Blind Go

  Difficulty: Introductory   Keywords: Equipment
Blind man playing
[ext] same, larger (200KBy) and [ext] largest: 1.5MBy
(It is Korean 5-dan Mr. Song Jungtaek. -- RueLue)

Table of contents


Playing blind can be confused (shouldn't) with blindfolded (no board at all). Blind Go players see the board with their fingers. As a variant, players see a board but do not put any stones on it.


Discussion, Questions and Answers

SnotNose What would it be like to play go if you were blind? Does anyone know any blind players? Have they made or purchased special boards with tactile differences to help them feel the shapes? Imagine trying to do this! How big a board could you play blind go on? I think 9x9 would be hard.

AndreasTeckentrup I met a blind player participating in this year's (2003) tournament in Luxembourg. She played as 26k, and used a second special 19x19 board with rough black pins and smooth white pins, feeling the board all the time, while her opponent used a normal board. It is possible, but very hard, and practically impossible to reach even a medium level of strength.

victim Her name is Kim Hoogenraad, she was also in the tournament in Amsterdam the same year. The opponent has to put the stone on both boards and touch her hands to guide her to the new stone. I'm curious how strong she will get. -axd: BTW, Kim Hoogenraad also plays chess.

Rob van Aurich Kim has played some blindfolded danplayers on 9x9. She beats them! Only a 2 dan player in Paris managed to win with only 2 points.

She also plays blind chess:

SnotNose Yes, but a separate question is: Suppose a strong player becomes blind; then how would they perform? Or, how well would you do playing blindfolded? I guess without a special tactile board, this would be very hard (even communicating where the stones were placed would be hard). But, with the right board, how well could you do?

I'm guessing I'd be at least 10 stones weaker, bumping me down from nearly 1d to 10k or worse. The opening would be easy and the middle and end games would be very hard. Just counting to see who was ahead whold be hard. I'd have to begin with 9x9 and work on my visual memory.

Would this type of practice help improve my game? I've memorized and replayed pro games in my head but that's quite different from trying to find the next move only from a mental picture.

tderz: There was a picture of an Asian in Asia, blind 5 dan (caption told so) somewhere (i forgot) in a tournament for blind Go players. I have no information of how strong he was before he became blind, nor whether he was born blind.

If you are 5 dan, I think its unlikely to drop 10 ranks (to 5k?) in slow games. The tactical error rate might go up, and vs. non-blind people you might give many clues away by "fingering" at those spots where you are planning a tactical surprise.
It's unlikely to forget strategic concepts & good shape, which made s.o. dan player in the first place. Reading might go down, perhaps even up! After all reading is a mental process and the fingering of some DFK (no offense) is a bad habit. (hence, if you are allowed to finger, even have to, you might profit from it).
I wonder whether blind players then use only one board or two. If you were using only one board, you had to finger only once - then remember! This would be very tough, as we are allowed to check very often were the stones are - just by looking which does not interfere with the other (contrary to fingering)

In a tournament for blind - does one use one board only ? and is one allowed to check (touch) the position very often?

One fair blind vs. non-blind encounter would then be, that the blind can explore the board tactile and the non-blind gets another board and the moves via an intermediator.

Another option:
Actually I was interested to play with Kim Hoogenraad in Almere 2004, myself being blindfolded (and notice how much it makes me weaker), but the breaks were short, I had to play tournament and later to return early. One needs this special board, otherwise one could check it out more often and see when one falters (or not).

Sebastian: -- I once made a 9x9 board and stones for a blind friend of mine. I'm not sure about the exact dimensions because I'm writing from memory. The stones were wooden pins with a diameter of 1 cm and a length of about 2.5 cm. The white pieces were left cylindrical, and the black pieces were rounded off at the top so that they felt like a thick stone (I felt that the smoother shape is more female). I made the latter a bit taller because I thought since they're round they should stick out further (in analogy to typography), but she said they should rather be the same length. Since I stained the black pegs it was not necessary to double the set. (Of course, this would be different in a tournament.) The board itself was 24 x 26 cm. It consisted of two wooden boards, a top with the holes and the bottom one to close them off. The thickness of the top board (and thus the depth of the holes) was about 5 mm. This worked pretty well. I had made the distance between holes about 1.5 times their diameter to make it easier to grab them, but this was a very unfamiliar view to seeing people. In hindsight, I think it might even have been better for her, as well, if I had kept them closer together, and I would definitely try this if I were to make another board.

Unfortunately, she didn't get hooked to Go (in hindsight, I realize that I should have started teaching her on a 5x5 board), but she used the board for several other board games, above all Mensch ─rger Dich Nicht, which fit well into the 9 x 9 grid. -- 2003-09-19

blubb: Quite an interesting matter! - Thinking about a beneficial go board for blind people, I just got another idea. See VertiGo for details. (2003-11-01)
Note: I have moved the VertiGo concept to a dedicated page and also copied the related comments to there. If you are the author of one of the now doubled comments below, you might want to delete or adapt either instance.

(Sebastian:) Interesting idea - you would hold it like a harp. Maybe you could build it with Lego? A little technical problem would be that the "stones" need to be easy to place, but they have to be absolutely safe when you feel the board. -- 2003-11-01

SnotNose: Very nice idea. A plus for kids: stones cannot be lost or eaten :)

Naustin--Concerning blindfold go it's said that masters can replay whole games from memory. Seems if they could do that that they should be able to play a whole game blind folded though they might take longer to do it and they might not be able to play as strongly given that they had to spend more mental effort just remembering the position. I've never heard of anyone playing blindfolded go though though in chess it is fairly common (anyone remember the TV show about the special genius class in a public high school like in early 90's or something with the guy and the girl who would play chess just by saying moves to eachother. What was that show called?) I have even read of chess masters who could play simutaneous blindfolded games. I'm surprised if it hasn't at least been attempted in a serious way with go.

C.S. Graves: Would that have been Head of the Class?

Anonymous: Natan Sharansky can play chess in his head, and while I'm sure he's a good player, he's not a professional. In his book Fear No Evil, he talks about some instances where he passed the time in Soviet prison by playing chess against himself in his head or with prisoners in adjacent cells by calling the moves to each other.

SnotNose: One need not be a master to replay a game from memory. While it seems daunting at first, with practice, kyu players can do it. With constant (mental) review, I've been able to keep a small number (5-10) of the same games in my head for a few months (mixture of pro games and my own games). With ease I can remember the game I just played. Yet, I am certain I would have trouble even playing a 9x9 blindfolded. The reason is that, for games I've memorized, I am not really remembering a full picture of the board in my head. I'm remembering where each move is in relation to other stones, locally. So, I will remember things like "the next move was in the upper right and it is an atari on that third-line stone" or some such. But, I can't just sit down and say where all the stones are. I have to go all the way back to the beginning and step through it.

So, it is a replay capacity but not a "complete picture of the board" capacity. The latter would be more helpful for blind go.

jk: MindZine has an [ext] article about blind go players. It says there are special touch-friendly boards that can be used, and that some blind players have reached amateur dan level.

Naustin What you said about memory makes sense to me. I can see the difference between holding a whole board in your mind and being able to consider it as such in order to choose the best move versus just trying to remember where the next move was and what a few local circumstances were. On the other hand I mentioned that I can see a professionsal not being able to play full strength in a blind fold game but it still seems to me that 1) just as with some practice you ( amateur 1d ? ) are able to remember and replay games, someone who was a proffessional and devoted most of their time to go should be able to accomplish this. I read something recently on the web about the relationship between go and intelligence. (I think it was here on SL) It referred to the fact that professional Go players use parts of their brain that are not normaly used for memory to store Go information. It seems with their superior knowledge and skills they should be able to play a competent blindfolded game. 2) just as in the regular populace there occur individuals with superior aptitudes (photographic memory, superior spacial relatioship envisioning skills) these also should arise among the Go playing populace. In fact I think the same place as above was discussing the fact that pro Go players tend to have high spacial relationship skills anyway.

I wonder if the reason has more to do with culture. Until recently the game was dominated by the Japanese. The culture that surrounded the game was very serious. Much more weight was put on propriety, strict standards of beauty, honor, etc. This is not a culture that is open to showy spectacles such as blindfold games. It seems as if perhaps because playing blindfolded would never be as good a game as regular maybe it would seem frivolous and dishonarable to engage in such an activity. Maybe there is some unheard of genius of Go who did play Go blindfolded at circuses or in direputable taverns but never got into the official history because he wasn't considered a serious player. Just a guess though.

Zero i see on this page [ext] The last photos show two young player who are playing with a special 19 * 19 board. I think that there are visually impaired. I thinks that it must be possible to have a good strong.

Peter Wendes

You might like to know that we have made a start on Blind Go in the UK- with school workshops for Surrey and Greenwich, and two complete beginners who have each been sent a 9x9 adapted board. I will be meeting the head of the Japan Society for Go for the Visually Impaired in Osaka next month to discuss future plans. I don't visit this discussion very often, so any enquiries to me by email, please: Peter Wendes Education Officer, British Go Association

Nick Hoover - Watching Baduk TV (before it was closed) I saw the 2nd half of a game in which a blind man played using the special board like the one shown on the nihonkiin site. On his turn he would slowly feel over the board until finding his opponents move, and then feel around some more until he found where he wanted to play. I don't remember the game but it was amazing to see. A funny thing happened during dame-filling however, he happened to miss that his opponent put a large group (~15) of his stones in atari, and simply filled another dame. However, he was allowed to retract his move.

Alexandre Dinerchtein: Few photos of Korean blind 5-dan Mr. Song Jungtaek? [ext] [ext]

phalos: I've been nearly blind since birth, and am losing my sight. I got into GO in November '05 and would like to teach my friends. I have 3 boards (1 19x19/13x13, 1 9x9, and a rollup 19x19) My big reversible board is a bit tactile, and I can feel where the intersections are. The stones are easy to distinguish between. PS - I've developed a system of counting points using the Go stones and the edge of the Goban. It involves Braille. (I will learn how to post a method.)

I have just recieved a special accessible GO set. I'd like to post pictures. Is that possible?

Phelan: Yes, it is. See How to add images.

Phelan: The science fiction novel Starborne (by Robert Silverberg) features a blind go player.

Blind Go last edited by on April 21, 2016 - 19:11
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