How do I learn to play in the opening?

I know the rules and played over 500 games of Go. Did a lot of life and dead problems as well. But I am having a hard time to tell how to play in the opening.

How am I supposed to learn what a good response in the opening is? Do I have to look for good shape? Are there any guidelines which I could follow in chronological order or something?

For example this beginner problem: White to play. How should White respond to Black 1?

Even with the answer given, I still can’t explain why this would be the best move.


+1 I want to know that too :cry:


Well, I guess, White should definitely do something with that weak group, and 2 is a good move because it prevents Black from playing there and making a tiger’s mouth.


You can just review your openings with bot and try to do something similar.
Or you can do opening yourself - you know which stones you can’t use because you are not strong enough - unlike bots or teachers.

I think that’s the first time I see someone note that. I’ll keep it in mind. :slightly_smiling_face:

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On that pic, the white extension is just good shape. So yes, extending after getting kicked is mainly a shape-thing, in situations like that its usually good to extend.

Whites group still have some room for eyes, it can jump to p11 (or attach q9) to get out in the center, and it keeps the invasion at r17 as an possibility.
Instead, if black were to play that move on q14, the white’s shape would be kinda awful and settling those stones would be lot harder for white. Also black would be building influence on top toward his k16 and f17 stones, which could turn into huge territory for black.

In general, whenever you see 4 stones anywhere on the board making a shape like this
Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 16.02.41
you want to be the the white player. There are more weaknesses in these 2 black stones than there are in the 2 white stones, so we can say that white’s shape locally is relatively better off.

On how to learn where to play opening moves in general, i would say there are 2 tactics you can try.

  1. Learn some known fuseki, study the common responses and follow-ups, search pro-games with that fuseki and see how stronger players have used it. Then play that fuseki over and over again till you can say that you understand the reasoning for that opening. Understanding one fuseki helps you understand other openings too.

  2. Proverbs and heuristics. You can play pretty solid opening by simply following some “basic proverbs”. For example, have you heard any of these:
    “corners > sides > center”
    “empty corners > corner approaches/enclosures > large extensions > small extensions > jumps to the center”
    “if opponen enclosed, block the large extension. if opponent made large extension, block the enclosure by aproaching. (or just make your own enclosure+large extension if oppo doesn’t block you)”
    “corners with just 4-3 stone are more urgent than corner with just 4-4 stone, and corners with just 4-4 are more urgent than corner with just 3-3 stone”
    “3rd line for safety, 4th line for influence, flow between 3rd and 4th for victory”

There are plenty of more “basic stuff proverbs” and such of opening principles, which you can use when looking for your next big move. If you can justify your moves by some proverb, your opening probably won’t be catastrophic for you.

ps. sorry for such a lengthy answer :confused:


I really recommend Otake Hideo’s timeless classic: Opening Theory Made Easy


What does “flow between 3rd and 4th” mean? Does that indicate that you should try to balance having some 3rd line plays and some 4th to balance safety along the edge and influence toward the center?


YES! Exactly this!

In the opening you are usually setting up your positions for mid-game fighting while trying to cover more potential territory than the opponent.

3rd line stones are very safe and good at “anchoring” your positions solidly to the side. But if you play only 3rd line stones, they can be capped and/or shoulderhit’d to be kept small in terms of territory.
4th line stones are very good at expanding your framework into large territory and making influence toward the center, which is vital for mid-game fighting. But positions with only 4th line stones can be invaded quite easily and the territory under those positions can often be taken away.

This is why we usually call 3rd line stones as “low stones” and 4th line stones as “high stones”. Opening with mostly low stones is often called “territorial style” while opening with mostly high stones would be “influence-oriented style”. And if you are good at maintaining the low/high balance, thats often to be said “well-balanced style” ^^


I have an advice that once you have some basic ideas of fuseki and directional play, try to play the same fuseki to different opponents, but try different fuseki to the same opponents (like your practice partners or someone stronger like your teacher)


If you are still DDK level, its difficult to follow the problems. Your understanding about opening move will change everytime you get stronger naturally.

In the example problem, what I see is “it will be painfull for White two stones if black plays a move at (2). Black can develop his moyo, and white can get sealed (live inside with small territory).”

For now, start reading the opening theory by Otake Hideo

And also this one is useful!.pdf

Also download this sgf collection for your lifetime study.


In the beginning is a book still really enjoyable, even if a bit oldish.

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Counting the liberties that your stones and those of your opponent will have before, after and without any particular response can be helpful and also a very worthwhile habit to develop.

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There is a traditionally established order of priority for moves in the early game:
1: empty corners
2: approach/enclosure moves
3: extensions
4: checking extensions (tsume)
5: jumps

learning these is helpful when trying to choose a move based on value.

As for the problem posted:
there’s a saying: when you kick someone, they will stand up.

hopefully that helps a little

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Greetings! In my first few years of learning Go, trying to understand the Opening was one of the most difficult parts, because I often found that I kept doing things that gave my opponent an early lead, and I didn’t understand the reasons.

I’m reading a lot of excellent suggestions and advice in this thread, but I am concerned that - for players between 17-25kyu - until you understand

  • how to play a balanced opening (global strategy)
  • the purpose of joseki in the opening (local strategy)
  • the function that both of those serve in the overall stages of the game (opening > midgame > endgame)

you will have a very difficult time making sense of this advice, or being able to apply it to your own live games.

I’ve been working on a 19X19 FOR BEGINNERS series that tries to fill in those blanks, and I would recommend reading these two articles, as they will help you make sense of the underlying dynamics, and allow you to put the (excellent) advice in this thread into context:

Lastly, I would strongly encourage you to let go of the idea that there is always going to be a single correct answer to every question about where one should play next.

When it comes to completing a given joseki - then yes - there is a sequence to be followed because it has been determined as the “most efficient sequence” - so one could say that deviating from that would be wrong and following it would be correct. Here’s the joseki you mentioned in your example above:

The Kick

However, there are many other joseki that have branching trees of responses, and Go players can debate as to which branch is better than another based on what they’re trying to do and what that sequence can accomplish. Example:

Flying Knife

Rather thank looking for the RIGHT or WRONG move, I think it’s much more useful to approach Go as a game where you can choose various options depending on your SKILL LEVEL and the AMOUNT OF RISK you want to create.

So - for instance - playing a pincer move early in the Opening might be a great strategy for an intermediate/advanced player

The Pincer

However, IMHO - if you are a beginning player (17-25kyu) a pincer might get you into a whole lot of trouble because you do not yet have a good grasp of

  • opening priorities
  • direction of play
  • understanding what makes a living group
  • understand how to balance local contact fights with global issues of territory/influence

As such, rather than looking for the one correct answer, try to understand the local and global factors at play in your current situation, and pick a response that works for your skill level.

Good luck!


Since you have played so many games, I assume that the main issue is about responding to a move that is starting to threaten your stones, like in your example. That is more edging towards the beginning of the middle-game so, since you asked for guidelines, here is my list for that:

In case of your example, if you do not strengthen your stones, they can be easily attacked and might no longer have a base. For example, if you tenuki you definitely do not want the tiger’s mouth there, because both A and B create a small group that is very confined and in possible danger of having to run away:

Alternatively, Black can play something like this, which I think people that are trying to get out of the opening phase might find more intimidating when such an attack lands in the first 15 moves of the game. In my best of knowledge, all the marked choices are bad for white. A and B are miai and if white plays C, then Black can even tenuki since he can play either A or B at his leisure.

When can you tenuki? Mostly when you are safe. Later as you get more comfortable with the game, you can tenuki and sacrifice some stones, when some move is so much more urgent or worth it, but that is another thing to consider learning later on.
And you are safe? When you have two or more ways to get out of a situation alive.

In general, try to visualise in each case what would happen if you were to play one move or another. For example in this case, where do you block, A or B?


In every case, think of the possibilities and just pick what seems better for your direction of play. Hope these help. :slight_smile:


So, there are sort of two ways to answer your question. I could talk about the opening, this specific position, and try to explain why the given answer is correct, and that might help, depending on the reasoning I use to justify the moves. Or I could talk about how to learn how to play in the opening.

The way that you learn to play the opening may be very different from the way that I, or others, learned. A teacher can try to impart principles, heuristics, sayings, etc. Those help, and are useful, but you may not truly improve until you start to grok on a deeper level, intuitively.

The opening, especially, involves a lot of intuition that is difficult to put into words (or an algorithm). And even when you have that memorized, it can be deceptively difficult to apply those heuristics in a real game, because they almost always involve exceptions and positional judgement.

So the question I want to try to answer is more about self-education. How can you teach your mind to understand? Unfortunately, the answer is really just a lot of practice. Now, there are ways to make your practice more efficient. For the opening especially, I think it’s useful to play games while focusing on specific themes/theories that you’ve learned about (from some other source, like a book or a review). Some examples: Strength and weakness of groups, surrounding your opponent while not being surrounded, splitting attacks, thick shape, etc.

Now, go play a game while using your current understanding. Try to apply it consistently, thinking before you move. After the game, review by yourself and see how things worked out. Try to identify a few key lessons/alterations to your current theory of the opening. Check with an AI or a strong player afterward if you are unsure, but the main point is to iteratively build your understanding. Repeat.

Here’s an example of how that might work:

Joe (1d) said cuts are good. After playing a game focusing on trying to cut your opponent, you notice that if your own cuts are unprotected, your cuts don’t tend to work out. So you update your heuristic to: Cutting and defending cuts are equally valuable.