Go (囲碁): An ancient asian board game of deep strategy

By | June 15, 2015

Go is a two-player board game which originated in China over 2,500 years ago, and is now popular in other countries including Japan and Korea. In Japanese it is written as “囲碁” (“igo”).

The game board contains a grid which is typically 19×19, though sometimes smaller sized grids are used for beginners (9×9 or 13×13). Game pieces are small round shapes similar to the popular candy “M&Ms” (though not edible), all black for one player and all white for the other. The game rules are fundamentally simple, where each player plays a piece (or “stone” as they are called) on a legal square, and after a piece is played there is a possibility one or more of the other player’s nearby pieces are removed from the board. The basic rule for which pieces are removed is if they have no empty spaces next to them. There are several more advanced rules, however, which I won’t be going into detail in this post.

Instead of playing a piece, each player has the option to pass and play no pieces. The game ends when both players pass in succession. The winner is determined by a scoring system where the number of encircled pieces plus the number of captured pieces is added together for each player, and the higher score wins. This concept of “encircling” can be seen in the first Kanji for the Japanese name of the game: “囲”, present in the verb 囲む (kakomu) which means “to encircle”.

I’m a huge fan of Chess, but to me Go seems more pure (with less rules), and yet much more complex. Last time I researched, because of the huge number of possibilities, computers were also significantly worse than the better human players, which is much different in Chess where the best computers can beat almost any player.

I bought a board some years ago (similar to this product), but because games typically take several hours I have only used it a few times. I’ve only briefly researched strategies about this game, but it seems there is a wealth of books and other resources for learning everything from the basics to move advanced tactics.

Traditional boards are called “goban” (碁盤)and are square shaped with legs, often made out of wood. You may have seen one in movies like “Pi” (not “The Life of Pi”) or “The Beautiful Mind”, and there is even a brief appearance of one in an anime movie I recently reviewed, Summer Wars. You can also check out the Manga “Hikaru no go” which is based heavily on playing go competitively.

It’s a pretty fun game, so if you ever have an opportunity you might want to try learning it.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(game) http://www.eurogofed.org/history/filmography/anime.htm http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2015/06/08/japanese-anime-movie-review-summer-wars-サマーウォーズ/ http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Board-Complete-Stones-Brybelly/dp/B00PQSKV78/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1434334854&sr=8-2&keywords=go+chess

(Featured image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(game)#/media/File:FloorGoban.JPG)

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2 thoughts on “Go (囲碁): An ancient asian board game of deep strategy

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