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Go / Territory games
One of the oldest board games known, Go originated in China as early as 2000 B.C., according to some sources. The goal is to control territory on the board by placing stones. Our rules provide only a brief introduction to help the beginner get started. We have regular Go (GX) played on a 19x19 size board, and the easier 9x9 (G9) and 13x13 (G3) versions. Also in this section are territory games like Amazons (AZ) and Tanbo (GT).

  • read: Introduction and Object
  • read: Capturing Stones
  • read: Connected Groups
  • read: Placing Stones
  • read: Life and Death
  • read: Ko
  • read: Dead Stones
  • read: Ending the Game
  • read: House rule: Game ends after a specific number of moves
  • read: Counting Points and Komi
  • read: Handicapping
  • read: Go Web Sites
  • read: Why is the automatic scoring of Go sometimes wrong?
  • read: Why not let players mark dead stones in an attempt to improve the Go scoring results?
  • read: Amazons (AZ)
  • read: Hex (HX)
  • read: Tanbo (GT)
  • read: How can I get better at Go?

Introduction and Object Go is a difficult game to learn. These instructions will help you get started, but you will need to look at other sources and watch good players to learn strategy. Links to some other Go web sites are provided at the end of this Go section.

The game is usually played on a 19 x 19 board, but also provides variations on 9 x 9 and 13 x 13 boards which are easier to play. Players take turns putting stones of their own color on the board. Black moves first. Stones are placed on the points where the lines cross. It is possible to pass your turn and not place a stone, but players rarely pass if they don't intend to end the game. Stones can not be moved around the board once they are placed, but they can be captured. Your captured stones count against you when points are added at the end.

Your object in Go is to control territory on the board by surrounding it with your stones. The player who controls more territory at the end of the game wins.

Your stones themselves on the board do not count as controlled territory. Only the empty spaces that your stones surround count as controlled territory. To control an area, stones of your own color must completely surround it and block all horizontal or vertical lines leading out of it. The edge of the board can help to form a border of controlled territory.

This is a portion of a Go board in the midst of a very simple game. Black has surrounded 11 points next to the edge. These 11 points are controlled by Black. White controls 12 points. Note that the single White stone in the middle of White's territory does not count as a controlled point.

Spaces on the board that are in between both White and Black stones are neutral territory. When the game ends, neutral territory does not count in either player's score.
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Capturing Stones You and your opponent can capture each other's stones and remove them from the board. Each of your captured stones reduces your final score by 1 point.

You capture one of your opponent's single stones by placing one of your stones on each adjacent point vertically and horizontally next to your opponent's stone. Placing stones diagonally next to your opponent's stone will not help to capture it.

In the diagram below, White has surrounded Black's single stone on three sides. If white places a fourth stone where the red dot is, the Black stone is captured and removed from the board.

Each empty point vertically or horizontally adjacent to a stone is called a liberty. We can say that a stone is captured when all of its liberties are filled by the opponent's stones.

Stones that are next to the edge, or in a corner, are not protected from capture. Instead, they can be captured when each of the vertically or horizontally adjacent empty points is occupied by the opposing stones. Here, the Black stone in the corner has only 2 liberties marked with red dots. Black is captured when White fills those liberties.

A Black stone on the edge has 3 liberties and is captured when white fills them.

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Connected Groups If you place two stones so that they are vertically or horizontally adjacent, then they share liberties. The two adjacent stones in the picture below together have 6 liberties, which are shown by the red dots.

To capture these Black stones, White must fill all the liberties. Then, the Black stones are captured.

As you can see, if you have many stones placed in a large group so that each is vertically or horizontally adjacent to another stone in the group, then this group shares many liberties. The group is very hard to capture. Such a group is called a solidly connected group. In the pictures below, Black has a large solidly connected group of stones. White has many liberties to fill to capture all of them.

Though White needed many moves to capture the Black group, the Black group was still not a well defended group. Read on to learn how Black could have defended this group better.
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Placing Stones You can only place a stone on the board where it has liberties, or will immediately capture your opponent's stones.

In the picture below, Black has four stones placed in a diamond shape. White can not place a stone in the middle of them, where the red dot is, because White would have no liberties there.

However, suppose White has already surrounded the Black stones so that the only liberty remaining for those Black stones is the point in the middle. White can now place a stone there, because that will cause the Black stones to be captured, and the White stone will have liberties.

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Life and Death In Go, a group of stones can be alive, or it can be doomed to death.

In this picture the Black stones are alive, because White can not capture them. Even though White has them surrounded, White can not fill either of Black's remaining two liberties, marked with red dots. This is because if White were to place a stone on either of Black's liberties, that White stone would have no liberties, and it would not capture any Black stones. Remember, a player can not place a stone where it has no liberties and does not capture.

The two liberties in the middle of Black's stones are called eyes. They are points controlled by Black that protect the group of Black stones from capture by White. A solidly connected group must have at least two different eyes to be alive.

The next picture shows the same setup, but with a small change. One Black stone has been replaced by the White stone with the red dot. The Black group still appears to have its two eyes, but they are false eyes. The reason is, Black's stones are now separated into different groups that do not share liberties with each other.

It is possible for White to capture all these Black stones in two moves by putting White stones where the red dots are in the next pictures:

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Ko Ko is a special situation in Go. In the pictures below, White performs a capture of one Black stone.

Now, if Black were to place another stone where its stone was just captured, the White stone would be captured. Then White would be able to recapture the Black stone, and this would go on forever.

This situation is called Ko. To prevent players from capturing back and forth like this, there is a special rule of Ko:

Suppose White captures Black in a Ko situation. In the very next turn, Black can not capture the White stone that was just placed on the board. Instead, Black must make a different move. But in turns after that, Black can capture the White stone.
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Dead Stones Dead stones are stones that can never be joined into a group with two eyes. Such stones are sure to be captured in the course of playing. Nevertheless, it is not necessary for each player to capture all of the opponent's dead stones during the game. If stones are understood to be dead, they can be left on the game board. When the game is over, each dead stone remaining on the board reduces its player's score by 1 point.

This picture shows some dead Black stones within a White territory at the end of the game. If the game were to continue, these Black stones would be captured. If Black were to try to defend these stones by adding more Black stones, then he would only be adding more dead stones to the board and reducing his score.

In case you doubt that these Black stones are dead, consider what would happen if Black were to attempt to defend this group by adding more stones. Any stone that Black might add would only weaken his position. Suppose Black were to fill in as many dead stones as he can, like this:

(Remember, Black can not fill in the very last space because a player can not place a stone where it will have no liberties.) Now, White would only need to fill in the remaining space to capture all the Black stones.

Thus, Black would lose all 8 stones as captured stones, instead of just the original 2. As you can see, Black is wise to end the game without attempting to defend those original 2 dead stones.

Notice that White is better off not placing any more stones within its territory to attack Black. Remember, you get points for empty areas of the board that you surround, not for pieces that you place on the board. If White were to add more pieces to the board within its own territory, then White would reduce the amount of territory that it controls, and thus reduce its score. In the situation shown in these pictures, both players can see that no matter what Black does, he can not defend his stones. They are dead. White should not attack them more, and Black should not defend them more.
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Ending the Game A game of Go ends when both players agree that nothing more can be gained by playing. On, the game ends when one player passes his turn, and the other player passes her very next turn. At this point, a winner will be determined automatically by our scoring program, as described in the next section on Counting Points, and Komi.

It is not possible to write a Go scoring program that is perfect. You might disagree with the scoring that our program gives a game. If our system declares the wrong winner and loser, please pull up the game board and click on 'Email Websupport about this game.' We will take a look at it and switch the winner and loser if necessary.
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House rule: Game ends after a specific number of moves Due to a small minority of players not willing to pass their turn to end the game, we are enforcing a maximum number of moves in each Go game. These maximums are:
  • Go 19x19: 225 moves
  • Go 13x13: 125 moves
  • Go 9x9: 75 moves
Since maximums are significantly higher than the number of spots on each board (remember that two spots are covered on each move), they should never be reached in a normal game. If the maximum number of moves is hit, the game will end automatically, and higher scorer will win the game.
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Counting Points and Komi When the game is over, points are counted. Since Black has the first move in the game, that player has an advantage. To make the game more even, some points are subtracted from Black's total before the final score is announced. This adjustment is called komi. Here are the points that are removed from Black's score at the end of the game for the different versions of Go.

  • 19 x 19 version: -5.5 points
  • 13 x 13 version: -4.5 points
  • 9 x 9 version: -3.5 points

After the komi is removed from Black's score, the score for each player is determined in this way:

  1. Dead stones are designated.
  2. The controlled spaces are added up for each player
  3. Total points for each player are computed using this simple formula:

    total points = (number of spaces controlled by that player) - (number of player's stones that were captured) - (number of dead stones)

A final picture of the game board is created showing which spaces on the board were captured by each player, which spaces were neutral, and which stones were dead stones. The score is also included in this game board image. If you disagree with the automatic scoring of the game,
contact us using our online contact form. Tell us your userid and name, your opponent's name, and the color each of you are playing. We will look at the game and make adjustments if necessary.
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Handicapping If two people want to play Go with each other, but one is a better player than the other, then the better player may give the lesser player a handicap. To do this, the better player should use the ‘Invite user to play’ option in the left-side menu column to invite the lesser player to a game. The lesser player will be Black, and the better player as White will have the first move.

To invite a player to a game with a handicap, perform these steps:

  1. Look in the left-side menu column under ‘Play’ and click ‘Invite user to play.’
  2. On the next page, you will see a long list of games. Choose Go or one of the Go variations, then scroll to the bottom. At the bottom you may choose to play a two-game match. Then click ‘Choose game.’
  3. On the next page, type in the name of the player you want to invite to play and click ‘Search for user.’
  4. You might see a page where you select a player from a list. Click a player’s name to highlight it, then click ‘Select this user.’
  5. On the next page, you may type an optional message, then select the time limit per move and the handicap. Click ‘Send message,’ and the invitation will be sent.

A handicap gives the lesser player extra stones at the start of the game. Here are pictures of how the stones are arranged for a handicap of 2 through 9 on the 19 x 19 Go board:

The handicaps for Go 13 x 13 look like this:

The handicaps for Go 9 x 9 look like this:

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Go Web Sites Here are a few web sites have more instructions and strategy for playing Go.

How to Play Go is a fairly concise description of the rules.

The British Go Association has a learners' section where the rules are explained.

The Web Go Page Index gives links to rules and strategy sites, and Go clubs.

The Game of Go has a good explanation of the world ranking system for Go players.
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Why is the automatic scoring of Go sometimes wrong? It is very hard to write a program that scores Go games correctly. We will never have a program that is perfect.

As always, if you encounter incorrect Go scoring that changes the winner of the game, please send us a link to that game (
contact us using our online contact form), and we will take a look at it.
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Why not let players mark dead stones in an attempt to improve the Go scoring results? This has been suggested as a remedy to the imperfect computer scoring of Go. However, there are problems with this because we are a turn-based site.

This would add a day or two because one player has to mark the dead stones, and the other player has to agree. However, if one player refuses to do this, we don't think it's fair to time them out of the game. Also, we do have players who don't know which stones are dead.

If there's a disagreement, the game could bounce back and forth between the players indefinitely. We have players on this site who refuse to agree to a draw in chess even when there are only two kings on the board, and we have to take these uncooperative players into account. While computer scoring is imperfect, marking dead stones will unfortunately create more problems than it will solve.

As always, if you encounter incorrect Go scoring that changes the winner of the game, please send us a link to that game (
contact us using our online contact form), and we will take a look at it.
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Amazons (AZ) Background:
Amazons was invented in 1988 by Walter Zamkauskas of Argentina, and a description of the game was first published in 1992.

The object of Amazons is to chip away at your opponent's territory so that they cannot make a legal move, while protecting your own territory so that you remain mobile. The last player who is able to make a move wins the game.

Amazons is played on a 10x10 board.

The board above shows the starting position. Each player starts out with 4 queens. There is no significance to the darker squares-- they are simply there as markers so that you can see where your pieces are in relationship to the rest of the board.

Movement takes place in two parts: the move, and the shooting of the arrow.

Pieces move like a chess queen, that is, any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally as long as the the square is not occupied by a queen or an arrow. If a square is occupied, you cannot move onto it or over it. You cannot capture pieces in this game.

In the example above, the circled white piece can move to any square marked by a red dot.

Shooting the arrow:
After a queen moves, she must shoot an arrow. Arrows can be shot in any direction (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) for any number of spaces, as long as the space is not occupied. Once an arrow is shot, it remains on that square for the rest of the game, and cannot be moved by either player.

In the example above, the queen has just moved, and can shoot an arrow to any space marked by a green dot. Note that arrows can be shot onto or through a space just occupied by the queen in that move (in this example, the empty red square).

This last board shows the completed move. Note that the queen and arrow moves can be made in completely different directions (in this example they happen to be in the same direction). Note that in this example the arrow was shot through the space where the queen just came from-- this is a legal move.

Winning the game:
You win the game when your opponent is unable to move their queen anywhere. In other words, when there are no more open spaces next to any of your opponent's queens, you win the game.
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Hex (HX) The object of Hex is to build a continuous line of pieces connecting your two sides of the board. For example, if you have the green pieces, your object is to connect the green sides of the board with one uninterrupted line of pieces. It does not have to be a straight line, but it does have to be uninterrupted.

Since the first player to move (green) has a big advantage, that player cannot put a piece in the center row on the first move. After the first move, either player may places pieces in any unoccupied spot.

We have 12 different boards (4 colors and 3 sizes) to choose from, so if you get bored of one color you can switch to another.

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Tanbo (GT) Background:
Tanbo is a board game which is played with a Go set. More than just "new rules for an old game", Tanbo is a unique, robust alternative to Go, and draws and ties cannot occur in Tanbo. Tanbo was invented in 1993 by Mark Steere, and is used here with his kind permission. More of Mark Steere's games can be found at

The object of Tanbo is eliminate all of your opponent's pieces from the board. Since it is possible to make a move which removes your own pieces from the board, the way to do this is to "capture" territory in such a way that your opponent runs out of spots to place pieces.

Tanbo is played on a 19x19 board.

The board above shows the starting position. Each player starts 8 pieces distributed evenly throughout the board.

Playing the game:
Players take turns adding their own stones to the board, one stone per turn, starting with Black. Stones are placed on the intersections of lines, like in the game Go. You may only place a stone which is horizontally or vertically adjacent to one of your own stones already on the board (no diagonals). In addition, a stone can only be adjacent to ("touch") EXACTLY ONE of your OWN stones (horizontally or vertically). A square that would touch 2 or more of your own stones is not legal. However, you may touch ANY NUMBER of ENEMY stones.

The red dots on the board above shows all of White's legal moves. Points that do not have a red dot on them are not legal moves for White. As long as there are stones of both colors on the board, there will be a move available. Players are not allowed to pass on their turn.

Tanbo is a game of "roots" which is a group of connected stones of the same color. Players start the game with 8 roots of 1 stone each. Which you make a legal move, you are expanding one of your roots. Because new stones can only connect to exactly one stone on the board, roots cannot form clumps or closed loops. And separate roots cannot be merged.

Root capture:
A root that has no more legal moves available is called a "bounded root". When a root is "bounded", it is removed from the board. When you make a move that results in one or more roots being "bounded", they are removed from the board (note: this may include your own root(s) if they are bounded by the current move).

HOWEVER, if you make a move that results in the current root being "bounded" (the root that you're trying to expand with this move), then the current root is removed first. Since this will result in the surrounding roots having legal moves after your root is removed, whenever the current root is removed, the surrounding roots are not removed (even if they were bounded before the current root was removed).

Root capture examples:
The following examples should clarify the section above. It's not as hard as it sounds. These examples are shown on a 5x5 board, but the same principles would apply to the full-sized 19x19 board.

The first example shows the removal of the current root.


The picture on the left shows the move about to be made. If White places a stone on the spot circled in red, the White root that's extended is "bounded", meaning that it has no legal moves remaining. (Remember that for a move to be legal, it can only "touch" exactly 1 of your own stones.)

Since White's current root is "bounded", the stones in the current White root are removed from the board, as shown by the red dots on the left graphic and the blue squares in the right-hand graphic. Note that, even though 2 other roots are bounded when White's stone is placed in the red circle, when the current root is removed first (since it has no legal moves available), the other previously bounded roots remain on the board because they are no longer bounded.

The second example shows the removal of more than 1 non-current root.


The picture on the left shows White about to move onto the spot inside the red circle. The red dots show the pieces that will be captured after White has moved. Since the current White root is not bounded (White's current root has one more legal move), any other bounded roots are removed from the board. In this case, a Black root and a White root are both bounded, and so they are both removed from the board.

Winning the game:
You win the game when all of your opponent's pieces have been removed from the board, or conversely, you lose the game when all of your own pieces have been removed from the board. Since it is possible to make a move that would result in you being forced to remove your last pieces from the board, it is possible for you to lose on your own turn.
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How can I get better at Go? Playing regularly will improve your Go game. You may also want to buy a book about Go and study it. Browse our selection of popular Go books, available from
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