Михаил Крюков

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)

Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Alan Turing, Albert Einstein, and other well-known people love this game. In this article, I will explain what makes go so interesting, how to play the game, and what this game has given to me over my time with it.

Quite often I find myself mentioning go to peers and acquaintances, so much so that I have decided to explain this wonderful game in more detail. Even though I do not dedicate much time to playing go, It has become critical to how I think. If I were to live for 300 years and didn’t have to worry about money, I would gladly devote myself to playing Go in some Buddhist temple where I could practice, meditate and enjoy the picturesque nature. Alas, this is impossible, so go remains a hobby, that I devote time to when I can.

This is a translation of my Russian-language version of the article, adapted for English-speaking audiences and materials. I try to update the article as my understanding of the game develops. As well as relying on feedback from readers and players.

I am not a native speaker and have little familiarity with the world of Go abroad. If you see that the article could be improved in some way or I forgot to mention something, tell me about it. Let's make the article better together to attract more players.

P.S. I am against any copying of materials without my approval.

Table of сontents

What is Go and how to play it

You can learn details about the game in abstruse language on Wikipedia.

Go is a board strategy game with complete information. Complete information means that victory or defeat depends entirely on your skills, without any element of randomness. There are many legends surrounding its origin, however no one knows exactly when or where it originated. According to various estimates it is from 2 to 5 thousand years old. By the way, the rules of the game haven't much changed over time.

Great video about the game in general, if you ignore the World Amateur Championship commercial at the very end.

It’s called Baduk in Korea, Weiqi in China, and Igo in Japan. All the strongest players are from Asian countries, which are in constant competition with each other. The rest of the world hasn’t yet reached the same level as Asian countries because the attitude to the game is quite different. While comprehensive financial and non-financial support is provided to professional players in these countries, it is generally lacking in other countries.

Great video that shows the pros and cons of the game for the average person.

The rules of the game are simple: two players play, one with black stones and the other with white stones. The goal is to fence off a larger territory on the board with stones of your colour.

Below is a game between two Japanese professionals on a 9×9 board. Observe how the possible potential territories change according to the player’s color. See what happens when the opponent invades what seems to be your territory, and how the division occurs. The game is beautiful, like watching a Yin and Yang confrontation.

Iyama Yuta (white) vs. Murakawa Daisuke (black). Black has 17 points, white has 19.5. White won by 2.5 points.

A textual description of the rules can be quite boring and often confusing for beginners. Therefore, it’s better to see it once than to read the text.

The simplest illustration of the rules of Go. If you want more details, I recommend the Go Rules & Basics playlist.

If you want to understand not only the rules, but also a bit of the implications of the rules, an interactive quest or this site will help. You can also check out one of these books, I highly recommend them:

These books are a little more complex and cover deeper topics, but are also written for beginners:

In addition to paper books, some are published electronically with interactive diagrams. If you have iOS, it's easier to buy some books from the Go Books app.

Handicap Game

What if you want to play Go with an opponent with significant skill difference? For this, there’s a handicap system. Please do not confuse this with Komi - the compensation given to white for black playing first.

In the classic version, handi-cap ranges from 1 to 9 stones placed on the board before the beginning of the game, often on the designated "Hoshi" or Star points. Each stone corresponds to a difference of 1 level, but this is in theory. In practice, you decide how many stones will make the game approximately equal, sometimes using 10 or even 15 handicap stones.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Handicap stones are placed on these points. The screenshot is taken from the game Just Go, which I highly recommend purchasing.

The stronger player plays white and has to figure out how to build territory where black is already standing. It’s easier for the weaker player to defend with the support of the 9 handicap stones.

The handicap play style remarkably differs from normal play. Playing as white requires more strategy, aggression, and catching on mistakes, whereas as black, it’s crucial not to solely retreat into passive defense due to the pre-placed stones. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of the book Basic Techniques of Go cover how to play handicap games well. If you want more details, you can read one of these books:

What if you want to play without additional handicap stones on the board but with the skill level difference in mind? In this case, there’s reverse komi. This means you play as usual, but the weaker player has an additional compensation, beyond the usual komi. By the way, it’s convenient to set reverse komi manually in advance on the OGS server, then you won’t need to calculate it.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
If you know your strength of play on online servers, you can refer to this table. For example, if a 2 dan with 7 kyu is playing, the compensation is 50 points.

Don’t forget that the reverse komi is not always appropriate to use. After all, if the difference in levels is too big, then no matter how many compensation points you give, a novice might end up losing large groups on the board. On the other hand, handicap stones add strength, making it easier to fight and play due to the numerical advantage.

Rank System

The ranking system in Go is the same to Karate, since they borrowed it from Go: beginners have "kyu" ranks, while experts have "dan" ranks. However, there’s a distinction between amateur and professional dan, where professionals are stronger than amateurs in 99% of cases. Therefore, a hypothetical 8-9 amateur dan can only compete with lower-level professional dans. This means winning against a professional 1, 2, 3 dan, and hardly anyone higher. Exceptions only confirm the rule. Those professional Dans who were defeated by Top Amateurs were typically not at the peak of performance and often times at retirement age.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
The growth goes like this: amateurs from 30 kyu to 1 kyu → amateurs from 1 dan to 9 dan → professionals from 1 dan to 9 dan.

This is due to the fact that a strong amateur cannot devote as much time to studying the game and developing his strength as a professional who has also paid money for it. Most often strong amateurs play at the Insei level. An Insei is a student who plays Go at a special school that prepares him to take the first professional dan exam.

It’s better to play Go for 10 kyu and have a good job than to play for 9 dan and beg for alms!

Alexander Dinerstein, 3rd professional dan.

The life of an insei is hard. You sacrifice everything for Go, because you don’t even go to school. There are many talented Asian children competing for the title of the strongest. Not only is the exam itself incredibly difficult, but you are only allowed to take it up to a certain age, which depends on the rules set by the federations. Because of this, some inseis aim for amateur championships, where winning first place grants a chance to become a 1st professional dan. Another option is to move to another country where you still meet the age requirement for the exam.

All the nuances, preparation stages, and psychological issues faced during the professional exam are excellently depicted in the anime Hikaru no Go. In the drama Misaeng you can see a 26-year-old insei who failed to become a professional and struggles to adapt to a normal life without formal education.

How and why I have chosen this game

Back in 2013-2014, I was studying the human brain, taking courses by academics, reading popular science books, listening to lectures on YouTube, and so forth. Ultimately, I arrived at a logical conclusion that if the brain isn’t used, it atrophies. In other words, if certain areas don’t receive a blood supply for a long time, they literally die off. You don’t have to be a doctor to guess the consequences.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Capillarization of the brain in someone who used the brain to its fullest and the average everyday person. There are similar scans of deceased mathematicians, there are even more branches.

I wanted to have mental clarity, even in old age. I admire people who in their 90+ years think straight, present information in a structured way, still make discoveries or are active in science. So I came up with the idea of finding a tool that would engage almost the entire brain and I started with the obvious – intellectual games.

I explored a variety of options, spending hours on Wikipedia and Google, searching for something that suited me. At a certain point, the choice narrowed down to poker, mahjong, shogi, and Go. I chose Go due to the following reasons:

23 years later, a similar book about business and Go at the same time appeared: Pavel Avraamov — The Go Strategy: An Ancient Game in Modern Business, or: How to Win in Competition

I really got excited and started playing only after reading Yasuyuki Miura’s book Go: An Asian Paradigm for Business Strategy. I was just starting to delve into business and the book was perfect for me. After all, its author was the marketing director of Japan Airlines and the executive director of the Nikko hotel chain, a practitioner. And using the example of Go, he described how business problems had been solved.

So, even though I hadn’t yet reached a 20 kyu level, I already understood that Go develops the brain and actively applies to business. What other arguments in favour of the game are needed for a guy who dreams of his own business and wants to keep his brain sharp? That’s how my Go journey began.

What the game develops and what benefits the player receives

It should be clarified that if you treat the game only as entertainment, you will not get any serious benefits in real life. There will be some, of course, but they will be small and indirect, like an overall brain boost. I personally know several people who play at the level of 3-4 dan but fervently defend the position of "Go game teaches only Go game". But this is true only for them.

After all, the game is just a tool that you need to learn to use in life: consciously draw parallels, thoughtfully seek similar situations, and analyze the surrounding situation as if it were arranged with stones on a board. Such transfer of skills from one sphere to another is called "far transfer".

Comprehensive brain development

I won’t delve too deeply into this topic, as it’s a separate serious subject. I’ll summarize the findings:

  1. Based on available data, the game significantly engages 16 brain areas (1-4, 6, 7, 9, 17-19, 30, 31, 37, 40, 44, 45) out of 52. We are talking about Brodmann’s cytoarchitectonic areas;
  2. The game serves as excellent prevention against dementia. Throughout the long history of Go, there has not been a single professional with dementia, although there are long-lived players;
  3. It reduces stress as it directly influences the amygdala;
  4. It increases the nucleus accumbens responsible for analyzing sensory and emotional information and forming behavioral reactions to stimuli;
  5. It enhances overall brain connectivity. Recall the brain capillarization in scientists and workers mentioned earlier;
  6. It has been proven that such positive effects of playing Go on the brain are the result of learning, not inheritance.

That’s it in a nutshell and to the point. Of course, I could summarize it all in one sentence, like "develops both brain hemispheres" or "develops the brain". Even stating that playing Go actively influences the parietal lobe, cerebellum, prefrontal cortex, occipital cortex wouldn’t be sufficient. Someone might not believe it or start probing deeper.

Hence, I’m attaching links to scientific articles and other useful materials:

  1. Neural substrates in judgment process while playing go: a comparison of amateurs with professionals;
  2. Neural substrates for visual pattern recognition learning in Igo;
  3. Exploring the brains of Baduk (Go) experts: gray matter morphometry, resting-state functional connectivity, and graph theoretical analysis;
  4. A functional MRI study of high-level cognition. II. The game of GO;
  5. The impacts of a GO-game (Chinese chess) intervention on Alzheimer disease in a Northeast Chinese population;
  6. Beyond Domain-Specific Expertise: Neural Signatures of Face and Spatial Working Memory in Baduk (Go Game) Experts.

Overall, based on subjective feelings, you start acquiring useful habits. For example, multivariate analysis is when you get used to holding multiple things in your mind simultaneously and making analyses based on all of them. Or when you calculate several variants of events for several steps ahead and automatically think about the opponent’s plan, whoever he may be. You become more diligent and stress-resistant. You even become moderately conflictual because sometimes the situation demands active steps and not keeping silent, otherwise, you’ll lose. These aren’t abstract words, these are personal observations I’ve noticed in myself.

Universal strategic principles

The game involves a very deep strategy and philosophy. They say that the goal of Go is to take your eyes off the board. This means going beyond the game, understanding, and applying the principles of Go in life. The universality of these strategic principles lies in their application in real life. They are logical, fair, and often mentioned in business or management literature.

Many wonder how one can draw parallels between abstract concepts in the game and real life. After all, there are stones and a board in the game, while in real life, there are people with their own peculiarities, surrounded by specific situations and contingencies. Let me explain.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
For a deeper dive into what stratagems are, how they developed in China and where they are used read this book: Harro Von Senger — The Book of Stratagems: Tactics for Triumph and Survival. By the way, he also adapted this book for businesses.

These principles can be called by different names: stratagems, commandments, laws, or something else. Essentially, they are a calculated or recommended sequence of actions aimed at solving a specific problem or achieving an implicit goal, considering the psychology and other peculiarities of the situation. For example, no one can provide a 100% guide on how to rule, but general principles can be deduced, as Robert Greene did in the book The 48 Laws of Power or as Niccolò Machiavelli did in The Prince. Similarly, in Go, strategic principles are something universal that is highly likely to work for most things and situations. Because it was evolved over a long historical period and used in related fields, like Sun Tzu’s treatise The Art of War.

You can familiarise yourself with these principles either superficially, through theory and books, or more deeply, through practical game experience and a rich arsenal of tactical maneuvers. It’s important to understand that not all tactical maneuvers can yield principles, and sometimes, there might be no deep meaning in the "N" move. However, what exists in Go is more than sufficient for modeling interesting situations and training strategic thinking.

There are books on theory, such as The Thirty-Six Stratagems Applied to Go by Ma Xiaochun or Strategic Concepts of Go by Yoshiaki Nagahara. If you read them attentively, you can see how the same principles can be applied to other games or to relationships between people, companies, countries. A relationship is the same as a connection between stones. Just replace the hypothetical stones and groups with your own objects and groups of objects.

With deeper study, it’s possible to extract these principles even from certain tactical maneuvers. There’s partial information about this in Rin Kaiho’s book Golden Opportunities.

When playing Go, the player is constantly learning how to make and cut connections between stones, just like in real life, where a person does the same between other objects. There are weak and strong groups, priorities are set, sacrifices are made for a greater goal. Timing is crucial— the ability to execute what’s needed precisely when it’s needed. Competition is always infused with "sente" and "kikashi", forcing your opponent to respond to your moves exactly where and when planned. Whether you learn these principles from Go or directly from the activities you are engaged in, they hold significant value and applicability.

Let’s remember, that Go is about resource allocation. If you take slightly more than your opponent, you win. Yet, you’re not taking from your opponent directly but from the external world (the board), and your invasions only prevent your opponent from gaining more points. Also it is always a confrontation, conflict and psychological tension. It is very much like a war in the global sense of the word. Our lives, to some extent, mirror this conflict: political games, resource acquisition, and competition with peers. This is why strategies of war are easily applicable to Go, and Go is easily applicable to life.

Gary Gagliardi, Sun Tzu — The Art of War for the Business Warrior: Strategy for Entrepreneurs — this is a great example of how high-level concepts or stratagems can be applied to business .

Think about yourself. You’re a human being who also needs resources in the form of money, which you also take from the outside world. And preferably you do this not by violent means, but by skill and ingenuity. Reduce the resource acquisition from the main competitor, if you run a business and the market is limited, expand your influence on those parts of the board that are in priority. It’s essential to take your psychological state into account and even more important to foresee the potential outcomes. All this is very similar to Go, in which similar situations are modelled over and over again, and the feedback will show how you will react to similar situations in life.

To cut a long story short, it’s easy to see yourself on the board, your shortcomings, where you are greedy and impulsive when you back down or fall into doubt. It’s easy to see what emotions are triggered by victory or defeat. And the strategic principles and techniques in these mini-battles apply to real life. This is the first game where something like this really works, even at a low level of play.

Really interesting

Oddly enough, but this is a very important point. If I fall asleep while playing chess, the very philosophy of fighting to the bitter end annoys me. It’s all about chopping heads, eliminating everyone in sight, decapitating the king, and so on. It is impossible to win in chess without getting into a fight. All openings, mid-games and endgames have been thoroughly analyzed, take and learn them, but in Go everything is not like that.

In Go, there is an analogue of chess openings called "joseki", which is a favorable sequence for both opponents in the corner. Yet, even if you know all of them by heart, it doesn’t guarantee a high level of play. Moreover, they are still actively being invented, showing that the game is alive and everything depends on your intuition, vision of the whole picture, strategy, and not just on mechanical calculation.

When you start to understand the game, watching the games of professionals is mesmerising. There are no identical games, no draws. You marvel at how players react to various moves. Games can last for days, while the average online game takes about an hour.

In short, it’s impossible to describe until you try it. I will only say that I played Dota and Dota 2 for many years before Go. Those who know will understand what I’m talking about, and Go is really much more interesting than Dota. Especially when you know at least a little bit and can follow the situation on the board.

Here's an example of how to describe in simple words the flow of play in a match between a pro and an AI.

The aesthetics of Go

People love Go not only because it’s interesting and stimulates the brain. When you play this game, you experience aesthetic pleasure from the complex interlacing of black and white stones, from the sound of placing a stone on the board, and even from the game set itself, which can be truly unique.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
The wide variety of designs and the use of rare materials for the game set make the ordinary goban, bowls, and stones objects of art. On especially cool sets price tag comes from a million rubles and can grow to infinity.

A complete game set consists of a goban, bowls, and 361 stones (180 white and 181 black). Black goes first, and this number of stones is precisely what’s needed to fill all the vacant points. Goban is a game board that looks like a thick, solid wooden table on short legs.

By the way, the inspiration for creating the QR code came from Go game, which Masahiro Hara played during his lunch break.

If you buy a set, make sure you pay attention to:

  1. The number of lines on the board. Sometimes sellers cheat and give you a board for renju instead of Go;
  2. The number of stones. For a 19x19 board there should be 361 stones. Unscrupulous sellers sometimes sell 280 stones in a set;
  3. Don't get a board made of oilcloth or a folding board. An oilcloth game board will wrinkle over time. And folding boards have a hump in the middle, on which it is inconvenient to put the stones;
  4. Pay attention to the first line on the boards. Sometimes the edges are so close that it is impossible to put a stone on this line;
  5. Poor quality Chinese boards. Because the wood was poorly dried in production they can bend and warp. Therefore, I recommend taking Japanese boards made of solid wood, if you have enough money. Read more about it here;
  6. The best board material is kaya. Budget versions are made of agathis and shin-kaya;
  7. The legs on a thick goban should be removable. Usually the feet are used to play on the floor;
  8. A thick goban should have a notch at the bottom of the board. This will make the sound of the stone more beautiful;
  9. The best stones are always made of shell. The thicker it is, the more expensive the price. Read more about them here;
  10. The best budget stones are Ings stones. If you need even cheaper, look for earthenware stones;
  11. Stones come in two types of shapes — lentil-shaped and flat-bottomed. There is no difference, choose the ones you like best;
  12. The best travel kit is a magnetic kit.

Additionally, if you really want to, you can create a set from almost anything. Instead of stones, use buttons or even marshmallows. Instead of a board – a platform with drawn or burned lines, or even draw on the asphalt with chalk. Moreover, there are sets made of fabric, cardboard, paper and any other improvised materials. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Stones made from epoxy resin with added fluorescent pigment that allow you to play Go in the dark. As you can see, homemade stuff doesn’t have to be ugly. Taken from a Vkontakte post.

Computer Go

It is impossible to avoid this topic, as computers have a great influence on modern game theory. It all started with a historic match that took place from 9 to 15 March 2016. For the first time in the history of the game, the AlphaGo program was able to defeat a professional 9 dan player 4:1. This event marked the beginning of the neural network boom that continues to this day.

Before this match, no computer program could even come close to the level of 1 professional dan. Even amateurs used to easily beat them. However, now, every professional and amateur player analyzes their games with bots that easily defeat professional 9-dan players with a 2-stone handicap. Programs have overturned the perception of effective moves, challenging the pride of many professionals. Now, when arguing about questionable moves it is no longer enough to use authority and won titles as an argument. The opinion of the program must be taken into account.

Yes, you can no longer boast of playing a game that no program can beat. But at the same time it gave a breath of fresh air to all players, dramatically adding food for thought and reconsidering the very basics. Moreover, thanks to the programs, electronic boards began to appear, where the strongest bots were embedded. In addition to playing against the computer, it became possible to analyse games, predict the next effective move and even play on popular servers.

Earlier, these tasks were solved using workarounds like igoki, which an average person would struggle to set up. But now, you can buy an electronic goban for $1000, where everything listed above comes out of the box, and it even includes built-in training programs categorized by skill levels.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
The IZIS AI Baduk Board is currently one of the most versatile electronic boards available.

And if you don’t like placing stones for your opponent, there is an even more functional robot – SenseRobot Go. It can do all the same things as IZIS, it doesn’t support English though. Nevertheless, the ability of not having to place stones yourself makes solving Go problems less tedious.

All such robots are connected with each other and you can play with a person who also uses such a robot. It is also cheaper than IZIS.

There are more affordable alternatives and even versions designed for children, featuring cute designs, and smaller boards.

It turns out to be a combo that you can’t get away from, and if you do, you’ll definitely come back: variety in choosing a set for the game, combined with the resulting benefits for the brain, the development of strategic thinking and interesting pastime. Sounds even too good, doesn’t it? But that’s not all.

Good and friendly community of players

I’ve highlighted this as a separate point because the community significantly differs from other interest-based clubs.

There’s an inexplicable feeling that a fool just can’t play such a complex and rare game, especially at a high level. It’s similar to communities of entrepreneurs where there are no boring individuals. Everyone is interested in something, creating something, communicates reasonably, and doesn’t freak out without reason.

When you sit down to play in person, you automatically switch on "samurai mode": politeness and concentration at their peak. You start with a slight bow and say "have a good game". Then, after a genuinely challenging and interesting match, you exchange contacts, inquire about each other’s interests, and are ready to open a joint enterprise. That’s how the Go community operates. In all my life, I haven’t met anything like it elsewhere.

Moreover, I am sure that even if you come to Japan, you can experience something similar. After all, it’s nearly impossible for a European to truly blend into society there. But if you come to a Go club and play a few good games, you immediately become a part of it. This is, of course, my guess, but judging by the feedback from those who have travelled to play in foreign Go clubs, it is close to the truth.

The ability to lose and not compare yourself to others

All novice players experience anger and frustration while playing their first 100 games because they don’t know how to lose. I used to be like that myself, and it’s okay. Once, I stopped playing for a couple of years because I lost dozens of games in a row. Still, I kept coming back because I realised if I gave up so easily in a game, how would I behave if I failed in real life?

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
If you still think that games are a waste of time and that there is nothing in common between gaming and life, I recommend reading the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

There are plenty of competitive disciplines out there. Back in my childhood, I was into competitive ballroom dancing, so I know a thing or two about competition. But it is one thing to take the place "N" of 50+ people, and quite another to lose in a one-on-one scenario. In the former case, the blow to your self-esteem and pride isn’t as harsh. Especially if these kinds of competitions happen only a couple of times a month. You can just be mediocre forever and not feel any discomfort. You don’t even think about pushing harder, like why haven’t I managed to secure the first place even once. A similar effect happens when competing as part of a team. It’s psychologically easier to spread the responsibility for losing among the other team members.

At the same time, a one-on-one game, completely independent of random factors, guarantees that there’s no one else to pass the blame onto. And there’s no third place here. It’s either win or lose. A competition lasting about an hour serves as a golden balance—not too long to blame fatigue, yet not too short to attribute everything to careless playing. In one day, you can end up losing dozens of times.

Moreover, if you don’t learn how to lose, you’ll never truly enjoy the process of playing. It works the same way in life. There will always be someone better, and obsessing over it can drive you into depression, which isn’t healthy.

Modern society promotes a culture of success, emphasizing the need to compete, win, and achieve. But to genuinely be happy, you need to know how to live life. You’re born to live, so enjoy the process. If you can’t handle defeat, you will never enjoy the process. All the shades of life will be tinted negatively, all because of the emotions triggered by losing and comparing yourself to others.

Where to play live and which server to choose for online play

Everyone chooses how and where they prefer to play. Personally, I hardly ever play offline because I prefer playing Go online on a computer, and I do not want to go far away. But there are those who solely use mobile apps, attend clubs, or combine everything, even adding tournaments to the mix.

Playing live and finding a club

It’s always more atmospheric, interesting and visually appealing when you have the chance to play in person. Especially if you are new to the game. It’s easier to explain the rules, it’s nice to feel the stones and generally you can gesticulate actively over the board to explain certain aspects of the game.

All important information can be found on the baduk.club map. The black color on it represents club meetings, the white color represents players and the orange color represents tournaments.

If there are no people, tournaments or clubs near your location, then register on the site and create your own spot. That way you will be noticed by other people who will contact you and you will play together.

Don't be shy, the more players in the world the better for everyone. I know people who use this map when they go traveling.

Playing on online servers

If you do not have a Go club in your area, then online servers are the only and most convenient way to play Go. The most popular are listed below:

ColorGoServer is worth mentioning separately. This is a cartoonishly colourful English-language server where influence is visually displayed. The 9×9 game at the top of this article is from there. The skill level is about the same as on OGS, but there are not many people there, and the game is mostly played by correspondence. Still, it’s sometimes fun to load SGF and turn on the influence visualisation for clarity.

Web versions of online servers

Separate from the rest are servers where you can play without installing anything. There aren’t many, but they exist.

OGS (Online Go Server). It's a western server. It’s convenient for correspondence games, allowing 1-5 days per move, and analyzing games is straightforward by simply sending a link, without dealing with SGF editors and files. There are many functions on the server, so if something is not clear read the documentation.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Essentially, this is the only popular server for for English-speaking players. Go to the site and play, inside there are tournaments, challenges and communication. Compared to KGS, the conveniences are obvious.

Toyo Igo. It's the web version of the Tygem server. Although everything is in Japanese, to start playing, it’s enough to translate a couple of buttons using Google Translate. If it’s still unclear, you can check their YouTube channel where they demonstrate what buttons to press to start a game, analyse the game with AI, or switch servers.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
For me, this is the most aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly web server among all available options. Moreover, Tygem is second only to Fox in terms of the number of players.

YikeWeiqi. It's a popular Chinese server, similar to OGS. Europeans rarely play on it as everything is in Chinese. However, if you want, you can read a guide to figure things out.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
They say 5-6 dans on this Chinese server play at the level of a 9 dan on Fox. And sometimes the drawing of the board is glitchy, but it is still a perfectly playable platform.

You can also play against the bot Cosumi, which is a great alternative to web servers for beginners. You can choose different boards and difficulty levels, so it's great for beginners.

Playing on mobile apps

Since playing on the computer is not always convenient, here are links to mobile apps:

Which server to choose

If you are a novice, begin with small boards on GoQuest.

If you have an average kyu level and play on a larger board, it’s advisable to go where there’s a larger player base — Tygem or Fox.

I don’t recommend to go to KGS, OGS or Wbaduk as a beginner, because there the entry threshold is higher than on Fox and Tygem. IGS is something in between all the servers in terms of game strength, but there are not many people there either.

It is difficult to start playing with obviously strong opponents. After all, you have just started to learn the game and can’t find opponents of your level. When you lose 100+ games in a row, it takes you out of the game. I quit the game for 1.5 years after a huge losing streak. I thought I wasn’t cut out for Go, but it turns out I just needed to change the server. At the time, there was no one who could tell me that.

To get a rough idea of the strength of the players on the above servers, see the picture below. ColorGoServer is not here as it is a new one, and the levels in Yikeweiqi are like on Fox.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Comparison of the game strength by server and country. You can read more about how the comparison was made on the official page.

How to progress and become a strong player

I don’t consider myself a high level player. At the time of writing I have 3 dan on the Fox server. I’m not a specialist, but I understand enough to get anyone to dan level.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Prufs. It’s funny that while I was writing this article – I beat my own record and gained several stones.

Some teachers have their own "secret" teaching methods which, for some reason, no one reveals to the public. When I started playing there was almost no material in the Internet. Players were defeated by every computer, books had to be collected in forums from the 90s, there were no articles, no streamers, there was no place to buy a game set, and it was almost unreal to find someone in person who knew the game. It’s easier now, but there are still some difficulties. No one has told me how to progress yet. No training manual, no system, no recommendations. You can pay trainers from Go clubs who will teach you endlessly or do whatever you want. So I’ll take the liberty of telling you about it.

All ways to becoming a strong player boil down to three approaches: academic, problem-solving and game-based.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Each approach has its pros and cons, but which one you choose will depend on your goals.

Academic approach. We study game theory, apply it in practice in games with people, analyse games played with a bot and solve problems. This is the most competent and appropriate, a bit boring though. This is how professionals learn and there is no limit to how strong you can be.

Problem-solving approach. Solve hundreds of problems every day over a long period of time. On the board, actively struggle and calculate each step as far as possible until you are sure of your course. This is how you can get to 1-3 dan. It becomes difficult to go beyond that because it’s easier to read and implement something than to search for a solution and spend valuable time.

Game-based approach. We don’t solve anything, we don’t study anything, we just play as much as possible and learn from mistakes. When I see accounts of people with 50,000+ games on the server, that’s them (sometimes it’s club accounts). The downside is that progressing this way can be very slow and lengthy. Most likely, your ceiling will be around 5 kyu to 1 dan. So, this is the laziest and slowest method.

You can and should mix approaches, depending on how much free time you have. I would not take into account the playful approach at all, as it is hard to call it a training system, but I have a lot to say about the other two approaches. I’ll start from simple to complex.

The problem-solving approach. How I taught my friend to play Go better than me

When I started playing, I promoted Go in every possible way to people I was close to. One of those people was Yuriy, who insistently refused to learn the game. However, after a few months of explaining the benefits, watching Onelastgoodbye streamings and "Hikaru no Go" anime, he started playing.

Unlike me, he wasn’t lazy. By solving free go problems with Wbaduk and selectively watching videos of streamer dwyrin he reached 5 dan on Tygem server. I think that’s pretty good. He just committed himself daily, unlike me, and that’s why he became stronger than me.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
But I managed to beat him one time. It only happened once, so I'm bragging.

Moreover, solving problems forms the foundation of strength in Go. If you can’t calculate at least three moves ahead, it’s challenging to play a real game. Because you can’t foresee the consequences of each move. So, solving problems is simply a training exercise.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
To avoid confusion, focus on the KGS or OGS server levels.

If you are lazy and want to keep your brain in good condition, you do not have to play Go but only solve problems. Even these small steps will give visible results.

Although it is better to play, for example, on a 9×9 board. GoQuest app is perfect for this. There’s so little space on the board that the whole game comes down to calculations. Even I have 700+ games played on GoQuest, because the game takes a maximum of 6 minutes due to time limitations. I play while I’m waiting for pasta to boil, travelling on the bus, resting between approaches at trainings, even when I’m in the bathroom. The game flows quickly, which means it’s not so scary to play and not so frustrating to lose. This is an important factor if you are a beginner.

What to solve to become a strong player

At the end of the article, I created a list of useful sources where you can find platforms with go problems: websites or apps. It’s important to understand that if you don’t plan to become a professional player, the entire base of game calculation and all typical situations can be found in Life and Death books and Tesuji books. Here are the most popular and useful ones:

If you’re worried about everything being in hieroglyphs while reading books, don’t be. After each problem there are diagrams with answers. They are enough to understand which answer is right and which is wrong. And if you suddenly want to read Asian books, the free translator DeepL will help you. It works on neural networks and in my opinion translates better than all available analogues.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Here’s how the interface looks: simply download the translator, select the text, and press Ctrl + C + C. It offers the option to translate.

I believe the challenges posted above cover all commonly encountered forms in the game, all the way down to the 4-5 dan Tygem or Fox servers. I'm used to learning Go from Asian material, but English-speaking audiences have their own alternatives to add to the list above. Here are the materials I've enjoyed and can recommend:

Go problems for beginners. There are a lot of simple problems in a Chinese collection from 30 to 1 kyu, often used as a test to determine a player’s skill level: 6000 Weiqi for Kyu players. These PDF files don’t include answers, so it might require some effort, but there are plenty of them. I stumbled upon this collection on a Chinese forum where it is used to evaluate players’ strengths. There are also versions available in SGF format with answers, which you can download into GoGrinder program.

However, the best problem collections for beginners and intermediate-level players are on Go Child. If you can't pay for a subscription, just sign up through a new email each month. Each registration gives you 30 days of full access.

The level of play on the server and the level of play written in the problem books may not match, it’s okay. And don’t try to solve only difficult problems! It’s better to have a lot of medium-easy ones than few but very difficult ones.

Go problems of your level. To avoid searching for suitable problems in book or SGF format, you can use the Chinese site 101weiqi. Inside there are several hundred thousand problems collected from different sources, sorted by topic, difficulty and moderated by the community itself. This is more than enough for daily practice.

To work conveniently with the website, you need to install an extension for Chrome or Firefox that translates the most important buttons. After that, you must register, specifying your game level in advance. Then, navigate to the site. There are a lot of activities available, but we’ll focus on the two main ones:

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what the certificate looks like, which I got by upgrading my account to 4 kyu.
  1. Passing the exam. This is the first button on the main page of the site. Here we see the exams from 15 kyu to 7 dan and start solving from the easiest one and go higher and higher. You will be given 10 problems, for each of which you have only 45 seconds. If you answer most of them correctly, you pass the exam and move on to the next level. You can retake the exam as many times as you want;
  2. Daily problems. The second button is also located on the main page of the site. Here we see a problem to be solved. We solve it, move on to the next one and so on until we get bored. The complexity of the problems depends on the level of the game, which is set in the account. The website will take into account all solved and failed problems of different levels and will eventually issue certificates starting from 14 kyu. A certificate is just a document. If you fail easy problems, you will be downgraded.
This is roughly how it looks like to solve problems on the site. Only 2 buttons, nothing complicated.

Go problems for different stages of the game. You don't have to fixate on one type of problem. For your playing technique to be strong, you need to develop your skills in a comprehensive way. There are 2 resources for this:

What the skill tree looks like. The more you solve one skill, the harder the problems get.
This is what the academy website and problem solving looks like on the OGS server. It's simple and it's free.

Algorithm for solving go problems. Often, newcomers are unsure how to approach solving a problem. You look at it, there’s plenty of free space, and it’s unclear where to start. If you face this issue, it means you need to brush up on theory. Here are the basic ways for killing or surviving groups:

Techniques for survival Techniques for killing
Increase eyespace Reduce eyespace
Taking keypoint Taking keypoint
Defend weaknesses Throw-in tesuji
Sacrifice Creating eyes inside group
Capturing stones Liberty shortage
Under-the-stones Under-the-stones
Connect-and-die Diagonal tesuji
Outside support Big eyes

If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, study the theory in these books:

There are excellent videos in Russian, which I have not found analogs in the English-speaking Internet and which cover all of the above in the table. Here are links for those who can use simultaneous translation via neural networks: Life and Death of Corner Groups Part 1, Part 2, and Rules of Life and Death of Groups on the Side.

Go problems in SGF

Below I attach SGF-files, which are suitable for solving problems via phone or computer. SGF is a special text format for Go, in which you can save games, go problems and even lectures in comments for each move. It can be edited with a text editor and opened with any Go reader, of which there are many.

Best problem collections in SGF format:

If a problem has only one variation branch, then that is the only correct solution.

Some of the exercises have been taken from the public domain, so there may be some mistakes. You may find that there is no answer to a problem. This means that the problem exists, but there is no branch of variants. In that case, you’ll have to go back to the PDF file of the book and look for the answer, or solve it yourself. But don’t worry, such problems are rare.

Universal program for solving SGF problems

It is always better to solve problems using books. This way you avoid the temptation to press the first answer that comes to mind or to look at the hints. But if paper or PDF books don’t work, there is a special program that allows you to upload SGF files with problems – GoGrinder: on PC, on IPhone, on Android.

In order to help the program to find the correct answer in SGF-file there are 2 options:

  1. Mark all correct branches. The correct branch should have "RIGHT" or "CORRECT" in the comment. That is, C[CORRECT] or C[RIGHT]. All other branches will be considered incorrect. This is the format of the website entry goproblems.com;
  2. Mark all incorrect branches. Branches where there is a WV[] or a triangle TR[] are incorrect. Brunches where there are no such markers are correct. This is the Uligo record format.
Nothing complicated: move the folder with problems to the program directory → solve problems → save the progress of a particular set to a separate folder before exiting. I have a Russian language version of Windows, but I think the analogy is clear.

And remember to run the program on Windows only as an administrator, otherwise, you will find errors. If you face any difficulties, read the documentation on the official website.

The Conquest of Go. You can also put these problems into The Conquest of Go, which is available on Steam. There you can also add SGF files. This is essentially an emulation of GoGrinder, except that all files are stored in the cloud instead of locally.

I used to use this app myself for training and downloaded most of the problems I recommended above to the workshop. But GoGrinder is much more convenient, which is why it remains the top recommendation Alternatively, you can open SGF files with any SGF editor.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what my problem collections look like in The Conquest of Go workshop on Steam.

Problems on gaming servers

Only 2 servers have their own quality problem sets: Wbaduk and Fox. Solving problems on a server eliminates concerns about levels, formats, books, etc. Log in to the server, solve problems to get into the rhythm and focus, play a game, and then exit. It’s a classic routine that never gets old.

Wbaduk server. Visit their official website, register through the "Register" link at the top. Then download the client, look for the "Client Download" text on the right.

Then you need to install the client, enter your login details, and connect to any of the servers. Sometimes, the client may have an initial glitch and not log in on the first try. This can be fixed by choosing "Server" from the top and re-logging in. Next, find the large "Problems" button on the right. Choose your level from the list and start solving.

This is what the client with problems looks like. In the beginning there is a classic bug, it's normal. Problems are divided into 7 levels of complexity, choose your own and solve.

Fox server. You are given 1 minute per problem and several opponents. The winner is the one who gets the most correct answers in the shortest time. The opponents and difficulty of the problems are selected according to your level on the server.

Click on the crossed swords and play. While I solved 4 problems, some 4 dan managed to solve all 8 and took the first place.

The fist on the left is the player search, and the number below it indicates how many players are solving problems at the moment. The little book on the right will open all the problems that were solved with a mistake or that were not solved in time. The number under the book shows how many problems you have solved. The medallion with a number in the upper right corner of the window shows how many times you have beaten your opponents.

The academic approach: Go Gongfu system

The main distinction of the academic approach is the absence of bias towards one particular aspect. You don’t solely focus on problems or games, meaning you don’t spend 80% of your time on one thing. Instead, it’s about striking a balance, doing everything simultaneously: learning from coaches, solving problems, reading books, watching lectures, participating in tournaments, reviewing games with bots and humans, and more. Even in Go theory, your progress is well-rounded: you solve problems not only on life and death but also on other stages of the game. Hence, you consciously develop evenly in all aspects. Though time-consuming, it’s the best and quickest way to become a strong player.

However, when you’re alone, living in a small town, and lacking resources, you can attempt to simulate such an academic system. This is precisely what the Go Gongfu system aims to do.

The Go Gongfu System. "Gongfu" is a Chinese term that means supreme skill. It has many meanings, but in this case it is interpreted as hard work, diligence, unceasing development of skills, earning mastery and the eternal pursuit of perfection that can never be attained. This understanding is integral when approaching Go studies.

Its founder is Artem Avdeev, a coach and a 7-dan player on the Wbaduk server. He introduced me to this system when we were developing the Go Gongfu project. The basic directions are still the same, I just update it with new training materials and according to my understanding of how to grow.

The whole system is divided into 3 blocks: roots, trunk and crown. This is a kind of metaphor, where without roots there will be no trunk, and without trunk there will be no crown. So you have to study Go from bottom to top, the priority of knowledge is just like that. In each of the blocks there are circles, there are 9 of them in total – this is the minimum necessary set of topics to be learnt. In fact Go is much deeper, but I believe that the topics stated in the circles give 80% of the result and if you master them you will play at the level of top dan on any server.

Therefore, to play at a high level, it’s necessary to master the theory from all nine circles. I accompany them with the best and most relevant materials that elaborate on the topic. The learning algorithm is as follows: choose a circle you want to delve into → select a book from the suggested list → study it as long as it remains interesting and engaging → move on to the next circle or dive even deeper into the one you were studying. By doing so, you will gradually cover all nine circles. Initially, you’ll know a little from each circle, but over time, you’ll study all the recommended materials.

The designations used below:

Prepare yourself before you study seriously.

Before you start training in the Gongfu system reach at least 15 kyu.

For this purpose, the "Problem-solving" approach works excellently. Simply solve easy problems on Go Child or Wbaduk. On a 9×9 board, learn to connect your stones, identify threats of being eaten, and build viable groups.

Then move to 19×19 and go through your first 100 games. It will be challenging and painful, but it’s worth it. You’ll learn a lot from opponents and avoid falling into typical traps.

P. S. This is not mandatory but highly recommended to prevent losing interest due to excessive complexity.

Tree roots

The basis of Go is the calculation. I have already written above that without it it is impossible to predict the consequences of moves. Therefore, in this block the emphasis is on problems.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)

Circle 1. Life and death problems:

Circle 2. Endgame-Tesuji:

I think the best book for is Yose Dictionary by Kano Yoshinori. But it doesn't have an English translation, so we'll make do with what we have.

I don't understand why there is so little decent literature on such an important stage of the game in English. Mastering yose is the easiest way to raise the strength of the game in a guaranteed way. Yose is pure scoring, no complex and abstract concepts.

Circle 3. Tesuji:

Tree trunk

After learning to calculate ahead and familiarizing yourself with classic life-and-death situations, you can delve deeper into studying popular moves. How to attack, defend, reduce opponent’s territory, common local situations, and the preferable moves within them.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)

Circle 4. Opening Joseki:

I couldn't find any good materials about trick play in English. Maybe A Compendium of Trick Plays is good enough, but I haven't read it. In Russian, I use "Korean Baduk Federation: Encyclopedia of Hamete, Volumes 1-2". This is great material for those interested in learning trapping techniques to take an opponent by surprise.

Circle 5. Mid-game Joseki:

Circle 6. Principles of Attack:

This is what Josekifarm looked like, but now it's gone for more than a year.

For practicing Joseki, previously, I recommended Josekifarm, but it’s currently unresponsive. Three services can be used instead:

  1. Joseki section on the OGS server. Click "Play" in the top right corner and place a stone on the board. The bot will play one of hundreds of Joseki, and your problem is not to make mistakes. Mistakes are rare as strong enthusiasts worldwide contribute to the Joseki database.
  2. Joseki Trainer. This is a creation of Valentin Pimenov from our chat group. You need to repeat a Joseki without mistakes depicted on the right. Occasional errors might occur as the service is developed by a single person, and it’s challenging to cover everything.
  3. Go to Josekipedia to see and study variations not found in the previous two resources.

Hence, the logic behind the first two services is the same: click → make a mistake → memorize the answer → click again → profit! The third one is used as a reference book, if you haven’t found something in the previous two.

Tree crown

Once you’ve mastered the calculations and know typical openings, you can start thinking about strategy. It starts with the very first moves in the game. Understanding how to create your strategy and react to opponents’ popular strategies is crucial.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)

Circle 7. Basic Fuseki Theory:

Circle 8. Classic Fuseki Joseki:

I don’t recommend delving deeply into this section for those who have not yet reached 1-dan, you might get lost in the variations. Circle 7 with basic fuseki theory is more than enough for strong play at the beginning of the game.

This section serves more as a reference to understand the ideas behind old classic fuseki or if you wish to learn how to play against them. However, it’s not mandatory. At a high level of play, it's better to learn fuseki with AI and on pro games.

Circle 9. Positional Analysis:

There is another book on this topic in Russian: Ishida Yoshio - Positional Judgment. It is a regret that there are no other books on this subject in English.

How to review games with AI

With the rise of neural networks, reviewing games has become less tedious and complex. There are a few simple methods to find gross errors:

Use the graph: Play a game → click on AI analysis in the profile → observe where the graph drops, indicating the probability of your win. These are the key moments in the game; the more significant the drop, the worse the move you made → click to calculate by the bot and study the suggested variation. In the past, players had to pay enormous sums to coaches just for this type of analysis. Nowadays, there are books that partially simulate training for professional players.

How does the FineArt bot analyze the game on the Fox server.

Focus on the columns. Sometimes the game is approximately equal and strong drops are not visible on the graph. In this case, the display in the form of columns with the value of the move will help. The shades of red in these columns indicate the magnitude of the mistake made. In this way you can click through and parse all the moves up to the salad color, further is not necessary. This approach aims to reach a higher level by minimizing significant mistakes. This approach can easily be used up to 5-6 dan on the Fox server.

This is what the move value columns look like on the Tygem web server.

Use specialized programs and websites. More about this in the section on learning with AI. There are links to popular services, programs and guidance on how to use them all.

A great lecture and demonstration on how to parse pro's games or your own using KaTrain.

How to practice the Go Gongfu system

  1. We study the theory thoughtfully, and what is not clear lay out on the board and analyze the options;
  2. Solve problems regularly, ideally every day. Guidelines on what and how to solve can be found in problem-solving approaches;
  3. Allocate time for theory (1 hour) and problem-solving (1 hour) before engaging in 1-2 games on a server. Use these games to practically reinforce what you’ve learned from theory. It’s essential to focus more on learning and problem-solving rather than playing numerous games until reaching the 5-6 dan level.

The division into roots, trunk and crown is not strict. If you struggle with fuseki or want to delve deeper, there’s no need to wait until you’ve covered all materials in the roots and trunk sections. These segments are designed to offer a framework and some degree of sequence in self-study. Otherwise people will rush from one thing to another for years without ever mastering anything properly.

By following these steps thoroughly, it’s possible to reach 6 dan on Fox. I’m sure about this because I personally play at the 2-3 dan level without knowing much theory, josekis, etc. I rely on experience and an intuitive "game" approach, playing strategically.

For high-ranking dan players, the process is similar, but they are more knowledgeable about details and know various opening strategies and trap moves, where if you make a mistake, you immediately give away the advantage. At the kyu level you can still try to win back, but dans don’t forgive such things.

Checklist: key books and problem sets by game level

If you prefer self-study and don’t want to follow the Go Gongfu system, this list will help you to progress faster, avoid wasting time on unnecessary materials, and focus on what’s important. Of course, it is not necessary, because you can play like me rarely and on instinct for 6 years, then you will reach 1 dan. Or you may work hard and reach it within a year and a half—it’s up to you.

This section is based on a synthesis of my experience, recommendations from strong players, and the most frequently recommended books and problem sets on forums and in personal communication.

There are quite a few English books on Go. If you want more, read the reviews section on the lifein19x19 forum or on Justin Teng's Personal Go Book Collection. For Asian books, there are excellent reviews by Tchan001: chinese books, japanese books and korean books.

And if you’re interested in alternative opinions, read the "Guides" in the useful links section.

30 kyu — 20 kyu

Books: Any beginner’s book mentioned at the beginning of the article. Also, Mr Charles Matthews, Mr Seong-June Kim — Shape Up! or watch Dsaun's lecture about Go shapes on YouTube.

Problem sets: Any set suitable for your level.

20 kyu — 10 kyu

Books: Otake Hideo — Opening Theory Made Easy and James Davies — Life and Death.

Problem sets: Any at your level + elementary volume of Cho Chikun’s — Encyclopedia Life and Death.

10 kyu — 1 kyu

Books: Akira Ishida — Attack and Defense and James Davies — Tesuji.

Problem sets: Any at your level, Richard Bozulich — One Thousand and One Life-and-Death Problems, Intermediate and advanced volumes of Cho Chikun’s Encyclopedia Life And Death.

1 dan — 3 dan

Books: Everything in the "Trunk" and "Crown" sections following the Go Gongfu system. This includes diving into joseki details, studying fuseki, mid-game josekis, more complex tesujis, and life and death problems.

Problem sets: Weiqi Life and Death 1000 Problems, Lee Chang Ho — Tesuji volumes 1-6, and Lee Chang Ho — Tsume Go, volumes 1-6. You can start solving these sets earlier if you’re confident in your abilities.

Common principles for all levels

These books reveal universal principles and are useful to reread from 15 kyu all the way up to 3 dan:

A collection of everything that can be useful for beginners and not only. I have selected only the things that can really be useful. What is on the list is more than enough to play at a high level anywhere, keep up to date with news and get into the culture of the game.

I don’t see the point in recommending Telegram chats. Even listing bots separately is unnecessary since they pop up like mushrooms, and I have attached a link to the main list.

If you disagree with something or want to add something, feel free to write and attach a link with a description in direct messages. Let’s ensure there’s an updated list of what we regularly use among Go players, at least somewhere.

News

Communities

Guides

Websites with Go Problems

Online Schools

Coaches for Individual Training

Online tournaments

Mobile apps

iOS и Android

iOS

  • Go Problems – problems from goproblems website I wrote about above;
  • SmartGo One is the most advanced Go combiner. It includes SmartGo Kifu and GoBooks. Inside you can play with a bot, solve problems, analyse joseki, buy and read interactive books and watch pro games;
  • SmartGo Kifu – over 100,000 games of professional players. There are 2000 problems and an easy bot. Often used for recording games;
  • Go Eye is similar to SmartGo Kifu, but it encompasses a much larger number of games as it is connected to Go4go, which is the most extensive database of professional Go games;
  • 围棋死活宝典-单机版围棋入门围棋练习经典版 — is the largest number of life and death problems I’ve seen in one place (over 16,000 pieces and all with answers);
  • Tesuji – Go Game’s Exercises – 5333 tesuji from various problem sets, including all 6 volumes by Lee Chang Ho recommended above;
  • Life And Death – Go Game’s Exercises – 7,329 life and death problems from various problem collections, including all 6 volumes by Lee Chang Ho recommended above;
  • Yose – Go Game’s Exercises – a small collection of 800 yose challenges (the final stage of the game);
  • A Master of Go – all the world’s strongest bots in one app. The strength of the game strongly depends on the power of the device, nevertheless the neural networks are regularly updated;
  • iGoban is a beautiful simulation of a real board. There is no auto-counting inside, the bowls are located at opposite ends, and if you tilt the screen, the stones will roll off the goban;
  • Go/Chess Clock with sounds – clock/timer for live play or tournaments.

Android

  • Hactar Go – few free problems, the ability to upload your problems in sgf format and record games;
  • Go is a simple app for playing with a bot, or with a friend on classic boards;
  • Go4Go Free is a free database of pro games that synchronizes with Go4go website. Unlike the website, the app has a reduced functionality, but it is enough to watch games;
  • Magic Baduk Go-weiqi, igo – 1450 problems for all levels;
  • AhQ Go – Strongest Go Game AI – inside there are bots KataGo and LeelaZero, which game strength depends on the power of the device. You can analyse games and play on a 19×19 board;
  • GoGrid Master is a full-fledged application with all the basics: modern strong bots and a full-fledged SGF editor with the ability to solve problems;
  • Badukam – counts points through your phone’s camera. Convenient if you can’t calculate it yourself;
  • Baduk AI — it's a free application for analyzing games by bot;
  • BW-Go is an sgf file editor. You usually need it to save your games played live;
  • Guess the Move (Go Problems) – problems where you have to guess the next move played in the games of professionals;
  • Hayago – Chess/Go Clock, Go Game Clock or Clock for Go — it's a clock/timer for byo-yomi customization, suitable for tournaments or live games with a time limit.

Games on Steam

E-books

See how others play + lectures

SGF editors

Training with AI

Go Shops

Movies and TV series

Talking about the game of Go on Youtube

Additional useful websites

What I've done for the development of the game

Almost any Go player considers it his sacred duty to popularize the game and I am no exception. This is especially noticeable if the game is really useful and satisfying. Good things always want to be shared, especially here it’s a win-win situation for both sides. More people learn about the game → more people start playing → more interesting opponents appear → more competition appears → where there is competition, there is development of the industry.

Apart from constantly mentioning Go in my articles, conversations, and teaching newcomers, I’ll share four stories that hold more significance.

Go's training in the army

By law, every teenager in Russia must serve 1 year in the army, and I was no exception. It was a long time ago, but still. Before I joined the army, I planned to play Go on a 9×9 board blindly, by myself, so I wouldn't get stiff.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what our games looked like.

I got out of it in various ways. At the KMB (young fighter course) I found a chess player who taught me chess and I taught him Go. In a checkered notebook we drew two boards: for chess and for Go. And the pieces with stones were cut out with a pen, carefully tracing the contour. In this way we sometimes managed to play secretly from the sergeants.

When the KMB was over and I was transferred to the battalion, it was much stricter there. At first I had to make do with paper and a pen, I drew in a notebook, I had to memorize which stones were dead, because they could not be erased. It went on like that for several months.

But despite all the difficulties, in the last six months of service I managed to bring a magnetic board, where I laid out on paper kifu interesting games of professionals and as I could explain the flow of the game. Moreover, my platoon commander was even interested and I played a few games with him.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
The board I used to teach the guys in the army to play on. The paper reads «M.Y. Kryukov, Grenade Platoon, 2nd Squad».

When one of my coworkers was going home, I gave him this magnetic set with my contact information, Cho Chikun's problems, and some kifu games of pros. Some of the people I told about the game still play it, albeit not often. if not often.

Go Gongfu project

In 2017, together with Artem Avdev, I launched the Go Gongfu group on Vkontakte (It's like Facebook, only better). The plan was to make a platform where everything is collected and structured: the author's system of training from zero to dan, streamers, movies, training materials of foreign authors and not only. In short, everything that concerns Go. After all, at that time in Russia, almost all communities of similar topics were just dumps with a lot of reposts from smaller, local schools.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
An example of how the subtitles were translated, where the AlphaGo parts were analyzed.

The project broke up due to stupidity, as we did not agree on the rights to the project and further development. Everything was based on bare enthusiasm.

World Go Championship

My partner and I used to brand clothing for businesses and when I heard about the championship, I offered my services to Mikhail Emelyanov, the president of the championship.

The main message was that I am a stakeholder from the players' community who wants to do a beautiful and high-quality job for his own people. Knowing the market and the attitude of contractors to clothing, I did not want to make such ugly things. Besides, we are the best in the market of thermal transfer film, as it is manual labor and large companies do not bother and make poor quality.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Vector images for garment printing designed in my company RitterBrand.

This is what the vector images specially designed for the Go 2020 World Cup look like for free. Most of them had to be drawn from scratch or redesigned, as the design was not adapted for printing on clothes at all.

By the way, did anyone notice what game is on the board between the two tigers? It's Lee Sedol's 4th game against AlphaGo, the 78 move tesuji that was the deciding move and allowed the human to beat the machine. I thought it would be in theme at an event like this. Especially since these pebbles can be felt on your clothes, they are separate from the board, the white and black stones are different to the touch as everything is handmade and it's a premium piece product.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
Some of the clothing samples that were at the meeting with Mikhail Emelianov.

But the Coronacrisis came, the championship was postponed and we were asked to wait. To make a long story short, the clothes didn't work out, the person in charge changed, and the championship was a one-color shit. Well, at least I have cool samples at home :)

Go player chat

After publishing the first version of this article in Russian, there was a lot of thanks and feedback. At that moment I thought, why not create a place where people from different cities and countries could communicate and ask questions about the game in real time? The Go community in Russia is fragmented into small chat rooms of local clubs, and there is no single place where you can ask something. That's how the chat in Telegram was born, which already has about 1000 people, a lot of different activities and is growing naturally.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what Russian chat looks like from the inside and this is only a small part of it. Initially, the chat room was small and developed depending on the needs of the audience.

In order to get feedback from English-speaking readers I also created a chat where you can talk about the game and not only without discrimination and without discussing politics and religion.

If you are already playing or interested in the game, join our chat on Telegram. It was created so that players can chat and ask questions about the game in one place.

When you’re bored with the classic Go and want some variety

When you’re tired of playing by the standard rules, there are alternatives that add fun or complexity to the classic game.

Pair Go. Everything is the same as usual, but it’s played by 4 people at the same board. 2 on one team, 2 on the other. Players on the same team are not allowed to talk during the game and take turns.

Rengo. Same as Paired Go, but teams can have more than 2 people. That is real games of 5×5 at one board or more.

One Color Game. Classic rules, but both play the same color. You have to memorize where your stones are and where your opponent’s are.

Blind Game. From the name it is already clear that the game is played by representing the board in your mind, calling the coordinates out loud.

Simultaneous play. Play more than two games at the same time. That is to put one move on each of the boards and so on in a circle.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
It is possible to combine some of the above methods. The photo shows a simultaneous session of one color Go by Camí Levek from France.

Above mentioned are variants of the game according to classical rules, but with various complications. However, there are even more unusual games based on Go. I haven’t tried it myself, but I know that some clubs play it as well:

  1. Dango or Go Poker. The most popular of the unusual Go-based games. Check out how the Koreans play it;
  2. Quantum Go. Read how physicists came up with it or watch a video on how to play it right away;
  3. Multicolor Go. When several people play on the same board with different colors. For such games even made a special site – Dipgo. There is also go.kahv.io, where you can play with friends and create similar parties;
  4. And much more. Just look at how many things you can make using Go board and stones.
Here are more examples of how you can divert from the classic game of Go.

Go – not dots and not renju (gomoku)

These games are superficially very similar and therefore they are often confused with Go. Let’s understand in detail what the difference is.

Dots. Some readers might confuse Go with dots, which were played on paper in school years. They say that surrounding a stone and eating it is exactly like in Go, except that the board is not limited by 19×19 lines. But it’s not that simple, and here’s why:

  1. The main goal in Dots is to capture your opponent’s points, while in Go it’s to capture territory. In Go, you can win without eating a single stone;
  2. Capture happens in different ways. In Dots – any closed line at any distance. In Go – only closely and by certain intersections (group breaths, dama);
  3. At the edge of the field, points cannot be captured, but in Go they can;
  4. Compensation for the first move of the game in Go there is, but in Go there is not;
  5. In Go, captured stones are immediately removed from the board, while in dots – remain on the playing field. Hence the consequence – the territory with the opponent’s stones captured in points does not participate in the further game, in Go it does.

This is only what I know, as I have played only 1 time in dots. There are probably more differences. Strategically and tactically they are completely different games, at least because of the different rules. They are superficially similar only in the way of eating, but Go is much deeper and more complex. That’s why the tournament field in dots is 4 times bigger than the Go field.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what a game of dots looks like. 2 colors, checkered paper and whoever eats the most wins.

Gomoku. The second game that Go is confused with is Gomoku or Renju. It uses a similar board, similar stones, but the similarity ends there. The goal of the game is to build 5 stones of your color in a row. So it’s just another variant of the game of tic-tac-toe.

All about the board game Go (Weiqi, Baduk, Igo)
This is what a game of Gomoku (Renju) looks like, where Black won by building 5 in a row.

Conclusion

There are too many words in this article, so here are my tips in a nutshell:

The game is a great alternative to chess and other intellectual games. It’s also perfect for those who like puzzles. Why solve a few Sudoku puzzles when there are tons of life and death problems? Besides, you can use this knowledge in a real game if you want.

In some countries, few people know about the game, and the lack of a normal training program scares newcomers. I wrote this article for them. If you like board games, I recommend that you at least try to play. I have given all the basic material in the article and will continue to update it, as well as the Russian language version.

If you liked the article and it brought tangible benefits, you can always support the author with a dollar. After all, financial support is the best way to say "thank you".

Donate