My favourite aspects of Go

By Joel Yliluoma, Friday 24th September 2004

right 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.

Social aspect

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.

Simple rules

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.

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 agreement.
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.

Challenge, development

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.

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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Last edited at: 2007-09-08T13:42:14+03:00