Learning Joseki: When to learn and how?


So for beginners “you don’t need to learn joseki” is not strictly true.

There are “the basic ones” that really everyone should know, and you don’t even need to especially know why: they are so fundamental, we just do them…

Or maybe you do need to know why, and it would be really handy to have a “Must know joeski” primer that works through why those are the way they are!


I would study that, if it were available


Well, if you must… http://eidogo.com/ . You might’ve missed that as arkadrums edited that in later (as the script kindly informed me of). The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t just give you proper joseki but also some lines with neat tricks and common mistakes, usually with some kind of explanation. Just don’t ever download the sgf and load it with CGoban unless you’re running a supercluster.


I guess the problem I have with that in this context are two:

  1. What would be considered essential joseki. It offers you them all )

  2. It tells you what, but not why.

A list of the basic “must know” ones would be good, and proper study would be helped by explanation of “it is like this because if you do this or this then its worse because of this”.

This one is along those lines:


Are there any good books out there aimed at kyu level players that discuss joseki in the way GreenAsJade described? Even if it is a bit outdated I would imagine it could help ones ability to play out sequences in the corner, even “out of book”, a great deal as right now I when I look through sequences on Eidgo for example I often can’t tell the difference between a good result and a bas result.


I think the title is less of a description of the video’s content than it is clickbait, but fair enough. From my perspective, if you know a few variations for 4-4 approaches, 3-4 approaches, 3-3 invasion you should be okay. Generally there are only 3 responses:

  1. extend (with n-space jump, keima or ogeima)
  2. attach (on top, under, side) or
  3. pincer (n-space, high/low).

Naively calculated, that makes for about 2x2x11=44 variations starting from 3-4 and 4-4 plus maybe 3 sansan variations you should know, leaving subvariations and transpositions out of consideration for now. You might therefore want to look for variations that quickly settle things, as they will be easier to remember. Another somewhat advanced topic would be double approaches, where you leave your cornerstone alone for a while and it is then approached by 2 of your opponent’s stones. This adds another, say, 10-20 main variations for 4-4 and 3-4.

What joseki generally have in common is that players end up with either solid shape (no severe cuts), light shape (you can abandon the shape and if necessary sacrifice a few stones to jump out, retain influence or create/keep aji for invasions later, etc), or just a live group, mostly at the expense of outward thickness.

When to use which is obviously a matter of strategy.




Thanks :slight_smile: Should have thought of this as the rest of the series is on my to read list


For every rule there is an exception though. Some joseki actually start a fight. Probably not “essential” by no meaning of the word but hella fun :smiley:



Clickbait is perhaps a bit harsh, but it’s definitely not the well structured list and explanation we’re talking about here.

Does anyone know if 38 Basic Joseki goes into the “why” of them?


As chance would have it I actually have the book on my table right now. Not too intricately but it does tell you what it is good for, what are possible follow ups and pitfalls. Gives couple examples of whole board positions. I found it to be on point and just rich enough in explanation to give you basics while not being convoluted.



So although the common wisdom here is that we should learn why the joseki moves are what they are, not just learn the moves and the result, there appear to be little or no resources that help us with that :slight_smile:


I think it is because such book would be extremely convoluted. DO YOU REALLY want to read yeee (shows about 8 cm with hand) thick book using 5+ diagrams to justify every single move? If you feel like different move would be nice have a look at waltheri/josekipedia or ask stronger players. The book I have here DOES explain the basic reasons behind joseki and mentions common pitfalls and aji left after.


Well - to be honest - I’m just exploring the question of “how practical, really, is the advice in this thread that we should not just learn joseki, but study them, which means understanding why they are the way they are”.

The other advice in this thead was “you don’t need to learn any joseki”, but it turns out that this really means “you need at least the basic dozen or so”.

This seems much more realistic to me than “you don’t to learn need any”. I would be lost without knowing solid choices for 4-4 approach and 3-3 invasion. I still have to chose between the variations, but I don’t have to work out from basic principles what to do every time this happens.

So I’m wondering what “you need to study them” really entails…


I can give myself a counter argument (an argument supporting that you need to know why they are) … the alphago 3-3 invasion joseki does not turn at the end.

If you don’t know why you don’t have to turn there, you might not know how and when to deal with the wall that you helped them create.

So this is an example of “it is not enough to know the sequence, you need to know why” in the sense of “you need to know what you have set yourself up for”.

BUT this doesn’t go as far as knowing “why is it that we extend 3 times instead of two”. I had thought that this was the kind of thing the advice in the thread is getting at: the idea that you should know why the sequence is the way it is.

If it’s the optimal sequence, and you know when to use it, do you really need to study why you don’t vary from it in the middle?


Do you have AFK go club to go to? When someone feels uncertain about position from game or joseki we get together over the board and brainstorm about variations ad nauseum. You can also do that somewhat less productively by yourself.

And while I am lowly kyu player too and I might be wrong I think that YES, you should study that too because that way you know how to punish joseki mistake and also that understanding and insight goes beyond that particular situation. In joseki you see distilled reading, shape and position sense to a degree.


That sounds wonderful.

I guess it points to the fact that there really is a hole in the online space in being able to do that. (Brainstorm ad nauseam about variations, and learn from those musings in a distilled way).


If your reading and evaluation skill is excellent (you know which result you want and how to get there), you don’t need to memorize any.

If your reading skill is low, but your evaluation skill is decent (you know which result you want but not how to get there), you might benefit from memorizing some, so you can develop a better feel for where your opponent might play, in turn strengthening your reading, enabling you to seea path to your desired result.

If your reading skill is high, but your evaluation skill is low (you don’t know what result to aim for, but could technically read it out), you might benefit from studying many different variations (i.e. try different moves and compare to standard variations), then try to make out the differences - score the result based on points, thickness, etc.

If both your reading and evaluation skill are low, you should study tsumego and replay pro games.


I think this very basic situation is a good example


And I saw games on KGS 2-3 times on SDK level where opponent actually failed to punish this fairly elemantary joseki mistake and haned under violating one of most basic principles of GO (never,ever eat shit).

If you understand why black has to extend rather than hane, you are already ahead in the game :upside_down_face: