There are two common ways in which you can use a computer to play Go with other people over the Internet - real-time and correspondence. On a real-time server, both players are logged on at once, possibly playing under a strict time limit. Under correspondence play, the players do not need to be logged on at the same time, instead they simply send their move at their own leisure.
By far the most common way to get a game of Go on the Internet is by the use of a real-time Go server. Here are some general notes for using all such servers.
Many of the servers only support a particular language, but some of the foreign ones also support English. If you use a Korean language server, you may find the Guide to Hangul useful. Of course it is easier to use a server where English is the main or one of the main languages.
KGS (previously known as the Kiseido Go Server) has a client that is relatively easy to use, as the user interface is based upon a point-and-click philosophy rather than manual typing of commands.
Another benefit is that KGS has a facility, rarely found on Go servers, allowing the players to review and discuss their game together afterwards. This makes KGS a good choice for beginners and for other people wanting comments from stronger players after games with them, or wanting to offer such comments.
KGS has a British room and has hosted BGA on-line tournaments. It is also often used to relay the moves of British Championship title match games, with commentary by professional or strong amateur Go players.
To use KGS, you can simply point your browser to the KGS Server. This will download a java applet to your computer to serve as a client. But in order to avoid this being downloaded every time you connect, you can instead download the Cgoban3 client to your computer and install it there. It uses Java Web Start (which is also available from there). You can also use the client to edit locally held game records that are in SGF format.
Note: since there's only a Java client you can't access KGS from an iOS computer such as an iPhone, iPod or iPad.
For those interested in more technical Go matters, KGS supports multiple rulesets and overtime systems.
Pandanet (originally and sometimes called IGS) is probably the oldest Go server, and one of the most popular. It has a global membership and players of all strengths and abilities. Many professional players are members, so you may get to see professionals at play. Pandanet often transmits live the moves from professional title matches and interesting amateur events such as games from Pandanet Go European Cup tournaments, the European Pair Go Championship and all the matches, except the finals, from the Pandanet European Go Team Championship.
In addition to playing Pandanet offers a paid-for subscription service whereby subscribers receive emails of a number of amateur game records per month, commented by professionals. (See the this recent description.)
From an iPhone, iPod and iPad or Android device download the Panda Tetsuki app. The remainder of this section is not relevant if you do this.
To use Pandanet on other computers, you will need a client program running on your computer to display the board and send and receive moves between your computer and the server. Download one such as their recommended GoPanda2 which uses Java Webstart.
See the page Playing on Pandanet IGS for more details.
We no longer maintain listings of all Go clients, but our iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch apps and Android apps pages may help for these devices. Also, you may find the listing of Pandanet-IGS clients on Jan van der Steen's gobase.org web site helpful.
Pandabridge offers an alternative to the IGS client program download. With Pandabridge you can observe Pandanet-IGS games being played directly in your browser window. All up-to-date browser types are supported, even the "Internet Channel" browser for the Wii, allowing you to view games of Go on your television. A Pandanet-IGS login account is required for access to Pandabridge.
Instead of playing in real time, it is also possible to play correspondence games where you wait until your opponent makes a move in his or her own time. This is a less common way to play Go on the Internet.
A number of servers exist that will store the current state of the game for you, allowing you to log on at will and make a move.
A list of turn-based servers, but not of players, is the Sensei's Library listing of turn-based Go servers. Among the servers in these listings, about 130 British players play on the Dragon Go Server, and the newer Online Go Server (OGS) is also very popular and can also be used for real-time games. A recent addition is International Network Go Organisation. The Free Internet Correspondence Games Server (FICGS) also features Go.
The American Go Association maintains a list of people interested in playing Go via email. They range from total beginners to amateur 4-dans. Some play at a rate of several moves per day and some at one move per week. Some only want to play 19x19, while others might not have time for more than 13x13 or 9x9. If you are interested in playing Go via email and making contact with people who share your interest, contact the maintainer of this list: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name will be added to the list. You will receive a copy of an updated contact list for your use. You should specify your: