The Fatal Endgame Mistake



Nothing is more frustrating for a kyu-level Go player than losing a won game by making a mistake in the endgame. Here is an example from one of my games.


Brown Stone played Black. Moves 1 and 3 are typical of Black’s preference of the orthodox opening.


Black thought about continuing with the orthodox opening. Maybe Black is better off in this position, but this will be a different game.


Black chose to play an avalanche joseki since the ladder favored Black and for fun.


Black expected and wanted the small avalanche joseki.


After the exchange of White 10 and Black 11, Black thought White will go for the avalanche joseki.


This is an old variation of the avalanche joseki. This would have been an interesting game.


Black thought the clamp of White 14 was too early. The North had the biggest potential, and Black secured points with an enclosure. White’s base on South did not seem so big because of Black 15. Black was happy to get the chance to develop the East with 21. The peep of White 24 was non-threatening. Black was connected even if White pushed through. The North was still big, so Black approached with 25. However, making an ideal extension on the East at R10 might have been better.


Maybe this variation will be better for Black.


After White 26, Black’s heavy group on South looked very weak, so Black defended with 27. However, Black thought White 30 was also non-threatening, so maybe Black 27 was not necessary.



Black (▲) Pairs

North East – 5.5

South East – 3

Total 8.5

White (■) Pairs

South West – 4.5

South East – 5

Total – 9.5 + 6.5 Komi

Black gave White no credit on the North West because of the weakness at C17, and little on South, because of the monkey jump at H1. However, White was still leading by 8.5 points. It was Black’s turn, so Black can take advantage and even the score.


Black 31 aimed at limiting White’s power to the Apex and the East. White 32 was another small move. After 35, Black was satisfied with the position. With 37, Black was willing to abandon Black F16 and use it later to invade at C17. Black was happy to increase the North East moyo with 39. White 40 was a bit surprising. White 42 also surprised Black. Up to White 64, Black might have been too nice to White, but Black preferred a wall to the Apex than territory. White’s territory was only about 10 points. Black was worried about the cut at R17 throughout the game. Oh, If only Black knew this would be Black’s downfall.


The cut of White 66 looked scary. White 70 decided to reduce Black’s Apex. Black 71 was more of a helping hand to the weakening Black South West group rather than expanding the Apex moyo. Black played 73 in preparation for the wedge at 81. After White 86, the Black South West group was suddenly in danger. Somehow, the exchange of White 88 for Black 89 was good for Black. After White 98, Black had no choice, but to find life for the South West group. After White 102, Black felt the South West group was safe. Black was not sure and did not read out all of the possible variations during the game, but Black took the risk and cut at 103 anyway. White 104 was an overplay.


Black captured White with a beautiful squeeze. After Black 117, Black had one major weakness that White did not see. Can you find it?


White 1 is Black’s weakness. Black cannot connect at A due to a shortage of liberties. The game would have favored White with this move.


Black should have defended the weakness at K9 instead of invading. Lucky for Black, White also did not see Black’s major weakness. Black 27 captured two stones, N17 and O17, but these two stones, in relation to the cut at R17, would haunt Black in endgame.


Capturing at A was bad for Black. This variation would have been better for Black.


White still did not play the winning move at K9. After Black 137, White K9 was no longer a winning move. White missed the chance to end the game and take the win. White 150 signaled the start of endgame.



Black (▲) Pairs

North East + Apex + East + South – 32

North West – 4

Total – 36 + 8 Prisoners = 80 points

White (■) Pairs

NE – 4

South – 8.5

South West – 6

North – 10

Total – 28.5 + 4 Prisoners + 6.5 komi = 67.5 points

Black was ahead by 12.5 points. This should have been a won game if Black counted and read more even during byoyomi.


The endgame proceeded peacefully until Black 199, a useless move. Black should have defended at R18 instead. White 202 was the dreaded cut. Black thought the cut would not work.


Whether the cut works or not, Black should just have sacrificed the four Black stones. Black would have won by 2.5 points.


However, Black was in byoyomi and could not judge the result correctly. Not all hope was lost though, but Black made the wrong move at 209 in an instant without even thinking about the continuation.


Apparently, the cut did not really work. Black 3 and White 2 are miai. Black is safe and wins the game. Unfortunately, this did not happen.


The game was over after White 210. Black played without purpose for a couple more moves and let the game end to counting. White won by 8.5 points. It was a lost game for Black anyway if White saw the weakness at K9 during the middle game. However, Black should have kept this win if Black counted better and read the cut deeper.

Black attempted for an avalanche joseki with A, but White resisted with B. The focus of the match turned to the Apex when White invaded at C that gave Black a big wall. Black was able to cut White’s reducing moves with the wedge at D, but White counterattacked Black’s weak group in the South West. Black survived with the help of the squeeze with Black E. White could have ended the match early if White saw the atari at F, which Black did not see also.The middle game ended with Black securing a big Apex and taking the South West with the invasion at G. Black lost the game because of H. After White’s cut at I, Black could have saved the game by playing atari with J not K, or connecting at L later and making an eye with M. Black lost these two opportunities and lost the game.

Brown Stone has developed a style of focusing on building an Apex moyo and being aware of big areas on the board. However, Brown Stone still lacks the foundation in reading, and this limits Brwnstn’s progress.

Have you ever lost a won game in the endgame? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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