How to play the game of Go

The ancient game of strategy, by Magic Mike

Go is my favorite game and the world's oldest board game. It is an exercise in comprehending logic
trains of thoughts and actions, in the existing and future possibilities, of the timing and influence that arise while trying to create patterns of potential forms of growth in nine area simultaneously. It's hard to imagine today a board game having that kind of impact on a society. People are more accustomed to playing the latest space game on the computer and a video game can become outdated and forgotten about within a year of it's release. Some games, like the BGO space game or World of Warcraft, are popular enough to create a blip on the pop culture timeline, but no other computer space game or table-top board game has ever come close to achieving the kind of societal impact that Go has.


In most of Asia, Japan, China, and Korea Go was one of the martial arts for training warriors, it was an instrument of concepts for philosophers, and one of the four fine arts along with music, painting, and calligraphy. Below are basics examples, and links to tutor sites and software.

. . . [it is] something unearthly . . . If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go.

Emanuel Lasker, chess grandmaster

Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of quality, take up Go.
The board is a mirror of the mind of the players as the moments pass. When a master studies the record of a game he can tell at what point greed overtook the pupil, when he became tired, when he fell into stupidity, and when the maid came by with tea.

Rules of Go
The rules of Go are simple.
Two players sit at a board of 19 horizontal
and 19 vertical lines, intersecting 361 points.
The board starts with all intersections open.
Black moves first, placing a stone on an
empty intersection of the board. Stones
that are directly adjacent to each other
along the lines of the board are connected.

Connected stones of the same colour are
considered a string of stones. A string of
stones has a certain number of empty
intersections adjacent to it along the lines
of the board (termed liberties).

If a play causes the last liberty of a string to be occupied, that string is removed from the board (captured). Strings belonging to the opponent are captured in this way before determining if the player's own strings are captured.
A play which, after any captures are completed, would recreate a previous configuration of the whole board, is invalid and cannot be played.
A pass allows the opponent to move again. When both players pass with no intervening moves, the game ends.

After the end of the game, each player's score is the number of intersections that are either occupied by, or completely enclosed by, that player's stones. An empty intersection is completely enclosed by a player's stones only if all paths outward from the intersection along the lines of the grid meet the player's stones before they meet the opponent's stones.

The winner is the player with the greater score.

Now below is some more detailed explanations of how to play, a sample opening, a sample of living and captured stones, and a masters game you can replay from start to end to get an idea of the basic form of a whole game. After that are links to software that will play you and teach you, and a link to an interactive Go tutor that shows you the 80 basic puzzles, traps, captures, and saves that you find during most games. Then you're ready to go to a Go server like http://www.gokgs.com/ and be a beginner! Hahaha.
Go is a great game of the Universe. It takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master

First, please take a look at the vast 19x19 board and see how each area is called.


As shown here, the 4 areas near the coner
of the board is called "corner" and the area between the two corners are "side" and the center is "middle". There are no distinct borders between these areas and we are just using these names for convenience.


You want to start in corners, because it's easier to get groups with more points, in fastest time, with least moves.


The object of Go is to claim as much territory as possible. In the beginning you have to try to surround territories i.e. empty spaces. In the figure on the left, there are two black groups: one on the upper left corner and the one on the right side. Each encloses 9 spaces, or 9 points. A white group in the middle also has 9 points. These spaces completely surrounded by stones of the same color are called territories. Now, the above three groups each have a territory of 9 points. Count the number of stones needed to surround the territory.

Corner - 6 stones Side - 9 stones Middle - 12 stones Therefore, you can surround territories in the corners most efficiently, while territories on the middle are least efficient. Thus, in the beginning of a game, each side will try to claim two corners of a board. You hardly ever see plays in the middle.


Here is an animation showing an example of a good opening strategy for corners and side extensions, trying to gain territory below and between each stone a player puts on the board.

If you try to claim corners and sides just because they are easy to get, you will be delayed to advance toward the middle. And if you don't have your stones in the middle at all, it will be a big disadvantage once a fight is started because the stones in the middle can have an influence to every direction which is really helpful.

These strategies in the opening game are called "Fuseki". Next in the midgame, each person needs more stones to prevent invasion of the spaces sketched out, expand those walls to envelop more points, and try to invade the other person's space or try to squeeze it smaller. You want to fight in directions that makes your space bigger and your opponent's space smaller.


The black shaded area represents
where black is strong and white
shaded area is where white has
bigger influence. Therefore, all
corners and sides loosely belong
to either black or white. However,
it's still not definitely decided - there
can be an "invasion" at any time.

You cannot move into a place where
you would be automatically captured,

Black can't make a move at A. (White can.) Because, if black played there,
that stone would be already surrounded. Such suicide behavior is forbidden.
unless you are capturing with that very move.

Dead stones , which are those that cannot possibly evade capture
at the end of the game, are removed before the point counting begins.

If there is neutral territory -- that is, territory in which neither
color has clear dominance of an area -- no points from
that area are credited to either side.

The very next thing to do is download Turbogo and Igowin. They are shareware programs that play you and teach you. Set the TurboGo to play you on a 19x19 board. Use IgoWin to teach you small close fighting on a 9x9 board. The links are right below.
After you download them go, to this great site, that is an interactive tutor,
"Learn to play go".
Do all the interactive problems there, hitting the next button to go to the next lesson.

Then watch a few games and then play at KGS
. You will always find other beginners available in the main room or the beginners room which is in the Room List at KGS under Lessons Rooms. To really study Go in-depth, go to
Sensei's Library collaborative web site about and around the game of Go. I am there evenings as magicmike.

Here is Turbo Go, a computer game you can download, that plays you and teaches you.
When you play, it makes you wait 20 seconds while you think about registering it, then
it lets you play in evaluation mode. Under preferences, I suggest you change board size to
the regulation size of 19x19.
Click here to download another, igowin.exe .
This is a self-extracting archive and includes the igowin.exe executable, the grain.bmp wood grain bitmap, readme.txt, and two windows help files. It's about 800KB. After download, run it, and it will install the files in C:\Program Files\igowin. It does not automatically add itself to your start menu or make a shortcut on the desktop. It will play you small board fighting tactics only.
I learned more in the last two years playing online than I did in 25 years hunting for players where I lived. - Magic Mike

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