Go – An Ancient Game with Depth and Challenge

Go, a strategy board game, is a mental martial art and the national intellectual game of China, Japan, and Korea where hundreds of professionals teach and play, just as they do in karate, piano, or golf.  Studies have shown that playing Go improves self-esteem, increases performance in school, and helps children learn to focus and concentrate.

It has been claimed that Go is the most complex game in the world, yet it takes only 5 minutes to learn the rules and begin to play.  The game emphasizes the importance of balance on multiple levels, and has internal tensions. To secure an area of the board, it is good to play moves close together; but to cover the largest area one needs to spread out, perhaps leaving weaknesses that can be exploited.  Decisions in one part of the board may be influenced by an apparently unrelated situation in a distant part of the board Playing too low (close to the edge) secures insufficient territory and influence; yet playing too high (far from the edge) allows the opponent to invade. Plays made early in the game can shape the nature of conflict a hundred moves later.  Many people find Go attractive for its reflection of the conflicting demands of real life.

One word for Go in Chinese and Japanese translates as “hand talk.”  Indeed, Go is a language; and a game between two players is communication.  A person’s personality is reflected by their style of play.  In a game, a player’s move can indicate fighting spirit, contempt, fear, bravery, arrogance, contentment, exhaustion, depression, enlightenment, or happiness. 


Go is not easy to play well. With each new level (rank) comes a deeper appreciation for the subtlety and nuances involved, and for the insight of stronger players. The acquisition of major concepts of the game comes slowly.  Even elementary strategy fills many introductory books.

Often, a comparison of Go and chess is used as a parallel to explain western versus eastern strategic thinking.  The object in Chess is to kill one individual piece (the king). In Go, individuals are only significant as they join or help determine the fate of larger forces, and what those are is worked out only as the game proceeds.

There is a comparison drawn among Go, chess and backgammon, perhaps the three oldest games that still enjoy worldwide popularity.  Backgammon is a "man vs. fate" contest, with chance playing a strong role in determining the outcome. Chess, with rows of soldiers marching forward to capture each other, embodies the conflict of "man vs. man."  Go can be seen and felt as embodying the quest for self-improvement — "man vs. self."

A good resource with links to start playing, buying equipment and books is the Stonehill Go Club website:  http://www.stonehill.edu/compsci/schechter/TCJGo.html

Today the Go club will teach you how to play Go.