You can play Go at home, at work, in public or private at a club, on line or over the board, against a person or a computer; a game of Go can be enjoyed almost anytime.
With a magnetic set or computer/tablet you can play whilst travelling or on a day out; indeed a game was once played on the space shuttle. For a more formal game there are many tournaments and matches you can join in at locations all around the country.
You can play Go informally at home or with friends, but being part of a club means you will probably have a chance to play more different opponents. There are many clubs around the British Isles, with most big cities having a club; some cities have more than one club. Have a look at the club map.
Some clubs meet in private houses. Others meet in public venues such as a community centre. Often a pub provides a free location to play, provided you partake of their food and drink. If there is a university in your town it is sometimes possible to play there, especially if there are several students in the club.
You might think that there will be no-one your strength at a club, but don't worry: if there isn't, someone friendly will be happy to play a handicap game against you and give you a bit of tuition! We're actually a very social community.
If there isn't a club in an area please check our requests page to see if anyone is trying to form one already or email our Membership Secretary for a contact. We also provide some information to help you organise a club on our Organisers Material page (some information is for members only).
Obviously playing online is a recent innovation and growing in popularity; either against another person or a computer. Indeed many people who do attend a club play online as well so as to get more games during the week and meet a variety of opponents. You can play online against players from all over the world any time day or night, so it is very flexible and may suit you if you keep odd hours. You can play in real time, which is the most common way, or play correspondence Go on some servers. There are several online servers, some of which are more popular in the UK than others.
Beginners are welcome on these servers too. The Go Quest one is especially friendly for beginners as there's no need to try and work out what grade you have as it works it out for you and also allows you to play 9x9 or 13x13 Go. (Actually it doesn't have a 19x19 option!)
Don't worry about the strength of potential opponents: there's always someone available at a comparable strength online, so you can play non-handicap games day or night.
If you are new to Go a good way to practice, without the embarassment of a real opponent, is to play a computer program. Although publicly available Go-playing programs are not up to the standards of experienced human players, especially on the 19x19 board, they can provide some useful practice opportunities on small boards, especially 9x9.
There are also approximately 30 tournaments every year in the UK, with similar numbers in other major European countries and the USA; many more in Japan, China and Korea. Nearly all of these are suitable for relatively novice players to enter and some of them specifically cater for beginners. Most of these tournaments are one or two day events at the weekend, typically with 3 rounds per day. Some of these also have specific teaching sessions, but anyway there will be people who will happily review your game for you after each round.
We typically organise tournaments so that players will play others of roughly the same strength, so don't hesitate and just jump in!
Look at our Calendar page for UK tournaments and contact the organiser if you're hesitant about entering. They will provide good advice for you.
This section isn't about where you can play, but about the level of opponent you'll play against, usually determined by how strong you are.
Initially you will have to estimate your grade by playing other opponents and analysing your results and the handicaps involved. This is hard if you do not play anyone with a recognised grade, but usually you can get an estimate.
If you play at the various tournaments held in the UK, then you can get a rating. Tournaments supported by us send their results into the European rating system, which produces an updated list monthly. Knowing your rating, and the corresponding grade, is then useful when entering other tournaments and playing any new opponents for the first time, so that you can use the correct handicap and give both players an equal chance of winning.
After several tournaments, you can also see a rating graph of how your rating changes, thanks to the European Go Database.
If you play one of the main online Go servers, then you will get a rating too, but often these tend to be out of line with the European ratings because of the uncontrolled nature of server Go.