What is Go?

A game on a Japanese Go ban Go: A board game of territorial possession and capture.

It is called Go or Igo in Japan, Baduk in Korea and Weiqi (pron. Wei-Chi) in China.

Go has very simple rules, but a complex strategy. It is some 3,000-4,000 years old and is very much a part of oriental culture. It has a history in the UK of nearly 100 years and continues to expand in popularity.

Unfortunately the rules can often be badly described and hard to understand, especially on rule sheets supplied with some Go sets - but do not let that put you off!

If you don't know anything about the game then please read "Why is Go Special?", learn a bit about the "History of Go", study "How to Play Go", or browse the other pages linked in the menu on the left.

Video Introduction to Go (just over 10 minutes long) from the Korea Amateur Baduk Association (English language).

If you are a Chess player you may be interested in a Chess-Go comparison.

If you want someone to come and visit your organisation and give a presentation on Go and how to play, contact us or one of the Go teachers.

Who plays Go?

Oriental friends playing Go

A large proportion of the population in Korea and a smaller proportion, but still many millions, play in Japan and China. Go is less well-known outside East Asia. For example, there are probably a few thousand active players in Britain, but the number of players learning Go is increasing. Now that it is possible to play Go on the internet any time and any place, Go is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. In fact there are over 70 countries where organised Go is played. For a list of these countries, you can visit the International Go Federation website or the European Go Federation website for the European ones.

It is not just able-bodied people that can play Go. If disability prevents placing the stones, then calling out the co-ordinates of the intersections can be done for an able opponent to place the stones instead. Partially sighted or blind people can play, as described on our Go for the Blind page.

We have a list of some well-known people who have played Go, as diverse as Albert Einstein and Rod Stewart! You may have seen Go played in the movies, in such as "A Beautiful Mind" or "Pi", or on television in programs such as "24" or "Enterprise", or read about it in a novel such as "Shibumi" or "The Girl that played Go". More and more, Go is entering western culture as well as oriental.

At the British Go Association we are passionate about the game of Go, and we hope you will find the game just as appealing as we do.

Where can I play?

You can play Go at home, in clubs and in tournaments. Against computer or another person on the internet you can play any time, day or night. Advice is given on our Where to Play page.

How can I get a set?

A Go ban decorated with gold leaf

You can make your own or purchase one. Details of Go sets (and also Go books) are on our Go Books and Sets page.

How can I learn more?

Once you have read and understood the rules and played a few games, you will realise there is an awful lot to Go and you may need some tips and pointers on how to improve.

Recommended is the page of tips we put together for the UK Go Challenge for schools.

Obviously an existing player can help teach you or give you advice, but you can also study one of the many Go books available. They can be bought from many of the same places as Go sets, as described above.

A book that is a very thorough introduction to the game which can be studied for quite a while is "Teach Yourself Go" by British player Charles Matthews. You should be able to get this from your local bookshop.

Our books list indicates which books are beginner, intermediate and advanced, to help you select the correct books for your level, and we have some reviews of recent ones.

We also provide teaching advice and assistance, running many events around the country.

How can young people get involved?

Teenagers playing Go

Many children play Go in the UK and several schools have active Go clubs. Of course, it is best to learn Go when you are young and Go is suitable from about age 4 or 5 upwards, though the Capture Go game should be the limit for very young children.

We have a Junior Section aimed at young Go players, and also a section with information for Youth Go organisers.

Among the events and activities we run for the children, the UK Go Challenge for schools is the top event, along with the British Youth Championships.

We can provide assistance with you if you want to set up a School or Youth Club, including teachers, books and equipment.

Impressions of Go

Various people have different views and impressions of the game of Go. Often the same facet of the game is seen as a plus point by some and as a minus point by others. For example, the rules are easy but being good at the game is hard.

Paul Smith analysed the comments left on Go at Board Game Geek for a paper (PDF) that was presented at the 5th International Conference on Baduk (Go) in Korea on 11th November 2008.

Last updated Thu Jul 02 2015. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.