Lesson 108: Brilliant Self-Atari (1)
The technique of self-atari is used usually in a negative way. Let’s look at Dia.1.
White 1 and 3 are smart moves that capture the three △-marked black stones. White 1, which has nothing to do with the capturing of the black stones, is actually a move to put Black in a self atari situation.
The value of White 1 of Dia.1 shows up here more clearly. After the capturing race up to White 4, Black wants to play at x but cannot. Owing to the exchange of the ▲-marked black and white stones, to play at x would be a self-atari for Black.
As shown above, the majority of the life-and-death problems which call for self-atari as the answer are about putting the opponent in a position unable to play a certain move because playing it sets himself in atari. However, there are cases where placing oneself in self-atari can be a brilliant move.
Perhaps this doesn’t sound very different from the self-sacrificing tactics, but while sacrifice is focused on giving a part of your stones up in order to gain another profit, self-atari is about lessening your own liberties on purpose. In fact, the original Asian term for self-atari refers not only to the action of literally ‘putting himself in atari’ but actually all kinds of moves to fill the liberties of your own group of stones.
Since stones on the board are alive only when they have liberties, it is usually pointless to fill the liberties of your stones intentionally; however, just like playing an empty triangle with intent, to be in self-atari can be a good move. Let’s look at a simple example.
This is about saving the whole white group in this corner. It may look quite difficult, but if you call to mind that we’re talking about self-atari, it would be much easier to find the answer.
As you may guess, the answer is White 1, which puts the two white stones in atari. After Black captures the two stones, White 3 is played in the same place as 1, and Black again captures it with A. Then, as you may verify, White 5 can kill the cluster of black stones.
If the last example reminds you more of sacrificing tactics, I hope this one gives you a better image of self-atari. Again, you have to save the white group in this corner.
It would not be easy to find the answer, White 1, which is a move lessening the liberties of the two ▲-marked white stones, and an empty triangle as well. However, this seemingly worthless move is the savior of the big white group, since Black cannot save the three stones placed in atari by White 3 and 5. If Black doesn’t connect at 2 but just captures the three white stones on the upper side with 4, White will cut at 2 in sente and play 5.
The writer is a baduk professor at Myongji University and a professional player of the game.