Outside/Inside terminology question

This may be a silly question, but it’s been bugging me for awhile. Maybe someone can make it make sense for me.

When I’m reading go books, or watching lectures, often they’ll talk of “black’s outside wall”. Say white is running along the fourth line, and black is forming a wall on the fifth line. This is referred to as blacks outside wall… even though it’s facing the center of the board… which would make it seem like an inside wall to me. And since white has the wall facing the outer edge of the board, it would seem that whites wall was the outside wall.

Can anyone explain why it is referenced in this way? Just super curious what I’m missing here.

Thanks in advance!


When you are close to the edge, it feels like being inside because you can’t cross the boundary, while in the center of the board you are free to move so it feels like being outside.


In some way, we build territories from corners and sides first. So it makes sense to call outside the center direction, where the space is still open

Never. There are no silly question in this forum.


I guess if you look at an example formally popular joseki


it looks like white is surrounded by black, so white is on the inside while black is on the outside, of the territory say, as opposed to the outside edge of the board.


It refers to the topolgy of the groups rather than the board, I think everyone would agree white is inside black here:
Screenshot 2023-10-29 at 14.46.29


There’s also situations where the “outside” can still be in the centre of the board - again a reference to the (potential) territory under consideration

White has played a reducing move with 1, just above the outer rim of Black’s moyo, defined by the line linking the two marked stones. This is the perfect point for reducing Black’s moyo.

There’s a notion of diving inside the moyo, and playing from the outside to reduce, with reference to what could be the territory.


Another common use is when your stones are threaten to be surrounded, the advice is to go out first (instead of trying to survive inside your opponent stones)
Going out = going in the outside.


In the actual practical effect it has on the strategy:

The center of the board is where there is a lot of open space, where it is hard for a group to get trapped, where there are a lot of directions you can choose to expand. It’s also the wilderness where it’s hardest to surround and claim anything for sure since you have to defend it from intrusion on all four sides.

The edges or corner of the board is where it is easy to be confined. Also like a cliff face or the wall of a shallow cave, it provides a pre-existing wall that you can build your base or house against where you only have to defend from fewer directions, namely only the directions that face wider open board.

Strategically speaking, which of the two above paragraphs does the descriptor “outside” fit best with? :slight_smile:


Thanks to Everyone for all the great explanations!

I think I have what I need to catch up and shift my thinking on this.

I won’t lie though… still seems counter-intuitive to me. But I’ve been considering the center the inside for many years, and it’s quite ingrained. :sweat_smile:

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As well as or probably because of what everyone else has said there is also the way the board is seen in Japanese terminology
Tengen is the origin of heaven or the centre of the sky and I suppose the implication is that the the edges are the ground (where it’s easiest to build your houses)


For me, “inside” is either where my stones are already alive, i.e. my fortress, the eyes, the secured space that my stones have surrounded—or, where I hope to live, a space that I have mostly surrounded. Note though that in the latter case there’s a gray zone where inside and outside mix, like, “brackish water”.

“Outside”, for me, is … outside of that, my borders that are looking at the opponent, never mind how close or far away; either their stones that are touching mine, or some empty space around my fortress, where I might stake my claims (or “throw grappling hooks”), and/or try to enclose daredevilish opponent stones, etc.


To me, groups that are more or less contained by encircling stones of the opponent are on the inside. Usually such a group would be contained inside an region between the edge of the board and the ~4th line. If the contained group were absent, that area might be territory of the opponent.

So “inside” means inside a largely encircled area, like inside of a building, while “outside” is not inside such an encircled area, like open space outside a building.

I think it’s possible for a group to be on the “inside” in the center of the board, but this doesn’t happen very often in my games, because neither me nor my opponents tend to make a floating group in the center early on, let alone it ending up contained in the earlier stages of the game (when the concept of inside/outside are the most useful)

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