Learn Go The Easy Way: How to use the edge of the board to capture

So you’ve been playing Capture Go for awhile now, or at least, I hope you have?

Today I’m going to show you how to use the edge of the Go board to trap stones, so that they have no way to escape capture. These techniques are fundamental to Go, and learning them should dramatically improve your skill at capturing stones.

This is lesson two of Learn Go The Easy Way.

First, let’s do a quick review of counting liberties.

Counting liberties… again

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go over lesson 1 again! Last time we didn’t talk about the edge of the board, so we’re just going to take a quick look at that now, OK?

As you’ll remember, a single stone usually has 4 liberties.

A single Go stone with 4 liberties.


However, if you’ve been practicing, you might have noticed that stones on the edge of the board have fewer liberties. For example, the stone below only has 3 liberties.

A stone on the edge of the board only has 3 liberties.


Stones in the corner have even fewer liberties. The picture below shows a single stone with only 2 liberties.

This stone in the corner only has 2 liberties.


As you can see from these examples, a stone on the edge of the board is easier to surround than a stone in the center. Because of this, it’s usually not a good idea to play on the edge of the Go board early in the game. If you do, your stones will be captured too easily.

Let’s see how you can use the edge of the board to help you capture stones!

Dead ends in the game Go

Have you ever driven down a dead end street by accident and had to turn around? Perhaps as a child you played tag and remember avoiding getting caught in dead ends?

In a game of tag, a dead end always favors the person doing the chasing. In Go, it’s exactly the same!

Have a look at the situation below. White has just escaped by playing at ‘A’.

White saves one stone by playing at 'A'.

What white hasn’t realized yet is that black is chasing these stones into a dead end.

Black chases white's stones into the corner, where they reach a dead end.

White can only run away up until 6. After that white reaches the dead end in the corner and has nowhere else to go. White doesn’t have enough liberties to escape and black can capture white’s whole group, as shown below.

Black captures white's stones with 7.

Practice using dead ends to capture

Now you try. Capture white’s stones in a dead end.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Did you capture them? Great work!

Use the corner of the Go board trap stones in a dead end.

I don’t know what’s going on in this picture, but that sure is one dramatic dead end! It’s pretty funny too.

If you think of this picture, I’m sure it will help you remember how to capture stones in the corner.

I guess that eventually, someone is going to dig a road through that hill or even build a tunnel. That brings us to our next topic…

Tunnels in the game Go

It's easy for Go stones to get trapped in a tunnel.

Much like dead ends, it’s easy to get trapped in a tunnel. You only have two ways to escape, and if one gets blocked off, suddenly you’re in a dead end again.

Groups of stones can’t run very fast, they can only take one step per turn. Because of that, it’s easy for stones to be captured if they go into a tunnel.

Let’s see how that works in Go…

When adding stones doesn’t help you escape

You might have noticed in the last example, that even if black gives white another move, there’s still no way to escape. Let’s have a look at that now.

Even if white plays plays 'A' black can still capture at 'B'.

In the picture above, white’s stones only have one liberty at ‘A’. When stones only have one liberty, we say that they’re in atari. Atari (pronounced a-tar-ree) is just a Japanese word that means the stones are about to be captured.

Incidentally, you may have heard of the computer game company called Atari. The owner named his company Atari because he likes Go.

Since white’s in atari, black can capture white’s 5 stones at any time by playing at ‘A’. However, even if white gets to play at ‘A’ first, white still has only one liberty. So white is still in atari! Black can block off the exit by playing at ‘B’ and capture all white’s stones.

This is what I call a tunnel. White can’t run fast enough to get to the exit before black does. Here’s another example.

Black 1 captures, white's two stones in a tunnel.

After black plays 1, white’s two stones are in trouble. Once again, even if white adds another stone, white still can’t escape.

Even if white plays 2, black can still capture white's three stones at 'A'.

There are lots of ways to use tunnels to capture stones. Have a look at the example below and see if you can figure out how to capture some stones.

Using tunnels to capture

White’s two stones only have 2 liberties. Can you capture them in a tunnel so they can’t escape?

Can black capture white's two stones?

Did you figure it out? Have a look at the diagram below to see the answer. Black plays 1 and white two stones are trapped in a tunnel.

After black plays 1, white's two stones are trapped in a tunnel. If white plays 2, black can still capture three stones at 'A'.


After black plays 1 in the diagram above, white has no way to escape. If white plays 2, white is still in atari, so black can still capture at ‘A’.

Chasing stones towards the edge of the board

OK, so now you know how to capture stones at the edge of the board. I hope you’re also learning not to put your own stones in dangerous positions like these!

But what if the person you’re playing with doesn’t play on the edge like I’ve shown? Perhaps you and your partner have both learned not to make that mistake now? Well, even with stones that aren’t on the edge of the board, you can still chase them towards the edge and capture them in a tunnel or dead end.

In the example below, white has separated two of black’s stones in the corner and is planning to capture them. Because this kind of move separates stones into different groups it is called a cut.

How can black save the two stones in the corner?

Black only has two liberties and is almost trapped in a dead end. There’s no way to escape, so the only option is to counter attack. White’s cutting stone only has two liberties too. Black should be able to capture it if black moves first, but how?

Black chases white's stones to the edge of the board and traps them.

After black plays 1, white’s stone is in atari. The only way to escape is to play at 2. However, black plays 3 and white’s two stones are caught in a tunnel. No matter what white does next, black can capture these stones. If you pay attention, there will be opportunities to capture stones like this in your own games.

Creating tunnels in the center of the board

So far, we’ve only talked about capturing stones using the edge of the board. If you have enough stones in the right places though, you can create tunnels anywhere. Here’s an example of some stones which can be caught using a tunnel.

White's two stones can be caught in a tunnel.


Can you see how to capture them? Have a look at the answer below to see if you got it.

After black plays 1, white is in atari. If white plays 2, black still captures with 3.

In the diagram above, the atari at 1 captures white’s two stones. White has no way to escape.


Practice what you’ve learned

Here are some more puzzles for you to try. If you’ve joined Learn Go The Easy Way, check your email for more interesting puzzles. If you haven’t joined yet, you should because it’s completely free. Click here to join for free.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)



Download SGF File (Go Game Record)



Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


What to do next

How did you go with the puzzles? If you’ve read up to here you must really be enjoying learning to play Go. That’s the whole point of these lessons so I’m very happy.

If you’ve joined the Learn Go The Easy Way then I’ll be sending another lesson next week. In the meantime, don’t forget to look at the extra information I’ve sent you.

Keep playing Capture Go with your friends and family and you’ll improve quickly. If none of your friends play Go yet, why not share these articles with them? Click the sharing buttons below or email a link to your friends.

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About David Ormerod

David is a Go enthusiast who’s played the game for more than a decade. He likes learning, teaching, playing and writing about the game Go. He's taught thousands of people to play Go, both online and in person at schools, public Go demonstrations and Go clubs. David is a 5 dan amateur Go player who competed in the World Amateur Go Championships prior to starting Go Game Guru. He's also the editor of Go Game Guru.

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