Anyone who has even been curious about the game of Go should try this interactive tutorial. Wikibooks also has an introduction, though it does not seem to have been fully written yet. The game is an attractive looking and tricky one, as employed as a dramatic device in the film A Beautiful Mind. Notably, Go is also a game in which the best human players can consistently beat very powerful computers. Unlike chess, it would appear, sheer number crunching ability is not enough to succeed at Go.

Normally played on a grid of 19×19 intersecting lines, the objectives of Go are to capture enemy stones, while also surrounding terrain. Players take turns placing stones on the board, in any position except one where the stone would be immediately captured. Stones or groups of stones that are encircled, such that there are no clear paths or ‘liberties’ extending from them, are captured. Finally, a player may not make a move that would return to the board to how it was immediately before their opponent’s last move (the ‘ko’ rule). The rules according to which stones are placed are very simple, making it initially surprising that the complexity of the game can be so great. Eventually, the game ends when both players pass their turn, indicating that neither sees a possibility for further gains.

As a beginner, playing on a 13×13 board is recommended. The standard size board has more than twice as many intersections to contest, and is probably too much for someone without a developed sense of the game to manage. Learning how to play decently is one project that I will need to suspend, until more pressing tasks are complete.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

10 thoughts on “Go”

  1. I’ve only tried to play Go a couple of times against the computer, with mixed results. The tutorial was really helpful though – thanks!

  2. I am up to the twentieth part of the tutorial. Sometimes, what needs to be done is very intuitive. Other times, not obvious at all.

    The latter is especially common when the pieces are all mixed together near a corner.

  3. Go is a beautiful game, and it becomes very intuitive.

    First, you learn to recognize the tactics of attack and defense. Then, the strategies of board control.

  4. Talking about games, you may be interested to know that your brother Sasha was brilliant yesterday in the Canadian Improv Games semi-finals. The Handsworth team came in first and Sasha was particularly inspired and a lot of fun to watch. Mica and many previous improv team members were there and that made it quite festive. Mica also won the “What’s in the Box? raffle and brought home a large squash among other things.

  5. go is a good game. i’ve only played it a few times, but it’s been enjoyable each time.

    the only downside is that, since there’s no element of chance, it lacks in drama what some other strategy games may employ (even classical warfare, which go looks to for spiritual inspiration, has a degree of chance involved).

    still, i’ll make sure to take a look at the tutorial.

    in the meantime, does anyone our age besides me know how to play backgammon?

  6. Emergent effects, from part 25 of the tutorial:

    “These kind of indirect connection may seem a little smarter than the direct connections.

    If you know when to play an indirect connection at the right place, you are no longer a beginner.”

  7. in the meantime, does anyone our age besides me know how to play backgammon?

    I played a lot of it in Turkey, mostly with my cousin and father. It is decidedly better when accompanied by raki.

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