This paper presents a new heuristic search based approach for recognition of partially obscured planar shapes. Based on a general scheme for representing the planar shapes in terms of their contour segments, a state space formulation is obtained for the recognition problem. The search in the state space is guided by an admissible heuristic function which is not dependent upon the features actually used for representing the shapes. Some schemes for toning up the efficiency of the method are also discussed. A study of the method was carried out by experimenting with some typical objects and results of experimentation are presented. © 1990.