General proverb discussion

Others might wonder what keeps people interested in putting stones on a board for a few hundred moves.


Of course, each one his wondering.


That’s the less common. Taking the size of a football field, it’s quite few probability that you shoot in your own goal when aiming the opponent goal, as failing an attack in go and give an advantage to your opponent.

in a more general wait you can’t attack relentlessly in go, there are necessary and good defensive moves to play too.
But I like the idea of having to power your games with attack and defense plans, not just delimiting areas.

An analogy to that with football is playing too far forward and aggressively in attack, while leaving oneself vulnerable to counterattack.

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The stones are round, the goban is 19 by 19. Everything else is pure theory.


Edited: “Taking nine handicap should be 40% attack and 60% defence, and 40% is still a lot.”

– paraphrased from comments by @Groin at Try to live challenge? - #12 by Groin in turn interpreting the book Secret Chronicle of Handicap Go.

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For Black or for White?

with handicap means as Black.

Playing as White is against handicap or playing handicapped.

Well, that was the meaning I meant to convey anyway. “Playing a handicap game as Black” doesn’t sound all that proverbial.

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On second thoughts, I think Taking handicap… is actually clearest.

White gives the handicap and Black takes it.

Playing with 9 handicap…

The percentage will vary when reducing the handicap, with less focus on defense

Edit: thx for your own edit.

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I just came across a long list of proverbs at - Go Proverbs

I was in the process of quoting them all for redundancy archival, but the pointless inanity of the truisms offered by Pierre Audouard annoyed me out of that.

I also find many of the sayings on this list to be obvious, unhelpful, misleading, dated and even false.

Here are some of the better ones, in my opinion. The interesting thing about a lot of proverbs is that at a certain point in one’s development, the thought emerges: “Why did someone write this down? Why did they feel the need to remind players not to reduce their own liberties, or to connect their stones and separate those of the opponent, or to defend their weak groups rather than their strong ones?”

That indicates that you’ve passed the level at which that proverb is of greatest use, but it can still benefit weaker players. Implementation is also very important: why are you violating Bill Taylor’s proverb and reducing your own liberties? For endgame? As a ko threat? In order to make a squeeze? And was it a legitimate reason in that specific situation? – this way, some of these proverbs can be taken to a higher level of analysis.

  • Never be too sure about your plan, and always doubt your ability to kill your opponent’s stones.
    Zhong-pu Liu, 1078

  • If you cannot succeed, then die gloriously.
    Chinese proverb

  • To invade, need 20 points in open area; otherwise, keshi is best.
    Yang Yilun

  • Turn, turn, turn!
    Bill Taylor

  • Don’t reduce your own liberties.
    Bill Taylor

  • The weak player fears ko, the strong player seeks it.
    Bill Taylor

  • Keep your own stones connected, and your opponent’s apart.
    Bill Taylor

  • In an unreasonable situation, an unreasonable move is reasonable.

  • In the opening, when you don’t know what to play, make a shimari.

  • There is a thin line between thick and slow.

  • Grab the border point between two moyos.

  • Defend weak groups, not strong groups.

  • White is always trying to kill a bigger group than black is trying to save.

  • Grab the shape points as kikashi.

  • Five liberties for tactical of the most practical!

  • If your stone is capped, play the knight’s move.

  • Beware of the clumsy double contact. – aka the “Fox-style corner”, see Clumsy double contact at Sensei's Library

  • Beware of going back to patch up your plays.

  • The poor player plays the opponent’s game for him.

  • When your opponent has two weak groups, attack them both at once.

  • Add one stone, then sacrifice both. – I interpret this as referring to the “momentum cut tesuji”, eg. as in Play Go at! | OGS – it cannot be taken as generic advice.

  • Fill in a semeai from the outside.

  • The strong player plays straight, the weak diagonally.

  • Win the early ko to win the game. – I don’t know how good this is as general advice, but it reminded me of A new corner pattern (Patreon Game review) - YouTube and the mistaken low-dan ko Yoonyoung reviewed.

  • Five groups might live but the sixth will die. – see Share your games with 6+ groups

  • Don’t peep at cutting points.

  • Atari, atari is vulgar play. – I interpret this as referring specifically to this sort of shape:


  • Keep inessential ataris till the end.

  • A meijin needs no joseki.

  • There is damezumari at the bamboo joint.

  • From a cross-cut, extend.

  • Do not fear furikawari (trades).


An excellent list! Thanks @bugcat :grin:

But I don’t get this one:

Care to elaborate?

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Diagram: bugcat (B) – BenKyo

Consider the meaning of the sequence A, B, C.

Black is trying to save the small three-strong group on the left, but the real object of White’s attack is the larger group of eight stones on the right.

This proverb is another way of talking about leaning attacks.

(Of course, at this level it’s not entirely that simple, since the reason Black is trying to save the three-stone group is in order to prevent the white stones from connecting to the bottom side.)

Ok, thanks. Interesting… I will have to mull over that one for a while until I see it come up in a few games :smiley:

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Not quite a proverb, but I ran into this observation in an SL discussion of taisha avoidance or, more pedantically, taisha sidelines:

if you want to play a move that feels right, but you can’t remember having seen it in any joseki variation, so you play another move because that one does appear in such a variation, you have stopped playing Go at that very moment. – dieter, 2001

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The SL page Use Go to Meet Friends offers a chengyu (four-hanzi phrase) 以棋会友 yǐ qí huì yoǔ, translatable as through Go, meet friends.

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seequ made a succint statement in the BeginnerGo discord today:

If the breaker is fully sente, the ladder never worked.

It’s obvious, but perhaps only in retrospect…

I don’t get it. Sounds profound though.

edit: about me replying to the wrong comment, all I can say is fake news.

Let’s say white is caught in a ladder. There are a number of moves white can play to break the ladder, i.e. provide a stone to connect to so that black can’t use the ladder to capture white. Ladder breakers are generally sente against the ladder as black needs to capture the ladder stone(s) or the ladder becomes a cut (or worse). However, if one or more of White’s ladder breaker moves is sente anyway against some of Black’s other stones even in the absence of the ladder, then black has to respond there. So then: white escapes the ladder; or white gets profit if black chooses to capture the ladder and allow white to follow up the sente move in the other place. :sunglasses:

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KJYD4 wasn’t replying to the ladder one! But rather the one about a move giving you the feels but not being joseki.