BEGINNER’S INTRODUCTION

It will take you about five minutes to learn to play however because of the complexities arising from the game’s degrees of freedom it will take a long time to master it.

We have a short video on our YouTube channel to give the look and feel of the game.

It is not winner takes all. The objective is to surround more territory than your opponent. During that process you might (usually but not always) engage in a fight for control of some of that territory.

You start with an empty board (this one is the full size 19×19):
Go has almost no rules of play:
(1) stones are placed in turn on the intersections (black starts)
(2) once placed, stones remain where they are unless captured (“die”)
(3) you cannot play so your stones die (“commit suicide”) except in one specific circumstance.
(4) you cannot play so as to repeat a previous board position.
A few notes:
(a) Initially rule 4 is probably a little cryptic but in its basic form it is very easy to see on a board (see below).
(b) It’s not a rule, but you can stop playing whenever you like and the game finishes when neither of you want to continue. This idea is converted into a rule for tournament play but that is information for later on.
(c) When neither player wants to continue the game is scored to determine who has won.
(d) There are a number of scoring methods but they do not affect the outcome, again this is information for later. The curious can find the scoring used in our tournaments here.

THE RULES ILLUSTRATED

 (1) stones are placed in turn on the intersections (black starts)
Some more notes:
(a) These are possible first moves but there are many other options.
(b) It’s considered polite for Black to start somewhere in their top right hand corner.
(2) once placed, stones remain where they are unless captured (“die”)
If White were to play in the triangled position the Black stone would be captured and removed from the board.
More than one stone can be captured if they are surrounded.
While these diagrams show the basics of capturing stones, in a game there are better approaches. Ideas to look at later on include:
the “net”
the ladder

(3) you cannot play so your stones die (“commit suicide”) except in one specific circumstance.
If White were not surrounding the Black stones (if one White stone were not there) then White could not play in the triangled position as that would be suicide.

With Black surrounded, White can play and capture all the Black stones.

The triangled position does not need to be filled in to surround the Black stones (similar points are also in diagrams A, B and C) Connection is along the lines and not across the diagonals.

However, in diagram D, although Black is surrounded on the outside, (cannot connect to other Black stones) White would have to fill both of the empty points on the inside to kill the Black stones. White cannot play in either of them because at that moment in the game White would be committing suicide without capturing anything.

Some explanations not of immediate importance:
(a) the Black stones in diagram D cannot die, they are “alive”.
(b) the Black stones in diagram C are dead. In this situation White does not have to finish the job.  However in some circumstances White must.

(4) you cannot play so as to repeat a previous board position
Diagram E is intended to illustrate rule 4. It’s also a sort of mirror of diagram A above.

Black has just played the highlighted stone. In which case White could capture it by playing on the triangled point.

It would seem that Black could capture the single White stone that just captured the Black stone. But then the board would return to the original position (repeating it)

Black has to play somewhere else first (changing the board position).

White can choose to fill in by playing where the captured Black stone used to be or also play somewhere.

If White plays elsewhere the board position has changed so now Black can capture the White stone.

A few notes about this rule:
(a) simplistically, without this rule the game would enter into a sort of stalemate as capture/recapture could go on forever.
(b) the description though correct fails to represent the consequences arising from rule 4
(c) people write books about this single topic. It takes a while to understand its importance.
Some explanations (again for later):
(i) When White takes the black stone it creates a “ko”
(ii) It’s not the ko that matters so much as the “ko fight”
(iii) We describe some of the consequences of the ko fight here using some of the diagrams above as well as introducing other concepts.
(iv) Ko is derived from the Japanese. Europeans tend to use Japanese terms as it was the Japanese that reintroduced the game into Europe during the 19th century. There are equivalent terms in Chinese and Korean.

And that’s it. You are ready to start playing…

WHAT NEXT?

There are many online resources to help you, we have listed some here, however you don’t need to dive in at this stage.

These 9×9 tutorial videos are a good place to start:
part 1 part 2

OGS, an online go server, is free for basic use and has training exercises for beginners.

When playing a game, we all get to a stage when we ask ourselves “What now?”:
the 10 Golden Rules of Go (围棋十决) help answer that question
other guides include Go Proverbs (but these are only guides)
in due course this list of common terms will be of use
There are an uncountable number of books to help you study Go, we think there are two good choices to start:
Go for Beginners by Kaoru Iwamoto (Amazon)
The American Go Association recommended series by Janice Kim (Amazon)

WHAT ABOUT LGC?

If you have got this far you must be pretty serious. Playing face to face is the most enjoyable way of learning. Please contact us as we offer free teaching and advice.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE

In the West, more people will have heard about Chess than Go.

Why learn to play Go?

One answer is given in Play Go and Grow! (pdf) discussing the developmental benefits of games in general and the advantages unique to Go. This TED talk explores Go’s links to broader societal issues.

You might also find these cultural representations of Go interesting.

Alpha Go is a film about the first time a computer beat a world class Go player.