Can someone explain to me how the scoring works in the end of a game?

I’m a beginner to Go and I am confused by when the game ends (or when it is a good time to pass or agree that there is no point in continuing) and I also don’t know how I would score. How do I know what territory is mine and what is not? What would I do if I have a single stone inside that territory or an opponent does? The end of the game seems very ambiguous. There are certain areas where it may be unclear whether or not that is mine or my opponent’s territory. Could someone give me a clear explanation of how to correctly end and score a game of Go?

Hello and welcome to the world of go :slight_smile: I shall try to answer your question:

If there are unclear areas you probably should not have passed yet.

It kind of is as it depends on mutual agreement of both players, but you will soon see it is usually quite clear.

Let’s say we are talking about japanese rules (which seem the most commonly played on OGS).

When to pass
Recognizing when there are no meaningfull moves really is kind of ambiguous, but after a couple of games you will see that it actually all makes sense :slight_smile: so, you pass when:

  • all borders are clearly defined (see the upper left black territory? We cannot count that black territory if it is not completely surrounded, black has to seal it off first)

  • there seems to be no viable or needed invasion into sealed off territory. (this ultimately depends on the players. Black is clearly behind on points so he/she has all the right to throw stones into the big upper right area and try to find two eyes for them. As players get more experience they become good at recognizing wheter there is a chance or not and if it seems hopeless usually chose not to waste their and opponent’s time with a desperate invasion late in the game.)

When to resign
resigning is for the moments when it is absolutely clear you cannot win anymore without some miracle. It is often considered polite to resign a clearly lost game, because such a game is no longer fun for either player and it is better to walk away with dignity. But it is probably better for new players to resign as less as possible to get the feeling for what is really lost and what just seems like a scary position.

How to count
There are multiple scoring rules you can check out later, let’s just remember all I say applies for japanese rules. First off both players need to recognize (and agree) what groups are alive and which arent. This may seem hard at first but you will get the hang of it in no-time. And what’s more OGS does this for you and is usually correct.

  • On this board the lower right black territory is clearly alive (although small) it has two eyes. All the rest is clear. The only confusion may come from the black stones in lower left, but when you think about it you can clearly see that they surround no territory and have no chance of creating two eyes. (even if white would not respond at all black can only make one eye on A3 and one eye is not enough to live) Therefore they are dead. White is NOT obligated to actually surround and kill all stones in his territory If they are unable to make life they will become prisoners anyway.

  • D5 is a neutral point. It is not surrounded by either player and in Japanese rules has no value whatsoever. Either player could fill it with his stone to make the board position more clear, but it would not change the result in any way.

  • in Japanese rules we count only surrounded empty spaces (not the stones themselves.) and each prisoner is worth one point.

  • If either player (wrongly) disagrees with this analysis (for example black says his lower left stones are alive) the game has to be resumed and the area played out. (black will try to get two eyes and white will try to kill him outright). When the dispute is solved the game should be scored from the original position after passing, but that is hard to do online and getting kind of too technical (in some cases playing it out can change the result, but these cases are rare, unless one player is actually trying to cheat)

Differences in rules
just for completeness if you are interested these are the most basic differences between Japanese and Chinese rules which are also often used here.

  • In Japanese rules only empty surrounded areas are points. X In Chinese rules empty areas as well as the stones surrounding them are all worth on point each. (meaning filling a neutral point is worth one point in Chinese)
  • In Japanese rules each prisoner is worth 1 point X in Chinese rules prisoneres are worth nothing (which some say makes certain areas easier to understand for beginners)

Hope it’s clearer now, feel free to ask more questions though :slight_smile:


Thank you so much that clears up a lot for me :grinning:.

Two more questions:
Wouldn’t it be advantageous if black were to mount an attack in white’s upper right territory? It may take more white stones to capture less black stones if black threatens to make eyes. Then white would have less territory than he/she started out with.

Also if black foolishly passes without filling in that territory in the upper left then white could try to invade from the gap, correct? However what if white passes also? How would you score that?

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I’ll take a crack at your first question. No. If white makes no mistakes then it is extremely unlikely white will need more moves than black to make the black group a dead shape. If black has no room for 2 eyes, and the white group is alive, then white can ignore blacks moves after a certain point. Even if black is stubborn and threatens to make 2 eyes somehow, it shouldn’t really take more than an equal number of moves for white to respond.


Here you make a mistake by thinking that white must capture black. White only needs to make it impossible for black to live (or, as @theHeaT said: “to make the black group a dead shape”) – and this requires less stones than capturing. Once you realize this, you will understand and become a stronger player.


– Musash1


I find it very peculiar how new players come to this conclusion.

What Mussah1 Said.


You probably already got it from all the previous answers, but just to exhaust all possibilities:

If black tries to invade upper right, there are three possible results:

  • He actually manages to create a living group with (at least) two eyes. In which case white is reduced greatly and black gains at least two more points (for the eyes)
  • Black realises he/she will NOT be able to create a living group and stops playing there, in which case white will stop responding as well. There is no reason to actually capture stones that are dead anyway. The score remains unchanged. Even though white reduced his/her territory with each move played in own territory he/she got a point for a prisoner with each stone black played there. Thus it is +1 -1 with every exchange and the score remains constant.
  • Black actually attacks so poorly that white does not feel obligated to answer anymore. In this case white can actually gain points because he/she gets +1 for each move black plays (new prisoner) and does not lose points by answering into own territory. (considering the black stones remain dead - otherwise it of course reverts to first option)

This is one of the examples where Chinese rules may seem simpler to beginners, because you can play as many stones in your territory as you want, without any change in points…

Precisely, white should do that.

Well you can just imagine what would happen if white pushed in, which is just simple 1 point reduction to black (depending on whose turn it was), but it is a mistake. The game is not over and both players should not have passed. If black did not want to finish a lost game he should have resigned.


Thank you so much. Now I can enjoy Go a lot more without this tugging at my mind.


it would better to tell black that and give him an undo.

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