A Western insei recently wondered about the term "karai":

Japanese players call black 57 "karai", which is a term which I haven't heard used in western go at all! The meaning appears to be close to "(a move creating) a solid position, including a territorial profit". Professionals appear to love "karai" moves and groups.

This term is apparently unknown in the West and so far I found no books explaining or even mentioning it. What does it mean exactly, and to what moves is it applied? An example board would be great.

3 Answers 3


"Concentrating on getting territory, rather than playing for influence."

Pasting in the native speaker sources from the Sensei's answer (put there by Bill Spight I think): 辛い(からい)厚みよりも地をとることを意図すること。 from Weblio's Basic Go Dictionary

厚みより地をとることを目的とすること。 from a different go dictionary

厚みよりも実利(地)を重視していること。 From the katteyomi go dictionary

Also, if you google for "地に辛い" (ji ni karai, i.e. concentrating on taking territory) you get it described as a style of some players (Wikipedia mentions Hane Naoki, Iiyama Yuta, but also says this style of play is becoming more widespread/dominant recently).

  • I find this answer far less helpful than it could be, as I do not read any Asian languages.
    – PJTraill
    Dec 13, 2015 at 23:43
  • @PJTraill All three definitions say the same thing, so I added its meaning at the top. Dec 14, 2015 at 8:32

(This is a preliminary answer, I'm hoping for someone to come up with a more founded answer with example situations).

To my knowledge, karai means "clear and sharp" and is typically applied to important, big moves that globally put pressure on the opponent to come up with a (global) strategy. This is different from kiai which is a little closer to (local) tactics.

There is also the somewhat related term "aji karai" which refers to a shape free of weakness. The precise difference to 'honte' is unclear to me, though.


Strange, as the Japanese word "karai" means hot or spicy, or salty. It can also mean strict, harsh, tough. It does not sound, to me, like a word that would be used to describe a nice, solid defensive move. [EDIT: but it seems it is, see the comments]

I'm wondering if the original person mis-heard or mis-typed the word "katai". That means solid. As a negative connotation it would mean tight, stiff and close (i.e. too slow a move). As a positive connotation it would be strong, firm and steady, a move that gives your group a definite life.

  • Yes, hot, spicy, salty was named many times in the discussions recently (also at senseis.xmp.net/?Karai). Gobase (a reliable source on at least the basics) has 'karai' but not 'katai' so I guess it was actually 'karai'.
    – mafu
    Dec 16, 2011 at 11:34
  • @mafutrct Yes, the Sensei's page answers your question. So "karai" means a move that grabs/emphasizes territory instead of thickness. That (to me, at least) is fascinating as I still don't see any relation to the non-go meaning. Dec 18, 2011 at 2:12
  • I'm not sure if you knew but the Sensei's page was created from the discussion here and at the article linked in the question, it's not founded on a solid source. So we can't really use it as a reliable reference.
    – mafu
    Dec 19, 2011 at 14:10
  • @mafutrct I did wonder if they were related, but there were links to three native Japanese Go dictionaries, all of which were saying the same thing. (and saying it in slightly different ways). Dec 19, 2011 at 23:07
  • Yeah, that's true, my mistake, I forgot about that. That is something actually new, and very useful.
    – mafu
    Dec 20, 2011 at 0:26

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