by Adrian Mariano

Table of Contents

  1. Go resources. Where to get the FAQ. What is the archive site?
  2. What is go?
  3. What do those words mean?
  4. What books should I read?
  5. Where can I get go equipment, books, etc?
  6. How does the ranking system work?
  7. Is there a go club in...?
  8. What is the IGS? NNGS? How do I use them?
  9. How do I play games by computer?
  10. What are the different game record formats and how can I display them?
  11. What programs can I get to display go game records?
  12. What are the differences between different rules?
  13. What public domain programs can I get to play go?
  14. What commercial programs can I get to play go?
  15. How strong are the commercial programs?
  16. What computer go tournaments exist? What are the prizes?

1. Go resources. Where to get the FAQ. What is the archive site?

Many FAQs, including this one, are available on the archive site rtfm.mit.edu in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers. The name under which a FAQ is archived appears in the Archive-name line at the top of the article. This FAQ is archived as games/go-faq. Note that FAQs are available at this site, but NOTHING ELSE. This is not the general Go archive site which is described below. FAQs are also available by WWW using http://www.smartpages.com/faqs/.

If you do not have ftp, you can request messages from rtfm by using the local mail server. Send mail to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu containing the line "send usenet/news.answers/games/go-faq" to get this file. Send a message containing "help" to get general information about the mail server. The rtfm mail server can ONLY be used to obtain FAQs. It cannot be used to get files from the go archive site.

This FAQ is also available on the go archive site: bsdserver.ucsf.edu(

The go archive site (bsdserver.ucsf.edu) has several megabytes of go releated materials, some of which are mentioned below. You can log into the archive site with the username 'ftp' and any password using the 'ftp' command. The files are in various subdirectories under Go. The file Go/README (posted on the first of each month to rec.games.go) contains a description of all files.

Filenames which appear below are relative to the Go directory.

The archive site maybe be accessed through WWW at http://bsdserver.ucsf.edu/go/ftpindex/top.html which gives the contents of the Go/README file. This includes a list of which files have been added to the archive site over the past three months. If you don't have ftp, send a message to ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com containing the single line "help" to get information about ftping by mail. This server allows you to connect to any ftp site and request files by mail. Be sure to tell it to connect to bsdserver.ucsf.edu if you want to get go files. If you absolutely cannot get the mail server to work, send an email request to adrian@bsdserver.ucsf.edu and I will mail you the files. When making such a request, be sure to explain why you can't use the mailserver or you will receive a form letter.

The following mirror sites are available:


Gopher is an alternative to ftp. If you have gopher installed, you can connect to gopher://philosophy.cwis.uci.edu:7016, possibly by typing gopher philosophy.cwis.uci.edu 7016 at a prompt. This is the UCI Philosophy Gopher. If you follow the menus

The World of Philosophy
Games by wire

you will reach the go options, which include access to this FAQ, as well as access to the archive site.

There are many WWW go sites out there. This list includes just a few
sites. Ken's page is an excellent index of many other Go sites.
Ken Warkentyne's page: http://ltiwww.epfl.ch/~warkent/go/
Jan van der Steen's page: http://www.cwi.nl/~jansteen/go/go.html
Questions, comments, and corrections should be sent to adrian@bsdserver.ucsf.edu.

2. What is go?

Go is a two player strategy board game. Players take turns putting black and white pieces (called stones) on a board. Stones are placed on the intersection of the lines on the board, and can be placed on the edge or in the corner. Once played a stone can not be moved, but may be captured by the other player. A player can pass at any time. Go is generally played on a 19 by 19 board, but smaller boards such as 9 by 9 or 13 by 13 are used by beginners or for shorter games. The object of the game is to surround territory and/or your opponent's stones. The game ends when both players pass. Under Japanese rules,each intersection surrounded and each prisoner counts as a point. The player with the most points wins.

TAKEani.gif (3551 bytes)An empty intersection adjacent to a stone (orthogonally) is called a liberty. For example, a single stone in the middle of the board has 4 liberties. Stones that are adjacent form groups. Every group must have at least one liberty. When a group's last liberty is filled it is captured and removed from the board.

The stones in Now the black (#) With one move, this group have group has only white captures the seven liberties. one liberty. black stones. It is illegal to make a move which recreates a preceding board position with the same person to play (to prevent loops). The simplest repeating position is called a ko.

KOEXAMP.gif (1432 bytes)This is an example of a ko. One of the White stones can be captured by black. When a stone can be captured it is said to be 'in atari'. If we didn't have the ko rule, then Black and White could repeatedly capture one stone in this situation, creating a loop.

When a group of stones can never be captured, it is 'alive'. Stones

can live either with two eyes or in seki. SEKI.gif (2477 bytes)

EYESEX.gif (1510 bytes)

The white group in This is a seki situation. this diagram is at the If either Black or white edge of the board. It plays in one of the two open has two holes or 'eyes' spaces, then the other player can inside, and therefore capture. Therefore, neither cannot be captured. player will play here.

It is advantageous to make the first move in a game. To offset this advantage, extra points are usually subtracted from black's score. These points are called the 'komi'. The komi is often set at 5.5 points, which makes tie games impossible.

More detailed introductions to the game are available from the archive site in postscript (RULES.PS.Z) and in Smart-Go format (RULES.SG). Beginners can also get comp/igo.zip from the archive site. This is a stripped down version of Many Faces of Go for the IBM PC which includes play on the 9 by 9 board and some instructional material.  

3. What do those words mean?

Go discussion in English typically uses many japanese go terms. The most common ones are:

A much longer list can be found on the archive site in info/definitions.Z.

A massive dictionary which translates between Japanese, English, Chinese (pinyin), Korean, Dutch, German, French, Swedish and Italian can also be found on the archive site in prog/intergo-1.11.tar.Z.

4. What books should I read?

Beginners may want to start with "The Magic of Go" by Cho Chikun or "The Second Book of Go". The four book series "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" is good, as is the Elementary Go Series. A lengthy list of books is on the archive site: info/books.Z

5. Where can I get go equipment, books, etc?

Ishi Press International Ishi Press International
1702-H Meridian Avenue, #193 PO Box 3288
San Jose, CA 95125 London England NW5 1RQ

Tel: (408)271-0415 Tel: +44(0) 171 284 4898
FAX: (408)271-0416 FAX: +44(0) 171 284 4899
Toll Free: (800)859-2086 gb@ishi-uk.demon.co.uk

Ishi Press
CPO Box 2126
Tokyo Japan
fax: +81-467-57-3066

The email address ishius@ishius.com has been used for communication with Ishi but has been inactive for several months as of 21 March 1996. I am told that they plan to start reading mail there "soon".

Kiseido Publishing Company (Japan)
CPO Box 2126
Tokyo, Japan
Fax: +81-467-57-3066
E-mail: (temporarily) SGT00076@niftyserve.or.jp

Kiseido (USA)
454 Las Gallinas Ave., #255
San Rafael, CA 94903-3618
E-mail: kiseido@crl.com
Phone/Fax: 415-499-1543 (Voice mail doesn't accept faxes.)

Open 9-5 M-F, fax is best 12am - 7am PST/PDT (GMT -8/-7 hrs)

European distributor:

Schaak en Gowinkel het Paard
Haarlemmerdijk 147
1013 KH Amsterdam, Holland
Tel: +31-20-624-1171
Fax: +31-20-627-0885
E-mail: zandveld@mep.tno.nl

According to Bill Franke, president of Kiseido (USA), the Kiseido Publishing Company in Japan has replaced Ishi Press (Japan) which is "essentially out of business". Kiseido Publishing Company publishes Go books in English. It sells software and equipment. Kiseido has reprinted two of the Ishi Press Elementary Go series (K10 In the Beginning and K12 Tesuji) as well as K28 Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go by Kagayama.

Go World is now published by Kiseido and distributed in the USA by Kiseido. Franke says that people with Go World subscriptions through Ishi should contact Kiseido and their subscriptions will be honored. Go World is US$24 for 4 issues in North America. In Europe, new subscriptions and renewals are handled by the European distributor.For Go World and Kiseido books in the UK, contact the British Go Association. (bga@acjamj.demon.co.uk)

 Another source for go equipment is

2255 29th Street
Suite 3
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310)392-7988
FAX: (310)392-7598
email: yutopian@netcom.com, yutopian@aol.com

Yutopian carries boards, stones, English video tapes, computer programs and books in Chinese and English. They publish The American Go Extra ($5 for 4 issues).

They have published 8 books: Killer of Go, Compendium of Trick Plays, Nie WeiPing on Go, Fighting Ko, 100 Challenging GoProblems, Utilizing Outward Influence, Tesuji and Anti-suji of Go, and 36 Stratagems Applied to Go.

Good Move Press has published a series entitled "Learn to Play Go". Two books are presently available. The first book comes with a punch out go set. Sample pages the tables of contents are available on their web site.

Good Move Press
122 Duane Street #4D
New York, NY 10007-1125
Tel: (800) 600-4373
Fax: (212) 346-9247

Products from Ishi, Kiseido, Yutopian and Good Move Press can be ordered from http://www.portal.com/~rww/top_go.html.

Crystalline Creations (formerly Toyogo) sells some books and a pamphlet called Instant Go Volume 1.

Crystalline Creations
P.O. Box 8289
N. Brattleboro, VT 05304
802-896-9449 FAX

Four foot teaching boards with magnetic stones are available from GMI. Contact rondoc@rain.org for more information.

6. How does the ranking system work?

The ranks are "kyu" and "dan". Kyu means pupil and dan means master, but there is no qualitative difference. The ranks are like positive and negative numbers (with no zero). A beginner starts out with a high kyu rank (20-30 kyu) and advances to the strongest kyu rank of 1 kyu. The next rank above 1 kyu is 1 dan (shodan), and the dan ranks proceed upward to 7 dan. On the 19x19 board, the number of handicap stones is the difference between the ranks. A 3 kyu gives seven stones to a 10 kyu. A 2 dan gives 2 stones to a 1 kyu. The professional go players have a separate dan scale which goes from 1 dan to 9 dan. The professional scale has finer gradations than the amateur scale: the difference between 9 dan and 1 dan is about 2 stones.

You can determine your strength only by playing aginast others with known strength. There are books like "Test Your Rating", but those tests are very unreliable.

On a 13x13 board, if the rank difference is "diff", then the following table gives the handicap and komi:

diff Handicap Komi diff Handicap Komi diff Handicap Komi
0 0 8.5 7 3 5.5 14 5 2.5
1 0 5.5 8 3 2.5 15 5 -0.5
2 0 2.5 9 3 -.05 16 6 5.5
3 0 -0.5 10 4 5.5 17 6 2.5
4 2 5.5 11 4 2.5 18 6 -0.5
5 2 2.5 12 4 -0.5 19 6 -3.5
6 2 -0.5 13 5 5.5 20 6 -6.5

Instead of trying to remember the table, you can use this formula to calculate these numbers: Let d be the difference in rank. Pick r so that (d + r) is a multiple of three. The number of handicap stones is (d + r)/3. The number of komi points is 3r - 0.5. On a full sized board, a handicap of 2 stones is about 15 points. The third stone is worth 11 more, and each additional stone is worth one point more than the last. Hence a five stone handicap is worth 15 + 11 + 12 + 13 = 51 points. A 9 stone handicap is thus worth 113 points.

Amature Rank
Professional Rank
1 - 3 dan 4 - 6 dan 7 - 9 dan
1 8 - 9 - -
2 7 - 8 8 - 9 -
3 6 - 7 7 - 8 8 - 9
4 5 - 6 6 - 7 7 - 8
5 4 - 5 5 - 6 6 - 7
6 3 - 4 4 - 5 5 - 6
7 <= 3 <= 4 <= 5

This is a chart showing the number of handicap Amateur stones needed for a rank real (non-teaching) game between amateur dan players and professionals. Max Golem who posted this chart to rec.games.go says, "If you want to find out how strong a pro really is, play him for money!"

7. Is there a go club in...?

Before asking the net, you should consult the appropriate lists of Go clubs which are on the archive site. All of the lists except the AGA list are in the info directory. They are:

aga/clubs.94 Clubs affiliated with the AGA
clubs.german.Z Clubs in Germany
clubs.ishi.Z Clubs on Ishi's mailing list
clubs.british.Z Clubs in Britain
clubs.australia.Z Clubs in Australia
clubs.sweden.Z Clubs in Sweden
clubs.canada.Z Clubs in Canada
clubs.chile.Z Clubs in Chile

The following lists are available via WWW:

Europe http://eiunix.tuwien.ac.at/~michael/go/europe.html
Australia http://www.adfa.oz.au/~dle/clubs.html
US http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/wjh/public/go/USClubs
Canada http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/~asbc/CGA/#GoClubs

8. What is the IGS? NNGS? How do I use them?

The IGS is operating from: igs.nuri.net 6969 ( 6969)
The NNGS is operating from: ra.york.cuny.edu 9696 ( 9696)

The European Go Server is operating from:

grizu.uni-regensburg.de 9696 ( 9696)
Chinese Go server: bbs.ncic.ac.cn 9696 ( 9696)

Internet go servers are the most popular way of playing realtime interactive go games by computer. The first and largest server is the Internet Go Server (IGS). If you can't find a go club then you can use these servers as electronic clubs.

You can connect to a server and look for opponents to play or just watch a game. To connect directly to the IGS from a unix machine, type "telnet igs.nuri.net 6969". The IP number is

When you connect for the first time, log in as "guest". In order to gain full access to the IGS you will have to register for an account.

Type "help register" to get information about registering. When connecting to the IGS, you must connect to telnet port 6969. Be SURE to use the port number 6969. Please be ABSOLUTELY sure to use the port number 6969. If you are on a VMS system, the port is specified with "/port=6969" after the tenet command. The IGS is also run on a site in France: flamingo.pasteur.fr (

Once connected to the IGS, you will need to use the help command to learn how to use the interface. There is NO other accurate information about the IGS available. Ancient (and hence innacurate) LaTeX and Postscript versions of the server's help files are available from the archive site as igs/igs.ps.Z and igs/igs.tex.Z. A more recent (but still outdated) copy of the IGS helpfiles is in igs/helpfiles.Z.

New users should read the file Etiquette on the archive site which explains how to behave when using the IGS, and when playing Go.

The server interface is quite awkward, so several client programs are available to ease your interaction with the server. They are all available on the archive site in the Go/clients directory:

igc0751.sh.Z ASCII client for Unix
xigc_v3.92.tar.Z X11 client
xgospel-1.10d.tar.Z X11 client
kgo11.tar.Z X11 client
kgo_vms_v11.tar X11 VMS client
cgoban-1.4.2.tar.gz X11 client
pcigc51x.exe IBM PC client WITH MODEM
tgigc35.zip IBM PC client for EGA/VGA WITH MODEM
igc075.zip IBM PC, ethernet with Clarkson packet drivers
jiango20.zip IBM PC client
gs1.46.sea.hqx Macintosh client
macgo.361.hqx Macintosh client
macgo.361.ppc.hqx Macintosh client for powermac
stigcbin-1.9.zoo Atari ST client
nextgo-NIHS.tar.Z NeXT client
amigaigc077.lha Amiga client
winigc71_16bit.zip MS Windows, modem or Winsock
wigc1_4.zip MS Windows with Winsock (without modem)
haicli10.zip Win32s client with Winsock

DOS users may wish to consult clients/help.dos for information on using either tgigc or pcigc.

Linux users may wish to use a utility called term which provides pseudo TCP/IP. This program is available from the linux archives.

Xgospel binaries for various machines are available from   ftp://ftp.ifi.uio.no:/pub/obh/xgospel.

To access IGS or NNGS from Compuserve, download compuserve's WinCIM. With this package, the Compuserve Internet Dialer will be used together with an IGS client. To access a server dial Compuserve using the internet dialer. When connected, start a client (like WIGC).

In order to use the IGS, you must be able to use telnet. You can pay to get this capability through Holonet. To find your closest number for a free demo, conneect by modem to 1-800-NET-HOLO. For more information, send email to info@holonet.mailer.net. Another service that provides telnet ability is Delphi. Call 1-800-695-4005 for more information.

For more help see http://www.well.com/user/mmcadams/igs.howto.html.

If you are interseted in running your own Go server, the source code for the NNGS is available at ftp://imageek.york.cuny.edu/nngs/src/.

9. How do I play games by computer?

Since computers make poor opponents, we use them to connect us to other humans. There are two types of computer games: email, and interactive. Email games can be handled manually, by creating a board in an editor, or only exchanging move coordinates. The other option is the use the unix program 'mailgo' which is included with mgt (mgt/mgt231.sh.Z). It sends Smart-Go records of your game back and forth, and invokes mgt for moves.

There are several ways to play interactive games. Probably the most popular is the Internet Go Server (IGS) which was described in the previous section. Another interactive options is the internet go program, available on the archive site as prog/inetgo72.sh.Z, which allows BSD Unix users to play interactive games with ascii text screens. The xgosh program (prog/xgosh17.sh.Z on the archive site) allows people with X-Windows to play interactive games with a graphical board. The two interactive programs are NOT compatible. A third program XMango (prog/xmango10.tar.Z) also permits interactive play with X. Windigo (prog/windigo0.zip) for MS Windows permits play over a LAN.

To help find suitable opponents, check out the go players email address list, available on the archive site as go-players, and also posted monthly.

There is a standard go modem protocol which is used by go programs for modem play. It is implemented in Many Faces of Go, Nemesis, Smart

Game Board and Telego (a shareware go modem program for the IBM PC). The protocol spec and sample code are available from the archive site as prog/protocol.Z. Fotland's program, Many Faces of Go for X Windows on HP machines supports two players on two screens.

The Imagination Network provides on line game players for IBM-PC owners with a modem. They have Go, Chess, Checkers, Othello, bridge, Cribbage, Hearts, as well as a Dungeon game and a multiplayer flight simulator. Graphics are pretty good, software is free. Connect charge is $12.95 per month for 30 hours. Call 1-800-SIERRA1 to sign up.

An electronic Go club is present on NovaNet, a Computer-Aided Learning system that is installed in schools. NovaNet uses a special terminal program, with color graphics, mouse and sound support. To find out more, contact Dietrich Schuschel at schuschel-dialup@nova.novanet.org or schuschel/dialup/nova. NovaNet accounts are available from Bill Strutz, (217) 244-4300. Cost is $2.50/hour usage and $10 for the terminal program (spec Mac, IBM, Sun, X format). The lesson name is goclub.

10. What are the different game record formats and how can I display them?

There are several different formats for game records. The two most popular formats are Smart-Go and Ishi "Standard" Format. Definitions for these two formats are on the archive site in info/smartgo.def.Z and prog/standard.sh.Z respectively.

The Liberty format is a binary format which is not common. Many of  the files on the archive site are presently in this format. They can be converted to other formats with prog/convert.tar.Z.

There is a program prog/sg2ishi05.sh.Z or prog/sg2ishi05.zip on the archive site which attempts to convert Smart-Go to Ishi format. It cannot handle variations, and has problems with the short form of Smart-Go. A second option is the SG2GO program contained in the prog/gobase20.zip utilities. This is available as C source or as an IBM PC executable and does handle variations. 

11. What programs can I get to display go game records?

The program mgt will display game records under Unix (either ascii or X11), MSDOS, MS-Windows, Atari ST or RISCOS. The Unix and MSDOS versions do not use graphics, however. The mgt program was created originally by Greg Hale at the request of rec.games.go readers who wanted an interactive program that would read a series of tutorial files posted to the net. The program was expanded by Adrian Mariano to edit and save game records. The purpose of mgt is to display and edit game records in Smart-Go format. It can be used to display a game board. Pieces can be placed and removed, and games can be scored. Mgt is in mgt/mgt231.sh.Z (Unix ascii), mgt/xmgt231.tar.Z

(Unix X11), mgt/mgt231.zip (MSDOS) mgt/stmgt.zoo (Atari ST), mgt/winmgt62_16bit.zip (MS Windows 3.x), mgt/winmgt62_32bit.zip
(Windows 95 or Windows NT), mgt/arcmgt101 (Acorn Archimedes).

Many other programs have been written to display and edit these formats:

Program OS formats edit? Where can I get it? mgt many sgf yes mgt/
wingo win sgf ? prog/wingo1.zip
yago win sgf,ishi no prog/yago08.zip
kifu win sgf yes prog/kifu10.zip
sgview dos sgf ? prog/sgview11.zip
gorecord dos sgf yes prog/record12.exe
telego dos ishi no prog/telego44.zip
tgigc dos ishi no clients/tgigc35.zip
goscribe dos ishi yes Ishi press ($60)
xgoban X11 sgf yes prog/xgoban-1.0.sh.Z
xsgfedit X11 sgf yes prog/xsgfedit-1.01.tar.Z
cgoban X11 sgf yes clients/cgoban-1.4.2.tar.gz
"go" unix ishi ? prog/go.sh.Z
NeXTGo NeXT sgf ? clients/nextgo-NIHS.tar.Z
Pon Nuki mac sgf,ishi yes prog/ponnuki10.hqx
smart go mac sgf yes prog/smartgo41.hqx
gob os/2 sgf,ishi ? prog/gob12.zip

(If you know whether a program can edit SGF format, but the table shows a "?" in that column, please send me email.)

The xgoban program is also available compiled for linux as prog/xgoban-linux.tar.Z. In addition to displaying Smart Go, this program can communicate with wally to provide a graphical interface.

Go Record can display chinese comments. The program sgview is written in German with both German documentation and German program text.

12. What are the differences between different rules?

Several minor variations in the rules can change the game slightly.  Scoring Under Japanese rules, the score is calculating by counting points of territory and subtracting the number of captured stones. Points in seki are not counted, even if they are completely surrounded by one player.

Under Chinese rules, the score is calculating by counting points of territory and stones left on the board. The number of captures is not counted. Points surrounded in seki are counted as territory and points shared in seki are counted as 1/2 point for each player.

Because the sum of the scores is always 361, only one color needs to be counted.

The komi for Japanese scoring is a number of points to subtract from black's score. With Chinese counting, the komi is a number of extra white stones to place in black's territory. Placing a white stone in black's territory gives white one point and deprives black of one point, so the total value is 2 points. A 2.75 stone komi corresponds to a 5.5 point komi.

In handicap games, the Japanese system makes no adjustment, but the Chinese system deducts half of the handicap from black's score and adds it to white's.

In the absence of sekis, and assuming that white plays last, these two scoring systems will produce the same score difference.

The big difference between the systems is that under the Japanese system, players are penalized for playing inside their own territory. This makes it difficult to resolve disputes about the life status of groups on the board at the end of the game. Until recently, the Japanese rules handled this by enumerating cases at great length.

A famous example is the "bent four in the corner".

# # . O # . . What is the status of the white group? If black (#)
# O O O # . . plays inside, then white must capture. Then black
. O # # # . . can start a ko fight. Only black can start the fight.
O O # . # . . If white plays, the white stones are dead. Therefore,
# # # # . # . black will not start the fight until the end of the
. . . # # # . game after black has removed enough of white's ko
. . . . . . . threats so that black will win the fight.

Under the old Japanese rules, the white group would have been ruled unconditionally dead. Under Chinese counting, the status of the group depends on the number of ko threats. If white has unremovable ko threats, the white group may live. A seki can provide an unremovable ko threat. The Nihon Ki-in adopted new rules in 1989 which remove the special rulings like the bent four ruling. The new rules say that to resolve life and death questions at the end of the game, you play them out on a different board. While playing these disputes, the ko rule is altered: the only legal ko "threat" is "pass". This means that direct ko fights are automatically won by the first player to capture. With this new rule, the bent four is still unconditionally dead.

The GOE rules use Chinese counting. Before 1991, these rules had a more complex way of counting shared points in seki. Instead of dividing them equally, they were divided in proportion to the number of stones each player had around the disputed point.
. . . . . With the pre-1991 GOE rules, this situation would have
. # # # # split the left point 2/3 for white (O) and 1/3 for black.
. # O O O The right point would have been divided evenly.
# # O # O So black would get 5/6 points and white would get 7/6.
# O O # O This method was abandoned because dealing with the various
# O . # . fractions was annoying.


Suicide is playing a stone which does not capture an enemy group, but does remove the last liberty of one of your own groups. Since your group has no liberties, it is immediately removed from the board. It is possible to use suicide to make ko threats available sooner. There are even situations where suicide plays a direct role in life and death problems.

. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .
O O O O O . . . . If suicide is legal, black lives in seki. If
# # # # O . . . . suicide is forbidden, all the black stones die.
. . . # O . . . .
O O O # O O O . . See games/suicide.sgf on the archive site for
# . O # # # O . . details.
# # O # . # O . .


The purpose of the ko rule is to prevent infinite loops in the game. The simplest way to do this is to forbid repeating a board position. This is generally called the "superko" rule.  The Japanese rules only prohibit immediate repetitions. If the players managed to form a longer loop, which can happen with three simple kos on the board, then the game is is replayed. This triple ko situation has arisen in professional games.

The GOE rules specify a very complicated ko rule involving a distinction between "fighting" kos and "disturbing" kos.

See info/ing.ko.rule.Z for some discussion of this rule.

Handicap stones

Japanese rules dictate that the handicap stones be placed on the star points in fixed patterns. Other rule sets simply give black free moves without restriction.

Pass stones

In order to bring Japanese counting and Chinese counting into agreement, the AGA rules dictate that whenever a player passes, that player must give a prisoner to the other player. This stone is a captured stone and will be counted as such if Japanese counting is used. AGA rules also require that white make the last move.

This allows life and death disputes to be played out on the board without changing the score, even though Japanese counting is used.

Note also that AGA rules do award points for surrounded territory in seki.

The full statement of the current GOE rules is on the archive site as igs/goe.rules.Z. The AGA rules are in aga/aga.rules.Z.

13. What public domain programs can I get to play go?

Very few public domain programs exist. Those that do are extremely weak. On the archive site, you will find comp/wally.sh.Z, which can be compiled anywhere. If you think wally is too strong, you can get the even weaker gnugo from prep.ai.mit.edu in pub/gnu/gnugo-1.1.tar.gz. If you have X11, you can get xgoban from the archive site (prog/xgoban-1.0.sh.Z) to act as a graphical interface to either wally or gnugo. A compiled version for linux is in prog/xgoban-linux.tar.Z. Macintosh users can try MacGo or Dragon Go (available on the archive site), though these programs are incompatible with some macs. Amiga users can get Amigo (comp/amigo.lzh on the archive site). Amigo has been ported to X11 (comp/xamigo.sh.Z) and to GEM atari (comp/gemamigo.zip). If you have access to an HP9000 either 680x0 based or HP-PA risc based, you can get Many Faces of Go for X11 from the archive site in comp/hp-xgo.tar.Z. Many Faces of Go is available commercially for other platforms and is one of the strongest Go programs. A restricted version of Many Faces of Go for the IBM PC which can play only on a nine by nine board is available from the archive site (comp/igo.zip). This program makes a good introduction to the game. EGO is a strong Go program which is distributed as shareware. The restricted version EZ-GO is at comp/ez-go.zip and can play on a full board but only with unbalanced playing styles.

14. What commercial programs can I get to play go?

The information in this section may be somewhat out of date. Prices or version numbers may be wrong.

Program Ver Price Platforms Supplier
Many Faces of Go 9.0 $59 dos Ishi
Star of Poland 3.1 $110 ? OPENetwork
Nemesis 5 $69 mac, dos, win Crystalline Creations
Go Intellect 5.0 $59 mac Yutopian
Explorer $25 mac Anders Kierulf
Handtalk 94.10 $59 dos Yutopian
Goliath $60 mac Ishi
Ego $25 dos Bruce Wilcox
GoTools 1.03 $59 dos Yutopian (USA), Thomas Wolf
Encyc Life/Death 1 $60 dos Kiseido
A demo version of Many Faces of Go which plays only on the 9x9 board is available free (comp/igo.zip). Many Faces comes in a Basic version which has play on 19x19 board, move explanations, suggestions, hints, 200 beginner problems, some commented pro games and go lessons from Zhu Jiu Jiang. For an additional $60 you can get the Deluxe version which adds a joseki tutor, game editor, problem solver, modem play, conversion from Smart Go format to Ishi format, and over 100 professional games.

Demo versions of Nemesis which only allow computer vs. computer play are available for mac, DOS and MS Windows on the archive site. (comp/nem-dos.zip, comp/nem-win.zip, comp/nemesis-mac.sea.hqx.)

Nemesis Go Master Delux includes a Joseki tutor and a life and death analyzer. It costs $139 from Crystalline Creations.  A restricted version of Ego is available at comp/ez-go.zip. The restricted version plays on a full sized board but with unbalanced playing styles. The full version can be ordered directly from Bruce Wilcox for $25.

Explorer by Marin Mueller is shareware. It is available from its home site ftp://ftp.icsi.berkeley.edu/pub/theory/mmueller/Explorer.sit.hqx or it can be obtained from the archive site in comp/explorer.sit.hqx. Contact information for Ishi Press, Kiseido Yutopian and Crystalline Creations appears in section 5.

215 Berkeley Pl.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
718) 638-2266

Anders Kierulf
Smart Game Board
P.O. Box 7751
Menlo Park, CA 94026-7751

Bruce Wilcox
8249 Shelter Creek Lane
San Bruno, CA 94066

GoTools by Thomas Wolf only does life and death problems. The program comes with 10000 problems, it can create new problems, and solve problems posed by the user. For an additional $39 you can get 12000 more problems and support for LaTeX printing of Go diagrams. Outside of the US, the program can be ordered directly from the author for 39 pounds. See the WWW page below for more information on this program.

Thomas Wolf
30 Ernald Avenue
East Ham
London E6 4NS
Tel: (+44)(0) 171 975 5493 daytime
(+44)(0) 181 470 6862 evening
email: T.Wolf@qmw.ac.uk

15. How strong are the commercial programs?

(Much of this section is taken from posts by David Fotland, the author of Many Faces of Go.)

It is difficult to rank the programs because they are all very inconsistent in their play. They may play a sequence of moves that look dan level, or solve a dan level problem during play, but then a few moves later they will make a move that a 20 kyu would never make.

Since none of the current programs can learn from their own mistakes, when the same situation comes up they will make the same bad move again.

A few years ago, the top program in the world (Goliath) claimed to be around 8 or 10 Kyu. Many Faces of Go and Nemesis claim to be 13 Kyu.

Poka claims to be about 17 Kyu, and Dragon Go is about 17 kyu as well.

These claims are generally based on games that are the first game the human has played against a computer. Nemesis has played in AGA rated tournaments for its rating.

At the 1995 FOST tournament a pro observed the games of the top programs and played against them. Based on this, Handtalk was awarded a 5 Kyu diploma, Go4++ a 7 Kyu diploma, and Many Faces of Go an 8 Kyu diploma.

David Fotland says, "I know someone who was having trouble beating Many Faces at 13 stones until I suggested he could beat it at 29 stones. He spent a few weeks trying odd moves and found some weaknesses, and now he has no trouble beating it at 29 stones. Each of the programs has different weaknesses, but they all tend to collapse tactically in a complicated position, so if attach and crosscut a lot you can usually win big."

1995 World Computer Go Congress Results This year's competition had a smaller than usual field of 10 programs. Since there were only 10 programs, and the results of the first 3 places were clear after 5 rounds, the sixth round was not played.

The top programs are still fairly close. Handtalk won all its games, but only beat Go Intellect and Go4++ by 9 points each. Go4++ beat Go Intellect by 15 points, and in 3 additional friendship games after the tournament, Go intellect won two (by 35 and 23 points), and Go4++ beat Go Intellect again by 60 points. Many Faces and Go4++ were not paired in the tournament, but in 3 friendly games afterwards, Go4++ won two and Many Faces won one.

Handtalk won NT$200,000 for first place, then went on to challenge 3 human experts at 15 stone handicap. The 15 stone prize has been attempted 4 times before (by Goliath, Handtalk, and Go Intellect) without success. This year, the human experts were 3 youth champions, 9 or 10 years old. They were given a few minutes to practice, then the games began. Handtalk looked like it was doing very well, then around move 100, a reporter stepped on the main power cord and all the computers shut down.

All 3 games were started from the beginning, and Handtalk went on to win 2 of the three games, losing to the 9 year old, and winning another 100,000 NT dollars. Handtalk immediately challenged at the 13 stone handicap and won 2 of three again, for another 133,333 NT dollars. Next year the Human challenge will be at 11 stones handicap.

1st, 5 wins, Handtalk, by Chen ZhiXing
2nd, 4 wins, Go4++, by Michael Reiss
3rd, 3 wins, Go Intellect, by Ken Chen
4th, 3 wins, Many Faces of Go, by David Fotland
5th, 3 wins, Stone, by Kao Kuo Yuan and Chih-wen Hsueh
6th, 2 wins, Explorer, by Martin Muller
7th, 2 wins, Sason, by Chang Ho Lee
8th, 2 wins, Big Stone, by Dong Chul Lee
9th, 1 win, Rex 95, by Han Jung Kim
10th, 0 wins, Right Thought, by Min Ho Kwak

Summary of results of computer go competitions:

This competition takes place every November, with a prize of about US$6,000 for first place. The top program gets to play a match against people at a handicap, for prizes from about US$6,000 to US$1.6 Million.

I include all programs that have participated more than once, or that finished in the top 4 places. Programs are listed in order of long term relative strength, with recent results weighted slightly higher.

87 - Ing, Taipei, Taiwan
88 - Ing, Taipei, Taiwan
89 - Ing, Taipei, Taiwan
89o - 1st Computer Olympiad, London, England
90 - Ing, Beijing, China
91 - Ing, Singapore
92 - Ing, Tokyo Japan
93 - Ing, Chendu, China
94 - Ing, Taipei, Taiwan
95F - 1st FOST Cup, Tokyo, Japan
95 - Ing, Seoul, Korea
87 88 89o 89 90 91 92 93 94 95F 95 rating
ZhiXing Chen Handtalk 6 2 1 3 1 1 2.3
Ken Chen Go Intellect 5 4 3 2 2 1 3 1 4 3 2.8
Michael Reiss Go4++ 10 2 2 3.4
David Fotland Many Faces of Go 4 8 7 10 6 4 2 3 4 4.2
Janusz Kraszek Star Of Poland 9 4 3 6 3 5 5 2 4 4.5
Mark Boon Goliath 7 3 2 1 1 1 3 4.8
Kao Kuo Yuan Stone 7 5 10 7 6 5 5 5.7
Dong-Yue Liu Dragon 2 2 8 12 4 3 6.1
Japanese team GOG 4 6.3
Alfred Knoepfle Modgo 6 8 5 6 6.7
Anders Kierulf/ Explorer 1 4 7 13 8 6 6.8
Martin Mueller
Toshikazu Sato TY '96 9 5 7.0
Noriaki Sanechica Igo 10 5 6 4 7.1
Chung Ho Lee Sason 9 10 7 7 7.8
Bruce Wilcox Nemesis 5 11 2 5 11 7 9.0
T. Yoshikawa Dai Honinbo 9 14 8 13 11 11.1
K. Hayashi Codan 1
Loh-Tsi Wang Friday 1
Kaihu Chen Peanut 3
Allan Scarf Microgo 2 6 13 7
Rating is a weighted average of results, with each year weighted
2/3 of year after it. For years where a program did not participate,
results are interpolated. A program that has not participated recently
is penalized one rank per year from its most recent result. 

If you are interested in computer go you may want to join the moderated computer-go mailing list. The computer-go mailing was established in Feb 93 to discuss programming computers to play go. The volume of mail on this list is rather low, but sometimes goes up in bursts. To join the list, send a request to listproc@listproc.anu.edu.au

consisting of the line

SUBSCRIBE COMPUTER-GO <first_name> <last_name>

To post to the list, send a message to computer-go@listproc.anu.edu.au Please do not post to the whole list your request to join or leave the list. An archive of the mailing list is on the archive site in the files comp/compgo-mail-*.Z. An automatically generated archive of all recent messages sent to the list is available from ftp://ftp.comlab.ox.ac.uk/pub/Documents/computer-go/mail-archive.

16. What computer go tournaments exist? What are the prizes?

There is a North American Championship every year at the Go Congress the first week of August. Plaques and the title of North American Computer Go Champion are the prizes. There is a similar competition at the European Go Congress. The Usenix conference used have a computer go competition every year, and may still - no prizes. The World Computer Go Congress, sponsored by Ing Chang Chi and several other companies including Hangul and Computer Company, has been an annual event since 1987. They have a preliminary competition every August (formerly held in Europe, USA, and Japan, but now held in Taipei with programs that are mailed in by their authors). If you do well in the preliminary (defined as beating two of 3 benchmark programs -- in 1994 the benchmarks were Handtalk, Stone and Modgo) you will be reimbursed for 1/2 of your air fare to the Congress. If you beat last year's champ you travel for free. The congress is held in November in various places. It has been in Beijing (1990), Singapore (1991), Tokyo (1992), Chengdu in the Chinese province of Szechuan (1993), Taipai (1994), and in Seoul (1995).

First prize for the best computer program is NT$200,000 (about US$8,000). Second is about $1,000 and 3rd is about $500. The winning computer program plays a 3 game series against three local kids and gets another $6000 if it wins. This prize went unclaimed for five years, but in 1991 Goliath beat all three human challengers, so the handicap has been decreased to 14 moves. The top prize for winning a 7 game series against a professional (of unspecified rank) is about $1.6 Million. The contest only runs through the year 2000 so the top prizes will go unclaimed.

The Foundation for the Fusion of Science and Technology (FOST) is a non-profit organization, founded in June, 1994, to sponsor research on gaming and simulation as well as projects that bring together basic science and technology. The FOST competition is held every September in Japan with a prize of 2,000,000 Yen (about US$20,000) for first place.

17. What are the dimensions of a go board? How do I make my own board?

The official size according to Nihon Ki-in is 45.45 x 42.42 (cm). Measurements of an Ishi board indicate that the lines are 0.8 mm thick and the hoshi points are 3 mm in diameter. Stones are supposed to be 20-21 mm in diameter.

Net discussions about making your own board are on the archive site  in info/board.Z.

This file in it's original format may be found:

From: adrian@bsdserver.ucsf.edu (Adrian Mariano)
Newsgroups: rec.games.go,rec.answers,news.answers
Subject: The Game Go -- Frequently Asked Questions
Followup-To: rec.games.go
Organization: Go Group
Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.Edu
Archive-name: games/go-faq
Frequently Asked Questions

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