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'GO' Rules

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Simple Rules Commentary

Grid: The game is played on a grid. The grid consists of lines and their intersections, called points. A grid has 19x19 points. Two points are adjacent via a line. A path connects two points via lines.

Colors: Each point has a color: black, white, or an empty intersection.

Players: The game is played between two players. The black color belongs to one player. The white color belongs to the other player.

Start: The game starts from an empty grid or with handicap points preplaced. The start is done by black.

Surrounded: A point may be surrounded.

-A black point can be surrounded by white. A white point can be surrounded by black. An empty point can be surrounded by either black or white. A point of a color is not surrounded if it can reach other points of its color.

Move: A move is of one of the two players. A move alters the points' colors in the following order:

-Exactly one empty point is colored with the player's color.

-All surrounded points of the opponent's color become empty.

-All surrounded points of the player's color become empty.

-Mostly only the first item applies. The rarely occuring second and third items are also known as removal and suicide.

Pass: A pass does not change colors of points. It just lets alternation continue with the opponent of the passing player.

End: If in alternation both players successively pass, then this ends the game. At the game end the win is determined.


This is obviously a Japanese person writing english. I've tried to correct it to make it more readable. The rules sound complicated because of terminology. Through experience one quickly gets to understand what is meant and see that it is actually very simple.

A grid of blak lines where the intersections are the points to place ones 'stones' on.

One attempts to capture as much empty territory as possible and invade opponents territory.

The winner is the one with most 'live*' empty points+captured 'stones'.

Two solidly, indivisible, connected 'eyes' or 'live' vacant points constitutes a live formation.

One 'eye' only, is vulnerable.

*Cannot be captured until separated from any other 'live' point formation and fully surrounded so that the last point placed fully surrounds the opponents stones. Then these surrounded stones are captured and removed from the board and used at the end of the game to calculate who won.

The game has three clearly (with experience) percieved stages, the beginning, the middle and the end.

The beginning is critical and needs to be played with experience of consequences which may not become apparent till the middle game.

There comes a time when one senses that the beginning has come to an end, and the middle game starts. This is a difficult stage.

The end then comes suddenly, and consists of mopping up remaining points.

When both players have passed, or traditionally says 'go', the game is finished.

Edited by John Dolva
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Philosophy and GO

"Perhaps the only other "Buddhish" game out there other than Wheel of Life is the traditional Japanese* board game Go, favored by such famous monks as Dogen and Nichiren. According to Dr. William Cobb in an article published by Tricycle in 1999, Go illustrates such key Buddhist principles as emptiness and selflessness. Subscribers can read the article at the link above; for everyone, there is Cobb's "The Empty Board," a regular column which he writes for the journal of the American Go Association."

*Actually it is Chinese in origin. The invention of it is shrouded in myth. Mao is supposed to have played it during the long march and it has a strategy and a kind of oriental honour aspect that means that in a sense one is playing against oneself.

The Empty Board - http://www.slateandshell.com/BillCobbEmptyBoard1.asp

The Overcoming of Self in Go

by William Cobb

"It is interesting to think of Go as a sort of sedentary martial art. In earlier days it was often seen that way quite self-consciously. Go was looked upon as a Way (do/tao), a practice through which one could achieve the ultimate level of existence and establish contact with the highest level of reality, that is, achieve enlightenment and enter nirvana. In the martial arts this goal is often spoken of as overcoming the self and becoming one with the tao. A common misconception thinks that this is similar to the experience of losing oneself in an activity, but in the martial arts this is not simply a matter of learning to concentrate on the activity and ceasing to be self-conscious--something any accomplished athlete masters. In the martial arts the idea is to destroy a particular way of understanding oneself and the related way of experiencing the world and relating to others. This is expected to have a profound impact on every aspect of one's life, not just on the way one practices the art. It is a thorough transformation, like waking up from a nightmare.

One can still approach Go as a tao in this sense, of course. In fact, I find it amazing how often the game seems to have some of this sort of impact on players who are surely unaware of this way of thinking about it. Just playing the game seems to bring many players closer to nirvana, or, as the ancient Chinese claimed, make them "better" (that is, enlightened) people. This is exactly the way it would be with a proper tao. "Just do it-that is being enlightened," as Dogen, the 13th century Japanese Zen master, said. He was talking about sitting meditation (zazen), but it comes to the same thing.

To understand how one enters nirvana just by playing Go, one needs some understanding of what it means to overcome the self. The Buddhist view of what a human being is contrasts radically with the common Western view. In the latter, it is assumed that each person is a unique, self-contained, self-responsible agent. Even though the individual person has parts, these parts constitute the person on the basis of their relations to each other. These internal relations are what make up the real self; external relations to other persons and the world are not constitutive of one's fundamental being on this view.

Thus, groups of individuals such as families or communities are abstractions for most Westerners; it is their individual members that are real. These individuals can leave one group and join another and still be the same persons. This is the famous Cartesian ego, the ego that says, "I think, therefore I am." It is the philosophical notion that is at the root of Western individualism, the view that all actions and all values are ultimately the actions and values of individuals. Such individuals can cooperate with each other, but they remain separate individuals.

It is just this view of the self that the Buddha said is the number one source of human suffering and is thus the most serious of all the delusions that humans are prone to. It is the self in this sense that the martial arts are designed to overcome; the point of the practice is to get rid of this delusion. This view of the self causes terrible problems because it encourages us to believe that we can make our lives better by acquiring or achieving things for ourselves as separate individuals. Buddhists argue that life is in fact a common endeavor; we are all part of each other in the most literal sense. Thus, it makes no sense to think that I could help myself at your expense. At this point, we can begin to see how Go can help us to overcome self in the common Western sense."


"In Go, shape is strangely elusive and ephemeral. It can be very frustrating to a weaker player if a stronger one points to some stones on the board and says, "That's bad shape" or "That's good shape." All the weaker player can see is an arrangement of stones, and it's not clear what makes one good and the other bad.

My primary concern here, however, is not good vs. bad shape, but just shape-the relationships between stones and the potential those relationships have that make positions on the board more than just a scattering of stones."

Edited by John Dolva
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Winning GO and Dialectics

"In Go we are constantly re-examining our assumptions about how to play. Even standard joseki are continually revised. No one expects to find an irrefutable way of playing. Reasoning in Go is distinctly non-linear, repeatedly going over the basics, constantly revising and re-evaluating. It is, in a word, dialectical.

Dialectical reasoning is more typical of the Eastern mind, especially Buddhism, but it is not unknown in the West. Martin Heidegger, the contemporary German philosopher, is an excellent example. The Socratic technique of critically examining naive assumptions is also dialectical.

Dialectical reasoning is not sure what the questions are, realizes that assumptions will need constant re-examination, and does not look for an end to the process-only a gradual expansion of awareness. It's reflective and time-consuming, and is well illustrated by typical Go study.

Let me illustrate using a seemingly obvious claim: Winning in Go is a good thing. Everybody has a positive reaction to winning a game. No one wants to lose. Surely, winning is good.

Here's an example of discursive reasoning about this: Winning in Go is good, therefore it's opposite, losing, is bad. It's better to have what's good than what's bad, so I want to win as often as possible. Thus, the handicapping system is a nuisance, and I should understate my rating so that I can win more often. (Perhaps some of the people who understate their ratings on the Server think this way.)

Here's dialectical reasoning applied to the same example: Winning in Go is good. Yet, winning is also bad. You learn more when you lose, and winning can lead to gloating and arrogance. Perhaps, then, winning is both good and bad, but if winning is not an unqualified good maybe it isn't the real point of playing. Thus, one aim of the handicapping system may be to make us realize that winning is not the point of playing."

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  • 1 year later...

The traditional board is a thich piece of wood on four stumpy legs. The type of wood is important. When placing a piece on the board. the forefinger goes under the piece and the next finger above, on an angle the forefinger is withdrawn and the other finger snaps the piece down onto the thick wood producing a decicive click. The pieces are slate and sea shell. They are slightly different in size in relation to each other and the distance between grid intesection on the board, so that the shapes and lines produced are never completely straight, The grid itself is also elongated in the direction between the two opposite sitting players, so that when looking sideways down at the board the perspective illusion is corrected and the grid appears equal on width and height. It is a game where traditionally the stronger player seeks to maintain the loss of the opponent to no more than five, though this is more important in high-dan games. Why? To help the loser "save face". So it's an honourable game. In low-dan and beginning players ( -35 to low-dan, the player strength is is designated similarly to martial arts, 0ne Dan to nine Dan to master with beginner starting at -35. Usually one quickly moves from there to -5 dan then the hard slog begins. To loose to a high-Dan players is a thing of beauty to the loser., let alone the honor of playing one. ) such precice precscience is not part of the players repertoire.

Some pointers:

The board can be seen to have corners, edges and a centre. Two pieces can surround a corner, three the edgepoints and four in the centre. A study of shape and shape relations and plays such as the monkey jump, helps to see that the centre has a boundary at the fourth line of points, stray towards the centre and the strong connection to the edge diminishes quickly, go too close and the centre can be cut off by countermoves. The Japanese ambassadors to the Court of China brought the game to Japan, where it was enthusiastically embraced so that it was not long until Japanese masters emerged that beat the old Chinese masters. Part of this was an apparently minor innovation by the Japanese, the recognition of the very centre point having a signficant importance. It is the only point that does not have a symmetrically corresponding point. It has gone on to be the most popular board game in Japan. Like Chess in the west. However the possible permutations in GO far outweigh those of Chess. That plus its non hierarchical piece power and a concentration on relationship makes it unique and western Chess masters have correctly seen it a s far more difficult. Yet it is in its physical + rules simplicity that it shows an aspect of the Oriental mind. Compare the clutter of a western room and that of the minimalist Japanese room.

A look at sente and gote and how to use and maintain them is helpful.

Edited by John Dolva
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Sensei's Library: Japanese Go Terms


When a stone has one liberty. A stone in atari is in danger of capture by the opponent. Conventionally one says 'atari' when such a shape has been established. A bit like 'check' in Chess.


"Losing the initiative. Pronounced "go-teh". Borrowed from Japanese, lit. "following move". From the standpoint of one player, describes any of:

- a move which loses the initiative, since it need not be answered by the opponent, thus giving him sente

- the state of having lost the initiative, by playing a move or sequence which need not be answered; "ending in gote"

- a position where a play will lose the initiative."


A player having sente :

A player has sente if it is their turn. (In particular, when they do not have to answer their opponent's last move.) Thus, a player who has sente can decide where to play next.


Playing first in a local position:

Just as the base meaning of sente is playing first, a derived meaning is playing first in a local position. Thus, a player may avoid a local reply to the opponent's last move and take sente to play first elsewhere."

Keeping Sente is a major goal. It forces play. A player in gote should look for sente.

Edited by John Dolva
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  • 2 weeks later...


" 'Dame' has two main meanings in go.

1. An empty point adjacent to a stone; A Basic liberty

In terms of basic capture, dame is an empty point or liberty adjacent to a stone or connected group of stones. Such empty points will have to filled in to make the capture. See also liberty - introductory, dame is overloaded, and shortage of liberties (damezumari).

2. Neutral point(s)

An empty point (or area) between forces of the two sides,[1001] often of little or no interest to either side. The exact nuance differs depending on the context or game phase.

A. In the endgame, empty points on the board which are not part of either player's territory and have no prospects of becoming territory. Normally, remaining neutral points are filled in at the end of the game by alternation between the players. In Japanese, this process is called dame wo tsumeru?.

B. In the context of the opening, a region or area not interesting for either player. For instance, if Black has a strong position in the lower left and White a strong position in the lower right, the area in between is of low priority and thus dame. In this case, the suffix ba could be attached to dame, giving dameba, emphasizing that it is an area being discussed and contrasting the area's priority with those called oba (large points or areas) or kyuuba (urgent points or areas).

C. In the middle game as well, an uninteresting point. Often used in the context of "Black was forced to play on a dame point to connect his two one-eyed groups.". Dame wo hashiru.

It also has the everyday Japanese meanings of 'bad, don't do it'. They are common in discussing go moves."

One thing to note here is that 'Dame wo hashiru' shows that a vital point can be used to gain, maintain, or regain 'Sente', so in a convoluted way 'Dame' can be seen as a latent 'vital point'. ( a 'vital point' is dependent on personal overall strategy and it can coincide with the opponents so it becomes a point for maintaining 'sente'. To use 'Dame' as a forced play can break 'ko'*.

Proverb : "The opponent's vital point is my vital point."

Sometimes an apparemt Gote can be a Sente : 'Gote no sente'.



"Ko is a Japanese go term adopted into English usage. It describes a situation where, without the 'ko rule'**, the game may not progress due to infinite repetitions."

**"If one player takes the ko, the opponent is prohibited from recapturing the ko immediately." and therefore must play elsewhere, a 'Dame wo hashiru' for example.

As one can see that while the basic rules are very simple, the actual play is very complex.

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Pincer (Hasami)

"An example of a pincer : In a corner opening, in response to the approach move of , or a nearby move is a pincer, because it "pincers" the approaching stone from the other side. The pincer is an attack and can prevent the attacked stone from forming an ideal base. (ed : while strategically prepare for future shapes that become more likely because a response to a pincer movement can be essential, also it can be used to break Ko and/or gain Sente)

See pincer nomenclature for detailed discussion.

All types of pincers are indexed by the 'pincer path'. There are three common sources of pincers: the 3-4 point, the 4-4 point, the 3-5 point when the approach is at 4-3. There would be a certain logic in treating 4-4 point double kakari variations as pincers. Uncommon pincers are:

3-3 point pincers.

3-5 point 3-3 approach pincer.

3-5 point high approach pincer.

4-5 point pincers.

the missing pincer: two-space low pincer after 3-4, high approach.

3-6 point pincers: mostly seen in amateur go.

zero-space pincers: up close and personal."

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"Aji means possibilities which are left in a position.

Aji is a Japanese go term that has been adopted into English. One meaning of the ordinary Japanese word aji is taste, which lingers and it is this lingering feature that applies to what aji means in the context of Go.

Those possibilities are latent and cannot be used immediately, but might come to life if the situation changes. That is why aji is also often translated as potential.

There is an analogy which many people find apt. Aji is like a stone in your shoe when you are late. The stone hurts and you can't run as fast, but because you are late, you cannot stop to take it out.

Good and bad aji

Capturing stones with bad aji means that the opponent still has lots of ways to exploit the stones he lost in the exchange. It has often to do with the fact that your stones have bad shape. Doing so with good aji means the opposite.

Claiming territory with bad aji means that there are still many ways for your opponent to reduce or invade it. It has often to do with the fact that your surrounding position is thin. Doing so with good aji means the opposite.

If you have a lot of bad aji, it means that you are bound hand and foot, and cannot fight with full strength, because doing so might make the aji work. Good aji on the other hand, means that you can often do more than would otherwise be possible.

Removing the aji you have against your opponent is a bad idea, and is called ajikeshi. Removing your own aji is good, but often incurs a loss of momentum. Doing so at the right time is called honte."

- please refer to link above for extensive explanations, tests, examples including famous plays by past masters in the major tourhaments, sometimes with a facsinating commentary. The sites referred to and qoted form (with a bit of commentary as I see it). (Others are such as the "Ishi" publications) are a portal into serious Go play. I'm not surprised the lore of this game is littered with comments like a player who played for 40 years or so and wished to come back in another life to continue learning and description of 'wildfires' happening on the board. Suddenly the game is clearly over and firther play is a waste of time Then after BOTH players, in turn, choose to say Go (odd pronounciation, can't quite figure out the phenetics, perhaps the 'a' in 'fall' with a glottal 'G' : Ga'. http://www.swissgo.org/go-pron.html for various pronounciations.)

Anyway the tao, zen,. martial art aspect of this peaceful and honorable Game quickly becomes clear. No wonder people like Mao (and other Warrors) played it during the long march. Very tactical and strategical, with practically infinite permutations. Attempts to increase the number of lines have failed! 2 more lines, and no-one (yet) can play it. Amazing. "up close and personal."

Edited by John Dolva
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  • 2 weeks later...

"Capturing race.

A capturing race is a mutual capturing contest: The first player to put the opponent into atari and then capture their stones wins the race (but not necessarily the game ed.). Usually the winner of the race (the player who makes the capture) makes life for their group. Both groups in the race are enclosed, have at most one eye and are reducing each other's liberties.


There are several standard types of capturing races and it is useful to know them.

A no eye versus no eye capturing race

An eye versus no eye capturing race

An eye versus eye capturing race

In all cases there are inside liberties and outside liberties. When attacking your opponent's group, you should play the inside liberties last. Otherwise, you take away one of your own liberties as well as the opponent's, and give them sente.

To count the outside liberties, include approach moves: sometimes it is necessary to play more than just on the actual liberties to capture the group.

The range of possible outcomes in a capturing race is extensive: besides victory for one or other side, you can get seki, a direct ko and most types of indirect ko."

Moves that force a move are not necessarily Sente as the response can be Sente as well. To be forced is a bad position to be in, However, moves of roughly equal value, which is easier in the beginning stage of the game (there is a definite point at which one can sit back and recognise that the middle game has started) can have enormous consequences later if both players choose to risk to not immediately engage. Close play, particularly of ones own pieces, as a response is not a good idea in the beginning phase, unless absolutely forced to at which one may find oneself having approached Gote.

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I've been looking on and off for a comprehensive discourse on what I would call the 'feint'. Haven't come across one yet so I'll try to explain as I see it. There are clever and not so clever feints, but they are feints nevertheless that forces the 'opponent' into a detailed evaluation. If it's not recognised, well and good, there's the reserve in place, unchallenged, that suddenly wins you that coming cofrontation. The ones picked up and not just responded to succesfully, but also raise the stakes sharply, are most instructive. If anyone can comment or direct to such a discouirse, or set me straight here, please do so. (If not a member of the Forum. Join, please, Kudan.)

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just some speculations.

The west and the East have different martial arts. Take Boxing and Karate for example. Breath control is important.

Take the Japanese style of freezing with an inward breath as delivering a strike, compared to the sharp out breath of a King Hit. So the oriental feint has an element of cold calculation which reduces the game to a more level, less hierarchical, dance. Which is why a weaker person CAN defeat a stronger one. Cassius X perhaps combined the two in how he lay back on the ropes round after round with the far stronger, heavier opponent slugged himself into a stupor and then Ali at the right moment danced and a flurry of stings led to the inevitable victory

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quote : post='106232'

" (Cobb) ... It is interesting to think of Go as a sort of sedentary martial art. In earlier days it was often seen that way quite self-consciously. Go was looked upon as a Way (do/tao), a practice through which one could achieve the ultimate level of existence and establish contact with the highest level of reality, that is, achieve enlightenment and enter nirvana. In the martial arts this goal is often spoken of as overcoming the self and becoming one with the tao. A common misconception thinks that this is similar to the experience of losing oneself in an activity, but in the martial arts this is not simply a matter of learning to concentrate on the activity and ceasing to be self-conscious--something any accomplished athlete masters. In the martial arts the idea is to destroy a particular way of understanding oneself and the related way of experiencing the world and relating to others. This is expected to have a profound impact on every aspect of one's life, not just on the way one practices the art. It is a thorough transformation, like waking up from a nightmare. ..."

Edited by John Dolva
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- some more on "Feinting"

(Weiqi (GO) in Chinese)


"What is interesting is the extent to which weiqi was thought to illustrate the concepts of the Chinese military classics, from Sun Zi onwards. One of the first books in English on weiqi was "The Protracted Game" by Scott Boorman, purporting to find relevant connections between the game and the military doctrine and practice of Mao Zedong (a weiqi player). What seems to be much closer to the case is that Mao was soaked in the Three Kingdoms, and imbibed the sort of relationship between weiqi and military thought which was a commonplace. For non-players, a simple version of the line of argument starts with the idea that weiqi is a campaign game, where all the games of the Chess family simulate a single battle; and goes on to account for proverbial wisdom such as "feint to the left if you want to attack on the right" in weiqi terms. Good play in a game with several battles going on at once requires an indirect way of thinking."

edit : formatting

Edited by John Dolva
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Here you'll see the equanimous Cobra kick the s..t out of ...

It illustrates to some extent the previous posts. See how he moves just like Ali? And how his style defeats the bigger. IOW a shift in perception is necessary. " change ... like waking up from a nightmare. "

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  • 3 months later...

This bit's not so much about rules as such but ...how can I say it...not quite strategy but rather a mindset i think.

Go (as I understand it) is a kind of war game played within clear rules or boundaries which in a way are very simple but allows for a huge range of permutations far exceeding those of Chess for example. It's very simple, yet inevitably incomprehensible until certain coins drop, and it's very hard to textually explain this to a state of knowing. Rather, it is something to be experienced. Thus one, if motivated enough, proceeds in leaps from a grade of about -35 to about -5.

Then the real struggle sets in and because one has gone through the process of getting there, winning, while exhilirating, losing is actually the best.

From there the lessons are to be learnt. ( in fact, There may be honor in a Dan player, (or, (of course), a Master), could Join, and Teach.

Many of us would probably be interested in playing at the same time which would make it not a waste of the time it would take. )

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