Go the Board Game

Posted by Steven Barnhart on 4th Nov 2020

Go the Board Game

A brief history of the board game Go

The board game Go is one of the oldest board games that is still played in these modern times the way it was played in its original form.

There are many debates about its original purpose from being used as an abacus.

Still others thought perhaps it was some sort of device to predict the future because of the black and whites stones which could be interrupted as the yin and yang.

There is also a legend that claims it was used by a father to teach discipline to his son.

Confucius spoke of it in his writings as a study in human nature and the idea of correct thinking about piety.

The board game Go eventually because one of the Four Accomplishments by Chinese gentlemen along with playing the lute, painting and the art of calligraphy.

It may have originated in central Asia it was not until it was introduced to Japan that it sprang to life with immense popularity.

It was soon deeply embedded into the Japanese culture and the Shogun would award the strongest players in the country.

When the Emperor regained power over Shogunate the Go colleges soon found themselves without the funding they were used to.

In the modern age the board game Go there are 60 countries that compete each year in the World Amateur Go Championship.

Understanding the board game Go

Wikipedia describes the board game Go as:

Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent.

The components of a Go game set are:

The Go stones: Go stones are made of a variety of different materials however, the most popular Go stones are made of glass.

The size is often given in millimeters and may vary in size.

The Go board: The Go board is more than likely going to be made of wood usually bamboo and will vary in size.

There are also roll up travel Go mats that are designed for the Go player that is a road warrior but still wants to play the game.

The Go bowls (optional) – The Go bowls are used to contain the Go stones so they are not lost or damaged, these bowls can be made of plastic, wood or other materials.

A popular Go bowl is made of bamboo.

The beginner that is playing Go for the first time

It is common knowledge that you must know the rules of a game before you can break them or use them to your advantage.

Having an intimate knowledge of what is allowed or not allowed will give you an overall view of the game and how you can deploy your own strategy.

The first place to start is the strategic placing of the Go stones on the Go board and not just deploying a haphazard approach to the game.

Understanding the placement of the stones on the board will create a much better advantage for your victory.

Some basic strategy for the beginning Go player

If you keep your Go stones connected to each other it will make it more difficult for your opponent to capture them.

It is wise not to scatter your Go stones about the board and try to avoid making lots of large groups.

Study your opponent’s weak groups those that are connected to fewer empty intersections by contrast shore up your own weak groups with more stones attached to them. Always be on the attack of an opponent’s weak group.

Make forts around empty intersections so you have a safe haven from which to play.

Continue to play outside your forts as long as it is safe to do so you will need inside the walls of your fort later.

Go the board game basics

The most common rule of Go is there must be an open intersection (open point) next to a Go stone that is called a liberty.

Once a liberty has been enclosed it is now referred to as an eye, should there be a group of stones that contains two eyes it is then unconditionally alive.

Even if these groups are surrounded, they cannot be captured.

A simple strategy is to grow your territory all the while attacking your opponent’s weak groups while also being careful of your own group vulnerabilities.

The liberties of your groups are countable and situations where 2 opposing groups must capture the other to live are referred to as capturing races in a capturing race.

The group with the most liberties will more than likely be able to capture the opponent's stones. This life and death struggle is what makes Go challenging.

The game is over when both of the players pass because there are no more profitable moves that can be made.

At this time the game is scored by counting points, the player with the greatest number of controlled points which factors captured stones and komi is declared the winner.

If you were a casual observer you might think the game is really boring, two players placing stones on a game board.

However, that would be far from the truth, once the concept of the rules are understood you will soon learn how complicated the strategy may be.

By watching two players claim territory by walling off sections and surrounding the opponent’s stones you will soon understand the popularity of this amazing game.

Either the board will fill up or each of the players come to an agreement the game is over, whoever controls the most territory wins.

The board game Go and the art of war

The board game Go and the art of war

There are similar characteristics between the board game Go and Chinese diplomacy and the way they look at war.

The original Chinese name for Go was called weiqi (pronounced wei ch‟i); literally to mean encircling territory, an essential component of a nation state.

As in battle two players compete for territories and opponent with the most territory wins.

The Go game board was thought to be the earth (in ancient times, people believed the earth was flat and square).

The board is square, representing stability and the four corners represent the four seasons, indicating the cyclical change of time.

The game pieces, the stones, are round, hence mobile.

The spread of stones on the board reflect activities on earth.

The shape of the stone engagements on the board is like the flow of water, an echo in Sun Tzu‟s view that the positioning of 7 troops be likened to water: “as water varies its flow according to the fall of the land, a military varies its method of gaining victory according to the enemy situations.” Sun Tzu also uses stones to describe military affairs: rolling boulders create shi.

The two players take turns to place black and white stones on the intersections (but not the open squares) of a 19 x 19-line matrix, one piece at a time.

The black and white stones engage with one another in the game, exemplifying the concept of yin and yang and penetrating each other’s territories as the flow of water.

Go the board game in the modern era

It was only a matter of time before this ancient game is taken into the modern era and the computer program.

It all started in 1996 when an IMB computer defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov and the programmers set their sights on the board game Go.

Introduce AlphaGo the first computer program that defeated a professional human Go player, also the first to defeat a world champion Go player, and may be the strongest Go player in history.

In latter part of 2017, AlphaZero was introduced, a single system that taught itself from scratch how to master the games of chess, shogi, and Go, beating a world-champion program in each case.

AlphaZero takes a totally different approach than others, replacing hand-crafted rules with a deep neural network and algorithms that knew nothing beyond the basic rules.

Its creative response and ability to master these three complex games, demonstrates that a single algorithm can learn how to discover new knowledge in a range of settings, and potentially, any perfect information game.

While it is still in its infancy, AlphaZero’s encouraging results are an important step towards the mission of creating general-purpose learning systems that can help find solutions to some of the most important and complex scientific problems.

Some would argue that the board game Go is harder than chess

Like the board game chess there are a variety of different strategic moves you can deploy to defeat your opponent while minimizing your losses.

If you study the Go board there are a plethora of options you have for placing your stones and hundreds of ways your opponent can respond to your moves.

After the first couple of chess pieces are moved in a match there are approximately 400 possible next moves after that.

By contrast with the Go board game after the first couple of moves there are approximately 130,000 next moves choices.

When developing AI software Google was quoted:

"The search space in Go is vast... a number greater than there are atoms in the universe,"

The board game Go documentary

The Surrounding Game” is the first feature documentary to tell the incredible story of the board game Go, from ancient China to 21st century America.

This documentary tells the story of the world’s ancient and enigmatic board game called Go.

Through the eyes of 3 young men from the United States you will see their journey as they try to become the first Western professional Go game players.

It searches for the true meaning what Go represents to each of these players.

Learn more about it here: The Surrounding Game