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Let’s Play “Go”! – How to Play the Board Game Go

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Traditional Culture ,

The game Go is a quest to conquer territories. One of the two players uses black stones and the other white stones to mark out their respective territories. The player who has captured more territory at the end of the game is the winner.

Go Rules

Aside from the order of play (alternating moves, Black moves first or takes a handicap) and scoring rules, there are essentially only two rules in Go:

  • Rule 1 – The Rule of Liberty. Every stone remaining on the board must have at least one open “point” (an intersection, called a “liberty”) directly next to it (up, down, left, or right), or must be part of a connected group that has at least one such open point (“liberty”) next to it. Stones or groups of stones which lose their last liberty are removed from the board.
  • Rule 2 – The Ko The stones on the board must never repeat a previous position of stones. Moves which would do so are forbidden, and thus only moves elsewhere on the board are permitted that turn.

Almost all other information about how the game is played is exploratory. It can be learned through knowing how the game is played, rather than a rule. Other rules are specialized, as they come about through different rule-sets, but the above two rules cover almost all of any played game.

There are differences in scoring in different countries but it does not affect the tactics and strategies you will to use to win the game.

The Go Gameboard

Two players, Black and White, take turns placing a stone (game piece) of their own color on a vacant point (intersection) of the grid on a Go board. Black moves first. Handicap can also be discussed when there is a difference in skill level. The official grid comprises 19×19 lines, though the rules can be applied to any grid size. 13×13 and 9×9 boards are popular choices to teach beginners. Once placed, a stone may not be moved to a different point.

go_19x19

A 19×19 lines board. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Additional Game Rules

Vertically and horizontally adjacent stones of the same color form a chain (also called a string or group) that cannot subsequently be subdivided and, in effect, becomes a single larger stone. Only stones connected to one another by the lines on the board create a chain; stones that are diagonally adjacent are not connected. Chains may be expanded by placing additional stones on adjacent intersections, and can be connected together by placing a stone on an intersection that is adjacent to two or more chains of the same color.

A vacant point adjacent to a stone is called a liberty for that stone. Stones in a chain share their liberties. A chain of stones must have at least one liberty to remain on the board. When a chain is surrounded by opposing stones so that it has no liberties, it is captured and removed from the board.

The game of Go needs tactics and strategy to win. On our next post, we will discuss more on terms and strategies of Go.

References:

1. Go (game). Wikipedia.

2. How to Play Go. Nihonkiin.

3. Featured image from hiroaki maeda on Flickr

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