I’m a beginner go player. I hope this post is relevant and will be helpful to other beginners like me.
I was practicing ladders and I’ve often found myself in a position in which I could start a ladder against an opponent’s stone, but somewhere along the general direction of the ladder there was a stone or a group of stones that could potentially break the ladder, and for the life of me I couldn’t find a way to consistently decide whether I should bother starting the ladder or not without spending full minutes calculating the whole sequence.
I’ve often seen on Youtube experienced players looking at the board and immediately identifying if a particular stone, even if it’s miles away on the opposite side of the board, is a ladder breaker or not and I was wondering how they do it. Also, many instructional resources on ladders (or at least all the ones I’ve been able to find) talk about ladder breakers and rightfully warn against them, but never truly explain how to identify them.
I know that this is a skill that comes with experience and practice (and I definitely need a lot more of it myself), but I also wanted something that I could reference while studying and practicing. So I made my own diagram:
The points marked with a triangle are on the direct path of the ladder, so it’s obvious that if a white stone is on any of these intersections, white will connect and live. But what about a stone on, say, F4? Or B5? Or G3? They would be in the general vicinity of the path of the ladder, but are they “too close” or is it safe to start the ladder? That was the question that I had in mind, so I just tried different options and I found out that a white stone on any of the intersections marked with X will eventually break the ladder, either by white directly connecting to it or by black being put in atari. On the other hand, the intersections marked with O are safe and any white stone placed on them will NOT interfere with the ladder. In general, I was surprised to see how wide the range of potential ladder breakers actually is and it’s no wonder why it’s so difficult for beginners like me to correctly identify a ladder breaker at a glance.
This is probably already common knowledge among experienced players and I apologize if this post is redundant, but I do believe that having a visual diagram like this that clearly shows all the “safe” ladders could be helpful to other beginners like me and, given enough practice and experience, hopefully makes it easier to avoid basic mistakes. Also, I encourage more experienced players to check the diagram above to see if I made any mistake in marking the intersections (which is also a very likely possibility).
Edit: thanks to all the examples that you guys have shown me, I’ve learned that other factors that might affect the life and death status of a ladder that I hadn’t considered are:
- Quirky interactions with corners and edges
- The starting position of the ladder (higher/lower and closer/farther from the edges)
- Walls and other patterns along the way
- And who knows what else
My best conclusion at this point is that my effort of drawing an “easy” reference diagram for ladder breakers was futile haha! That’s good to know, though: from now on I’ll stop worrying so much about finding the “theoretical” ladder breakers and I’ll focus my attention on studying the actual board position more closely