What is Go?

Go is a fascinating strategy board game that’s been popular for at least 2,500 years, and probably more.

Its simple rules and deep strategies have intrigued everyone from emperors to peasants for hundreds of generations. And they still do today.

The game Go has fascinated people for thousands of years. It will fascinate you too.


What is Go and why should I learn it?

Go is a two player game, where players take turns to place pieces (called stones) on the board, making one move per turn.

It’s fun and exciting for people of any age, regardless of whether you are 5 or 105. Playing Go helps you improve and retain memory, concentration and self control. It’s also a great way to meet new and interesting people.

Go can be played almost anywhere. In fact, it’s even been played by astronauts in space! All you need is a Go set and a partner.

A simple introduction to the board game Go

What do you need to play Go?

The are two basic pieces of equipment which you need to play Go. They are:

1. A Go board

Here is a particularly nice Go board, with 19 lines drawn on it in both directions (horizontally and vertically). This is called a 19×19 Go board. Go is played with many different sized boards, but 19×19, 13×13 and 9×9 Go boards are the most popular.

A Go board. This board has 19 lines in both directions.

2. Go pieces, which are called ‘stones’

A set of black and white stones, or a suitable substitute like buttons, are needed to play Go.

Go stones, the pieces used to play on a Go board.

Click here to download our free Instant Go Set (a printable Go set) and get our Free Go course now.

What does a Go game look like?

Here are some pictures of what a game of Go looks like during play.

A shot from a televised Go game, played on a 9×9 Go board.

The early stages of a Go game on a 19×19 Go board.

Did you see that cat?! Good to see you’re still paying attention!

How do you setup and play a game of Go

In many other games, pieces are played inside the squares on the board and the board starts with pieces already on it.

Go is different!

A game of Go in progress. Clocks are used in competitive play, but usually not in casual games.

In Go, the board starts off empty at the beginning of the game and fills up as both players add more stones to it.

Stones are played on the points where the lines cross. We call those points intersections. Go pieces are called stones, remember?

There are no fixed moves in Go, so you can play almost anywhere you want to! Sometimes moves that were played earlier in the game prevent you from making a certain move yourself – for example you can’t play on a spot where there is already another stone. Apart from that, you’re really only limited by your own creativity.

Another thing you should know is that, unlike chess, the player with the black stones usually moves first.

What’s the point of the game? How do I win?

The purpose of the game is to try to use your stones to surround a larger part of the board than your opponent. The area you control is called ‘territory’ and whoever has more territory at the end of the game wins.

That sounds easy enough, but things become interesting because you can also capture your opponents stones by surrounding them. Be careful though, while you’re trying to surround them, they might also be surrounding you!

Click here to Learn Go now!

More about the game Go

Popularity in Asia

Go is very popular in Asia, where it is played by millions of people and there are even television stations dedicated to it!

How old is Go exactly?

Since the game is so old, nobody is sure exactly how old it really is. Historians think it’s at least 2,500 years old, but some say it could be up to 4,000 years old. Regardless, Go is undoubtedly as much fun today as it was 2,000 years ago.

Other names for Go

The game is known by different names in different languages. For example in China, where Go was invented, it is known as ‘Weiqi’. Go is also widely played in Japan and Korea. In Japan it is called ‘Igo’ and in Korea it is named ‘Baduk’.

You may have guessed that the name ‘Go’ comes from the Japanese word ‘Igo’. That’s because the game of Go was originally introduced to the Western world by Japan.

The meaning of each different name is the same in each language. It means ‘surrounding board game’.

Go strategy

Go is a game that is well known for its depth of strategy despite its simple rules. Compared to many other games, like Chess, the object is to create rather than to destroy. The concept of balance is essential in Go strategy and a skillful Go player must balance many different strategic needs.

For example, placing stones close together helps them support each other and avoid capture. On the other hand, placing stones further apart surrounds a larger area more quickly, but leaves weaknesses. The key is to find a balance between expanding rapidly and consolidating gains. Between attack and defense.

Computers and Go

One thing that differentiates Go from similar board games is the amount of freedom and creativity it allows. For this reason it has long been regarded as one of the most difficult challenges in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Until 2016, computer programs could not compete with top human Go players.

Go is an excellent game for exercising different parts of the brain.

Go and the brain

Scientists have found that playing Go uses both sides of the brain (right and left) extensively.

This means that Go activates both the creative and logical parts of the brain and allows players to strengthen connections between the two. Because of that, it’s an ideal hobby for brain training.

Go and life

Go is a game of simple logic, remarkable strategy and complex tactical analysis. Although Go is essentially an abstract strategy game, it has been said to represent war, politics, stock markets and many other aspects of life. In Asia, it is commonly said that Go reflects life itself.

Learn how to play Go