Big Moves & Small Moves

To win a game of Go, you need to have more points than your opponent. So you want each of your moves to get you as many points as you can!

We say that a move is big if it gets you a lot of points and small if it doesn't get you many. Of course, of a move doesn't get you any points, then it's ... umm ... pointless!

Here's a good example. Do you think Black should play at A or B?

is big. It kills the stones by stopping them from getting two eyes.

After White plays , there's nothing left to do, so both players pass.

When Black takes off the five dead white stones, there are five points of territory underneath too.

Black has won, with 32 points to White's 29.



Every enemy stone you kill gets you two points: one for the prisoner and one for the point of territory underneath.

Let's see what would happen if Black starts with the other move. It threatens to cut off the two marked stones and capture them. What should White do now?

If White defends the two stones, Black kills the five. White can't win like this!

White makes an inspired sacrifice. He plays the big move and lets Black cut off the two stones!

White can't save the two stones, so he blocks Black from coming any further into his territory.

Next, Black could simply capture the two stones, but he has an even better move. Can you find it?

is a crafty move! If White captures the triangled stone, Black can recapture him in a snapback.

White blocks again. It's double atari, so Black captures the two stones.

Black is now threatening a double atari at x, so ...

... White defends against the double atari and Black completes his territory. There's nothing else worth doing, so both sides pass now.

White gave up a lot of points when he let Black capture the two stones, but he saved even more when he lived in the corner.

White wins with 25 points to Black's 23.



Don't defend against small threats if there are bigger things to do.


Black to play! Which is the big move, which is the small move and which is the pointless move?

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Enemies inside! table of contents Where to look for good moves

UK Go Challenge home 1 November 2003