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Thread: Go - Baduk - Weiqi

  1. #1
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    Go - Baduk - Weiqi

    It's "Go" (or "Igo") in Japan, "Baduk" in Korea, and "Weiqi" in China.

    The rules are stupidly simple: it's played on a 19x19 board (though it can be played on smaller boards for teaching purposes), there are white stones and black stones, you take turns placing stones on the board and if any one of your stones -- or any of your formations of adjacent stones -- is completely surrounded (and has no more "liberties" or "eyes"), then it dies and is removed. If you don't see a move you want to make, you pass. Once both players pass, the game is over.

    That's really just about it. There are a few small rules beyond that, such as "ko" and "komi," but literally everything else is just several millennia of aggregated wisdom. Suggestions and best practices, not hard rules. There's something beautiful about the simplicity of this game.



    I've written at least two different programs to play Go with me. I'm a pretty mediocre player, so the notion that I might be able to make a computer play better than me is enticing. I'd go so far as to say I've spent more time programming Go than I've spent reading Go books and trying to become better at the damn game myself.

    Speaking of books, there are a billion of them. The Go world has superstars; in fact, it's got legends. It's been around so long that the best players have been dead for hundreds, even thousands of years. You can find collections of books that are nothing but records of Go games played by famous players in the 15th or 19th century.

    Or books that list hundreds of "problems" to be solved, at difficulty levels ranging from beginner to professional.

    Or books that list hundreds of "joseki" (sequences of moves involving both players) that are generally regarded as balanced -- it's not quite like a gentleman's agreement to embark on a "joseki" during a game of Go, but if you deviate in an attempt to be more aggressive or more conservative than thousands of players before you, it might bite you in the ass. These mini-battles are quite well understood.

    That's the beauty of a game this old... there are a lot of things to learn.

    There's also a billion sites devoted to Go, but one of my favorite references is Sensei's Library, and one of my favorite "news" sites (not that I keep up with Go news very much) is Go Game Guru.

    One of the most famous players of all time was Honinbo Shusaku. The most famous game of Go he ever played was in 1846. And the most famous move of the most famous game played by the most famous player? Yes, we go to that kind of granularity in Go. It's this right here (the one in the middle of the board; Shusaku's stones are black):

    ear_reddening_photo.jpg

    It's referred to as "the ear-reddening move." Shusaku was very young (but a prodigy) in 1846, and a highly-regarded professional player indulged him in a friendly exhibition game. The professional was beating Shusaku around the board fairly handily until this move. It was innocuous and nobody watching took much note of it, but the story goes that one doctor in the audience (who was a novice player) happened to notice that the pro's ears turned very red... that was his only reaction, his ears turned red. But after this move, Shusaku turned the whole game around.

    Turns out the move (which has now been studied for over 150 years, of course) is some kind of otherworldly, ingenious, making-love-to-the-universe kind of spirit-bomb move, which holistically tied together Shusaku's seemingly-disjointed play into a suddenly revealed game-long strategy. Uhh, wow.

    There are tons of places to play Go online, if you want to give it a try!

    There's an anime about the game called "Hikaru no Go" which was responsible for a surge in popularity for Go in Japan, as well as introducing many Western audiences to the game. I have seen this show (though it's not where I learned Go, I promise) and enjoyed it, because it doesn't focus too much on interpersonal drama and extraneous bullshit, there are no powering-up sequences... it's really a series about Go, and it shows this kid's progression from a total newbie to a professional player. (He even grows up during the series, from a little kid to a young adult. Which is a little bit creepy for some reason.)

    Well, there's a fantasy hook, of course; he finds a Go board in his grandfather's attic that has a blood stain on it, and it turns out it's haunted by the ghost of a famous Go player ("Sai") who tutors him and instills a love of the game in him. But whatever, it's a cartoon. Here, watch this over-produced fan video:


  2. #2
    Tiny Dancer Drewbie's Avatar
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    Mac introduced me to Go at his house when I was down there for Comicon a couple years back and I was fascinated by it. So much so that my wife actually paid attention and bought me a very nice board with nice soapstone and wooden bowl holders.

    I have played another game called Pente on it several times with people, but never actually played Go since no one has shown the slightest interest when I've tried to explain it to them. I get a lot of "Oh, so it's Othello" and I have no response since I have no idea how to play Othello.

  3. #3
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    Ouch. Go and Othello are very different. There's a superficial difference (pieces in Othello are played in spaces on the grid, rather than on intersections as in Go), and two differences which seem superficial but are actually enormous and make the game vastly easier and quicker to play (8x8 board instead of 19x19, and pieces are never removed, only "flipped" from one color to the other).

    8x8 is 64, and once you play in a space, it's occupied for the rest of the game -- so there are only 64 possible moves in a game of Othello, and it can be done in 5-10 minutes. In comparison, 19x19 is 361, and no stone in Go is safe -- a whole sea of stones can be removed from the board and history completely rewritten at the drop of a (very painful) hat.

    Othello is therefore much more "approachable" for a casual player. You can hold an entire Othello game in your head, planning out every move (which is why computers can easily and reliably beat humans) -- with Go, that's more or less impossible.

    Here's a Reversi/Othello game you can play against a computer.

    Edit: There's one more big difference which isn't even "apparently superficial": in Go, you can play stones anywhere on that giant board, there's almost nothing telling you otherwise. You can't play where there's already a stone, you can't violate "ko," and you can't play where your stone will have zero "eyes." That's it. In Othello, your potential moves are actually very limited at any given time.
    Last edited by Macheath; 02-13-2013 at 04:30 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drewbie View Post
    "Oh, so it's Othello"
    The response to this is "Othello is like Go in the same way that kindergarten is like college."

    That's what I say when people say to me: "Sheepshead? That's like like Euchre, right?"

    I've never played Go, but it interests me.

  5. #5
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    Also, Drewbie, you should post a picture of your board and stones. I didn't know your wife bought them for you, what a nice wife!

  6. #6
    Tiny Dancer Drewbie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liuv View Post
    I've never played Go, but it interests me.
    Come by and play the next time you're up here and don't stop by like every other time you've been up here ya bastard.

    Oh, and here's a picture. It has the smaller sized board marked on the back side as well.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  7. #7
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    I will definitely do that.

    For what it's worth; I haven't been up there since early October.

  8. #8
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drewbie View Post
    Oh, and here's a picture.
    That's a very pretty board... Go boards are usually made with eastern woods like kaya (expensive) or bamboo (cheap). I've never seen one made with a western wood, like oak or maple. It might just be the lighting, but that's my impression of the wood grain and color in your picture. Any idea what it's made of? Interesting!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Drewbie View Post
    Come by and play the next time you're up here and don't stop by like every other time you've been up here ya bastard.

    Oh, and here's a picture. It has the smaller sized board marked on the back side as well.
    That is very nice. Looks to be very good quality.

    Teisuke tried to teach me how to play Go, and then proceeded to destroy me. I hold it in the same vein as chess now; it's ok. I'm not horrible, but against anyone who knows their stuff I get destroyed.
    Oooh, shiny!

    Check out my gaming channel on Youtube! Streams, videos, and more right here!

  10. #10
    Tiny Dancer Drewbie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macheath View Post
    That's a very pretty board... Go boards are usually made with eastern woods like kaya (expensive) or bamboo (cheap). I've never seen one made with a western wood, like oak or maple. It might just be the lighting, but that's my impression of the wood grain and color in your picture. Any idea what it's made of? Interesting!
    It's bamboo. It's from Yellow Mountain Imports.

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