By Joel Yliluoma, Friday 24th September 2004
Do you know what Go is?
Read my introductory article
I love the game of Go.
I'm trying to put my thoughts in a clear order.
For the people who like to argue on irrelevant things:
I'm talking on the perspective of the Japanese rules here.
The most important reason why I play Go, is that it gives me
a reason to gather together with friends.
It's a social hobby.
I don't like to walk in a leash.
It is said that Go was never invented – it was merely discovered.
In my opinion, this is what makes Go radically different from Chess.
The rules of Go are not artificial – I do not have to learn things
people have just made up.
Go has some troublesome exceptions, but they're created to resolve
pathological cases that almost never happen.
The core idea is simple: by surrounding things you get them.
- You gain territory by surrounding it.
- You can capture opponent's stones by surrounding them. Though they can resist being captured.
- Placing stones on your opponent's territory will usually just be a free gift for him.
- Placing stones on your own territory will just spoil it – less free space.
The Japanese name of Go, 囲碁, begins
with a character that literally means surrounding.
Also, everything that happens in the game is a consequence of
your own choices (and the opponent's). There is no dice throw.
Appreciation of opponent
There are a lot of things in Go that have more to do with good style
or etiquette than with game rules. For example, it is considered polite
for a player to resign when they see that they have no chance of winning.*
For another example, it is not considered good sports to play invasions
that cannot normally succeed considering the opponent's ability level
– i.e. plays which only await for the opponent to make a mistake.
Or, if a group of stones could not resist being captured, one does not
need to explicitly capture them. They're assumed "dead" in a wordless
A lot of it comes down to the principle of causing the least harm to
the opponent with one's personality; you can however pressure the
opponent as much as you want with your gameplay, but only if those
plays can reasonably be a way to the victory.
*) Note that when a weaker and stronger player play, the weaker player
normally receives "handicap" (extra stones) that is supposed to make the game
even, giving both players an equal chance of a win and thus making the game
meaningful. Therefore, the win / lose is not decided by difference in present
ability, but difference in ability to improve.
Go has existed for more than 3000 years, but so far nobody has been able
to learn the game completely.
There is no way of exhausting the possibilities at Go in human's lifetime.
It provides an infinite source of learning.
Learning is exciting.
Teaching being the most effective form of
learning, teaching is also most exciting.
Go board is not crammed with pieces (see the image above).
When the game begins, the board is completely empty (except in handicap games).
You can play anywhere you wish, and even during the game, the board
has usually lots of room everywhere.
This allows for lots of freedom.
It's all about choices.
- You can play territory.
- You can start a gruesome fight within the first five moves of the game. (Beginners often do this, but so do some professionals.)
- You can play peacefully to the end without a single fight, while still exerting pressure on the opponent.
- You can play safely, or you can play daringly.
- You can make long-scale strategies.
- You can tackle mathematical problems (so called life&death situations).
The Go-board has lots of possibility for expressing yourself.
The game of Go is sometimes called with names such
as "talk of hands", "fight of minds" and so on.
The playing style of one reflects the state of his mind.
Not just in terms of concentration, but emotions too.
This brings back to the social aspect I mentioned earlier.
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