There are a number of Go technical terms which do not refer to specific moves but rather to concepts which are basic to the understanding of certain tactics and strategies.

The concepts that these terms represent are very important and no one can hope to become a professional player without understanding their subtleties.

In order to understand the aspects mentioned in this article, your rank in the Game of Go must be 20Kyu or stronger.

In this article you’ll learn the basic terms of Go with definitions.

Sente and Gote

A move is called Sente if it produces a threat so large that the other player cannot avoid making a direct response to this move.

Gote, on the other hand, is just the opposite. It is a move which is basically defensive in nature and the other player doesn’t need to respond directly to this move but rather play elsewhere.

In this case, white 1 is sente as black must respond to it by playing at 2. If black neglects to play here white will play at 2 and the black stones in the corner die.

sente and gote

On the other hand, black 2 is called gote, as it only defends the stones in the corner and now white can play elsewhere.


ladder refers to a method of capturing stones in which the resulting pattern to many people resembles a ladder.

The ladder is very important and no game is ever played without this situation at least being considered.

Here, black 1 will capture white’s X stone by ladder. If white resists, black will drive him into the side and then capture all his stones with 17.


If white had a stone in the vicinity of 10 before black played 1, the ladder would not work and Black’s efforts would end in failure. Such a stone is called a ladder-breaker; and when considering a ladder, close attention must be plaid to all stones in the line of the projected ladder.


Damezumari means a shortage of liberties. This concept is very important and will often occur when we study teuji. Many fights are lost because one player has fewer liberties than his opponent.


Let’s look at an example

In this example, white plays 1 and black stops white with 2. This move creates damezumari for white and he must defend his stone with 3 or they will die.

The reason why black should block at 2 is that if he didn’t, then white would go outside and ruin black’s blockade.


Miai refers to two points on the board which is related in such a way that if one player occupies one of them, then his opponent must occupy the other


Here, when black plays 1, white must play 2 in order to keep his stones alive. On the other hand, if black had played at 2, white would have had to play 2 at 1 in order to remain alive. Points 1 and 2 are called points of Miai.

Notice that 3 and 4 (A and B) are also miai points.


Aji is perhaps the most difficult concept to define. It refers to latent threats that exist in some local situations.

At the time when an Aji situation first occurs, the player who has these latent threats may be unable to utilize them immediately.


However, as the game develops, certain vital points in the vicinity of the existing aji will be occupied and suddenly these threats will materialize.

Here’s an example to clarify what just been said

The white stones in the corner are not quite alive, but white is connected to the outside with his stone (X)

However, this position had many defects and black has some aji against this formation.

Black is mainly threatening to play the sequence shown in this diagram. After black plays at 3, if white plays 4, the sequence to black 9 points out the flaws in the white position

Sabaki, Karui and Omoi

There are basically two kinds of shapes in Go; One is the light shape and the other is a heavy one.

Sabaki is the term used to refer to quick development, while karui is a term used to refer to a single move which is basic to or may cause the formation of a flexible shape.

Omoi refers to a group of stones which are heavy and clumsy and have great problems in making an eye formation.

Hence, such stones will usually come under severe attack as likely candidates for destruction. Even if such stone escape capture, one can gain a great advantage by chasing them. While doing this, one can expand its an area of influence in the process.

After playing sabaki stones will face up quite well against any type of attack launched against them because this kind of shape has great eye-making potential and will have a variety of tactics with which to affect the completion of those eyes.

About the author

Irakli Khizanishvili

Hi, I'm Irakli from Georgia.
I've been playing the game of Go for a few years now. During that period I've read lots of books about all aspects of this interesting and beautiful game.
On this website, I'm glad to share my game knowledge and experience with you.
I hope I'll be able to help improve your skills and proficiency in the magnificent game of Go!
Remember, it's never too late to learn new things!

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