The Game of 'Weiqi' or Go!


Dr. Zhang Shutai introduces the ancient game of Go!

Some four thousand years ago, a board game was invented in China. Legend has it that it was Shun, the first monarch to decide that China's monarch would be succeeded by the first son, who invented the game to broaden his own son's mind and develop his intelligence to prepare him for the life when he would inherit power. Today this game of war and compromise, magical yet sometimes frightfully complicated, is the oldest in the world. Its name is Go, or Weiqi in Chinese.

The game reached Japan and Korea a thousand years ago, and during this century has spread throughout the world. There are an estimated twenty five million players of all different backgrounds.

Go is not only a board game, but is also regarded as one of the four most important arts in China and most Asia countries, ranking alongside music, calligraphy, and painting. In China and Japan professional Go players enjoy the high prestige of top snooker players here, and are treated as heroes when they win an important tournament. In China children learn how to play Go from a very early age, especially if their parents are players.

Players say that during a game of Go they can have all the emotions felt during the course of a normal life. It is said that whilst playing the game generals have thought up strategies for surrounding enemy forces; politicians are inspired with ways in which to retain power, poets have concentrated their minds on the harmony and chaos of nature; and students find everything else easy to learn after the intellectual challenges of the game.

Go is played on a square, squared board, 19 squares each way. The board is empty to begin with. There is a set of white and black discs, called stones. Black and white start establishing themselves. The object of Go is to gain control of territory, a place where your opponent cannot enter without 'suffocating'. The basic rules are quite simple: when one stone or group of stones are completely surrounded, it is considered 'dead' and is taken off the board. Stones never move off the board unless captured like this. The position of groups of stones, their interaction, and the way they occupy the space is of paramount consideration. There are 10,700 possible variations of the game more than chess - which makes it difficult to imitate by computer.

Now Go is getting more and more popular in Europe. Grand Prix d'Europe, usually constitutes 16 or 17 tournaments in 16 countries, from October to August. The European Go Congress is held every summer.

There are Go clubs in most cities; for example, there is one at the University of London, which is probably the strongest club in Europe, but beginners are very welcome.

See Also :

Chinese Chess

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2001 reprinted from China Now 141, Page 20, 1992

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