What is the Board Game Go?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The board game Go is an ancient board game which originated in China well before the first century CE. This board game has deceptively simple rules, but it can take a lifetime to master, leading many people to compare it to chess. In fact, Go is much more complicated than chess, with enormous numbers of potential patterns of play. In English, to distinguish between “go” as in “she is going to the store” and “Go” as in the board game, many people capitalize Go when referring to the board game.

The board game Go is popular in Korea.
The board game Go is popular in Korea.

This board game is also known as baduk, igo, wei ch'i, or weqi, depending on the region. While it originated in China, it quickly spread to Japan and later Korea, and became very important culturally in Asia. Mastering and playing the board game Go was a critical part of any well-educated person's life, and famous Go games were often topics of fervent discussion in intellectual society.

Go is a strategic board game for two players, in which the players battle for control of a grid by placing white or black stones on the intersections of the lines of the grid. In addition to being a game of strategy, Go is also a game of aesthetics. Highly-skilled players see a Go board as a work of art in addition to an interplay of strategy, and a beautiful board is viewed as a mutual compliment for both players.

The rules of Go are fairly simple. Each player is allowed to place one stone at almost any point on the board. The stones can be linked together to form chains, which essentially turn into larger stones. Chains are used to gain control of territory on the board, and players can use chains to encircle stones placed by their opponents to “capture” them, removing them from the board. In the board game Go, the “ko rule” prevents players from engaging in circular moves. In other words, if a play would result in a circular logic pattern where control of a section of the board would simply pass back and forth endlessly, the move is not legal. The game ends when both players cannot make a legal move, and thus must pass consecutively.

By convention, when playing the board game Go, people usually play in silence. Rattling the pieces in their container is considered poor form, although it is allowable to click the stones on the board when making a move. Stones and board are often chosen carefully for best resonance for this very reason, in fact.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Great introduction to the game. There are a few websites around dedicated to Go. Go Game Guru is one of the best ones I've seen.

There aren't really any other board games that compare to Go, so I encourage everyone to try it.

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