The Game of Go “Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games -- they should play go.” -- Confucius, The Analects ca. 500 B. C. E.Anton Ninno Roy Laird, Ph.D.firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com special thanks to Kiseido Publications
JAPAN CHINA KOREAGo has several names. The Chinese call itwei-chi, also spelled weiqi . In Korea it’sbaduk . Westerners generally use theJapanese word term i-go , or just go, becauseJapanese pioneers like Kaoru Iwamotosupported American go in the early days.
THE MOST POPULAR GAME IN THE WORLD TODAYMillions of fans in Japan, China, KoreaTop players earn millionsInternational tournaments pay up to $400K
THREE CLASSIC GAMES BACKGAMMON: Man vs. fate Element of chance Risk/gambling (doubling cube) CHESS: Man vs. man War paradigm “Perfect information” Attack -- Total victory GO: Man vs. self Open paradigm Share -- victory by one point “Personal best”
THE ULTIMATE MERITOCRACY“Go is the one game in which . . .everyone starts out equal, everyonebegins with an empty board and withno limitations, and what happensthereafter is . . . only the quality ofyour own mind.” -- William Pinckard, “Go and the Three Games “ in The Go Player’s Almanac
The traditional go board has a 19-linegrid. Beginners play on small 9 or 13-line boards.
Go boards are madeof wood. Thepiecesare called stones.The best stones aremadeof clamshell andslate,but glass stones areless expensive.Goodstones are usuallykept inwooden bowls. Thelids are used to holdany capturedstones.
Players take turns putting stones on the361 intersections made by the 19-linegrid. Black goes first. Nine handicappoints are used to balance players ofunequal skill. Each intersection is apoint of territory, and each capturedstone is also worth one point.
Go players hold the stones between theirfirst and middle fingers, like chopsticks.They snap them down on the board with asharp click.
The goal is to surround more points ofterritory than your opponent. Players maysurround and capture their opponent’sstones.
To be safe from capture, a group ofstones must have two eyes, meaning twoor more, separate empty intersectionsinside its walls.
Players stake out the territory theywant,and then they fight and build walls tokeep it.
The game is over when neither playercan find anything else to do. Beginnersoften find it difficult to know when agame is over. Each player rearranges theopponent’s territory to make counting
GO AND CHESS A Comparison Larger board, more plays per game (200-300 vs. 50-60)Strategic vs. tacticalSimpler rules; all pieces are equalBecomes more complex as pieces fill theboardBlends competition with other elementsWin by one point, not total destructionUniversal ranks -- any two can playNo stalemates or draws -- a winner everytime
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES CHESS GOOpening (Fuseki) Control the center Stake your claimMiddle (Chuban) Gain tactical, material Defend, dispute claims advantageEndgame (Yose) Close in for the kill Finish the details
COMPUTERS CAN’T PLAY!Go is so complex that the best programs routinely lose to talented children. Computer programmers call it “the last refuge of human intelligence.”
HANDICAP: THE GREAT EQUALIZER Because the board is empty at the start of the game, the stronger player can give his opponent a “head start” to even things out. Nearly any two opponents can play a game that either of them could win..
COMMERCIAL PROGRAMSStrongest ones are 6-8 kyuBest ones make studying fun -- problems, gamesRecord and study your own games
UNIVERSAL RANKING SYSTEMSimilar to martial arts, golfRank yourself by playing rankedopponentsAll serious players know their rankHonest players will lose half of theirgames
GO ETIQUETTEPlay to the opponent’s right hand“Thank you for teaching me”Prisoners in the lidCount the opponents territoryReturn your stones to the bowl
GO ON THE INTERNETFREE!At least 1000 online any time of dayor nightAnonymous playRatings are 3-5 stones lower
TIME CONTROLRegular time plus overtime(byo-yomi)Asian style: x periods of yseconds eachCanadian style: x stones in y
INTERNET GO SERVERThe original -- since 1991500+ participants online at alltimesMany strong playersSimulcast importanttournamentsEveryone sees everyone
KISEIDO GO SERVER400-1000 players of all levels at anytimeRoom-based environmentJava-based -- runs on everything
OTHER SERVERSYAHOO! GAMES: 250-500 players at a time,including lots of beginners and others who like toplay on a 9x9 board.ASIAN SERVERS: Some sites in China, Korea andJapan are enabled -- to varying degrees -- in EnglishTURN-BASED SERVERS: Leave a message withyour next move instead of playing in “real time”Find them all at www.usgo.org/resources/servers.asp
ADVICE FOR BEGINNERSPlay quickly -- “lose 100 games”Play stronger opponentsAsk for commentsAvoid repetitive thinking -- just trysomethingKeep your stones connected -- separateWhite
Go is at least 2000 years old, probably much older. Noone knows where it came from. Some people think the board and stones were originally used to foretell the future, or as a calculator.
“When you and I discuss philosophy, it is as if we play go. If you do not answer, I will swallow you up.” -- Zen Master Hongzhi ca. 700 A.C.E.Painting with 17x17 board ca. 690 A.C.E.
attributed to Kano Shoei (1519 - 1592) THE FOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTSDuring China’s “golden age” (the Tang and Songdynasties ca. 700-1400 A.D.) the cultured personmastered four skills: painting, calligraphy, lute-playing and go.
THE “MINISTER OF GO”Tokugawa Ieyesu, the first shogun, established four“houses” to study go and compete in annual “CastleGames” of great national importance. Each year’swinner became the go-doroko (“Minister of go”),occupying a cabinet-level position in the government.
This fan from ca. 1800 shows two Chinese menplaying go while a young man looks on.
Go became acommon theme in19th century ukiyo-eprints. Here,Tadanobu, a famoussamurai, fights offhis enemies with ago board.
In this scene from The Tale of Genji, two womenreminisce about the brief relationships with the Princewhile playing go, and find peace.
General KuanYu, the hero ofThe Romance ofthe ThreeKingdoms, playsgo while asurgeon attendshis battlewounds. Thisukiyo-e is byKatsushika Oi,daughter of thegreat Japanesemaster Hokusai,
WITH GO MAKE FRIENDSThis scroll, commissioned by anAmerican traveler in Beijing’sTian’anmen Square, uses thetraditional Chinese four-characterproverb format to say that whenfriends play go, their playingstrengths and their friendship bothget stronger.
CHAIRMAN MAO ON GO“[War is] like a game of weiqi . . . Strongholds builtby the enemy and bases by us resemble moves todominate spaces on the board.” -- Selected Military Writings
HENRY KISSINGER ON GO“Chess has only two outcomes:draw and checkmate. Theobjective of the game . . . is totalvictory or defeat – and the battleis conducted head-on, in thecenter of the board. The aim ofgo is relative advantage; thegame is played all over the board,and the objective is to increaseones options and reduce those ofthe adversary. The goal is lessvictory than persistent strategicprogress.” -- Newsweek, 11/8/04
CITICORP CEO JOHN REED ON GO“Competition . . . [is] about positioning yourselfwisely over time, not wiping the other guy out onspecific products. I approach competition like theChinese board game go. You see where the otherplayers have put their chips, and decide where toput your chips.” -- John Reed, Chairman, Citicorp Harvard Business Review December 1990
THE WAY OF GO Troy Andersen• Global Local• Owe Save• Slack Taut• Reverse Forward• Us Them• Lead Follow• Expand Focus
The Master of Go, Yasunari Kawabata’s poignantchronicle of this historic 1938 game between the lasthoninbo and a brilliant young upstart, won the NobelPrize for literature.
A BEAUTIFUL GAMERussell Crowe plays brilliant, unstable mathematicianJohn Nash in A Beautiful Mind, Oscar-winner for BestPicture of 2001. In real life, Nash is a charter memberof The American Go Association.
Trevanian’s 1979best-sellerchronicles the life ofNicholai Hel,orphaned duringWW I and raised bya Japanese gomaster to becomethe world’s mostaccomplishedassassin.
The Go Masters, an epictale of an enduringfriendship between twogreat players -- oneChinese, the otherJapanese -- during WorldWar II , brought Japaneseand Chinese film teamstogether for the first time.It achieved widepopularity but is notcurrently available.
In Pi, a cult classic, a demented mathematician triesto find a formula for the universe, using a go board.
HIKARU NO GOIn this popular “coming-of-age” story, the ghost ofa famous player guides our hero to the pinnacle ofthe go world -- or does he?
GO IN AMERICAChinese immigrants probably played the firstgames in North America among themselveshere in the 1800’s.
Japanese professionals such as KaoruIwamoto 9-dan helped early US players,and The American Go Association wasformed in 1937. Most major US cities havego clubs.
THE IWAMOTO CENTERMr. Iwamoto was in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.After seeing the results of first atomic bomb, he vowedto spread international peace and understandingthrough go. He established Go Centers in New York,Seattle, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.
IT’S A BIG CHALLENGEThe number of possible go games hasbeen estimated at 10 761 ( OMNI , June1991 ), far more than the number ofsubatomic particles in the knownuniverse.
RATINGEstimate basedS current performance onTo get a rating? Play in a rated tournamentOnline ratings -- 3-5 ranks lower
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR RANK?Beginners start at +/- 30-35 kyuKadoban -- win three in a row = -1 rank>1 kyu = shodan (black belt, “newmaster”)7- dan is the highest official amateurrank, but some 7-dans arestronger than others
WHAT ABOUT EVEN GAMES?Evenly matched players choose for color-- one takes a handful of stones, the otherguesses “odd” or “even” by placing one ortwo stones on the board: the winner takesBlackBlack pays White 6.5 points komi for theprivilege of making the first move
GO IN THE WESTERN WORLDDid not transfer to Western culture“Outside the box” -- non-WesternthoughtLacks a decisive endingNo culture-specific spinoffs
Many books and websites want to helpyou learn about go.American Go Association -www.usgo.org