Published 7 Jul 2020 by antti (last edited 7 Jul 2020)

Hekomi is a Japanese go term that is fairly often used in Japanese go jargon, but is virtually nonexistent in its English counterpart. ‘Hekomi’ is usually translated ‘dent’ or ‘depression’; but in go terms, I find the former translation not very descriptive while the latter will get confused with the mental state. ‘Hollow’ would make for a more fitting noun translation, but one of the main reasons why the term is so often used in Japanese is because it can effortlessly be made into a verb: ‘hekomi’ (noun) becomes ‘hekomu’ (verb). Therefore, for an English translation, I would suggest ‘cave in’ – at least until somebody comes up with a better idea.

As for what ‘caving in’ in go means, it may be easiest to show by example. The key move to solving the problem below is a hekomi. This is one of the few times when knowing the kanji representation () can also help.

Black to play.

Black 1 is the key move: it forms one safe eye at a, and starts forming another at b. Moves up to 7 follow, and the result is a ko for Black’s life.
Black 1 is called a ‘hekomi’ because the natural move seems like
c instead. Compared to c, black 1 surrounds one point less territory, and its shape also makes it seem like the black position is ‘collapsing into itself’ – therefore the ‘cave in’ translation is surprisingly fitting.

Comments (3)

Fanshawe wrote 3 years, 5 months ago:

Hekomi seems to me to lead to a ko. Other moves seem to die, so it looks like it's the solution, but I just wanted to confirm.

antti wrote 3 years, 5 months ago:

Did you by any chance miss the ‘solution’ button below the diagram?

Maybe I should try to make that stand out more...

Fanshawe wrote 3 years, 5 months ago:

Haha, no, looks like I was the problem, not the insufficient prominence of the button! This makes me want to come back and revisit all those tough Sunday problems I was unable to solve :)