The fascinating game of Go in Japanese culture

Go is a board game widely played in Japan. For centuries, Japanese people have been playing with the aim of having fun, improving their tactical and strategy skills, improving the mental functions of the elderly and bringing people together.

In addition, numerous championships are held every year and the number of professional players is also considerably higher. Its original name is igo [囲碁] and it is a simple game where the objective is to dominate territories.

The game is not only played in Japan, as in other countries, such as China and Korea, Go is popular and has other names: Weiqi and Baduk, respectively. The game is believed to be over 2000 years old.

Information about GO

Go (碁) originated in China about 5,000 years ago, it is a simple and strategic game where two people place stones of opposite colors in order to conquer territories. In the game, areas that are surrounded by stones of a certain color are considered as territory. In other words each player must occupy as many intersections as possible.

On a tray of Go there are 19 horizontal lines and 19 vertical lines. At the Go you use the crossing of lines to play. There are 361 intersections. The size of the board varies according to its use. There are several variations of this game, some with smaller boards, some Brazilian versions, you probably have already played this game or something like that.

A match of Go it can last from 5 minutes or even more than 3 hours, it will depend on the strategy and the players, the complexity of the game is very low but the strategic level is very high, and the game does not have any influence of luck only from your intelligence and observation .

Go - Japanese traditional games

GO in Anime

Interestingly, several anime have already addressed Go in its plots. You can see a game similar to Go being played by the character Meruem during the Hunter x Hunter anime. Such a game, called gungi, is fictional and was created by the manga author combining characteristics of Go and Shogi.

In addition to Hunter, the anime Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁) also helped to further popularize the game in modern times. 
The rules of Go, at first, can be scary, but they are not as complicated as they appear to be.

Despite their international reach, anime and manga have contributed to the spread of Go around the world. Some of the young professionals at Nippon Kiin started playing Go because they watched the anime or read works about the game.

The fascinating game of go in Japanese culture

How do you play Go?

The objective of the game is to conquer more territory than the enemy on the board. The Goban (碁盤), as the Go board is called, starts empty and players alternate their moves. White stones usually start with an advantage in scoring, ranging between 5.5 and 7 points. 

Go, unlike Shôgi and Western Chess, does not aim to capture the King and does not allow the movement of pieces on the board. Go stones (black or white) are placed on the Goban and once placed cannot be moved.

Another interesting factor in gambling is the possibility of placing the stones anywhere on the board (at the beginning of the game) and capturing an enemy piece restricting its “freedoms” (points of intersection). This is another peculiar feature of this fascinating game, the stones should be placed only at the intersections.

Japanese culture is closely linked to Go and numerous cultural rules are present during a game. For example: before starting a new duel, players must speak Onegaishimasu (お願いします) and should also sit in the Seiza position (with the knees bent over the legs).

Go - Japanese traditional games

GO Rules 碁

The rule allows that if players have different skill levels, the game is started with a certain number of pieces already positioned for the less experienced player. This makes the game more balanced.

The Go board has its squares positioned at the intersection between the lines that make up the squares, not on the squares themselves.

During the game, the pieces are not moved. They are only placed on the board, one player at a time. However, there is a certain "notion" of movement, since the stones are eventually placed "in line" to increase a player’s dominance over a certain region of the board.

The pieces can be captured, if they are completely surrounded by the opponent’s pieces, so the game must be made in order to obtain the maximum territory for you, and at the same time to position yourself in order to defend yourself (preventing it from being captured).

The fascinating game of go in Japanese culture

Japanese Go game terms

Below we list some terms related to Go:

  • 囲碁 (いご) = Go (Board game based on the conquest of territory);
  • 碁 (ご) = Go;
  • 碁石 (ごいし) = Pedras do Go;
  • 碁盤 (ごばん) = Go board;
  • 碁笥 (ごけ) = Cumbucas where the stones of Go are. Also called ごす;
  • コミ = Komi's rule. Extra score given to the white stones of a beginner. It is usually 6.5 or 5.5. 
  • こみだし = Komi's rule. Extra score given to the white stones of a beginner. It is usually 6.5 or 5.5. 
  • 神の一手 (かみのいって) = God's play;
  • 先手 (せんて) = Initiative (It is the act of keeping the initiative in the game without having to respond to an enemy attack;
  • 後手 (ごて) = According to Lance, it is the act of not maintaining the initiative. The opponent does not need to answer a move;
  • ヒカルの碁 (ひかるのご) = Anime that made the game of Go even more popular in modern times;
The fascinating game of go in Japanese culture

Where to buy a Go board?

I want to end this article by recommending some original Go boards that can be found for sale on Amazon Brazil, in addition to some game related products. Some of the products have free shipping for members of the Amazon Prime.

Different types of Go

In addition to the traditional Go, there are many different ways to play with the black or white board or pieces of go, in addition to modified boards and modified rules. Below are different ways to play Go:

Gomoku [五目] - also known as Gobang, is a strategic board game on a slightly modified Go board (15 × 15 intersections). However, unlike go, once the pieces are placed they cannot be moved or removed from the board.

Renju [連珠] - Similar to Gomoku, the difference is in the rules that weakens the advantages for the first player (Black) by adding special restrictions for those with black pieces.

Irensei - 囲連星

Using the GO board the objective of the game is to place seven stones in a row of your color. Furthermore, they can capture and eliminate enemy stones in the same way as in Go. 

  • The victory condition is to have seven stones in a row, vertically, diagonally, or horizontally, only if all those stones are inside the central 15×15 square and not 19×19.
  • To maintain balance, the starting piece (black) cannot place 8 stones in a row if it does not lose;
  • Capturing diagonally is considered a victory;

Renju or Gomoku– 連珠

Renju or Gomoku is a game that uses the GO board and had its origins lost in the Heian period.

The full name of the game would be “Gomoku Narabe”, which would mean something like “put five in a row”. Despite the same sound, the “Go” in the game Go and the “Go” in Gomoku are written in Japanese with different ideograms. If in the first one, “Go” is the name of the game, in the second it means “5”. The name Renju, on the other hand, refers to a more professional version where people were dedicated to the game.

The board should only use 15×15. The objective is not the conquest of territories, as in Go, but the simple formation of a “string of pearls”, that is, placing 5 pieces in rows.

Ninuki-renju is another version of Renju but you must join the pieces vertically and the game starts with white pieces.

Where can I play?

I hope that you enjoyed. The Board and GO pieces open up opportunities for different strategies and different game styles, also use your imagination and create your own versions of the game.

I wrote an article about Japanese games that is available on another website that I am the author of,click here to read

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