Go Learning Help
This wiki file sets out the rules for the Game of Go and some elementary principles.
Aim of the Game
The aim or objective of Go is to surround territory.That's it. That's the objective of Go - territory.
What is territory?Think of territory as like slices of cake - at the end of the game you want to end up with more “cake” than your opponent.
On a Go board territory (slices of cake) is made up of the number of a player's living stones on the board plus the number of the unoccupied intersections he or she has surrounded.
The winner of the game is the player with the most territory.
Here's an example:
So in the example above Black as many more stones on the board (25 black stones compared to 14 white stones). However, White wins the game because it has surrounded many more unoccupied intersections (40 in the White area compared to 2 in the Black area). So the total territory for Black is 27 (25 stones + 2 surrounded intersections) and White 54 (14 stones + 40 surrounded intersections).
There are 361 intersections (or points of territory) on a 19x19 board, 169 on a 13x13 board, 81 on a 9x9 board and 49 on a 7x7 board.
How do you surround and keep territory?For that we needs the rules ...
The following topics will be covered:
1. The RulesHere are links to the rules for the various games of Go available here at GoldToken (the rules are in fact exactly the same for every board size - except Komi)
Rules of Go 7x7
Rules of Go 9x9
Rules of Go 13x13
Rules of Go 19x19
The above rules can be expressed and supplemented as follows:
1. It’s a game for two players:
2. Players take turns placing stones on the board – Black always moves first.
3. The stones are placed on any empty intersection – including the edges and corners of the board.
So you can play on any of the 9 intersections on this grid/board.
4. Any number of stones of the same colour that are “immediately connected” (joined by a line) is called a "group" of stones.
There are two groups on this board - Group "1" and Group "2"
5. A single stone or a group of stones may be captured (and then removed from the board) by being completely surrounded by the opposing colour.
When White plays a stone at the green dot intersection
the marked Black stone is captured and removed
This is what it looks like after capturing the marked Black stone.
6. Players are not allowed to place a stone (make a move) which results in self capture.
(Also known as the "suicide" rule)
So Black cannot play at the point in the middle of the White pieces
because that would result the immediate capture of the Black stone.
(there is an exception to this rule ... but see below)
7. No board position may be repeated – the “Ko” rule (see below).
8. After two consecutive passes the score is calculated in three steps:
The two marked White stones and the one marked Black stone are "dead".
That is, if play were to continue those stones would inevitably be captured.
(“dead” or captured stones do not count towards the final score)
So the "dead" stones are removed.
Black has 7 black stones and surrounds 5 intersections
for a total of 12 points.
White also has 7 white stones but surrounds 6 intersections
for a total of 13 points plus "komi" (usually 7.5 points)
making a grand total of 20.5 points.
2. Important ConceptsA fundamental concept in Go is that if you want any of your pieces to still be on the board at the end of the game they must be connected to, or inside of, a group of yours with at least two "eyes".
"Connected to", "a group" and "eyes" are explained below.
2.1 ConnectionThere are essentially two types of connection - immediate connections and hanging connections.
An immediate connection is one where the pieces of the same colour have a line joining them directly.
The stones on each of the three boards above are "immediately" connected
A hanging connection is where two stones are in close proximity to one another such that an immediate connection can be formed. There are three types of hanging connections - Strong, Moderate and Weak.
Strong Hanging Connections:
While these two stones are not immediately connected it only takes
one stone to make an immediate connection.
There is only one Strong hanging connection.
The placing of the marked stone means all
these stones are now immediately connected
Strong hanging connections are difficult to break. That is, it is difficult for your opponent to separate your two stones.
Moderate Hanging Connections:
Likewise a single stone will create either an immediate
connection or a Strong connection.
So here placing the marked stone creates an immediate
connection, a Strong hanging connection and an immediate
Depending on the surrounding circumstances Moderate hanging connections can be easier to break than a Strong hanging connection.
Weak Hanging Connections:
Weak hanging connections require at least two stones to make
an immediate connection. This gives your opponent much
more opportunity to break/separate the stones.
What is a group?A group of stones is simply stones of the same colour that are immediately connected. The examples above of stones that are immediately connected also all create groups of stones.
Here are some more examples of groups
In the examples below there are examples of three groups, two groups and two groups
Important: In the second example of two groups the two Black groups are not connected. This is a very important principle in capturing groups.
Capturing groupsCapturing a group is done in the same way as capturing a single stone.
You can think of the lines coming directly out of each stone as an escape route, sometimes referred to as "liberties" or "breathing space".
So a single stone will have 4 escape routes (the green dots) whenever it is not on the edge of the board. On the edge of the board a single stone has 3 escape routes and on the corner it has 2.
Likewise, the lines coming directly out of the stones that are part of a group also count as escape routes. Below is an example:
As you can see this group has 10 escape routes. Also, it is possible for the stones of the group to share escape routes. In the above example there are two sets of stones that share a green dot. One set is the stone that is 4 across and 3 down shares a green dot with the stone that is 5 across and 4 down and the other set is the stone that is 4 across and 4 down shares a green dot with the stone that is 3 across and 5 down.
So for White to capture this group of stones it has to put a stone at each of the group's escape routes like so:
As soon as White places the last stone in place the Black group is captured and removed from the board and the result looks like this:
What is an eye?
An "eye" is simply a group of stones with at least one empty intersection inside it. Here are some examples (the green dot is the "eye")
In the section on capturing groups the rules of Go allow for the capture of connected pieces or groups. However, because of Rule 6 (the suicide rule) the opponent cannot place a stone in an eye because that would be a suicide move ... and here is the exception I spoke of:
A player can make a suicide move IF and only IF that move is the final capturing move.
Again an example - here is a group with one eye:
White cannot play at the green marked intersection because that is a suicide move and
not a capturing move
However, if White can surround the Black pieces first - like so:
The Black group is completely surrounded (there is a White piece on each of its outside
Black still has one last liberty - inside at the "eye" (the green dot)
White can now play in the middle marked intersection like this:
Ordinarily this move is illegal because it is a self capture move
except when the move is a final capturing move
This move takes Black's last liberty and captures the Black group
Now the Black stones have been captured they are removed:
2.4 Life and Death
What is a living group?
The term "living" simply means a group of stones that cannot be captured (sometimes also called a "safe" group). There is only one way a group can never be captured - and that is if a group has at least two "eyes".
Here are some groups with two "eyes" (the green dots):
Each of these groups is "safe" or "alive" - that is, they cannot be captured.
Let's see an example:
This White group has two eyes on the edge of the board - 4 across and 6 across from the left side.
Black can place one stone on each of the outside "escape routes" or liberties.
However, White still has two liberties or "escape routes" - they're inside - the "eyes"
So, to capture this White group Black needs to fill in the last two liberties
(positions 4 across and 6 across from the left)
The problem is Black can only place one stone at a time. However, each eye is a suicide move for Black
and it does not capture the White group (because White still has the other liberty or eye) so Black
would have to place two stones at once - which is not allowed.
So a group with two (or more) eyes cannot be captured.
2.5 The Ko Rule
Essentially the Ko Rule (Rule 7 above) was created to prevent the situation where there is an ever repeating game position with neither player conceding or giving up the position.
Here White has the marked Black stone in "Atari"
A Japanese term which means having only one liberty and so can be captured on the next move.
This leads to the situation in Diagram Ko2 (see below)
But now the marked White stone is also in Atari.
So Black can capture it back immediately.
Which leads straight back to Diagram Ko1 (see above)
Because of the set up of the stones the sequence between Diagram Ko1 and Diagram Ko2 can be repeated forever
To overcome this sort of situation the Ko rule states that "a player may not make a move that repeats a previous board situation".
Essentially, when the above situation occurs (that is, once White takes the Black stone) Black is not allowed to retake the White stone immediately, Black must therefore play somewhere else. When Black plays somewhere else White then has the opportunity to "break" or stop the Ko by filling in the Ko like this:
White stops the Ko situation.
Of course, Black may make a move somewhere else that White feels it must reply to and choose not to fill in the Ko. If White does not fill in the Ko Black then is allowed to retake the Ko. Once again, if Black does retake the Ko White is now prohibited from immediately retaking the Ko and must likewise play somewhere else first - which of course gives Black the opportunity to fill in (or "break") the Ko.
A "Seki" is a special situation in Go. Sometimes the placement of the stones is such that if either player makes one more move to try and capture their opponent's stones their own stones end up being captured instead.
Diagram Seki 1:
As can be seen in the diagram if Black places one more stone
inside the White stones to capture them then the Black stones
end up with only one liberty and White would be able to capture
the Black stones (See Diagrams Seki 2 and Seki 3).
Diagram Seki 2:
Diagram Seki 3:
As can be seen from Diagrams Seki 2 and 3 if either player plays a stone inside they end up being captured themselves.
This situation is called "Seki" and both players agree to leave that area as it is.
At the end of the game to score the area in Seki each players' stones are counted in their favour and the empty intersections that are surrounded by both colours are not counted as anyone's territory. In some more complicated Seki situations if one player's colour completely surrounds an empty intersection then that player gets that point
So the scoring in Diagram Seki 1 White would get 9 points for the White stones still on the board and Black would get three and no one would get points for the empty intersections.
2.7 Ending the GameMany beginner players find this part of the game the most difficult - when does the game end?
Basically, the game ends when both players agree that there is no point in making any more moves.
How do you know if there are any more moves to make?
The following list is one way to determine if there are any more moves to make:
If you answer "No" to all the above questions then you should pass to indicate you think the game is over.
This stage can be difficult - knowing when to stop. Sometimes you will pass and your opponent will keep playing. That's
fine - work out if you need to respond to the move and if you believe the last move requires a response - do so.
Otherwise just pass again
The game will go into scoring mode once both players pass (see above at Rule 8).
Also remember - if you're really far behind and/or there's no hope of winning you can always resign.
Komi refers to the number of extra points that White gets at the end of the game (usually between 5.5 and 7.5 for a standard 19x19 board).
Why does White get extra points? The reason is that Black gets the first move and this gives Black an advantage in the game over White. Komi is "compensation" to White for Black's first move advantage.
Why the 1/2 point? The half point ensures that there can be no ties (known as "jigo") - that is, if Black's score and White's score are the same the half point breaks the tie
Here at GoldToken the Komi is as follows:
3. Some StrategiesIn the game of Go there are some elementary strategies that can be applied to almost every game.
3.1 Opening and Play GenerallyStart by playing in the corners, then play on the side/middle, then centre.
Just some very quick remarks on these three positions in reverse order:
Make sure your groups have at least two eyes.
It is generally important when considering your next move to "take a step back" and ask yourself two questions:
Just asking these two questions will really help your game. There are lots and lots of online guides for how to play Go.
Here are some:
3.2 HandicapsThe game of Go has a handicap system. On a standard board there are 9 "star" points - small black dots arranged around the board (the one right in the middle of the board is also known as the "tengen") - see below:
The way the handicap system works is the weaker player gets one extra black stone for each "rank" they are below the stronger player as their "first" move. These black stones are placed on the "Star" points. Go has traditionally used the same ranking system as used in martial arts - that is, beginners are described as "kyu" players (20kyu being an absolute beginner going down to 1kyu for a very strong amateur) and experienced and/or professional players are titled "dan" (1dan being the lowest and 9dan the highest possible rank). GoldToken does not use that system. GoldToken gives players a rating after they have played some games (see http://goldtoken.com/games/info?infoid=2). As a rough guide for the handicap system here at GoldToken the weaker player gets an extra black stone for every 100 rating points below the stronger player's rating - some examples below:
At GoldToken the handicap is set when starting a new game and player creating the new game decides the number of stones. Black doesn't actually play that first move (except when playing as Black of course ) - GoldToken does it for you. Also, the maximum number of handicap stones is 9 stones.
The term "ladder" refers to a type of situation or configuration of stones that very frequently occurs. It looks like this:
The ladder is created when Black puts the white stone in atari like so:
White's stone has only one liberty (the marked intersection)
Once White's stone is caught in this configuation then it cannot escape and will inevitably be captured (except as noted below).
Here is what happens:
White moves to escape (the marked stone "1") and this move gives
the white stones two liberties.
When black responds with black "1" the white stones are again reduced to one libery and the ladder is created:
So if White continues to run by adding more stones to create more liberties (white 2, white 3, etc.) Black can continue to reduce White's liberties to one (black 2, black 3, etc.) hence making the ladder.
The ladder continues to run until it reaches the edge of the board and White is captured with the marked black stone like so:
There are two exceptions:
A ladder breaker is a stone along the line of the ladder that allows the captured stone to escape. Below is an example:
So the stone 3 across and 4 down is the "breaker" stone.
Effectively the ladder collides with the breaker stone and White can escape - like so:
Once the white stones reach the breaker they connect and now the white stones have
three liberties and Black now can't reduce the white stones to only one liberty and
The other situation is where the ladder itself has a shortage of liberties such as below:
In this case when White makes the next move (marked "1") the marked black stones are now in atari like so:
Black must now save the marked stones giving White the chance to escape (for example with White "2"):
3.4 TsumegoTsumego is a Japanese term for Go problems. They are similar to chess problems. Players are presented with a situation, usually in the corner, and a challenge - for example, Black to play and "kill" (that is capture) the White group. Here is an example (created by adum from http://goproblems.com/):
(solution at the bottom of this page under the apples )
Many players, including strong and professional players, study tsumego to improve their game
Hopefully this guide has been of some help in getting started with Go. There is lots and lots of material available on the internet on how to play and various strategies. The West of the Setting Sun Club has some links on its Welcome Page (shameless plug ).
Solution to the tsumego above:
After Black plays move "3" if White tries to play in the marked intersection it makes a group of 4 stones with only one liberty which is then immediately captured by Black - like this:
After capturing the 4 white stones White is left with one group with only one eye - so it will inevitably be captured - they're dead!
You should try out other moves White could make to see if there is any way to save the White stones
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