Cheating, but not really cheating

Early in my go tenure, someone was watching a game between me and a lower ranked player, and he described one of my moves as “cheating.” He had a Japanese (I’m guessing) word for it. I protested that of course I was not cheating. And he said the word meant, essentially, making a non-GTO move that would be a losing play against someone of similar strength, and thus relying on the lower ranked player to respond poorly.

Does anyone know the word for that?

I have not heard that concept mentioned since.

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Hamete, but the usual translation is “trick play”, nothing like as strong as “cheating”.

You’ll have to tell me what non-GTO means though.



Sorry, that’s a term from poker that I thought was also used in Go : Game Theory Optimal

As in: What repeated computer simulations suggest is the play with the best chance of a positive outcome, regardless of what your opponent’s skill level is.

For go, game theory predicts that all moves either win or lose with 100% certainty. If you’re in a losing position, like White likely is at the beginning of a handicap game, all moves are “trick plays”. Are we expected to just resign when slightly behind? Or is there some more subtle distinction about what losing moves are considered bad sportsmanship?


Unlike poker, typically the standard in Go is not a comparison to game theoretic optimal, because it’s often impossible to prove what that is, and moreover in practice it’s common especially at amateur level for a strong computer move to have little relevance to what the amateur players could realistically comprehend at their level. So “GTO” is not a very useful acronym in Go.

As mentioned by others, that’s why “trick play” is the favored term in Go, because the important aspect is whether the move only be good if it “tricks” the opponent, vs whether the player honestly believes it to be the best.

Or in other words, the practical standard for comparison in Go is usually not “would this still be good against optimal play” but rather “would this still be good against an equal opponent”, or perhaps more accurately (since one can be said to also make trick plays against equal or even stronger opponents rather than only weaker opponents), “would this still be good against an opponent who does anticipate all the same variations you anticipate”?


The term that I thought of immediately was aji keshi: a move that unnecessarily removes one’s own good aji (or throwing away ko threats). A lower ranked player may not have seized this opportunity, but a player of equal rank probably would punish this.

I don’t think a stronger player would play aji-keshi moves against weaker ones. On the contrary, the stronger players want to leave as much aji as possible, so that fights become more complicated if they arise.

As Uberdude said, probably “hamete” is the correct word, or at least close to the intended meaning. When playing against handicap, you may want to play tricky suboptimal moves, i.e. moves that would incur a small local loss if the opponent finds the correct answer, but more likely the opponent won’t find the refutation and thus you’ll get an advantage. Some players think that playing such trick plays is necessary to win against handicap, while others prefer to play normally and patiently wait for the opponent’s mistakes. Both attitudes are reasonable and there is no consensus about which one is preferable.


there is also word “overplay”


Even if there are a lot of synergies beween both words (hamete and overplay)
Not exactly the same. Overplay don’t have to be complex or tricky like an hamete.

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In poker, the distinction is between “exploitive,” which is a play that is designed to gain from your opponent’s weakness, but which exposes you exploitation if they find the perfect response, and “GTO,” which is a play that no opponent can exploit, but which may not take full advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses.

I agree that, particularly with handicap 4 and above, “trick plays” are very tempting. I have not paid close attention, but I assume that the ai-suggested plays are never trick plays.

Not completly sure on that, as i have memories of playing a bit over agressive AIs

This whole issue sounds like a language/translation problem, not worth any high dudgeon. It is important to bear in mind that just because a move is a trick play does not mean that the one who plays it knows it is a trick play. I expect I, and many other kyus, have played some trick plays without knowing it—the best description of that is “bad move.” :blush:


I rather strong players play trick moves against me, that I can follow my flawed response to in review and understand something, than perfect moves that leave me like ???.

It’s funner to be stepped on in style than in flawless technique.


In think the division lines between trick plays, overplays, sharp plays, aji keshi and bad moves are not always clear. Like with colors, there is a spectrum.


A trick play is a bad move which is more likely to induce a worse move than a correct punishment.


What if a trick play loses only 0.4 points if the opponent handles it correctly? I wouldn’t call it a bad move.

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Yes, that would be a suboptimal move rather than a bad move, unless it’s played by a top pro.

Interesting. Sensei’s library diverges on this point. It says:

Hamete is a Japanese go term, also used in English, referring to a trap in joseki, typically a tricky but incorrect play that requires skill to refute. The term is often imprecisely used among amateurs for any trick play.

Typically a hamete play has an “obvious” answer that yields a poor result. To qualify as hamete, the trap must be challenging–it needs to be something that could deceive even a dan-level amateur. A mere tactical trap, such as inducing oiotoshi, or a bad move that a weak opponent might answer incorrectly, is not hamete–see trick play.

Under the entry for Trick Play it says:

Allthough hamete is a trick play, only few trick plays are hamete.


I imagine the word someone told me long ago was, in fact, “hamete,” but that he was using it incorrectly to describe a trick play.

Hamete is just the Japanese term for a (subtle, high level) trick play, AFAIK. So hamete may not be used for “Hail Mary” moves (a fairly obvious last ditch effort, hoping your opponent blunders).

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