Traditional Board Games


Wei qi player.
Wei qi player.

Go is a war game of territorial capture from the far east. It was invented in China thousands of years ago, and spread to Korea and Japan in the early centuries of our era. The game is very simple but very deep. Players must lay down stones on the board, claiming the territory they surround. Occasional captures of stones (or "armies") are made, but the winner is the player who claims the most territory. In the past century go has become popular in the west, though Japan still hosts the best players.

History of Go

Go was invented by the Chinese under the name of wei-ch’i, probably in the second millennium B.C. It was mentioned by Confucius in the 6th century B.C. and was popular during the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906). In the second century it spread to Korea where it was called pa-tok, and in the fifth or sixth century it spread to Japan, where it is called i-go or go.

The Japanese took to the game very well, and became even better players than the Chinese. At first it was played only in and around the emperor’s court, but later spread to a wider section of the upper classes. A national academy was set up, as well as private schools, and a standardised grading system was created as with martial arts.

The game declined briefly after Japan’s seclusion and renewed contact with the west, but after being promoted to an even wider public of all classes, the game’s popularity revived and, since the second half of the twentieth century, it has become increasingly popular in the west also.

Rules for Go

Rules for Go
Go is played on the intersections of a board of 19 lines by 19. There are markings on some of the intersections, to aid in playing with a handicap (see later). The first player has 181 black stones, while the other player has 180 white stones.

1. The go board begins the game empty, with the less able player using the black pieces and beginning the game.

2. Players take it in turns to place one of their stones on an empty intersection.

3. Two or more stones adjacent to each other form a chain.

4. An empty intersection beside a chain is known as a liberty. A chain remains alive while it has at least one liberty.

5. A liberty that lies within a chain is called an eye. Two such liberties in one chain make it immune from capture (position A in the diagram).

6. A stone must be placed somewhere it has at least one liberty, or it must adjoin a chain which retains at least one liberty (position C is not allowed for white).

7. There is no movement: once placed, a stone stays where it is unless it is captured.

8. A player may opt to pass his turn instead of placing a stone.

9. A stone or chain is captured by surrounding it so it has no liberties. The group is removed from the board and kept by the player who has captured it (position B for white).

10. It is permissible to place a stone somewhere without liberties, if that move would make a capture that would immediately provide those liberties (see rule 6).

11. When stones are captured, either player can occupy the empty points.

12. A stone or chain which is completely surrounded but which retains its liberty is known as a prisoner. It remains on the board but is removed at the end of play.

13. A situation can arise, called ko, where a capture followed by a recapture would create a repeated position (position D). Immediate recapture is not allowed; the second player must make another play before recapturing the stone.

14. A position where two opposing chains are so interlocked that neither player may attack his opponent without losing his own chain is called seki, or stalemate (position E). These are left on the board till the end of the game but cannot be claimed as territory by either player.

15. The game is over when neither player can capture further territory, nor place further stones that would affect the final outcome. This is the case when both territories are in absolute contact.

16. The end of the game is signalled by both players passing their turn.

17. The player who has captured the most territory wins the game. Territory is counted thus: (i). Each point of territory surrounded gains one point for the player. (ii). A player also scores a point for each enemy stone he has captured. (iii). A player also scores a point for each prisoner he has surrounded. Counting can be made easier by first taking all prisoners and placing them within their own player’s territory instead.

18. Two players of very different skill levels can compete on more even terms by using a handicap.

19. A handicap of between two and nine stones allows the black player to place that number of stones in his first turn, rather than just one stone.

20. With a handicap of more than nine stones, the first nine must be placed on the marked intersections, the remainder being placed at the player’s discretion.


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