Wei Qi in China, Baduk in Korea, and Go in Japan – the Game of Go is one of the oldest board games that is gaining popularity throughout Asia, the United States, and Europe. The Game of Go is a board game similar to chess wherein complex strategies and analytical skills are essential in order to win the game. What are the things you should know about the Game of Go?
The History of Go
The history of Go dates back 3,000 – 4,000 years although its exact origin is unknown. The game is said to have its roots in China, with the game being one of the “Four Accomplishments” to be mastered by Chinese men. Another legend says that the game was invented by Emperor Yao to enlighten his son, Dan Zhu. Though the game is said to have originated in China, where it was called Wei Qi, it was in Japan where the game, which they called “Go,” flourished. In Japan, 4 schools were founded to establish standards, improve the game, and classify players into 9 dans or grades. These schools were Honinbo, Inoue, Hayashi, and Yasue. Out of the four, the House of Honinbo produced more Meijins or experts – a title that only one person can have at a time. The game, however, had a slow progress when the Shogunate collapsed in 1868 and the Emperor resumed his position.
In Korea, the game is popularly known as Baduk. According to the Korea Baduk Organization, there were 6 stages in the history of Korean Baduk with the earliest story of the game told in the book, “Samguk-Sagi” or “The History of the Three Nation.” The game was said to have been brought to Korea by Cho Nam-cheol who went to Japan, studied the game, and passed the professional exams. During the mid-Chosun era, Baduk became popular with the civil and military upper classes. Like in China, Baduk was one of the arts which these gentlemen had to study.
Internationally, the Game of Go was not played on a regular and professional basis until 1880, when Oskar Korschelt wrote a book about the game. In the 1950’s, the British Go Association was formed.
The Present Game of Go
In Japan, the game has become increasingly popular with the youth because of the hit manga series in 2001 called Hikaru no Go. The story is about Hikaru, a young boy who stumbles upon his grandfather’s Go board. The board is haunted by a fictional Go player from the Heian era named Fujiwara-no-Sai who wishes to play and attain the “Divine Move.” Sai, then, becomes Hikaru’s separate personality in order to achieve this dream. Aside from the manga series which increased the game’s popularity, the Nihon Kiin (organization created for professional Go players in Japan) also publishes magazines and books in English.
Koreans are known for being quick Go/Baduk players. In 1996, Korea was named as the World Leader in Baduk. Lee Chang-ho, one of the top players in Korea, garnered the 8th King of Baduk title, and became the youngest player to win the title. According to the British Go Association, 5-10 percent of the Korean population plays Go regularly.
In Europe, Go is played in most countries. More and more Europeans spend time studying the game in Japan, Korea, and China. In Britain, championships and tournaments are held every year throughout the country.
Learning and playing the game is made easier and more convenient these days with the creation of Go Servers such as KGS, OnlineGo, and Pandanet. Players can teach, learn, discuss, and play Go with other members of the community.
How to Play the Game of Go
Playing the game of Go might seem easy. The game is all about 2 people who take turns to place black and white stones on a 19 x 19 board with 361 intersections (although beginners may start with a 5 x 5 board). It has simple rules that require complex strategies in order to win. In this game, there are 2 goals: first, you must capture as many stones from the opponent as you can; the second and most important aim is to enclose as many points as possible with your own stones. An important rule of the game is that once stones have been played, they should never be moved again unless the stones get captured.
The empty points next to a stone are called Liberties. Stones connected to each other share their liberties, and once an opponent takes on the last liberty, the stones are captured. One should always remember never to play a stone where it won’t have at least one liberty. The game ends when there are no more useful moves and both players pass – with one player passing immediately after the other. Whoever has more enclosed points and captured stones at the end of the game wins. For a more detailed illustration on how to play the game, check out the British Go Association’s comic guide.
Have you played the Game of Go yet? What are your other favorite board games?