Go (known as weiqi or “encircling game” in China) is a Chinese board game that originated over 2,500 years ago. It enjoys widespread popularity all across Asia and is known as igo in Japan and baduk in Korea. Despite having relatively simple rules, the game is known for having rich strategic possibilities.
Ages: Approximately 6 and up
Type of game: Board
Number of players: Two
Standard go is played on a 19 x 19 playing board; beginners sometimes use smaller 9 x 9 and 13 x 19 variants. The two players take turns placing black and white playing pieces called “stones” (qizi in Chinese) on the empty line intersections of the board (called “points”). The goal of the game is to use one’s stones to surround a larger area of the board than the opponent. Stones can’t be moved once they’re placed on the board, but can be eliminated from play if captured.
One basic principle of go is that all stones must have at least one “liberty” (qi), or an open intersection next to a stone, to stay on the board. If a group of stones of one color surrounds a liberty, that liberty is called an “eye” (yan). Such a group cannot be captured, even if surrounded.
As the players occupy points, the board gets split into “territory,” as delineated by groups of black or white stones. The players then wage war for these areas, resulting in the expansion, reduction, or loss of territory. (It’s easy to see how go was considered a martial art in China, Korea, and Japan!) In general, players will seek to expand one’s territory when possible, attack the opposing player’s weak groups, and keep an eye on the status of one’s own groups.
For a more detailed strategy guide, click here.
Game over: The game ends when both players pass; in other words, when there are no more profitable moves to be made. The controlled points and captured stones are then counted to determine which player has more points. The one with the most points wins. Games can also end if one player resigns.
For more Chinese games like San Guo Sha and Dou Dizhu, enter “Chinese Game Spotlight” in our search box.
Photo by luis de bethencourt via Flickr