Go

Go, a.k.a. igo (Japanese) a.k.a. wei qi (Chinese) a.k.a. baduk (Korean) is the best board game ever invented by humankind. It's a shame more people don't know about it. (It is also the second oldest game still being played today, after backgammon.)

But why don't more people play board games like go? Chess is a pretty good game, and it's pretty much the top game in the western world. Everyone I know knows about chess, even if they don't quite know how to play. And yet, there are few people I know who could beat me at chess right now, even though I haven't played in ages. Most of them are in my family. Perhaps even the greatest board game ever invented by humankind wouldn't be played by everyone, even if they knew about it. I guess I never really thought about this before, but maybe some people just don't like board games. What a tragedy.

With that in mind, I will lessen my goals. Instead of showing the world the superiority of go, I will just show the chess players of the world that they should replace their chess playing with playing go- just like I did! As a matter of fact I'm sure I've played go a lot more than I've played chess. I never played chess all that often- not game after game after game as I've played go. Perhaps that's why I never got very good at it.

Now I will teach you about go through comparing it to chess.

1. In chess, there are six types of pieces, all of which have different rules as to how they move and capture pieces.

In go, all pieces are exactly the same and pieces are captured through a very simple rule.

2. In chess, thrity-two pieces occupy the board at the beginning of the game and pieces are removed as the game progresses. One piece might be changed for another, but no pieces are ever added.

In go, the board is empty at the beginning of the game and a piece is added each turn, although pieces are removed quite often.

3. In chess, the pieces occupy specific positions at the beginning of the game.

In go, pieces can be placed on any point on the board at the beginning of the game, with few restrictions as the game progresses.

4. In chess, victory comes through the defeat of a single enemy piece.

In go, victory comes through understanding and controlling the entire board.

5. In chess, computer programs can now defeat any player.

In go, computer programs are only very rudimentary and the best of them can be beaten by average players.

Number five alone should be enough to convince most any chess player to try out go. It's certainly enough to convince me, now that I know the game. Go has got to be the most human game of its kind out there. It is so simple yet so incredibly complex in the so many possibilities there are out there. I can't imagine any program being able to unravel it all for ages to come.

With chess, whole opening sequences have different names and analyses. In go, only the first two or three moves are commonly the same- and that's not entirely true. There's no knowing what your opponent will or can do in a game of go. I know I've never played the same go game twice, despite how all of them run together in my mind. That's more than I can say for chess.

Here are the basic rules of go:

The board is a 19 by 19 grid, although beginners often start with a 9 by 9 and sometimes people play other dimensions.

As in chess, there are two players, one of which is black and the other white. Unlike chess however, black moves first.

Each move, a player places one of their appropriately colored pieces (stones) on an intersection of the lines on the board.

The empty intersections adjacent to a stone via the lines of the board are called its liberties. If placed in the middle of the board, a stone will have four liberties. If placed on the edge, it will have three. If placed on the corner, it will have two.

Below, the black piece has four liberties: C4, D3, C2 and B3.

If a player takes away all the liberties of an opponent's stone by filling them with their own stones, they remove the captured piece from the board and put it in a separate pile. When there is only one remaining liberty for a stone, that stone is said to be in atari.

Stones form groups when a player places a stone in one of his other stone's liberties. This new group of two adjacent stones now has six liberties, given that it is in the middle of the board. Groups consist of any number of stones, as long as they are all connected by the horizontal and vertical lines of the board. The same rules for capturing apply to groups; if all the liberties of the group are filled it is removed from the board.

Below: all of the black stones form a single group while none of the white stones are in a group. The black group only has one liberty and is thus in atari. (This common pattern is called a ladder, although this example is nonsensical because black can escape the ladder by playing at D19 or A17 and capturing the white stone at C19 or A18, respectively.)

If you understand the ladder above and why if the ladder did not start at the corner of the board black could be in trouble and lose its group, you are well on your way to learning about go.

At the end of the game, each player will control a portion of the space on the board. (My friend claims to have once removed all of the other player's pieces from the board, but that player obviously did not get enough coaching before hand.) Enemy stones within that controlled territory are removed and are added to the player's pile of captured stones. The empty points within each player's controlled territory are then counted and added to the number of stones the player has captured. This is the player's score.

The white player receives a predetermined addition to their score called moku which is to make up for the fact that they went second. This is usually 5.5 points, although it may sometimes be 6.5 or even just a half point so that there is no chance of there being a tie.

And of course, the player with the highest score at the end of the game is the winner.

Those are the rules, plain and simple. The most important and perhaps only concept you need to understand is that of liberties. All the rest of the game is strategy- and there is limitless strategy.

If you don't know anyone to start you off playing, (like me! I can teach you!) I'd recommend you go over the rules of the game at another site, just so you can read them differently and probably see a lot more picture examples. Then if you'd like to start seeing the game be played you can go here and watch a few games before you try out your own.

A note as to the ranking system: The highest rank is 10 dan, or 10d. Below 1d, ranks are measured by kyu going in the opposite direction as the dan, so someone falling back from a 1d rank would become 1k. I am currently 10k but the highest I've been ranked is 9k. The lowest rank I've ever seen is 30k, but that's a bit of a fluke. Most beginners will come out in the low 20k's to begin with.

I wish you the best of luck and truly hope you'll try out this game. I hope my explanation of the rules won't mess you up too much.

Comments

  1. I wanted to go to the website, but it wants me to download a plugin. :(

    I'll play if you teach me, though~

    ReplyDelete

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