Got Into The Go?


Xilin Chen, Reporter

Origin and Significance:

Go is a board game that originated in China about 4,000 years ago. Considered to be the oldest board game in history, Go significantly contributed to the development of other board games that are played between two players. Go has a set of relatively simple rules, in comparison to other board games, yet it could be a very complex game since it consists of enormous amount of variations and requires intricate calculations (even more than chess). Learning the game of Go can help oneself make deeper calculations on logical sequences, more insightful decision-making skills, and building grit(perseverance) in his or her mind.

Basic Rules:

Go is played on a large board that consists of a grid of 19 horizontal parallel lines, and 19 vertical parallel lines. There are 9 small dots on the board, with 4 located in the corner areas, 4 in the side areas, and one in the center. The pieces each player use are identical and round-shaped, except one player is using the black pieces, and another is using the white pieces.

The player who has the black pieces will make the first move of the game by placing one of his or her pieces on any intersection point on the board. After the first move, the player who has the white pieces will make a move on any intersection point that is not yet occupied on the board. Then the game continues with the alternation of moves from both sides. Both players have the right, to give up the right, to move to the opponent, at any moment of the game. Any piece that is dropped on the board cannot have any further movement, unless it is captured.

Capturing the pieces are based on the “liberties” of the pieces. Liberty of any piece is any unoccupied intersection points that was right next to the piece in a horizontal direction or vertical direction. A Chain (Connected same-colored pieces) will have an amount of liberties that is the sum of the amount of liberties, of all the same-colored pieces in the chain. Any piece or chain without any liberty will be captured, and removed from the board. Also, both players may not make a move that returns the game to a previous position. Liberties in Go symbolically represent the supply lines of the troops (pieces), which the losing of all of their supply lines will starves out the troops. The goal of the game is to seize more squares than the opponent does, and the liberties of all pieces are a very critical factor in deciding the number of squares one has.

Time-control is an essential part in Go. In ancient time, since the timer was not developed yet, a game, and even a move could take up to several days. In modern day Go, due to the invention of the timer, and most importantly the economic factor in broadcasting live games, even the classical mode of Go will only have several hours for players to finish their game. As time-control could be a way for players to win by either forfeit on time by the opponent, or mistakes by the opponent due to time. It could also somewhat decrease the skill levels of the games, since there is less time for the players to think.


Nie Weiping is a Chinese super Go master, who got his title in the 1980s. The highest title for a Go player to obtain is “Professional 9 dan.” Super Go masters are those whose skills are acknowledged as the strongest of all the Professional 9 dan masters. In order to obtain such a title, Nie had a vigorous personality, and outstanding performances in many of his games. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s seems to have been a revolution that had ruined many students’, or scholars’,  educational opportunities. However, the revolution actually built grit in Nie’s personality, that served as an important foundation in his later Go career. As the Culture Revolution ended in the 1970s, Nie finally got the chance to enroll into the Chinese National Go team. In this period, Nie improved his skills dramatically and got his first “National Go Champion” award. The 1980s was Nie’s “Golden Period.” In the first four China-Japan Super-matches in 1980s, Nie played 12 games, and he won the first 11 consecutively against the Japanese Go masters. In the Super-match of 1984, Nie won 3 games and helped the Chinese teams to win the match by a score of 8-7. In the Super-match of 1985, Nie’s 5 wins also successfully helped the Chinese team to turn the side of table by a score of 9-8. In the Super-match of 1987, Nie’s decisive game against the Japanese super Go master Masao Kato had helped the Chinese team to win the match by a score of 9-8. Nie scored 2 points for the Chinese team in the Super-match of 1988, yet his winning streak was also ended in this match, by the Japanese Go master Yasumusa Hane. Furthermore, Nie was actually the last challenger left in the team who defeated several Japanese super Go masters in a row. Such performance has earned Nie the title “Steal Goalkeeper,” and consequently,  intrigued many young people to learn Go.

In contrast to Nie, Korean super Go master Lee Chang-Ho has dominated the Go world in the 1990s. Lee also has a very strong personality, and earned great achievements as Nie did, but in a very different way. Lee’s greatest achievement, unlike the Dynamic result Nie had, was maintaining the title as “world number one” in Go for more than 15 years. Lee was also well-known for his extreme calmness during a game. In his games, Lee did not show his emotions from facial expressions at all, which earned him the nickname, “Stone Buddha.” This demonstrates Lee’s strong achievements on building grit from Go as we. For his opponents, playing against Lee could also be a valuable experience in helping them to build grit.


Lee and Nie dominated the Go world in the 1980s and 1990s respectively, while the technology AlphaGo started to dominate the Go world in modern times. AlphaGo is a computer program invented by DeepMind to play Go, and it crushes the top Go master Lee Sedol from Korea in 2016 by a score of 4 to 1. This created a big upset, that almost no one anticipated, that a Computer would defeat a human in Go. Although the computer chess program Deep Blue, invented by IBM, did defeat former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997 by a close score of 3.5 to 2.5, most people believe that Go is much more complicated than chess. Furthermore, AlphaGo did not have a lot of data stored about Lee Sedol, according to DeepMind, while Deep Blue was invented mainly on beating Kasparov. The most recent victories of AlphaGo was a winning streak of 60 online speed games against several Go masters, including the legendary Nie Weiping. As the technological development of Go computer programs have gotten more advanced, should we, as humans, become more aware of Go?