This document is intended a standard source of information on organising Go playing, teaching and publicity. It is aimed mainly at British readers, but is intended to be much more widely applicable.
The chapters contain gleanings from many years of experience, from several people, of Go organisation in Britain. If your preferred methods are not included, don't take it as a criticism – you could even email us so that they can be added.
Throughout, for brevity and convenience, a player is referred to as he, since the majority of players at present are male, despite the growing number of female players.
Material presented here may be copied as long as it is done to further the interests of Go playing and is credited to the BGA.
This edition (May 2010) was prepared by Nick Wedd, and updates the previous edition, prepared by Edwin Brady. Thanks are due to Edwin Brady, Tony Atkins, Ian Davis, Geoff Kaniuk, Jenny Radcliffe, Paul Smith, Nick Wedd, and Willemien for their contributions and suggestions, and the many contributions (both direct and indirect!) from the gotalk  mailing list. Subsequent revisions of individual sections are by various people.
The British Go Association (affiliated to the European Go Federation and to the International Go Federation) is a voluntary organisation with elected officials, and exists to promote the game of Go within the British Isles. The BGA has existed for 50 years, and is actively involved in the organisation and co-ordination of tournaments. The BGA plays an active part in the European Go Federation, taking its turn to be the host to the annual European Go Congress.
Membership is open to all Go players on payment of a small annual subscription. Among the BGA's activities are the following:
Before starting a club, you should investigate what Go clubs there are near you: if you are in Britain, you can find them shown on the BGA club map . You might visit one of them, for ideas and assisitance. You might plan your meetings to be on different days from theirs, to avoid clashes and provide more choice for nearby players.
The hardest part of setting up a new club is to find other players. The BGA Membership Secretary  will be able to help, by providing a list of nearby BGA members. There may also be Go players nearby who are not BGA members; these will be more difficult to find. Many people play Go on the Internet, so you might use a Go server to try to contact local players. In particular, KGS  has a "British Room", listed under "national". Other ways to find such players include posting an announcement to the gotalk  mailing list, or to lifein19x19.com . Alternatively try .
Once you have a nucleus of players (this can be as little as two) you can start to arrange regular meetings. These can be weekly, which is probably best, or less frequently. An initial venue can be a member's front room; once established there, you can contemplate expansion. Many go clubs have originated like this.
Of the other possibilities for a venue, the most common is one associated with a member's occupation. This includes a university (if he is a student or a lecturer), firm, or social club attached to a firm. The great advantages are that these are generally cheap – financial assistance may even be available – and usually fairly salubrious. Publicity aimed at fellow employees is often successful, but it may be more difficult to attract non employees. Rules for social clubs are often quite strict, but only so as to cater for licensing laws, and a method to include non employees is usually not difficult to find. You should discuss the situation with officials of the social club.
Other possible venues are church halls, coffee bars, pubs, etc. They all have their pros and cons, and local intelligence will often generate some ideas. If you do not know where to start looking, find out where the local chess players meet. The public library should be able to provide that information.
To affiliate your club to the BGA, you must nominate a club secretary. The secretary must be a member of the BGA, and should arrange to have contact details published by the BGA. Club secretaries should encourage members to join the BGA, and may collect their fees and contact details to pass on to the BGA membership secretary.
When you have a regular meeting time and location and a nominated club secretary, you should inform the BGA webmaster, who will add the details to the website and arrange for information to be included in the newsletter and journal. If you wish to maintain your own basic information about your meeting location, date etc. then he will provide you with the necessary account for the website.
A major problem when a club is started is that of finding enough equipment. The BGA can help affiliated clubs here by loaning sets for a short period while the club gets going; contact the Equipment Coordinator  to arrange this. Collection and return will be your responsibility; you can often do this at tournaments. Ultimately, of course, the club should be self-supporting.
If there are several clubs in the same region, it is a good idea to arrange occasional joint meetings with those clubs, perhaps also with a social event. For example, a group of clubs in North East England holds occasional joint meetings at weekends, with a barbecue in the evening. The main advantage of such meetings, particularly for small or new clubs, is to give players an opportunity to play different opponents from usual.
There are several ways in which a club can support itself; a small club can make do with the use of members' equipment, although you should make sure there are 9×9 boards  to teach beginners. Don't forget that BGA members are entitled to a significant discount  on purchasing equipment.
A club based at a university may be able to get grants from their Student Union to buy books and equipment. The most common way, however, is to charge a small fee. Two possible ways of charging are an annual membership fee, and a board fee charged for each evening's attendance. Depending on the club's costs, one or the other or both of these may be appropriate.
We recommended that the fees should do more than cover the costs of the room (if any); the surplus can be used to purchase equipment or books for a club library. Typical fees might be £10 per annum and £1 per evening, with appropriate reductions for those in full-time education etc. The details will, however, depend on local circumstances, and many clubs operate free. Many established clubs are funded by the profits of running a tournament.
Usually there is one person, the prime mover, who gets the club going, but he should not see it as a one-man show. He should delegate jobs wherever possible, as this will help to ensure the continuity of the club if he should leave the district. Typical jobs are Secretary, Treasurer and Equipment Officer/Librarian. None of these duties is particularly onerous, but people tend to be shy of volunteering, yet will do the job enthusiastically if asked. The appointment of a publicity officer could be worthwhile, especially if there is someone with a flair for it.
Some Go clubs are officially set up with a bank account and a constitution. Others have neither. If you want to have a bank account, you will probably need to have a constitution. This does not need to be particularly elaborate; the only important thing is to clarify the means by which the members can check that their money is being looked after properly. A model constitution sufficient for most purposes is given below.
Constitution of the Albion Go Club
It is, of course, possible to be far more precise about these matters, and to define details of the many other aspects of club management, but in practice such items tend to be forgotten or ignored or, worse, they absorb time and effort which would be better spent playing Go. Most British Go Clubs have no written constitution.
Few Go clubs could survive without publicity. Every member of a club was once not a member, found about about the club somehow, and joined. If you want your club to survive, you will need to recruit new members.
Publicity for Go clubs can be directed at people who know the game but are unaware of the existence of the club, and at those who have never heard of Go but like other games. The former is easier to do, and more productive of new members. The latter is more in the interest of the "Go community" as a whole, as it adds to the community; it should only be attempted if your club is happy to explain the rules to newcomers.
Some ways of publicising the opening of a Go club are listed below.
The easiest and most effective way is via a web site. Many people find out about Go, and later about their local clubs, through the internet. It is therefore important for a club to have an up-to-date website, or at least an up-to-date BGA Club Listing , which should state reliably and accurately where and when the club meets.
The site should state whether the club is open to visitors. Most clubs are, but it is still important to reassure potential visitors by saying so. It should also state whether the club welcomes those who are new to Go. Many clubs welcome people who want to learn about the game, and have members who are happy to teach them: these should say so on their web site. There are a few clubs which do not welcome beginners: these benefit nobody by pretending otherwise.
It helps greatly if you give not just an address for your meeting place, but instructions for getting there, and a map. It is easy to link to a map using Google maps , multimap  or streetmap .
If no-one in your club has space in which to host a web site, the BGA provides ample free space for club pages: just send the webmaster an email containing the page that you want hosted, preferably in html. If no-one in the club can even generate html, send him the content you want put on the page, in some electronic format (a text file will do) so that he can convert it easily.
At the very least make sure that the BGA webmaster has the details of your club, so that he can put it on the Club List, and ensure that other people in the BGA know about your club.
Posters can be obtained free from the BGA Secretary, and be displayed in a workplace or school. Alternatively you can print them yourself  and incorporate your own messages. Most effectively, they can be displayed in a university or technical college, since students often take to Go quickly and spread the game amongst themselves.
Advertisements, and even articles, in local newspapers are unlikely to achieve anything. Advertisements in student newpapers can be effective.
Most local libraries are willing to keep a supply of leaflets about local clubs. We recommend printing some of these and giving them to your library, to hand out to people who ask about local games clubs. These leaflets should give details of the club, say a little about the game, and give the URL of the club web site. It helps if they can give the actual times and place of club meetings, rather than a telephone number to obtain these details – some people are shy of making such a call to a stranger, but willing to attend a meeting in a public place.
You should also provide the library with copies of the trifold leaflet , which is an introduction to Go and to the BGA and also has a space to include your own information. It is available from the BGA secretary .
You should go along once or twice a year to check that they still have a stock of your leaflets, and replenish them if they have run out.
Many libraries also have a database of local clubs, which the public can access. You should make sure your club is on this. It is a very easy and fairly effective way to find new members.
The Play Go booklet isn't suitable for publicity purposes, but may be useful in face-to-face encounters.
Games shops may allow the free display of a card giving a clubs details (as for leaflets for the local library). This is a good way to advertise to people who already know of Go, or are keen to learn about it. Notices in the windows of other kinds of shop are unlikely to achieve anything.
While you are in a games shop to put up your card, have a look at the other cards there. If there is say a chess club or a war games club, it might be a good idea to contact them and mention the existence of your Go club.
There is a section below on Go clubs within universities. If your club is not a university club, but is in a city with a university, this is likely to be your most promising recruiting ground. Find out whether the university has a Go club. If it has, contact its organisers and tell them about your club. Its stronger players may be willing to visit your club as well, so as to play some new opponents. If the university has no Go club, try to find a way to advertise your club within the university.
All publicity for a club should state clearly and reliably where and when the club meets. If it is not possible to predict these, because details of meetings are only decided close to the time, publicity can instead give the URL of the club's web site, so long as this is kept thoroughly up to date. A club which states publicly where and when it meets is in a much better position to attract new members than one which requires potential visitors to ring up in advance – some people are willing to drop in on a club to see how they feel about it, but are shy of making a phone call, which implies more commitment than they may be willing to give.
Finally, a good way to spread Go is to talk about the game – many people who would ignore other publicity try out the game because a friend of a friend plays Go.
A new club that wants to attract more members, or a club that has recently expanded to larger and publicly accessible premises, should use any or all of the methods listed above. Also, it is encouarged to contact the BGA Membership Secretary to for details of any unattached members already in the area who can be invited to join.
University students are much more receptive to the idea of joining a Go club than are members of the general public. So setting up a Go club, or publicising an existing Go club, within a university has a very good chance of success.
It is easier to keep beginners keen on go if they have other beginners of the same standard to play against. Partly for this reason, and partly to make teaching easier, it is a good idea to try to recruit a large number of beginners at the same time, and the best way to do this is to run widely publicised open evenings once a year, preferably near the start of the academic year. You might also manage an open evening near the start of each term, to encourage new players to appear in a bunch rather then spread throughout the term.
The best way to attract new members, and publicise the open evening, is through the Freshers' Fair at the start of each academic year. Contact the students' union at the beginning of the summer to get details of the Freshers' Fair. There will usually be a small charge for this, but it can be worth it in terms of the numbers of people who then come to the open evening. The vital thing about an open evening is that it should be widely advertised.
Deliberate raids on the chess and bridge clubs are good, as they have the great advantage of concentrating on people known to enjoy playing competitive games in clubs. There may also be groups which meet to play other games such as Dungeons and Dragons or Othello which can be raided in the same manner. When "raiding" a club, you should get the approval of the club's organisers, and above all, take care not to disparage their game. You may believe that Go is a better game than tiddlywinks, and you may even be right; but you will do yourself no good at all by saying so to members of the tiddlywinks club. Rather, you should point out that many people enjoy both games, and invite them to organise a reciprocal raid.
When it comes to actually running the open evening, it is important to spend as little time as you can manage teaching the rules, and to get people to play as many games as possible reasonably quickly (chess players in particular have a tendency to spend far too long thinking in their first few games) and only using 9×9 boards. You may need a good number of helpers for this, as many as one teacher per two pupils, so that every game can be observed. Photocopied small boards will do, but look a bit tacky. Section 4 gives advice on teaching beginners.
How you teach the rules of Go to beginners will depend on
Let's start by assuming the easiest case: this is your club's open evening, a good number of beginners have come along, they are intelligent adults, and you are prepared for them. Here is what we recommend:
The point of the first few games is to make the beginner comfortable with the rules and to give them a feel for the game. Remember that it is not essential to explain all of the rules straight away; in particular, details like ko and seki are likely to be confusing. Keep in mind at all times that it is hard to take in large amounts of information in one go. Because of this, you are likely to have more success if you describe just enough rules to get playing, then introduce further rules (e.g. ko) as necessary.
Begin by explaining the basic rules:
Try to be consistent with your terminology (e.g. always use the words "stone" and "turn" rather than "piece" or "move"), and avoid the use of jargon. You may find it useful to explain "liberty" and "atari", but that should be all.
The beginner now knows enough to start playing. You should explain the handicap system and give the beginner an appropriate number of handicap stones (as a rough guide, the beginner is about 30kyu and you should give 1 handicap stone for 5 grades difference on a 9×9 board). If you intend to let several beginners play amongst themselves, you can skip this detail at first.
This section assumes that you have arranged first games between pairs of beginners, with someone to oversee each game.
The first games should be played on a 9×9 board: this is less daunting for a beginner, and the game is over sooner so there is more chance that the players will see the consequences of their moves when the score is counted.
It is good to encourage beginners to play their first games quickly; many people in their first games think very carefully before making the wrong move! Some beginners can freeze completely, and need encouraging to make a move.
It is unlikely that either player will know when the game is over, and you should guide them in this. Don't just say "it's over now", say something like "I don't think you have any move that gains anything, if you can't see one either you may as well pass." Once both players have passed, ask them both their opinions of any dead groups, and don't proceed until until they have agreed. It is very off-putting to have a teacher remove your cherished group from the board for no reason.
At some stage, a ko may appear. At this point you should explain the ko rule – resist explaining its implications however! It is also possible that a snapback will arise; this often confuses beginners who often think it is disallowed because it is a ko or suicide, so you should take care to explain why it is legal.
Many beginners have difficulty understanding which groups are alive or dead at the end of the game. Often, they will try impossible invasions into your territory. Accept this: suggest to them that it won't work, and let them find out why it won't.
After one or two games, when you have captured several large groups, the beginner will probably be very keen to know how to avoid this! The easiest way to demonstrate eyes is to make a group with a three-space eye in the corner, and show what happens when either player plays on the vital point. You may choose to set up some simple life and death problems for the beginner to try to solve.
There are various things which are best done differently with younger children.
This is also known as "atari-Go". Use a 9×9 board. The rules are as for Go, except that the first player to make a capture wins – after which you stop playing and start another game. It may be necessary to remind them of this last clause, otherwise you will find them playing a game with no objective.
This is a kind of antidote to Capture-Go, to get beginners used to the idea of territory. The rules are:
If you have more than one beginner in the club, it is good for them to play amongst themselves. While the handicap system allows players of greatly differing strength to play, many people do prefer the chance to play against people of roughly equal strength. All club members should still, of course, be prepared to play teaching games against the new players, remembering that the more they do this, the sooner they will have more even game opponents!
Teaching games should be a constant feature of all go clubs; every member should be encouraged to give weaker players teaching games. This is beneficial for everyone; most people find that explaining a concept to someone improves their own understanding of that concept. Some points to bear in mind are:
Although Go programs do not yet challenge players above around 2 dan, they are very useful for beginners. It is said that beginners should lose their first 50 games as quickly as possible, and many people prefer to do this against a computer rather than against a human opponent! Playing a few games against a computer is a good way for a beginner to learn common shapes and simple tactics. Computer programs don't gloat when they win and don't moan when they lose, and most important, do not mind if you keep taking moves back. Some possible programs, all free, are:
The BGA publishes various booklets and leaflets  that may be useful. In particular, Andreas Fecke's Cartoon rules booklet  and the Play Go Booklet  are recommended as introductions to the rules of the game.
A club ladder provides a format for playing relatively serious handicap games with automatically adjusting grades. It also enables a go club to establish the relative grades of its members and to monitor their progress.
The rungs of the ladder form a scale which represents the grading system. Every member of the group has a marker between a pair of adjacent rungs. Every time a player wins a game he goes up one rung and every time he loses a game he goes down one. The handicap for a game is determined by the difference between the current grades of the players, giving, say, 5 points komi for each grade over.
Levels are closer together at the top of the ladder than at the bottom: at the top end of the ladder, there are several rungs per grade, and at the bottom end, there is one rung per grade. This allows weaker players to change grade faster than stronger ones. There are various ways of dividing up the grades. One suggestion is as follows:
The element of competition may be enhanced by giving various prizes for results over some set period. For example, in a university club, the obvious thing to do is to award termly prizes. Otherwise, a good period is around three months. Some examples of prizes you could award are:
The main problem with any sort of ladder is that, while it is very good at describing the relative strengths of the players involved, there is a tendency for the whole club to get stronger simultaneously and the ladder cannot reflect this. Some ways of introducing inflation automatically are:
However the only reliable way to incorporate inflation into a ladder is to play games against members of other clubs and to keep a check on the result, shifting the whole club up a few notches if the members seem to be doing too well outside.
Probably the easiest way to represent the ladder is on a club website. This has the advantage that people can monitor their progress and that of other members outside meetings. You should consider, however, that some people may not want to have their names on the web, so it is a good idea to check first. One such example is the Durham Go Club Ladder .
A physical ladder can also be constructed – for example, some sort of wall chart may be used. The players' names are put on small markers which can be moved up and down the ladder. The rungs should be made wide enough to take several players' names at once.
In practice a snake is better than a ladder: ladders are generally straight, whereas a snake can be curved about so as to fit better on a piece of paper.
A different way of representing the ladder is to use a sheet of paper divided into columns. The left hand column contains the names of the players and the second column gives their nominal grades. The remaining columns contain new ladder grades updated after each game. This sort of ladder has the advantage of portability, but it will need frequent replacement.
The great advantage of running tournaments in clubs is that they don't have to finish in one day. A simple idea is to have an all-play-all tournament spread over two months or more. You may choose to play with or without handicaps, or with reduced handicaps, and all games should be played with clocks and have time limits of at least an hour per player.
If the club is a large one, such a tournament will last too long, and it may be better to divide the players into several divisions.
A club championship can be split into several stages. One format is for all but the strongest players in the club to participate in a short knockout tournament, the winners of which qualify for places in a league where they are joined by the strongest players. This idea can be stretched further by having a 3 or 5 game playoff between the top two finishers in the league, and by allowing players who do well in one year to start in a privileged position in the next tournament; but having a protracted tournament will make it difficult for beginners to be catered for adequately.
A club can organise a small tournament for club members.
In order to finish a tournament in one night, it is necessary to use small boards, or quick games, or both. 10 minutes of clock time for a double elimination knockout tournament on 13×13 boards is about right. Exact details will depend on the number of players and the range of strengths. Small boards allow a much wider range of handicaps; 9 stones on a 13×13 board is about right for 25 grades difference. Some of the other systems discussed in the Tournament Organisers Handbook  may also be found useful.
If the tournament can be spread over several meetings, using full-sized boards and slower time limits, the results can be accepted for EGF rating purposes, by sending full details to the Tournament Co-ordinator . If you plan to send in the results for rating, check the criteria  for acceptability first, before deciding the time limits. You should also make it clear to your club members whether you plan to send the results in for rating.
There are several other possibilities:
Other things are possible. If you have any further ideas or hold any other kind of competition, please let us know so that it can be included in this document.
Most established clubs hold weekly (or less frequent) meetings, with the main purpose of playing games. A regular feature should of course be the playing of teaching games against weaker players. Apart from this, several kinds of events designed for teaching have been tried. The following sections describe several ideas (by no means exhaustive).
Two of the strongest players in the club play a game, while a third gives a running commentary to explain what is going on. These events are very easy to organise, and they can be extremely enjoyable if the commentator is skilful enough. There is a danger that the players will interrupt the commentator's explanations, and the commentary will then turn into a high-level discussion between the players, which few of the audience wil be able to follow: a good commentator will prevent this.
A game is selected, e.g. one played at the club the previous week, and (preferably) two of the strongest players take it home and think about it. One of them gives a 30-minute lecture on the game. In planning such a lecture the following points should be borne in mind:
These events can be highly enjoyable and informative, but they require a considerable amount of preparation by the person who is to give the talk.
The BGA has a scheme for organising visits by the country's dan-grade players to clubs. These can be used as foci for press coverage, and may take many forms; perhaps the simplest is for the whole club to play the visitor simultaneously. All clubs are encouraged to take advantage of this facility.
These are really a matter for small groups of players to organise, outside of normal club meetings. The recommended approach is to have one member who has studied the chosen topic in advance. This can be a game he has played, a professional game he has studied, or a joseki that he has read about in text books. This person then presents the subject and the others join in the discussion as seems appropriate.
The success of such events depends almost entirely on the personalities involved; some study groups generate highly successful social evenings which also contribute greatly to the playing strength of those involved, while others degenerate consistently into acrimonious debate. In any event, it is important not to allow such groups, whether meeting as part of a club night or not, to form a clique from which beginners might feel excluded.
Teaching events which involve active participation are often more beneficial. This section describes some games which are designed to improve some aspect of the players' Go. Other suggestions would, of course, be welcome, however experimental or unusual they may seem.
Set up a board with several black stones, such as the position in figure to the right (which strongly favours Black). White moves first; the objective for white is to make a living group, and the objective for black is to kill all of white's stones. This game is particularly beneficial for players below around 15 kyu, and is intended to give more confidence in making invasions, and practice at techniques for killing unreasonable invasions.
Other starting positions are of course possible, for example black stones all around the edge of the board, or with different enclosures in each corner. The difficulty can be varied by adding or removing black stones. The game may also be played on a smaller board, with fewer black stones.
Starting with an empty board, each player takes twenty stones. Black plays the first move in his upper right quarter of the board, and white follows in the diagonally opposite quarter. Each player's subsequent moves must be in the next (clockwise) quarter from their own preceding move. After twenty moves each have been played, both players examine the position to decide which has the better position, and which direction the game might proceed in. Of course it helps if a stronger player is observing.
The idea behind this game (devised by Matthew Holton) is to force both players to think about how their stones are working together, and to improve their approach to the opening. By forcing moves to be in a different quarter each time, the players usually avoid complex fighting and are forced to think strategically.
Experiments in teaching Go are often more interesting for the participants than any sort of event following a tried and tested formula, and Go clubs are encouraged to try out anything which seems like a good idea at the time. If the ideas work particularly well, details should be sent to the BGA Secretary for inclusion in later editions of this document.
One important objective in teaching is to help people to look at familiar situations from a new angle. In this respect, for example, an exercise held at Reading some years ago in which the whole club spent an evening playing out the last 50 moves of a game (with different opponents, but always starting from the same position) was extremely interesting.