When is it okay to play greedy?

I know the word ‘greedy’ inherently means it’s a bad idea, but conversely I heard a quote along the lines of

“if you don’t ask for more, you won’t get it”

So, is there some merit to overplaying, if at least to learn from?

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I like your question and I’m trying to figure out a ‘healthy’ balance between careful and greedy as well. I guess learning from it IS the best outcome as sometimes you fail miserably (and hopefully you’ll figure out why it didn’t work) but sometimes you suddenly find a move that works and can be applied to similar situations.

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I think it depends on your intention. If you are deliberately trying to get more than you can get then I don’t believe you will learn much from it. It can also lead to bad habits. However, if you are playing moves that you understand, even if it leads to overplaying, then you can better understand your mistakes.

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When I hear “greedy” in the context of Go, I usually think of taking a few extra points, but inadvertantly giving your opponent something better in exchange, or giving up sente.

If you can take a few extra points for free, that is, your opponent gets nothing in exchange and you keep sente, then by all means take them.

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well, “greedy” in go typically refers to a situation where a player tries to take more than can be reasonably expected from a situation. As opposed to playing aggressively, or playing for profit, which are what I would call playing greedy when it’s refined into a proper strategy rather than simply overplaying…

so, to answer your question: it’s okay to play greedy if you’re up against a weaker opponent who doesn’t know how to punish it, but probably a bad idea in all other circumstances… not to be confused with playing confidently or aggressively, which is more of a choice in style than anything.


When you lose!
Drawback to play greedy is the same as in many other activities when you do wrong all the time but you think you can escape at your will which tend to become impossible.

Taking a greedy move to be synonymous with an overplay, I propose as a general rule that it may be a good idea to play intentionally greedy moves when you are losing (that is, behind in points). If you are behind in points, you can only catch up by capitalizing off of your opponent’s mistakes. Playing a greedy move essentially tries to force them into a making a mistake. In a large handicap game, the stronger player starts the game well behind and must play greedy moves to catch up. In even games, often one player will be clearly ahead, and it may make sense for the player who is behind to play a greedy move that tests their opponent’s ability to respond correctly, since that may be their only chance of winning.

The quote “if you don’t ask for more, you won’t get it” does not necessarily imply playing greedy moves, though. It could simply be warning of not playing moves that are too slow (http://senseis.xmp.net/?Slow) or defensive.


I agree with @mikemc.

I’ve also found that certain ‘greedy’ moves are sometimes acceptable if you’ve taken the time to defend all your major weaknesses.

If you’re strong, you can occasionally risk an “unreasonable” move in the hopes that your opponent makes a mistake - but if you have any weaknesses, or if there are still big moves left on the board, it is probably too dangerous or too slow to risk.

My assumption is that these kinds of situations become less frequent the stronger you and your opponents get, but they’re quite frequent at the DDK level.

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