extra moves strengthening that weak group…then I can profit elsewhere? I will try to incorporate this into my game. :smile:



You got all the important points.

Never attack without a profit motive!

Keep this in mind and you are 3 stones stronger already :smile:

1 Like

Thanks for the Advice! :smiley: I’ll try to keep it in mind…of course putting it into practice will be much harder than just knowing it! Haha

1 Like

Truer words were never said. Well, probably truer words have been said, but they can’t have been that much more true. :slight_smile:

Just in case there’s ever an OGS pedantry competition I’d like to point out that if one statement is less true than another, then at least one of them is not true…


1 Like

Ooh, ooh, can I enter?