Go Symbol The Cambridge Go Society Go Symbol

How to play Go: Liberties and capturing stones

Once a stone has been put on the board it is never moved. It may, however, be removed by being captured. This is the subject of this section.

I would like you to look at this stone in the middle of the board:

ecceccecc
eccbstecc
ecceccecc

You can see that there are 4 empty points next to it. It is said to have 4 'liberties'. If a stone is on the edge of the board like this:

ecceccecc
ecbbstecb
ohzohzohz

Then it only has 3 liberties. How many liberties does this stone have?

ovelcecc
ovbstecb
ocohzohz

(Answer: 2). If white plays next to a stone in the middle of the board like this:

ecceccecceccecc
ecceccecceccecc
ecceccbstw01ecc
ecceccecceccecc
ecceccecceccecc

Then there are only 3 empty points next to it. It only has 3 liberties left. If black does not try to save his stone, and white keeps playing next to it like this:

ecceccecceccecc
ecceccw02eccecc
ecceccbstwstecc
ecceccw03eccecc
ecceccecceccecc

Then eventually the white stone only has one liberty left. When a stone has only one liberty left it is said to be 'in atari'. (Atari is a Japanese word which doesn't really translate well.) If black continues to ignore his stone then with one more move white can remove its last liberty. At this point the black stone is captured. White removes it from the board and keeps it, usually in the lid of the pot his stones came in. The result of the capturing move looks like this:

ecceccecceccecc
ecceccwsteccecc
eccw04eccwstecc
ecceccwsteccecc
ecceccecceccecc

Question: how can a stone in the corner of the board be captured? (Answer:

ovw01ecc
ovbstecb
ocohzohz
ovwstecc
ovelbw02
ocohzohz

When there are several black stones next to each other, connected by the lines of the board, then they form a group. Groups gets captured either all at once, or not at all. For example, black has 2 groups of stones here:

ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc
oveltectectectectectectectertov
ovelceccecceccecceccecceccercov
ovelcbstbstbstecceccespeccercov
ovelcecceccbstbsteccecceccercov
ovelcecceccecceccbstecceccercov
ovelcecceccecceccbstecceccercov
ovelceccespecceccbstespeccercov
ovelceccecceccecceccecceccercov
ovelbecbecbecbecbecbecbecberbov
ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc

One group is made up of 5 stones, and the other is made up of 3 stones. How many liberties does each group have? (Answer: The 5 stone group has 10 liberties and the 3 stone group has 8 liberties.) If black does not intervene then white can capture the 3 stone group like this:

ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc
oveltectectectectectectectertov
ovelceccecceccecceccecceccercov
ovelcbstbstbstecceccespeccercov
ovelcecceccbstbsteccecceccercov
ovelceccecceccw06bstw07eccercov
ovelceccecceccw04bstw05eccercov
ovelceccespeccw02bstw03eccercov
ovelcecceccecceccw01ecceccercov
ovelbecbecbecbecbecbecbecberbov
ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc
ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc
oveltectectectectectectectertov
ovelceccecceccecceccecceccercov
ovelcbstbstbstecceccespeccercov
ovelcecceccbstbstw08ecceccercov
ovelceccecceccwsteccwsteccercov
ovelceccecceccwsteccwsteccercov
ovelceccespeccwsteccwsteccercov
ovelcecceccecceccwstecceccercov
ovelbecbecbecbecbecbecbecberbov
ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc

Of course black probably does not want to have his stones captured like this. After white plays his seventh attacking move (putting the black stones in atari) black could connect his stones together by playing here:

ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc
oveltectectectectectectectertov
ovelceccecceccecceccecceccercov
ovelcbstbstbstecceccespeccercov
ovelcecceccbstbstb01ecceccercov
ovelceccecceccwstbstwsteccercov
ovelceccecceccwstbstwsteccercov
ovelceccespeccwstbstwsteccercov
ovelcecceccecceccwstecceccercov
ovelbecbecbecbecbecbecbecberbov
ocohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzohzoc

The black stones now form a single group with 10 liberties which will be difficult for white to capture.

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