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| The Middle Game

How to not get completely lost in all the possibilities.

This will be a tough chapter full of different concepts; there is no other way. We can condense the opening into several common options that are considered optimal. The endgame follows fairly logical sequences of moves. Tut the middle game, however, is where the majority of moves happen and where you have so many options.

You and your opponent split the corners and then take some of the sides. Now what?

There is no simple answer. It all depends on the context of what is happening on the board at a given moment. Let’s try to imagine some possible situations and solutions.

Let’s say you do no see a clear next move to play. Start with some key first steps. Reduce the board into several important areas; then you can chose the best move from one of these areas. Imagine the middle game as a series of questions you need to answer in the right order. There will always be exceptions, but the basic questions you should ask yourself might look like this:

1. Do I have a weak group?
If so, first look to protect it. If you don’t your opponent will attack it and either kill it outright (which can even be game ending), or profit heavily by making points while you struggle to make two eyes (or a connection to another group) and make making no points in the process.

What does a weak group look like? >

2. Does my opponent have a weak group?
If so, attack it, but do not be reckless. You do not necessarily have to kill it; even “just” attacking it can give you lots of “free” stuff. Going overboard with the “attack mode” can often lead to trouble as the attacking side creates so many weaknesses that the opponent just picks everything apart once the attack fails.

3. Can I claim (or threaten to claim) a huge chunk of territory or prevent my opponent from doing so?
If there are no weak groups, it is often best to just go for a nice big part of territory, or prevent your opponent from doing the same. Or even better: Do both at the same time.

After asking the above questions, you should at least reduce the number of possibilities to a few general areas. Remember those areas and ask further:

1. Can I safely keep sente in either of these scenarios?
If you can, that’s perfect. Play in this area first, and then you can play in the other one(s) as well.

Sente vs gote >

2. Who is winning?
Your strategy can change a lot depending on the answer. Who has better potential to win this game right now? If it is your opponent, it’s time to try some sort of an attack and not just keep protecting. If you have the better chance of winning, stay away from crazy attacks and instead make sure your territory and groups are safe and solid.

3. Which of these is worth more?
If you have to give up sente (and there is no shame in doing so), you have to choose the move that is worth the most. That can be very hard to estimate! Not only do you need to judge the immediate territory gain, but also potential profit and influence on the rest of the board, endgame potential… Admittadely, we mostly just eyeball it and it comes with experience, but try to at least think about it.

Black to play

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