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Stone Counting Rules of Go

This is aimed at grade school aged complete beginners. Avoiding CaptureGo as a teaching method, this tries to initialy explain the rules using pure StoneCounting and PositionalSuperKo on a miminal board size.

With StoneCounting it's much easier to explain why the game is over and how to determine the score. On a tiny board, filling your "territory" and counting isn't tedious. By not focusing on capture as a goal (and even giving "prisoners" back to their opponent) the kids develop less of a bad habit.

The one drawback I've noticed is that once they start playing using territory scoring (sadly, the most prevalent in the U.S.) they need to learn that they lose points by playing inside their own area.


Placing Stones

Starting with an empty board, take turns placing black and white "stones" on the "points" (intersections where the lines touch). Black plays first.

Every point is playable (even the sides and corners)  


The stones never move, but can be taken off the board. Adjacent empty points "reached" by stones are their "breathing spaces". Smothering (taking all breathing spaces) can be used to "capture" (remove from board; give back to opponent) stones. You may "hold your breath" while doing this (see example game). It is also possible, but likely not a good idea, to smother yourself (suicide).

One breathing space left  

The B stone has only one breathing space left (at circle). Notice that only the adjacent empty points following the lines count (not the diagonal ones).


If Black (B1) takes this last "breath" then the white stone is removed.


If White "runs" with W1, then now the two white stones form a "group" that has three breathing spaces (marked circle).

Group capture!  

It is still possible for Black to capture the whole group.


Black can also capture in this position (at circle). It looks like suicide (the B stone would have no breathing space for a moment) but he can "hold his breath" while he captures and gets a breathing space back.

Held breath  

No Repeating

You cannot capture and replay in such a way that you repeat the position.

What if...  
White captures...  
Black captures... and they keep doing this back and forth forever?  

That's why there is the rule that you cannot repeat the position.


If you would rather not place a stone, you may "pass". Once both players pass you count the stones on the board. The player with the most wins!

Example Game

Starting with an empty board...  
Black plays first...  
Then White...  
Black, White, Black, White...  
Edges allowed  

Even the very edges and corners of the board are allowed...

Building "walls"  

You begin to "wall off" areas of the board, but you're free to play "inside" your opponent's area (like B3) if you like.


There is a kind of "fighting" that takes place as players defend their areas.


Here we have our first capture. B1 takes the last breating space of white+square and it's removed from the board.

Holding breath  

After a couple more plays we have an interesting position: White can "hold her breath" for a monent and play at circle to capture the black+square stone.


Notice that after the play, W1 gets a breathing space at circle from capturing so it's not suicide. This is another interesting position: Black cannot just capture back at circle now. That would make the board exactly as it was before; repeating the position. This is a "Ko". If it were allowed, Black and White could go back and forth like this forever and the game would never end. Instead, Black has to play somewhere else now.

What can Black do?  

As we just said, Black cannot play at circle. Also, the top two points would be simple suicide for Black. Finally, if he played either of the bottom two points, then White would next be able hold her breath again and capture the whole black group at the bottom! In this situation, Black would rather not play at all. He passes.

Now Ko is allowed  

White gets to go again; capturing the two black+square stones. Now the board has changed and Black can recapture the Ko with B2 without repeating the position.

White cannot recapture  

White cannot recapture the Ko immediately because that would repeat the position. So she plays elsewhere (W1) and Black fills the Ko with B2.

Note: We're using StoneCounting, so W1 is not silly.

Game over  

Now neither player wants to put a stone down. Can you see that all the remaining empty points are either immediate suicide or would allow their opponent to capture all their stones in the next play? Here both players pass and the game is over.

Notice how both sides have two separate empty points left. These are called "eyes" and this is one of the keys to the game. A group with two eyes can never be captured. They are called "alive".

Let's count the stones on the board: 11 for White. 10 for Black. That means White wins by one point - Good game!

Another Kind of Life

Game over  

White wins by one point in this ending position as well. But look closely, none of the groups have two eyes (the white group even has no eyes at all!). Neither player wants to put any more stones down in this position because it would leave them with only one breathing space and they'd be captured in the next play. As long as both players refuse to play and instead pass here then everything stays on the board and is counted. This situation is called a Seki.

AshleyF/StoneCountingRules last edited by AshleyF on January 6, 2007 - 23:38
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