The Game of Go: What is it?

The second video from  the Play More Go project has just been released.



Their previous video, which we posted two weeks ago, turned out to be controversial. That was mainly because of a deliberate strategy to only show Go in a very limited way. Some people liked it, while others hated it.

So some readers will be relieved to see that this video is different.

Once again, I’d be interested to hear what you think about it.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

About David Ormerod

David is a Go enthusiast who’s played the game for more than a decade. He likes learning, teaching, playing and writing about the game Go. He's taught thousands of people to play Go, both online and in person at schools, public Go demonstrations and Go clubs. David is a 5 dan amateur Go player who competed in the World Amateur Go Championships prior to starting Go Game Guru. He's also the editor of Go Game Guru.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. I was even more irritated by this one. The strange part where the waitress plays a two-space jump (on tengen?) and appears to suddenly win the game and begin clapping in delight was one of the worst moments.

    THAT SAID – I just showed these to my wife, and she thought they were lovely. “But go IS about friendship!” she said. “What do you have, a heart of STONE?” So there’s one bit of anecdotal evidence that it may strike some non-go players differently than grumps like me.

    • David Ormerod says:

      I thought that this video was quite good when viewed as something that’s intended to introduce the game to a broad audience. I still expect that some Go purists will hate it though, that’s life. You can only do so much on their budget.

      The move you’ve pointed out was Shusaku’s move from the Ear Reddening Game. The violinist/busker was playing the part of Gennan Inseki, which made me laugh, but sort of worked. The actual game went on for quite some time after that, but things have to be greatly simplified in an advertisement.

      The reality is that practically all marketing is cringe, particularly when it’s about something you know a lot about. It’s a larger than life oversimplification by necessity, because you have to keep people’s attention and deliver a clear message in a very short amount of time.

      Personally, I find myself predisposed to disliking most marketing, and I think a lot of Go players are like that. I don’t enjoy having to market things either, but it’s a necessary evil if we want to promote Go. I sometimes get the feeling that some Go players don’t see the point in promoting the game at all, but I disagree with that.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response, David.

        For me, it’s just frustrating that the move is from the ear-reddening game. Consider the actual story of that game from Sensei’s Library:

        “Gennan’s disciples were watching the game and not one of them doubted that Gennan would win. But a doctor, who also had been watching the game, thought that Gennan would lose. When pressed for an answer he replied: I don’t know much about the game, but when Shusaku played B1 Gennan’s ears flushed red. This is a sign that he had been upset.”

        It’s lovely in its details: the move itself passed unnoticed by everyone but the relatively go-ignorant doctor, whose observation of a subtle bodily reaction on the part of Gennan gave him a key insight into the game. Thus the wise are humbled by someone who simply remembers that the game involves the physical world as well as the abstract forms of the goban and stones.

        None of this lovely subtlety matches the scene depicted in the promotion. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s discordant, and becomes a mere reference to something famous, rather than a deeper layer of meaning, harmonious with all its parts.

        I don’t know whether I think it’s necessary to market go, if we think of marketing as something that must be a necessary evil. Was Hikaru no Go marketing? Was it a necessary evil? In my opinion, it’s a remarkable story, whose craftsmanship can be admired at many levels. And it also succeeded in getting many people (like me) interested in go.

        I grant you that it’s not easy to make good art, to create ways of communicating the beauty devotees see to possible initiates. But I don’t think it’s impossible.

        I also don’t think this team is setting its sights too low… I think they’re trying to make something beautiful and consonant with what we love about go. I have criticisms, but I am only one person, and I’m happy that other people seem to enjoy the recent piece.

      • Precisely!

    • Anonymous says:

      The game being played was the Ear-reddening game

    • Since my wife got quoted in the AGA E-journal, I’d just like to add what I told her afterward. “I’ll grant you the point once the spot makes you take up go.” To which she replied, “I’ve got a lot to do.” 😉

  2. Lol. I too would be jumping for joy if I played the most famous single move in all of Go history 😛

  3. Seriously, though, whereas the first video would have just confused me (if I were someone who didn’t know about go), I imagine this one would have sparked my interest. I understand a “deliberate strategy to only show go in a limited way”, but the 2 seconds of go bowls in the first video goes beyond ‘limited’ and verges on ‘completely irrelevant’.

  4. I like the second video a lot more. I still think it would not have harmed the flow of the first video to reveal two people sitting in front of a board and playing the first few moves of the game just before the video ends.

    I didn’t understand what happened at the end of the game myself either but now I get the joke and I think it’s quite cute: if you’re a novice, then it just looks pretty and intriguing, and if you play Go it’s fun to find out what the heck was suddenly the matter! 🙂

  5. The moves played are irrelevant, if you’re in a position to critique them you already love the game! The ear reddening move was a great choice as its the classic example of a new generation surpassing the old. All sports require this to move on. This trailer was much better. It had a sense of wit and narrative. Still very cheesy but if this appeared on TV during an as break, I would be curious.

  6. I agree that I cringed a little too, when the girl “won” with the two-space jump into the center.

    However, I think this video is headed in the right direction in terms of how it presents the game. I think what is truly unique and appealing about Go is that it can be enjoyed like a conversation, and not as a competition. Go has an incredible community that makes the game so much more enjoyable, and it’s a game that connects the old and the young. And for people who are unnerved by the very non-zen nuances in this video, Go is a simple game that has the potential to bring together people of very different cultures and backgrounds, and allow them to have a meaningful conversation.

    As for the cheesy “Yay I won” laughing, I am Korean and I learn Go from my dad, and I love the calm and deep-wisdom traditional style of teaching that is associated with Asian Go. But I also head a Go club at a university, where I am fascinated by how fellow students laugh about big captures and mistakes. Are they wrong to not take the game in some deep, heavy way? No! In the same way, this video reminds me that what matters is that Go is a fun game able to be enjoyed by various kinds of people, if we allow it to be.

  7. Further… I like the imagery of a old and poor musician playing Go with a girl in school. It is so much more inviting than marketing it like a sport.

    They do a good job of de-emphasizing the competitive aspect of the game, which will be good for attracting beginners who don’t already have the preconception that “I’m gonna beat all the beginners in this club and then become a master in a year”. If Go can attract more people who treat the game as more than a competition, the Go community will last long.

  8. This was a spectacular improvement! I would actually like to see it aired on TV or something. The main thing I would criticize is actually the phrase “its not about fighting”. I think it is unnecessary and maybe even misleading, since I can’t imagine who would think a board game was about actual physical violence (yet there is still plenty of fighting).

  9. What I enjoyed: The game was shown this time, and it was a good, pro game. There was a nice variety of positive emotions. The easy to understand narrative. Character variety. Nice visuals.

    Other thoughts: The pace and length of the first video was tighter, even though there is a game going on in this one. Wondering if it’s possible to tighten the pace w/o introducing negative emotions. There are a lot of visuals of the guy eating.

    Looking forward to seeing where the others go from here!

  10. There’s quite a bit to the video, although it feels somewhat clumsy. There’s one vital part missing to both these videos, and I hope it’s intentional:

    There’s absolutely no way to find out what this ‘go’ thing is!

    No links, no resources… Someone might Google some of the sponsors (and hopefully find GoGameGuru). Otherwise you’ll be asking a thousand people about ‘that game’ with ’round black and white pieces’ played on a board with ‘a bunch of lines’. It seems like a lot of work.

    Hopefully these videos are meant to be viewed in a row (a good assumption on YouTube) and the answers will be given in the final one. Or links posted in the ‘information’ area under the video ( anyone?).

  11. Well “game with black and white round pieces” returns “Go (game)” in Google. 😉

    Hayang +1 on your comment

  12. The 2nd vid is a lot better than the first, but imo there’re still room for improvements.

    What I like about this is the balance between the suspense of the intro vs seeing people playing go. The emotions delivered by the actors/actresses are brilliant and easy to understand even without commentary.

    What made me frown is the girl’s “celebration ceremony” ie hand clapping when she played a good move. To me, go has always been a game of humility so such act does not sit well in my book. I’d preferred to see the girl giving an “interesting gaze” at her opponent with a grin when she played that move. (Think Hikaru no Go. I feel that it’s better to show the brilliance of a move by making the opponent suprised rather than celebration dance)

    That being said, I am please with the improvement and I wish that the next vid will be even better than this one!

  13. I find it intriguing. The music is fantastic, the shots are nice and all. As for the game – aren’t they replaying Shusaku? 😀

    That said – I hope the next 2 videos will show how to play this fantastic game and show the magic of understanding oneself with it as well as making friends and being smart. 😀

  14. Great videos. I think both great. My girl didnt like the first because she said “after watching i dont know what the go is” “Thats why its so great!” i answered:) The second is a some kind of continuation..i love the way its totally opposite to the first one. Shows go is everything u want. Btw, after watching the second video, i gave up my working and played a game :)) Great job. Waiting for the next! Greetings from Poland

  15. I like the idea of the happy old street musician playing the young girl.
    It is a distant reflection of chinese immortals playing, and it can be produced on a shoestring budget.
    What is really missing though, is the mesmerizing total shot of a game in progress.
    Seeing a game in action, even by relatively weak players, is what got me hooked on go, 25 years ago. Maybe I’m judging to narrowly from my personal perspective, but I feel that anyone who doesn’t feel a rush of exitement when first exposed to a game of go in action, is lost for the game to begin with.
    Also, I don’t care very much for the “go isn’t this, go isn’t that” introduction.
    Go is a game of deep contemplation, as well as the ultimate war game.

    • Also, “go isn’t about fighting” is a straight-up lie.

      • “Also, “go isn’t about fighting” is a straight-up lie.”

        Agree. In fact, it was the fighting aspect of Go that got me involved with it in the first place. I was always fascinated by military strategy, and as any military theorist knows, most battles are won through encirclement maneuvers. Go is the only game I’ve come across that simulates encirclement in a very deep and abstract way.

  16. Igor Kuvychko says:

    I think it is a great video! Using the Ear-Reddening game like that, the music, the visuals – I’m sharing it on my facebook account, I think it has a good chance to spark further interest.

  17. Great video. The audience is the go-ignorant part of our world. They see people having fun and some interest in a to them totally unknown game. The game looks intriguing and is pretty to look at. As are the players. That the game is a Shusaku game is completely irrelevant now, as long as it shows some apparent patterns, that is, not a random bunch of stones. The message is right to this audience: go is about fun! Battle and rivalry are sooo far away yet. Looking forward to the next ones!

    Kind regards,

  18. I dont like it. These videos are creating false mood, the acting is just wrong. What it wants is real stuff. Go isnt fake its real.

    People are going to say hmm good and walk away. I think its just too much work for nothing

    • I may agree with you, except that I don’t see an alternative. The kind of people that might be interested in the Western world are those that already play chess. Chess programs tend to start early, so go comes second, and in this case second is about the same as nothing. But to get some recognition, people that may say: yes I know a bit about go, instead of saying: do you mean golf?, for those people these videos may be the right stuff. I wonder how these videos will be spread, how to get them to, let’s say, 200 million people.

      Kind regards,

      • IMHO, so few people know about go that it’s strange to focus on perception problems. We don’t need to convince people that go is more interesting than they think it is. We need to have things that are interesting enough to attract any attention at all.

        These videos would have turned me off, personally.

  19. It’s too cringe-worthy to me. I can’t imagine showing this to anyone interested in knowing what go is.

  20. This is a perfect introduction video and can do without the indulgent predecessor (I actually hope it will replace that misguided attempt). Everything is there: the human beings with different backgrounds and the game that brings them together. About the quality of the music, the acting or the shooting, you can argue (I love all of it) but you cannot deny that this is a very good attempt to describe go, be it somewhat idealized. Which is of course on purpose: the makers want to move out of the small and nerdy incrowd, convincing the rest of the world this game has something to give. In all its idealized portraying, which is what marketing should do, the central message is true and beautiful. Go gathers people with very different backgrounds in a moment of joy.

    (And it doesn’t hide the frustration of losing either – how about that for a reality check).

  21. Jesús Gómez says:

    Beautiful! What a piece of art.

  22. Aaron Cormier says:

    I’m currently designing a website all about Go and putting a bit of a modern flare into it. I would like to use this video within the site somewhere. would this be possible, and if so who do I contact?

  23. Closer to the mark though still not what draws me. The stone placements! Sheesh. So weak. Where’s the snap of a firmly placed stone? I would rather see two senior Asian professionals playing a realistic game. A French street mime?

  24. Allthough the second part is better, my “overall” strategy would be to produce a more music clip style kind of commercial
    [Fade in] A crossword puzzel book is shown and is opened
    Focus On the description “Japanese boardgame (2)” and shifting towards filling in the answer Go. (The words “What” and “is” are allready filled in on the same line).
    The letters from Go become higlighted while fading out.
    Fade in towards an empty Go board. Narrating or showing with text; The Goal is to conquer more of the board then the other. And a hand places a stone in the corner. “Corners are the easiest to claim”. After the 4 corners have been played (through fast motion) “next best thing are the sides” while placing san ren sei or Chinese opening. “In the Center it is the hardest to claim territory”.
    “Attacking/pushing” while playing a keima kakari “and evading (symetric keima kakari). “attacking and counterattacking” another keima kakari and now an attachment as a response.
    “Stones can be captured” showing a capture sequence of a 2 or 3 stonegroup where the last stone is placed with slow motion (for dramatic purposes).
    Ok, this would be the basic of my commercial, don’t know how to end it. And i wouldn’t take a professional of high dan game, but an intermediate game (single kyu’s). Simpler thus probably better to understand.

  25. Everything is a matter of taste. But it’s good to show the friendshipness in the go. It’s something that is not lighting up so often, despite being very important.
    By the way, the girl is incredibly beautiful ! Tell us where she is playing go. I want to be his partner in pair go ! ^^