History of Go

History of Go

In the article “History of Go” we will tell a brief history of the intellectual game that conquers the planet. You will learn the main stages of popularization of the game in the world and Russia.


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Go is an intellectual game that dates back several millennia. Despite the fact that it is one of the oldest games in the world, it has not changed its original appearance until today.

Ancient China (4th century B.C.)
Ancient China (4th century B.C.)

Go originated in China about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. The exact date of the game’s origin is unknown, but it is believed to have appeared around the 5th century B.C. This was a time when China was plagued by strife, and Go became a popular pastime for warlords and scholars.

The rules of the game are so simple that you can learn them in a matter of minutes, but it requires well-developed logical and strategic thinking to play it. Go is played on a special game board with 19 by 19 lines. Players have black and white pebbles, which they alternately place at the intersection of the lines.

The object of the game is to capture the maximum territory on the board by surrounding and capturing groups of your opponent’s pebbles.

The game continues until both players agree that there are no more moves available. At the end of the game, points are tallied. A player is awarded 1 point for each territory point captured, captured or doomed stone. The player with the most points wins.

Millions of people around the world play Go. The game attracts people of all ages and professions as it requires logical thinking, strategic planning and creativity. Very rich and famous people can be found among the players. For example, Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) also plays the game.

Nilov, Bogdanov, Astashkin at the game
Nilov, Bogdanov, Astashkin at the game

In the book Bill Gates Speaks, the entrepreneur recalls that he once dreamed of becoming one of the best players in chess and Go. Go is played at many prestigious universities such as Princeton, Stanford or Harvard.

Go quickly became popular not only in China, but also in neighboring countries such as Japan and Korea. In Japan, the game was named “Igo” and became part of the country’s culture and philosophy. Go was a game practiced by samurai who believed it developed intelligence and strategic thinking.

The game of Go has had a profound influence on culture, philosophy and art in East Asian countries. It has become a metaphor for understanding human relationships, balance and harmony. The ideas applied to Go have spread to many areas of life, including literature, painting, and human thinking.

Since Japan has been actively popularizing Go in Western countries, more and more people around the world are learning about the game. From Europe, 37 countries are registered in the International Go Association, Asia 17, Oceania 15, Africa 2, and the Americas 15.

Lee Sedol
Lee Sedol

Being a high-level Go player means that there are considerable rewards. Korean star Lee Chang-ho (9th dan) has earned more than US $10 million during his career, and world champion Lee Sedol (9th dan) earns about US $1 million annually from prize money alone.

Go has a ranking system that evaluates the current strength of players. Beginning players are given a rank of kyu, then a dan rank is assigned as the level of play increases. The maximum, traditional rank is 9th dan, but there is also 10th dan, which is awarded as a title.

In Russia, the ranking system in Go is based on traditional ranks and titles (candidate master of sports, master of sports and grandmaster). In Russia, the Japanese scale of dans and kyu is an unofficial ranking and is not widely used.

In recent decades, the game of Go has attracted the attention not only of board game fans, but also of researchers and developers of artificial intelligence. For example, AlphaGo, developed by DeepMind (part of Google), defeated world champion Lee Sedol in 2016, which greatly shocked the Go community and spurred further progress in improving artificial intelligence algorithms.

History of Go in Russia

In the mid-60s of the 20th century, the first circle of people interested in Go appeared in Leningrad. From this circle came two patriarchs of the game in Russia: Valery Astashkin and Georgy Nilov. In 1975, they published a series of articles called “The Go School” in the magazine “Science and Life”.

Yuri Filatov
Yuri Filatov

Since the magazine was published in a million copies, it was distributed throughout the Union. The magazine was read by representatives of scientific and technical intelligentsia, so the seed of popularization of the game fell into very fertile soil. After the publication there was an explosive growth of interest in the game, began to open sections, held all sorts of championships.

In Russia, the game developed thanks to Yuri Filatov, who read a detailed article by German chemist and engineer Oskar Korschel. Filatov actually infected his students Valery Astashkin and Georgy Nilov with the game.

In the 90s, the game of Go in our country went through a severe storm. Experienced masters left to go into business, and the history and traditions of the game were preserved by pure enthusiasts. Since the early 2000s, the number of Go players in Russia has been growing every year. At the moment it is about 50,000 people.

The main driver of the game’s development in Russia is children’s Go. In Moscow alone, there are about ten schools with hundreds of students enrolling every year. A very big contribution to the popularization of the game was made by Japanese anime, in particular the series “Hikaru and Go”, and then people from business also contributed.

Go in the USSR 1946
Go in the USSR 1946

The first photograph of people playing Go in the USSR was taken in 1946 on the Kuril Islands. After the end of the war, a group of researchers, ethnographers, biologists and geologists were sent there, and they were pictured at a traditional table in work clothes.

To date, the game of Go is developing in Russia by leaps and bounds, while in Europe there is stagnation. Why is this happening? In Russia Go is perceived as a part of philosophy, while in Europe it is an intellectual game. Go is not a very spectacular game and loses to computer games, and because of its complexity there are problems with popularization.

But if you look at the game from a different perspective, it promotes logical thinking and develops analytical skills. Go trains players to see the long term and anticipate possible moves of the opponent.

LG Cup (Russia, 2001)
LG Cup (Russia, 2001)

Go develops players’ ability to assess risks and make informed decisions. Each move in Go affects the position of the game board as a whole, so players have to carefully weigh their actions and risks before making a move. This strategic decision-making skill has applications in many aspects of life, including business, politics, and everyday tasks.

Also, playing Go allows players to develop patience and stamina. A single game of Go can last for hours, and players need to maintain mental clarity and focus throughout the game.

Thus, it can be briefly concluded that Go game is a socio-cultural phenomenon. The influence of the game on the development of thinking still exists today. Today, the game is a symbol of harmony, human interaction and superiority of intelligence.

History of Go

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