What is Go?

Go: A board game of territorial possession and capture

Oriental friends playing Go

The name is actually Japanese (they also call it Igo sometimes); in Korea it's called Baduk and in China Weiqi (pronounced Wei-Chi).

Go has very simple rules, but a complex strategy. It is 3,000-4,000 years old and very much a part of Oriental culture. It was brought to the UK nearly 100 years ago and continues to expand in popularity.

Go is a game of simple concepts - starting with an empty board, alternately placing pieces which don't move (called stones) on it, trying to surround empty areas, whilst capturing your opponent's stones by surrounding them and taking them off the board. However, as with a lot of simple concepts, it can take a little while to grasp them and a long time to master them.

One of its best features is the handicapping system. This allows players of very different strengths to play a proper game giving each player a 50% chance of winning.

Unfortunately the rules can often be badly described and hard to understand, especially on rule sheets supplied with some Go sets - but do not let that put you off! Have a look at one of the introductions described on the right.

If you are a Chess player you may be interested in a Chess-Go comparison.

Who plays Go?

Anyone aged from under 5 to over 90, male or female!

A game against a professional

More than 10% of Koreans and a smaller proportion, but still many millions, play in Japan and China. Go is less well-known outside East Asia, with probably a few thousand active players in Britain, but the number of players is increasing world-wide now that you can play on the Internet. There are more than 70 countries where organised Go is played, see the International Go Federation website and the European Go Federation one.

There are about 1,000 full-time professionals in Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan with a number of part-time ones now in North America and Europe. The largest prize for winning a tournament is now close to $1 million!

We also know a number of well-known people who have played Go, as diverse as Albert Einstein and Rod Stewart! You may have seen Go played in the movies, in such as "A Beautiful Mind" or "Pi", or on television in programmes such as "24" or "Enterprise", or read about it in a novel such as "Shibumi" or "The Girl that played Go". More and more, Go is entering Western culture as well as Oriental.

If disability prevents placing the stones, then calling out the co-ordinates of the intersections can be done for an able opponent to place the stones instead. Partially sighted or blind people can play, as described on our Go for the Blind page.

How to Play

Go An Introduction

We recommend you read the quick introduction to the rules: Go An Introduction, a cartoon intro drawn by Andreas Fecke. In it the Chess king and queen are taught to play by the Go stones.

The first half of this teaches "Capture Go"; which you can play with the Capture Go Java Applet or the Go-For-Kids iPhone/iPad app on our Junior pages.

Don't be put off by the comic nature of this introduction, as it was designed to be attractive to children. It is really a good 5 minute intro for adults!

Play Go booklet

For a more detailed description of how to play, including an example game and problems, together with some history and cultural background, then you should read our Play Go booklet.

The European Go and Cultural Centre has produced three one minute videos to help you:

1. The Aim of Go: Territory

2. How to Play Go

3. Capturing Stones

The Korea Amateur Baduk Association has produced an English language video: Introduction to Go (just over 10 minutes long). It talks about the background to the game and world-wide spread, rather than the rules.

Where can I play?

You can play Go at home, in clubs and in tournaments. Against computer or another person on the internet you can play any time, day or night.

Advice about all these options is given on our Where to Play page.

How can I get a set?

A Go ban decorated with gold leaf

You can make your own or purchase one, perhaps not as expensive as the one shown here though! Details of Go sets (and also Go books) are on our Go Books and Sets page.

How can I learn more?

Once you have read and understood the rules and played a few games, you will realise there is an awful lot to Go. We have some tips and pointers on how to improve - Recommended is the page of tips we put together for the UK Go Challenge for schools.

Obviously an existing player can help teach you or give you advice, but you can also study one of the many Go books available. They can be bought from many of the same places as Go sets.

A book that is a very thorough introduction to the game which can be studied for quite a while is "Teach Yourself Go" by British player Charles Matthews. You should be able to get this from your local bookshop or online.

We also provide teaching advice and assistance, running many events around the country.

How can young people get involved?

Teenagers playing Go

Many children play Go in the UK and several schools have active Go clubs. Of course, it is best to learn Go when you are young and Go is suitable from about age 4 or 5 upwards, though the Capture Go game should be the limit for very young children.

We have a Junior Section aimed at young Go players, and also a section for Youth Go organisers. We can provide assistance for you if you want to set up a School or Youth Club, including teachers, books and equipment, either free of charge or at discounted rates.

Among the events and activities we run for the children, the British Youth Championships is the top event, along with the UK Go Challenge, for novices and schools.

At the British Go Association we are passionate about the game of Go, and we hope you will find the game just as appealing as we do.

If you want someone to come and visit your organisation and give a presentation on Go and how to play, contact us.

Last updated Fri Nov 20 2015. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.