Go Rules Quick Reference

1. Basics. The board starts empty. The board can be any size of grid, usually 13x13, 9x9 or 19x19. One player has black pieces and the other has white. The pieces are usually called stones. Black goes first, and then the players take turns. To make a move, you simply put a stone down on the board. The stones can only go on the corners of the squares, as shown in the pictures below. Once stones are played, they do not move.
2. Object of the game. At the end of the game you score one point for each point of territory you have, and one point for each stone you have captured. Alternatively you may use the counting method in normal use at your school. White gets an extra seven points to make up for going second. The person with the most points wins.
3. Territory. Here is the position at the end of a game. The points of white territory are marked with Ws. If you imagine moving from one of these points along the lines of the board, you will always come to the edge of the board or a white stone, never a black one. So you know that these empty points belong to White. Similarly the points of black territory are marked with Bs. White has 6 points of territory and Black has 3.
4. Liberties. In order to see how to capture stones, you need to know about liberties and chains. The liberties of a stone are the empty points which are next to it. The white stone marked with a triangle has four liberties, each marked with an X. The points which are diagonally next to the stone do not count as liberties. The black stone marked with a triangle has only two liberties, marked Y. The other one has been filled by a white stone. Liberties are important, because if a stone runs out of them it will be captured!
5. Chains. If you put two of your stones next to each other, they become a small chain. So the two black stones on the left in this diagram are a chain. You can make the chain bigger by adding more stones to it - it does not matter what shape it turns into. Diagonal connections do not count, so the white stones on the right are not all in one chain - they are two chains of three stones each. If your stones are in a big chain, it can make it hard for the other player to capture them.
6. Capturing. The isolated black stone in the picture has only one liberty left, marked with an X. If you are White, then you can capture this stone. You play at X and take away the last liberty. You can then take this black stone off the board. Capturing a chain of stones works in the same way as for a single stone. The chain of four black stones marked with triangles has just one liberty, marked Y. If you are White and you play there then you take off the whole chain!
7. More about capturing. The black stones marked with triangles are not connected to the other black stones. This is because a diagonal connection does not count. So the other black stones cannot help to save them from being captured. If White plays at X, the two stones will be captured. White only needs to fill the liberties of the black stones; White does not need to play on places like Y, diagonally away from the black stones. The white stones making a capture do not have to be connected to each other. The ones here are in several separate chains, but it does not matter.
8. Capturing yourself! Suppose you are White in this diagram. If you tried to play at X, you would have a chain of stones with no liberties. You are not allowed to kill your own stones in this way, so the move at X is not allowed.
9. Special capture. The only exception to this is if you make a move that gives both players stones or chains with no liberties. If this happens, you take off the other person's stones, but your own stones stay on the board. If you are White here, then you can take six black stones by playing at X, even though you appear to make a chain of two white stones with no liberties. Your white stones stay on the board and they will all have plenty of liberties once the six black stones are removed.
10. When does the game end? When it is your turn, instead of making a move you can pass. Whenever you pass give an extra stone to the other player to add to their captures. The players usually pass when there is no further chance to surround more territory or attack enemy stones. When both players pass one after the other the game is over. To make the number of moves the same for both players, white must pass last, even if this means a third pass in a row.
11. Dead stones. Often at the end of a game, there are stones which cannot avoid capture, but have not yet been completely surrounded. Usually the players agree to remove these as captures. In this diagram all the stones marked with triangles are dead stones. If the players can not agree, then they must restart the game and play on until all the dead stones are captured, or until they agree which stones are dead. Each time you pass you must continue to give an extra stone to the other player to add to their captured stones.
12. Repeating positions. You are not allowed to play a move that makes the position the same as after your last move or any of your previous moves. So imagine that you are Black in this diagram. If White puts a stone at X, then they capture one of your stones - the one marked with a triangle. You might like to play next in the space where your black stone used to be. However you can not do that straight away because it would capture the white stone now at X and repeat the position. If that was allowed, then the position could repeat over and over without the game ever finishing!


Back to UK Go Challenge Last update: 3rd March 2011