Ko fight

by Jinryu

Lately, I’ve been trying a new technique in baduk, known as the “ko fight.”


Here’s how it works.


You get into a situation where you need two moves to do something major– by major I mean: kill a huge amount of enemy stones, save a bunch of yours that would have died, or secure a large amount of territory.  Because of the rules of the game that are designed to prevent infinite repetition in a particular game anomoly where you can keep killing back and forth over the same single stone, you can basically do these two moves in a row– assuming there isn’t something bigger you have to take care of.

Okay, so that’s a bit hard to understand.  To put it in normal terms, imagine a scenario where you and someone else have to take turns doing something.

Of course, this all has to be done in turns… and time is extremely valuable. Also, not all property is equal.


So, imagine a scenario where X and Y are in the same business, and want to basically oust the other.  Things get a bit rough:

  1. X’s Turn: X sets a bomb on Y’s Porsche.  (Needs one more turn to detonate).
  2. Y’s Turn: Y love his Porsche, and decides to go and disarm it.
  3. X’s Turn: It’s X’s turn again, leaving him with the initiative for further mischief.

Compare that scenario with the following:

  1. X’s Turn: X sets a bomb on Y’s Porsche.  (Needs one more turn to detonate).
  2. Y’s Turn: Y love his Porsche, but decides maybe to gamble that battle to try and win the war.  Instead of saving his Porsche, he goes to X’s garage, where there are 10 Rolls Royce inside. He sets a bomb there.  (Needs one more turn to detonate.)
  3. X’s Turn: At this point, X has a choice– he can either destroy Y’s Porsche, or he can save his 10 Rolls Royce.

If X decides to blow up Y’s porsche, he clearly loses out– no matter how you weigh it, 10 RRs is a far heftier loss than 1 Porsche.  This is pretty much a bad decision.

But what if X decides to save his RRs?

  1. X’s Turn: X disarms the RR bomb.
  2. Y’s Turn: At this point, it’s Y’s turn.  Y has a choice– he can either save his Porsche by disarming the bomb on it, or he can “trade his way up.”  Say that he decides to gamble this battle to try and win the war: he places a bomb on X’s transport ship, which has a shipping container full of coke.
  3. X’s Turn: It’s now X’s turn

However, consider X’s options:

  • He can save the Porsche.
  • He can save the shipping contain full of drugs.
  • He can ignore deffense completely– and place a bomb on something of Y’s that’s completely bigger.  For example– he might place a bomb at Y’s secret facility where they’re developping a machine capable of cold fusion.


Do you see what I’m getting at?  Because of the turn based nature of baduk, you can ignore an enemy threat, so as long as you can threaten your enemy in a bigger way.  In so doing, you can pull off some crazy stunts where the threats steadily get larger and larger.  This is known as a ko fight.  It gets really exciting because it’s high-stakes poker– at some point, what started off as a small threat might have escalated to assured destruction.


The winner of the ko fight is one who:

  • [has more threats to use against the opponent] / [has less vulnerabilities that can be targetted]
  • doesn’t get scared

The first one is just numbers and technique– you have to build situations wehre your opponent is vulnerable, and where you are resistent.  This is all about preparation and efficiency– you need to put your investments in before going to war.  The second issue is just fighting spirit.