Because the goal in a game of Go is to surround the most area, good players look for the most efficient moves, that is, moves that offer the maximum gain. Often this involves using the edges of the board as natural borders in helping form territory. Diagrams 1 and 2 below illustrate this idea.


In Diagram 1 six stones surround 9 points in the corner, while in Diagram 2 six stones surround just 2 points in the middle of the board.


Territory is not created by a single move, but by several moves that create a framework of stones. Efficiently placed stones will create a larger area of influence, and potential territory, than inefficient stones. An extreme example is shown in Diagram 3. The three Black stones surround a single point, while the three White stones are poised to control over half the board.

In Diagram 4 the White group is alive because all the stones are connected and surround two eyes. The position in Diagram 5 looks similar, but there is an important difference. With one White stone being replaced by a Black stone at the top, three White stones are now not connected to the others, and the empty space between the two groups is called a false eye.

In Diagram 6 the three White stones are in atari, and Black may capture them by occupying the false eye. After they are captured as in Diagram 7, the remaining White group has only one eye remaining, and it is now in atari.

Black may capture all the remaining White stones by playing into the single eye as in Diagram 8. In the final position in Diagram 9 Black has gained 22 points, from 11 captured stones and 11 points of territory. In Diagram 6 White had 2 points of territory, so the difference in score resulting from the single stone difference between Diagrams 6 and Diagram 7 is 24 points.

Diagram 10:  This is an interesting situation. Consider the status of the White group which is totally surrounded. Is it alive?

Diagram 11:   If White plays, Black plays 2 and captures the White group. So White will not play.

Diagram 12:   If Black plays Black 1, then White will play White 2 and capture Black.

Diagram 13:   Black attempts to prevent White from making two eyes with Black 3, but White can play White 4. Now there is no way for Black to capture the White group.

But consider Diagram 10 again. If White plays, the whole White group will be captured. If Black plays, the Black stones will be captured and White will surround 4 points of territory. Each player would suffer a loss by playing in that area, therefore neither player should make a move there. This type of situation is called a seki. At the end of the game this position is left untouched, both groups are alive, and neither player gets any points, because the empty spaces are not surrounded by either side. Seki situations are not common, but they do occur.

There is a wide range of levels of skill and experience in Go, but fortunately there is a simple handicapping system that permits beginners to provide a challenging game for more experienced players while they learn. The stronger player always plays with the White stones, and Black moves first. For players of considerably different abilities, Black's first move may be to play a certain number of handicap stones on the designated "star points" (marked with small dots) on the board. The animated diagram below shows the proper placement of the handicap stones for handicaps from two stones to the maximum of nine stones. The proper handicap between two players is such that over the course of a few games each player will win sometimes. One customary rule is that if a player wins three or four games in a row from another, the handicap between the two players should be changed by one handicap stone.

For players of the SAME rank (no handicap) sometimes a few points (normally from 5.5 to 8 points) are added to White's score to compensate for Black's advantage of getting to move first. These extra points are called the komi.

Note:   If you are using an earlier version of Netscape than version 6, you may need to refresh the browser to see the different handicap configurations in this animated diagram.


Congratulations, you have now learned how to play Go! While the rules are quite simple, they lead to a surprising variety of patterns and possibilities, and learning the strategies and tactics of playing well can require much practice and study. At the start perhaps the best way to learn is simply to play a number of games, to become familiar with the patterns, the flow of the game, and how to keep groups alive. At this time don't be too concerned with winning or losing - every champion was once a beginner.

One thing you will notice when playing on the larger 19x19 board, compared with the samples on the small 7x7 boards of this introduction, is that several different battles occur during a single game. Even if there is a loss in one corner of the board, the game can be turned around by a success somewhere else. Often there are tradeoffs, where a few stones may be sacrificed in one place in exchange for a profit somewhere else.

If you have friends who are also beginners it is helpful to learn together. Even better, if you have some more experienced partners who will play handicap games, you may learn faster from seeing their moves and experimenting how to defend against them. As you learn, you can measure your progress by the fewer number of handicap stones you need. If your town or school has a Go club you can meet new friends who are happy to welcome new players. Also, you now can watch and meet players of all abilities at any time, day or night, from all over the world, on IGS Panda Net, the Internet Go Server. We hope you will come to appreciate and enjoy Go as a game and an art.

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