Go Time

Goban

My all-time favorite game is called Go.

Go is a strategy game. Two players take turns making moves on the board. It originated in China around 2,500 years ago, which makes Go quite possibly the oldest game in the world still played in its original form. Coincidentally, it was invented around the same time as Buddhism, although in a different place (Buddhism was in India).

The closest Western equivalent to Go would be chess, but they’re not really all that similar. For starters, as you can see, the board is a lot bigger (although smaller versions exist to allow for quicker games). Also, instead of moving pieces around, you start with an empty board and take turns placing pieces. Once placed, a stone doesn’t move, unless it’s removed by capture. It’s all about territory, about making good shape and surrounding your opponent.

If chess is a battle, Go is a war.

Go is the reification of the phrase “easy to learn, hard to master.” The rules are profoundly simple and can be picked up in a matter of minutes, but learning to win takes a lifetime. In my opinion, there’s a primal elegance to Go, as if someone had taken the pristine beauty of logic and converted it directly into a game.

As you can tell, I’ve fallen in love.

I discovered Go in high school and played it with my friend Pat. Since then, I’ve rekindled my interest sporadically, usually for a few weeks or months at a time. The problem has always been finding opponents – there just aren’t that many people in my part of the country who are very excited about Go. (Yeah, you can play online, and I have, but it’s not quite the same.)

But just last week, two of my friends got back into the game as well, and we’ve started up a weekly, very informal, three-player “tournament.” We’re all about the same strength, so we learn from each other (and mock each other) constantly. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s forcing me to improve quickly, because if I don’t practice, how am I going to dominate next week?

Life is good.

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more, you’ll find that googling “Go” isn’t the best way to find results. The Korean term is “baduk,” and searching for that is generally more effective. You can also start at the Beginner’s Page of Sensei’s Library, a dedicated Go wiki.

What’s your favorite game?

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9 responses to “Go Time

  1. I am a fluffy liberal storyteller at heart, so my favourite games are roleplaying games; winning is both about maximising achievement of personal goals and not zero sum.

  2. I feel like kind of a jerk mentioning this, but . . .
    According to a book on China that I am currently reading by Henry Kissinger on the history of China, Go is Japanese. The Chinese version is wei qi (Pronounced Way Chee (As in Cheese)) Sorry if it is rude mentioning this, but I thought you might be interested in knowing.

  3. TORM is to play. There is no other option.

  4. We had a set, but I never learned to play properly. We used to play a much simpler game sort of like connect four (but connect 5). Anyway, I love board/card games with themes, but still I’ve been meaning to learn how to play Go. Sounds like a good Christmas gift for hubby (and me).

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