Friday, February 22, 2008

Go for It

The other night I learned how to play the game Go.

Its origins are from China over 3,000 years ago and the story goes an emperor wanted to teach his son strategy and developed this game.

Also known as wei qi in Chinese, paduk or baduk in Korean, and igo in Japanese, the game is played on a giant wooden board with squares and uses black and white stones.

While the game has Chinese origins, it was taken to Japan 1,200 to 1,400 years ago and perfected. This explains why many of the game's terms are Japanese.

Basically the objective of the game is to acquire as much territory, or empty space as possible while preventing your opponent from getting territory or attacking you.

Pieces can be placed anywhere on the board, but each one is specifically placed on the intersections of the grid, not inside the rectangles.

Beginners start on a 9X9 board and eventually progress to a 19X19 board where a game can take from an hour to several days to complete.

The game is pretty simple to play, but at the same time it's a fascinating study of patterns and teaches players about sacrificing pieces for greater gain.

American Greg May founded the Beijing Go Club seven months ago when he wanted to find other expats to play with in the city.

He used to be an avid chess player but when he discovered Go, he was hooked. He finds Go much more sophisticated, saying chess is just about memorizing moves, whereas Go is more creative and philosophical. Computers can't beat humans at this game, because the possibilities are so numerous that a computer doesn't have the capability to process all of them.

The night I went there were a few new people eager to play and a few regulars. It was a casual meeting with music playing in the background, and if people were interested, they could chip in to buy Chinese takeout for dinner.

May was a great teacher and my short lesson inspired me to try out my new skills.

The next day after lunch, I played a game of Go with my colleague who has played a few times. And maybe with beginner's luck, I beat her outright.

I may have found a new hobby.


ks said...

as always the japanese take a lot of things chinese and improve upon it, then take it as their own. the game of go has been made poplar and famous by the japanese internationally. it is a good training of the mind for quick decision making. i think it beats playing computer games which is just a reflex action, not much cerebral process.

Avatar said...

Good post.

Any idea on what good books in English to get one started in playing Go?