It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Go is a strategic board game for two players. It is known as wéiqí in Chinese (Traditional: 圍棋; Simplified: 围棋), igo (囲碁, igo?) or go (碁, go?) in Japanese, and baduk in Korean (hangul: 바둑). To differentiate it from the common English verb go, it is frequently capitalized or spelled goe. Go originated in ancient China, centuries before its earliest known references in 4th century BC writing. It is mostly popular in East Asia but has nowadays gained some popularity in the rest of the world as well. Go is noted for being rich in strategic complexity despite its simple rules.
Go is played by two players alternately placing black and white stones on the vacant intersections of a 19 × 19 grid board. The object of the game is to control a larger part of the board than the opponent. To achieve this, players strive to place their stones in such a way that they cannot be captured, while mapping out territories the opponent cannot invade without being captured. A stone or a group of stones is captured and removed if it has no empty adjacent intersections, the result of being completely surrounded by stones of the opposing color.
On one hand, placing stones close together helps them support each other and avoid capture. On the other hand, placing stones far apart creates influence across more of the board. Part of the strategic difficulty of the game stems from finding a balance between such conflicting interests. Players strive to serve both defensive and offensive purposes and choose between tactical urgency and strategic plans. The game ends, and the score is counted when both players consecutively pass on a turn, indicating that neither side can increase its territory or reduce its opponent's.
Despite the fact that Go originated in ancient China, it is commonly known in the West by its Japanese name, go. This stems from the fact that early Western players learned of the game from Japanese sources. As a result, many Go concepts for which there is no ready English equivalent have become known elsewhere by their Japanese names. The Japanese name igo is linked to the Japanese reading of its Chinese name weiqi, which roughly translates as "board game of surrounding".
Games-playing is one of the oldest and most enduring human traits. Disparate pieces of evidence such as dice discovered at Sumer, game-boards depicted on Egyptian frescoes, Viking chess pieces, and ball parks constructed by ancient empires deep in the Andes link up directly with contemporary phenomena such as Saturday night poker games in Kansas City and the annual go title matches in Tokyo.
Games are undeniably a concomitant of civilization and even in their most primitive forms presuppose some degree of sophistication. Most of all, they require the ability to think in abstractions and to manipulate ideas in logical terms, thereby giving form to what is formless and creating small, recognizable patterns in the shadow of great mysteries.
From ancient times in Japan the so-called `Three Games' were backgammon, chess and go. Chess probably comes from India, backgammon from the Near or Middle East, and go from pre-Han China. Backgammon is a gambling game which, using dice, gives luck or chance the preponderant role. Chess in one of its earlier forms also used dice, but takes its present shape from the structure of a royal society and from war maneuvers. Go is the most abstract and `open' of the three; and with its freedom from complicated rules, its simplicity of form, its fluidity and spaciousness, it comes remarkably close to being an ideal mirror for reflecting basic processes of mentation.
Go is played with black and white `stones' all of exactly the same value, thus somewhat resembling the binary mathematics which is the basis of the computer. The stones are played onto the board and are left as they stand throughout the game, so that the game itself takes shape as a visible record of the thinking that went into it. About three hundred years ago an eminent Chinese monk came to Japan on a visit and was shown the diagram of a game of go which a master of that time had recently played. Without knowing anything of the game save the sketchy description they gave him at the time (this was after go had more or less died out in China), the monk studied the moves as shown on the record and after a few moments remarked with much admiration and respect that the player must have been a man who had become enlightened -- which was indeed the case. (It is interesting to note that this story is told on the one hand by go players to illustrate the quality of the game and on the other hand by Buddhists to show the acuity of the monk from China.)
The great 17th century Japanese playwright Chikamatsu, in a famous passage, compares the four quarters of the go board to the four seasons, the black and white stones to night and day, the 361 intersections of the board to the days of the year, and the center point on the board to the Pole Star. It would be easy to erect a tower of fanciful theory along these lines, but that would only obscure the obvious point. In this striking analogy Chikamatsu is describing a feeling of hugeness and all-inclusiveness -- the board conceived as a complete world system in potential form. The board and pieces can be thought of as limitless: any number of lines and an endless supply of stones to play with, the game itself being the life of the players. (In Chikamatsu's play a young man becomes old and grows a long beard while watching a single game.) Only because we are human and must put practical limits to our activities, do we use just a small part of the infinite board. But this field of nineteen by nineteen is large enough to contain everything we are able to put into it. The number of possible games playable on this board has been reckoned to be more than the number of molecules in the universe.
An anonymous go player has written: `The board is a mirror of the mind of the player as the moments pass. When a master studies the record of a game he can tell at what point greed overtook the pupil, when he became tired, when he fell into stupidity, and when the maid came by with the tea.'
Contrary to the opinion of many people, go has nothing to do with Buddhism. Because it is a valid system in itself, it offers nothing contradictory to other systems, but in fact go is an older inhabitant on this planet than is Buddhism. In China it became one of the Four Accomplishments, the others being poetry, painting and music. It reached Japan around the 6th century and for a long time remained the exclusive property of a leisured noble class. Then during the 16th century all this changed. The many great families and clans which had warred happily against each other for a thousand years were gradually brought under the hegemony of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was during the subsequent period of the Tokugawa era (roughly from 1600 to 1868) that go, along with haiku, kendo, tea ceremony and so on, was most actively cultivated as a way of constructively channeling the mental energies of the people during the long years of peace. One formal word for go in Japanese is Kido. Ki is the old Chinese word for go, and -do is the Chinese word for Tao, which means Way -- or, more specifically, a Way to enlightenment.
All games channel mental energies, whether they lead to enlightenment or the reverse, but it is suggestive to consider the `Three Games' in their social context because then we can see how each of them reflects certain basic characteristics of a general or regional type.
Chess, for example, the great historical game of the West, involves monarchs, armies, slaughter, and the eventual destruction of one king by another. The game appears to be entirely directed along the lines of the great myths of the West from the Mahabharata to the Song of Roland -- the overthrow of a hero and the crowning of a new hero. The pieces, from king down to pawn (peon), give a picture of a heirarchical and pyramidal society with powers strictly defined and limited.
Backgammon, the favorite game of the Near and Middle East, is preoccupied with the question of Chance and Fate (Kismet). All play is governed by the roll of dice over which the player has no control whatever. The players are matched against each other, but each tries to capture a wave of luck and ride it to victory. The loser curses his misfortune and tries again, but the individual is helpless in the grip of superior forces.
Go, the game of ancient China and modern Japan (and now popular throughout the world), is unique in that every piece is of equal value and can be played anywhere on the board. The aim is not to destroy but to build territory. Single stones become groups, and groups become organic structures which live or die. A stone's power depends on its location and the moment. Over the entire board there occur transformations of growth and decay, movement and stasis, small defeats and temporary victories. The stronger player is the teacher, the weaker is the learner, and even today the polite way to ask for a game is to say `Please teach me.'
Things are different now, but in earlier times, when go was so much admired by painters and poets, generals and monks, the point of the game was not so much for one player to overcome another but for both to engage in a kind of cooperative dialogue (`hand conversation', they used to call it) with the aim of overcoming a common enemy. The common enemy was, of course, as it always is, human weaknesses: greed, anger and stupidity.
Every year in March department stores all over Japan present elaborate displays in connection with the Doll Festival. If one looks carefully at the miniature weapons, musical instruments and furniture of a really complete display one will find a tiny backgammon board, a Japanese chess (shogi) board and a go board.
The `Three Games' is a useful classification because taken together they make up a coherent world view. Most of philosophy boils down to speculation centered around the three basic relationships of the human species. The first is man in his relationship to the remote gods and the mysterious forces of the universe. The second is man in the society he builds up around him. The third is man in his own self. Or, to put it another way, man the backgammon-player, man the chess-player, and man the go-player.
That we have these three shows that they answer basic needs in the human spirit. People everywhere are preoccupied with social structures, position and status; and everyone who is capable of reflection must sometimes speculate on his private relationship to fortune and fate.
But go is the one game which turns all preoccupations and speculations back on their source. It says, in effect, that everyone starts out equal, that everyone begins with an empty board and with no limitations, and that what happens thereafter is not fate or wealth or social position but only the quality of your own mind.
-Go is the oldest game in the world still played in its original form. Some estimates are as high as 4000 years, but certainly 2500-3000. 
-Go is the second most played game in the world, behind Xiangqi (Chinese Chess).
-Go is called Igo in Japan, Baduk in Korea, and Wei-qi in China.
-Top go players can earn nearly one million US dollars a year. 2004 tops was Cho U, 9p from Japan who won $1.04 million US.
-Go is simple enough for a 4 year old to learn, but too complex for a computer to beat a human who is a strong beginner. 
-It is believed there are more possible game variations than atoms in the visible universe.
-Just like the Golf channel in the US; Japan, China, and Korea all have cable TV channels devoted entirely to Go.
-Go players take their game seriously. You can purchase what is basically a 42cm x 45cm x 18cm (17"x17"x7") square block of wood for $127,000 US.
-The world largest Go game is played in Oita, Japan on a 40 x 40 meter large field. One round stone is 1,8 meters high its weight is about 1 kilogram. 
-Go is considered one of the premiere challenges for programmers of artificial intelligence
-It is telling of the immortality and constant veneration that Go has had for millennia that the two greatest players ever are often considered Huang Longshi (1651? – 1691?) of China, or Honinbo Dosaku (1645 – 1702) of Japan. 
-There is a historical story that in the 17th century, the rule of Tibet was once decided over three games of Go.
-Go is strongly believed to stop or reverse common senile dementia in the elderly. Additional information is coming that it may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's.
-Go has an immense impact on the mental development of children, particularly in the area of reasoning.
-Chess is primarily a left brain game. Go actively stimulates both the right and left sides of the brain.
. . [it is] something unearthly . . . If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go.
- Emanuel Lasker, chess world champion
While the Baroque rules of chess could only have been created by humans, the rules of go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play go.
- Edward Lasker
The board is a mirror of the mind of the players as the moments pass. When a master studies the record of a game he can tell at what point greed overtook the pupil, when he became tired, when he fell into stupidity, and when the maid came by with tea.
- Anonymous Go player
A few moments to learn, a lifetime to master.
- Ancient Proverb
Go is to Western chess what philosophy is to double entry accounting.
- From Shibumi, bestseller by Trevanian
Zhang Yunqi lists the qualities required to excel at weiqi, "the tactic of the soldier, the exactness of the mathematician, the imagination of the artist, the inspiration of the poet, the calm of the philosopher, and the greatest intelligence."
- Zhang Yunqi, Weiqi de faxian (Discovering weiqi), Beijing, Internal document of the Chinese Weiqi Institute 1991, p. 2.
Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of quality take up Go.
- Microcomputer Executive and an expert player, when asked to compare Go with other games
The difference between a stone played on one intersection rather than on an adjacent neighbor is insignificant to the uninitiated. The master of Go, though, sees it as all the difference between a flower and a cinder block.
- From The Challenge of Go: Esoteric Granddaddy of Board Games, by Dave Lowry
You don't have to be really good anymore to get good results. What's happening with Chess is that it's gradually losing its place as the par excellence of intellectual activity. Smart people in search of a challenging board game might try a game called Go.
- Hans Berliner, The New York Times, Feb 6, 2003
I really believe that Go is destined to take the place of Chess as the leading intellectual game of the Occident, just as it has reigned supreme in the Orient for some four thousand years.
- Edward Lasker, Go and Go-Moku, c. 1934
Go uses the most elemental materials and concepts -- line and circle, wood and stone, black and white -- combining them with simple rules to generate subtle strategies and complex tactics that stagger the imagination.
- Iwamoto Kaoru, 9-dan professional Go player and former Honinbo title holder