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Ko

Ko occurs when the board returns to a previous state. This is not allowed by the rules. We could attribute karmic reasons for this rule. However, it was likely instituted for playability reasons. It keeps the game from falling into a stalemate, where the players keep repeating the same moves.

In example 1 we see that white may move to capture the black stone. When this occurs we have the situation shown in example 2. Now we see that the new white stone is in atari. However, if black were to move to capture it, the board would return to the condition shown in example 1. This is against the rules. black must move elsewhere. Then white may consolidate his position or move elsewhere as well. If white chooses to move elsewhere, black may now capture the white stone.

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