Counting Dead stones - need expert explanation


I’m having trouble understanding at a fundamental level why dead stones should be assumed dead and automatically counted.

Taking this as example

Now using Japanese rules, understand that if white were to play this out by filling the red circle he would get a total of 3 points (2p for captured stones + 2p for new territory vacated). Automatic counting results in 5 points (2p for captured stones + 3 points for territory).

If black can gain an advantage by refusing to automatically surrender his stones, why would he do so? Wouldn’t he force the other player to try to capture him, thereby gaining one point as a result?

Passing stones to end game
I understand that by passing stones to end the game, this disadvantage is negated, however, I thought that Japanese rules don’t involve passing stones. Am I wrong here?


I can’t really explain this from the perspective of the rules but black cannot refuse to surrender those stones. They are dead.

Imagine if one would need to manually surround and capture all the stones from the board. In that case the endgame would take ridiculous amount of time since it would benefit the other player to fill all spaces larger than a single intersection (trying to place a stone on a single surrounded intersection is suicidal move so it’s not legal) So people would fill the board with stones that are only forcing the opponent to capture those stones and by doing so the opponent would have less territory. All these “filling” moves would not change the outcome of the game since the territory difference would remain the same (both sides can be filled)
There are some old Chinese stone counting rules that works like this.
Since then go has evolved :slight_smile: and people don’t want to play till the board is filled since it’s just a waste of time.



Basically, if the player and the opponent disagree about the status of the stones, s/he has a chance to prove that the stones are alive/dead.

See: Rules of Go, Second Tutorial
Relevant excerpt (the emphasis is mine):

Dispute resolution
In ancient Go, the game ended with the board completely filled with stones; at the point where the game ended, there was nothing left to argue about. Because modern Go does not require filling in the board, it does require players to recognize dead stones, i.e., stones that could be captured, and remove them from the board before tallying the score. However, if players do not agree on the status of dead stones - a problem that frequently faces new players - the game must provide some dispute mechanism.

Note that new players and beginners are obsessed with the idea that the score could change during the dispute resolution phase. This cannot happen. All modern Go rules are modifications of the ancient stone scoring rules, and are designed to give similar results.

The concept of control used in area scoring does not distinguish between stones and territory, so (as in stone scoring) one can play on to the bitter end, capturing all the dead stones and removing them from the board, without affecting the score. The concept of control used in territory scoring punishes players for making extra moves inside their own territory, so here disputes about life and death are resolved in hypothetical play - if a dispute arises after the game has ended, the players play out the dispute (exactly as they would in area scoring or stone scoring) and then, after the dispute is resolved, restore the board to its previous state.

These two dispute resolution mechanisms only give a different result when there are both unremovable ko threats and a bent four in the corner on the board.

You can read more technical treatment by Robert Jasiek here. Note the white/black-analysis stage.


Thanks for the explanations. I think the confusion I had has been cleared up by following the link explaining amateur Japanese rules. They state stones are indeed passed to end the game. For some reason I thought you don’t pass stones with Japanese rules.

I also read somewhere else the onus is on the attacking player to prove the stones in his territory are dead. This also makes sense. In this example, if black does not believe the stones are dead he basically hands white a free stone to use to initiate the capture. This extra stone makes up the difference between playing the scenario and automatically scoring.


I can’t find any remark regarding using pass stones to signal a pass in the provided link. However, the burden is on the dissenting player (which means his opponent has a first move in analysis).

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In the Process section of the Robert Jasiek explanation.

I may have misread it assuming a pass meant passing a stone. If so, I am still confused. Without stone passing, it makes sense that the disputing player will always play out the scenario if he wants the extra point.

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Black can’t do anything (in this position). Black can’t force White to capture these stones (in this position).
If Black dissents, analysis phase commences:

  1. (black-analysis) White plays first, captures the stones. Therefore the stones’ status is dead. The position is reverted to the position immediately preceding two passes which ended the game.
  2. (white-analysis) Black plays first, but can’t play on the red spot (suicide is illegal). Black plays elsewhere* or passes. White plays, captures Black stones. Therefore the stones’ status is dead. The position is reverted to the position immediately preceding two passes which ended the game.
  3. The stones are dead, they are White’s prisoners. That is 5 points for White.

However, I’m not sure how this is implemented on OGS. I’ve never faced this dispute.

Maybe commentary by Robert Jasiek can help you further:

If you are confused and don’t want to play with rules you don’t fully understand, you can play with Chinese or AGA rules. The result (win/loss) rarely differs.

*Eventually Black will run out of places he can legally play and passes.


As far as I know dispute resolves by hypothetical play. And once group is proven to be dead or alive, it all reverts back to position in question. So you won’t lose a point, because it’s only hypothetical play.
However, there’s no such feature on ogs (and probably elsewhere), so you’ll have to just discuss it through chat or share variations.