Go is a fascinating and ancient game which is believed to have originated in China several thousand years ago. It's played on the intersections of a grid, and has an extremely simple set of rules:
- Players take it in turns to place stones of their colour onto empty intersections, or may instead pass.
- Every unocupied intersection which is connected to your stone is called a 'liberty'. Neighbouring stones of the same colour share liberties.
- If by placing a stone you remove the last liberty of some enemy stones, they are immediately removed from the board.
- You can't repeat a board position.
- The winner is the player with the most area of the board after both players pass.
There are a few technicalities that the above brushes over ("what's a board position?" is one of them), but they're only technicalities. Because the rules are so simple, the complications in the game arise not because pieces have lots of different properties (like in chess), but because different patterns affect the game in different ways. Of course, this means that just knowing the rules won't immediately make you a good player!
One of the really nice things about go is that it's a scored game, so it opens itself up to a variety of handicapping possibilities: One player might pass a few times at the start of the game to give a headstart, or might give his opponent a number of points to add onto their score at the end. For this reason, a complete beginner can play a game against the British champion which is difficult for both players!
If you'd like to know a bit more about how to play, check out our beginners page.