23. Three Life and Death Problems
Uncovering Your Blind Spots

by Richard Bozulich
February 29, 2024

Life and death positions often arise in games where the standard moves do not successfully resolve the situation. Sometimes you need to think 'outside the box' and play moves or make sacrifices that are completely unexpected. These unexpected moves are your blind spots, and to uncover them you must analyze all positions freely and widely. You may then come up with moves that defy commonsense but miraculously resolve these position in your favor. Of course the accuracy in your analysis is also important, but this comes only from years of regularly solving life-and-death problems.

Here are three problems in which the winning moves are not obvious and you could easily overlook them if they arose in any of your games.

Problem 1. White to play
Problem 1. White to play and kill
If Black can capture the marked stone, he can live. But Black is also threatening to make eyes in the corner by capturing two stones. How can White kill Black?

Answer to Problem 1

Problem 2. White to play
Problem 2. White to play and live
Clearly, White doesn't have enough space to make two eyes. If he is going to live, he will have to exploit a defect in Black's position.

Answer to Problem 2

Problems 3. Black to play
Problem 3. Black to play and live
If Black is going to live he will have to exploit the aji of his marked stone in the corner. How can he do this?

Answer to Problem 3