Go/Lesson 1: Step-By-Step Guide to Playing

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Before the Game edit

An empty Go board

Before the game, it is customary to formally greet one's opponent. This can be done while standing or sitting, but some players might be offended if you sit down before greeting them. In Japanese the standard greeting is "Onegai shimasu," and since Japanese terms are the most common among go players in the USA, it is likely that you may hear it there occasionally. The next important thing to do is make sure that the goban is in the correct position. Both players should be sitting opposite each other, with the shorter sides of the goban facing the two players. Now you must decide if either player needs a handicap (handicaps will be discussed in the next lesson); if so, then that player will play as black with the appropriate handicap. If neither player needs a handicap, then you must decide what color you will be playing. There are a variety of ways to do this. One common way, called "Nigiri" (Japanese for "squeeze"), is for one player to grab a handful of stones. The other player then guesses if there is an even or odd number of stones, indicating the guess by placing on the goban one stone for "odd" or two stones for "even." The stones should be dropped onto the goban and counted, two at a time. If the guessing player guessed right, he will play as black.

Opening Game (Joban) edit

After you have greeted each other and done all other preparations, you can start the game. In an even game, black will always make the first move, then white, then black, etc. If black is weaker and begins with handicap stones on the board, then white makes the first move. The opening mostly takes place within the outer five rows of the board. The beginning game is the part of the game where the general outlines of territory (the moyo) will start to show themselves. The opening lasts roughly 30 to 60 moves.

Strategy for The Opening Game edit

Orthodox strategy involves early play in the corners of the board, as fewer moves are required to surround territory. Standard plays in the corner include the (3,3), (3,4), (3,5), (4,4), (4,5) points. Plays on the non-symmetric (not (3,3) or (4,4)) often elicit a prompt response, as one additional play in this vicinity is usually sufficient to form secure corner territory.

Middle Game edit

After most of the possible territory on the sides has been claimed (these can just be outlines of territory) the game will move into the center of the board. This part of the game is called the middle game. It takes place in the middle of the board, and chronologically it is the middle of the game.

Strategy for The Middle Game edit

The middle game is where most of the fighting occurs. The goals of this phase are to solidify the areas that you have laid claim to, and reduce the area that your opponent has laid claim to. There are many ways of doing this, but one of the most effective is to use moves that your opponent must respond to as a way to strengthen and enlarge your own territory. If there is a weak group that your opponent is unwilling to sacrifice, this tactic works especially well. If you don't know what a weak group or a move that your opponent must respond to is, look for places that are relatively open, and try to claim them. If you are near a side, try to hug it. It is easier to make eyes along the side than in the middle. If you are not near a side, connect your stones to the open middle or a stronger group.

End Game (Yose) edit

The end game, being the last part of the game, is the point in the game where territory is solidified, destroyed, and made. The end game is an important part of the game; doing badly in the end game can cause a loss. The game will end when either both players pass or one player resigns (gives up). If one player resigns the other wins. If both players pass, then points are counted to see who has the higher score.

Strategy for The End Game edit

The purpose of this phase is to solidly define the borders for counting. The proper way to play this phase is to count how many points each move will swing, and play the largest one. The most important thing is to make sure you aren't accidentally killing your own groups. Some groups that are alive run into a "shortage of liberties" that suddenly allow them to be killed.

In the end game you're often aiming to gain one or two points from a move. It's strategic to try and keep "sente" or advantage here. That means that you try and make moves that your opponent must respond to, and after they respond you should be free to start a new attack somewhere else on the board.

Counting Points edit

After a game is finished, territory must be counted to determine the winner of the game. Each player will take turns filling in "neutral" territory, territory which does not belong to either player. Next, dead stones, stones inside territory owned by the opponent, are removed and placed with the captured stones. Once all dead stones are removed, captured and dead stones are placed in the territory belonging to their color. Now count the remaining points of territory. Stones may be rearranged for easier counting as long as the borders of the territory are not disturbed.