Go, A Game of Infinite Possibilities

Go is an ancient abstract strategy game which is played on a wooden board consisting of a 19 x 19 matrix by two opponents alternating the placement of black and white stones. It originated in China thousands of years ago where it was called Wei-Qi. It spread throughout the Far East and underwent further extensive developments in both Japan, where it is known as I-Go, and Korea where it is known as Baduk.

Go is a territorial war game that has as its aim the accumulation of territory obtained by surrounding empty points on the board. The rules are extremely simple and accessible, but the intricacies of gameplay can be extremely complex due to the virtually infinite possibilities. The subtle combination of intense concentration, abstract reasoning, and intuition, can take a lifetime to master.

Go is not exclusively an intellectual pursuit, however. It is also a grand aesthetic achievement. As one author so aptly stated, "The unfolding of geometrical patterns, the interaction of the basic elements of line and circle, stone and wood, and the meshing of grand-scale opposing strategies make go an artful game." It is this combination of artistic and intellectual qualities which has captivated players of all ages and capacities and kept them in the pursuit of mastery throughout the millennia.

To learn how to play, read The Way to Go by Karl Baker or come to a club meeting for a demonstration.

Shusaku, The Saint of Go

Our club is named after Honinbo Shusaku (1829-62), a legendary Japanese Go player of the Edo Period, the Golden Age of Go. Shusaku is widely considered to be one of the greatest Go geniuses in history and is the second person to receive the title of Gosei or "Go Saint", the first being his illustrious predecessor Honinbo Dosaku. He is most famous for his perfect record of nineteen successive wins in the annual castle games played in the presence of the shogun, a record unparalleled by any other player. Ishida Yoshio, a contemporary professional whos own rise to Honinbo is chronicled in the book, The 1971 Honinbo Tournament, made the following comments about Shusaku:

"Shusaku would read out all the possible variations, then play straightforwardly, making the simplest move, if he thought it ensured a win. This way of playing is only possible if one has a clear understanding of the principles of go and is blessed with superb positional judgement, and it also requires considerable self-confidence. On those rare occasions when he got into a bad position, he would display tremendous strength in fighting his way back into the lead. The castle game with Ito Showa in 1850 is a good example of a game in which he reveals his latent strength... Another feature of his go is his flexibility and willingness to experiment. Modern go is still far from surpassing Shusaku."

A standard collection of Shusaku's games with commentary and biographical information can be found in the book, Invincible: The Games of Shusaku edited and translated by John Power. Here is a collection of Shusaku's games. Further information can also be found at Sensei's Library.