Go, like so many board games, originates in China but because of the game’s huge popularity in Japan it is often mistaken as a Japanese game. The Japanese name for Go is actually Igo (いご ) though sometimes Go is used in conversation.
For this article I’m going to use Go.
The object of Go is to claim as much of the board, territory, as possible. The player with the most territory wins. The game is played between two players on a board marked with black lines; the black and white Go pieces are called stones. Players take turns placing the stones on the board to create groups of territory. Territory is claimed by surrounding and walling off areas and keeping those areas protected. There are 19 vertical and 19 horizontal lines on the Go board making 361 intersections. Lately people have started playing on 13×13 and 9×9 boards. Games on the smaller boards are easier to learn and take less time but the game play is essentially the same.
Unlike most games, Go is played on the lines and not the spaces formed by them. These lines are called liberties and are how the game totals are added and how you are able to tell if groups are alive or dead or even a group – liberties connect the stones. Dead groups have no eyes and are lost territory to whoever the stones belong. Eyes are ‘gaps’ in a group of stones; a living group needs two eyes to be alive but players must be wary of false eyes. False eyes appear to be connected to the main group but can be ‘cut’ by the opposition placing a stone. ‘Cutting’ is when a stone is separating from the main group by opposition stones.
The rules of Go are very simple, the complexity of Go is in the strategy and tactics. Reading and planning ahead based on several possible moves that might be played as well as the ability to adapt are skills required to win a game of Go. Unless, of course, both players are beginners.
Professional players play on traditional boards that have feet. Professional games are timed and recorded on kifu (きふ). Kifu are sheets of paper that are lined and the game recorder writes the position of the stones as they are played. Black is recorded in black ink and white in red ink. Recorded games are often replayed while learning and developing skills.
Basic rules of Go:
1] Go is played between two players
2] One of the players uses black stones and the other white. Players take turns placing the stones on the board; the first move is black unless it is a handicapped game.
3] The stone must be placed on one of the intersections.
4] A stone cannot be moved once placed.
5] The player with the most territory wins.
6] Stones with no liberties are removed from the board.
7] No stone can be placed on an intersection where there are no liberties.
8] There are special restrictions on a player’s moves in a ko (こ) situation.
The image above illustrates a ko situation.
A – Ko situation.
B – Black can take white by playing 1.
C – The result is another ko situation.
D – White can take black by playing 2.
Ko are situations where stones can be taken and taken indefinitely and so rules have been made concerning them. If B were to happen, white cannot play D immediately – white has to play elsewhere first before returning to the ko situation. Often during this play black will place a stone on 2 securing the stones and ending the ko. Ko are sometimes used in strategies or to force other situations.
Often Go is played until the very end. Players read ahead and if the end is inevitable the losing player will resign. However, if a player feels they can turn the board to their favour they will continue to play.
Go by The Nihon Ki-in