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Go strategy

Game 1 of the 2002 LG Cup final between Choe Myeong-hun (White) and Lee Sedol (Black) at the end of the opening stage; White has developed a great deal of potential territory, while Black has emphasized central influence.

In the game of Go, strategy deals with global influence, interaction between distant stones, with keeping the whole board in mind during local fights and other issues that involve the overall game. It is therefore possible to allow a tactical loss when it confers a strategic advantage.

Go is not easy to play well. With each new level (rank) comes a deeper appreciation for the subtlety and nuances involved and for the insight of stronger players. The acquisition of major concepts of the game comes slowly. Novices often start by randomly placing stones on the board, as if it were a game of chance; they inevitably lose to experienced players who know how to create effective formations. An understanding of how stones connect for greater power develops, and then a few basic common opening sequences may be understood. Learning the ways of life and death helps in a fundamental way to develop one's strategic understanding of weak groups. It is necessary to play some thousands of games before one can get close to one's ultimate potential Go skill. A player who both plays aggressively and can handle adversity is said to display kiai or fighting spirit in the game.

Familiarity with the board shows first the tactical importance of the edges, and then the efficiency of developing in the corners first, then sides, then center. The more advanced beginner understands that territory and influence are somewhat interchangeable - but there needs to be a balance. This intricate struggle of power and control makes the game highly dynamic.

Basic concepts

Basic strategic aspects include the following:

The strategy involved can become very abstract and complex. High-level players spend years improving their understanding of strategy.

Opening strategy

In the opening of the game, players will usually play in the corners of the board first, as the presence of two edges make it easier for a player to surround territory and establish his stones. After the corners, focus moves to the sides, where there is still one edge to support a player's stones. Opening moves are generally on the third and fourth line from the edge, with occasional moves on the second and fifth lines. In general, stones on the third line offer stability and are good defensive moves, whereas stones on the fourth line influence more of the board and are good attacking moves.

In the opening, players often play established sequences called joseki, which are locally balanced exchanges. Choosing the right joseki that also gives a good result globally is one of the challenges faced by good players. It is generally advisable to keep a balance between stability and influence. Which of these gets precedence is often a matter of individual taste.


White is forced to play on the red circle which black responds on A, building up the ladder.

The ladder is a traditional technique that allow the player to force the opponent to the edge of the board or a dead end and thus, capturing the opponent's chain. However, in the chart, if there was a white stone at G, white could break out of the ladder and play A. Black then would be in Double Atari.