Go/Lesson 3: Basic Capturing Techniques

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There are several tactical constructs aimed at capturing stones.[1] These are among the first things a player learns after understanding the rules. Recognizing the possibility that stones can be captured using these techniques is an important step forward.



A ladder. Black cannot escape unless the ladder connects to friendly stones further down the board.

The most basic technique is the ladder.[2] To capture stones in a ladder, a player uses a constant series of atari to force the opponent into a zigzag pattern as shown in the diagram to the right. Unless the pattern runs into friendly stones along the way, the stones in the ladder cannot avoid capture. Experienced players will recognize the futility of continuing the pattern and will play elsewhere. The presence of a ladder on the board does give a player the option to play a stone in the path of the ladder, thereby threatening to rescue their stones, forcing a response. Such a move is called a ladder breaker and may prove a powerful strategic response. In the diagram, Black has the option of playing a ladder breaker.


A net. The chain of three black stones cannot escape in any direction.

Another technique to capture stones is the so-called net,[3] also known by its Japanese name, geta. This refers to a move that loosely surrounds some stones, preventing their escape in all directions. An example is given in the diagram to the left. It is generally better to capture stones in a net than in a ladder, because a net does not depend on the condition that there are no opposing stones in the way, nor does it allow the opponent to play a strategic ladder breaker.


A snapback. Although Black can capture the white stone by playing at the circled point, White can then snap back by playing at 1 again.

A third technique to capture stones is the snapback.[4] In a snapback, one player allows a single stone to be captured, then immediately plays on the point formerly occupied by that stone; by so doing, the player captures a larger group of their opponent's stones, in effect snapping back at those stones. An example can be seen on the right. As with the ladder, an experienced player will not play out such a sequence, recognizing the futility of capturing only to be captured back immediately.


  1. Kim 1994 pp. 80–98
  2. Kim 1994 pp. 88–90
  3. Kim 1994 pp. 91–92
  4. Kim 1994 pp. 93–94