Ready, Set, Play Go!

Geek Culture

a Go game in progressa Go game in progress
Go is one of the most ancient of all strategy games, with the simplest rules, but the most complex and subtle in terms of strategy.  It’s played on a grid with black and white stones.  If you are a geek of the gaming variety, then you are probably already familiar with Go (aka, Igo or Weiqi, but not to be confused with Go-Moku).  If you have not heard of Go, then you may want to take the holiday opportunity to start learning this game with your kids.  Learning with the geek-ster means that you will not have the usual adult advantage, and the two of you can match each other for raw talent.  (Ah, if only innocent lives were on the line.)  If you are familiar with the game, then another alternative to spotting the geekling 20 stones and beating them anyway, is to teach two other people in the house how to play and referee the game.  I used to sell Go sets and books (amongst other games) so let me give you some pointers.


If you’ve got the cash, buy stone or glass stones, or even a magnetic set.  If you must go with plastic, get large stones (at least a centimeter wide).  The problem with small, plastic “stones” us that they get unintentionally moved or dislodged easily.  Trouble is glass and stone stones are really expensive.  If you can only afford the small, plastic stones, get a board with a big grid.


Naturally, solid boards are preferable to roll-up boards; wood, plastic, or whatever.  If you go with a roll-up, then roll it up – do not fold it!  Also, get the biggest grid you can.  By biggest, I mean that you want the most number of intersections per side, and also the largest amount of space between intersections.  The more space you have between points, the easier it will be to place and remove stones without dislodging other stones.  The number of points is for a couple of reasons.  First, you’ll want to start off with the simplest, fastest version of the game; playing on a 9×9 grid.  You can play that easily by taping off a 9×9 corner of your larger grid.  Second, after you play on a 9×9 long enough, it will start to seem constricting.  The “standard game” is a 19×19, but unless you’re grooming the geek-spawn to enter competition there’s nothing wrong with eventually learning to play on a 21×21 or 23×23, or whatever.  It’s still more or less the same game, it just takes longer to play.


Totally inconsequential.  If you want to sport the cash, do it.  Otherwise, a pair of plastic bags will do.


Okay, if you and the geek-sidekick get hooked there’s nothing wrong with getting serious about it.  Go is frequently lauded as the most important of all the strategy games.  Help yourself to any of the instructional books if you like.  Personally, I learned the most from playing a few games with the local cafe Go club.  Yes, it stings the ego a bit to play the weakest player, have them spot you 15 stones, and still stomp you into fines – not dust, but fines.

Computer Games

According to reports, computerized versions of Go are nowhere near the challenge level of computerized chess.  That being said, if you are just learning and want to train up to a beginning amateur level, so you can achieve dust-status with the local Go club, then a computerized version of the game would serve you well.


If you like what you’ve read here, then… Atari!  (Look it up.)

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