Ever since I read the Japanese manga, Hikaru no Go, I always wanted to try the Asian board game, Go, just like Hikaru, six grade protagonist of the manga. But I never had a chance until recently when I was permitted to sit in on an educational session with Stephanie Yin, a professional Go player and one of the only 30 female Go masters in China, who is now the President of the New York Institute of Go.
According to Stephanie, Go was invented in ancient China more than 4,000 years ago. As she explained the rules, I was quickly absorbed into the complicated yet addictive features of the game. The main components of the board include the playing board (or go-ban) with a common 19×19 grid, and the playing stones (or go-ishi). The board contains 361 intersection points, and every stone must be played on these intersections, rather than inside the boxes. The stones themselves come in both black and white, and interestingly enough, the black-stone player always goes first.
In several ways, Go is much like chess (even its Chinese name literally means “encirclement chess”). Unlike chess, however, Go’s rules are much simpler, but I found the resulting game is far more complex. At its core, Go is a game all about controlling “territory” (the areas of the board that you can surround with your stones), and the player who takes the most territory wins the game. Capturing opponent stones is another important aspect of the game. A lone stone has four “liberties”, or open points, surrounding it (one in each cardinal direction. If the opponent can occupy all four of those points, then that player can capture the stone.
Despite the simplicities, these rules allow players to make endless strategies to achieve victory, but trying to stay two steps ahead of your opponent is key. Learning to predict how your opponent will react to your moves is a critical aspect that can help you win. But even if you lose, it’s no problem. You can ultimately build a new strategy from reviewing your own mistakes, thus creating new solutions to old problems. It’s the employment of these techniques that allows matches to evolve in so many ways, turning every game from a blank board into a majestic work of art. As I learned, Go is really about construction rather than destruction.
— Reported by Michael Goldstein
There are 361 intersections on a board and there are 9 Star Points that work as milestones on the universe of Go.
At the introductory class, students do exercises in a special guidebook designed to learn the mechanics of Go.
After reviewing old tactics and learning new ones, students move on to the next step. Stephanie demonstrates these new tactics with the gameboard.