Rules of Go

Rules of Go

In the article “Rules of Go” you will learn the classic rules of the ancient intellectual game, features and interesting points that have been around for more than 4,000 years.


#Go #RulesGo #RulesGamesGo #IntelligentGames


Go equipment
Go equipment

Go is an intellectual game with the age of several millennia. The following equipment is required for the game: a board or a special table (goban) of standard size 19*19 lines, stones of two colors (black and white) and two bowls for stones.

Two opponents take part in the game. At the beginning of the game the board is completely empty, there are no stones on it. Black makes the first move by placing a stone on the intersection of lines anywhere on the board. Then White places his stone and so on in turn.

Crossing lines in Go
Crossing lines in Go

Unlike other board games (chess or checkers), stones do not move around the table. If a stone is placed at a certain point, it will remain in its place until the end of the game, except for the case when a stone is captured, but this is discussed below.

The goal of the game is to capture the maximum territory on the board by surrounding and capturing groups of opponent’s pebbles or empty spaces. Each surrounded and unoccupied line intersection earns one point. Points where stones are standing are not counted in the tally. At the end of the game the points are summed up, and the one who has more of them wins.

Goal of the game Go
Goal of the game Go

Go is a game of territory building, i.e. it is originally based on the idea of creation. As the game progresses, opponents create a unique black and white pattern on the board, which symbolizes painstakingly constructed possessions. Players can not only capture empty territories, but also invade other people’s zones. Invasions can end in success, or they can end in failure. What does the outcome depend on?

The most important aspect of the game of Go is the life and death of stones. Each exposed stone has personal life spaces (neighboring unoccupied intersections), called breaths. In the example below, you can see that the stone in the center of the board has 4 breaths, on the edge of the board 3, and in the corner only two.

Breathing stones
Breathing stones

The living space can be expanded by attaching additional stones to your stones. The photo above shows a group that already has 6 breaths.

Where there is life, there is also death…

If all breathing lines are occupied by opponent’s stones, the stone is considered captured. The stone is removed from the board and kept until the end of the game. Captured stones are placed in the lids of the bowls. Each captured stone brings one extra point at the end of the game. In this way, the player increases his acquisitions while decreasing his opponent’s conquests.

In order to avoid absurd and illogical situations in the game, the following rule was invented:

Suicide moves are forbidden in Go

This means that you cannot place a stone at a point where it will not have any breaths. In the picture below, the player playing Black cannot place a stone in the center of the white group, because such a move would be suicidal, because all the breaths would be occupied. So, the stone is immediately captured and according to the rules will be immediately removed from the board.

Captivity and suicide move
Captivity and suicide move

The same applies to a group of stones. If adding another stone deprives the group of its last free breath, then such a move is forbidden. However, there are no rules without exceptions:

A suicide move is allowed if it deprives the enemy group of its last breath (kamikaze move)

In the example below, the black group is surrounded on all sides by white stones. It has only one breath left – the inner one. Can the white man place a stone at this point? Of course, as this is a classic kamikaze move. The black stones are removed from the board and the white stone remains in its place, in this case in the center of the composition.

Kamikaze move
Kamikaze move

It turns out that on one side you can surround stones, on the other side you can’t make suicide moves, and on the 3rd side you can make kamikaze moves. Why the game does not turn into an endless capture of each other’s stones?

The thing is that in Go you can build impregnable fortresses or so-called groups with two eyes. The photo below shows two black groups completely surrounded by the enemy. Group #1 has one free breath at A, group #2 has breaths at B and C. Can the white man capture these groups?

Group with two eyes
Group with two eyes

Suppose white throws a stone into the middle of group #1. Neither white nor black has any breath left, i.e. this is a classic kamikaze move. So the black group is captured. In group #2, the situation is quite different. Whichever way White goes, each of his moves will be considered suicidal, because in each variant there is a free breath left for black stones.

To capture group #2, White needs to close two breaths at once, i.e. to make two moves simultaneously, which is forbidden by the rules. It turns out that white has surrounded black group #2 from all sides, but cannot capture it.

This group will live forever until the end of the game. Due to their characteristic shapes such groups are called “Groups with two eyes”. Eyes and shapes of groups can vary significantly in the game, the main thing is to fulfill the main condition – the presence of two points where the opponent has no right to make a move.

Interesting fact: “Go is a way of maintaining horizontal communication in the vertical society of Japan. After joining a large company, a newcomer is actively encouraged to join the company’s Go Club, where he can play on equal terms even with the president”

Let’s look at the most complex rule, which is called the “Ko Rule” and has to do with a specific game position:

It is not allowed to make a move that leads to a repeat of a position that existed on the board before the partner made his last move

As you can see from the photo below black stone has only one breath, i.e. it can be removed by the next move of white. Suppose that’s exactly what White will do. What will be the result? White has captured the black stone, but now his own stone has only one breath, and it is Black’s turn to make a move.

Rule Ko
Rule Ko

If Black immediately takes the opponent’s stone, the position will return to what it was at the beginning. Mutual capture of stones with the repetition of the position will continue until all stones in the bowls are finished.

To avoid this absurd situation, the Ko rule was introduced, which requires the opponent to make a move to any other allowed point on the board before he can take your stone back. That is, you can take back your opponent’s stone, but only after one move.

In the game situation shown above, Black must walk in any other place instead of capturing, and White will either connect the stones to each other (put another stone in the center) and end the struggle, or walk in another place and the struggle will continue.

When and how does the game end? There are only 2 ways to end the game:

  1. At any time a player has the right to surrender if he thinks he has no chance of winning.
  2. In a situation where both players have said pass, i.e. skipped a move. A move can be skipped if it does not bring any additional profit (benefit). For example, all zones have been formalized and none of the invasions will succeed, no enemy stone can be captured, etc.

When the game is over, the sides proceed to scoring. Players add up the surrounded empty intersections and captive stones. If there are “doomed stones” (stones surrounded by the opponent that cannot form a group with two eyes) in the game, they are also counted as captives.

Doomed stones and scoring
Doomed stones and scoring

In addition, White adds 6.5 points to his score “Fora” or the so-called “Komi” (compensation for the fact that Black went first). The one who has more points becomes the winner.

Some learn to play Go, and some play Go to learn…

That’s all the rules of Go. To reinforce the information, we recommend watching the video below.

Rules of Go (video)

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