IMO, the driving force behind Go is the beauty of the game (eg the Japanese notion of emptiness, then its relation between wood, lines, black and white): it should be reflected in the rules.
I always try to convince novices around me by referring to the simplicity of the game (although even then women won't take the bait - maybe someday I will have to admit they don't have the mental capabilities... Still, even if that would be true, then there is still intrinsic limits. Or maybe it's just me. ). I usually introduce the game using stone counting. Sometimes I will switch to area scoring, to end with territory scoring. But the intermediate step of area scoring is often too subtle.
In reality, the surface below is darker. What happened? Pro players bicker about one point. Of course their tournament result depend on it; but why don't they fix such situations, rather than allow such situations to continue to exist? The weak points of Go rules are
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The transition stone->area->terr feels natural (note: Ing writes that JPN rules fork off an ancient form of CHN, so CHN might - from an evolutive standpoint - be more recent)
Sunjang Baduk (without the initial setup) looks like a logical next extension to Go due to this new phase added: removing stones. But the actual rules need a cleanup first.
Then appear complex rulesets (most of this is hidden from the casual player), as well as various questions such as
As a result, I get the feeling that the game rules might not be as simple as I try to explain to beginners; I end up living with a lie (ok - a small one), yet I'm faced with this dilemma:
maybe we should go back to the roots.
The handicap system is one of the attractive features of Go. At the same time, it opens the way to questions.
Fixed handicap placement could reduce the actual value of handicap stones because White knows her way around it. Free handicap placement gets rid of the rules of where to put the stones. OTOH, to Fan Hui the hoshi would represent optimal playing. The hoshi will be very difficult to beat: their attraction and call for attention will last for quite a while, I guess...
the classic argument against free handicap is precisely to forbid black to make a shimari with handicap stones, [...] this was traditionally seen as too great an advantage for black. ( game)
Playing tournaments with handicaps is odd, as one no longer compares strength between players, but rank agility. IMO, the main reason for running tournaments is to determine who's the strongest player -> even-games tournaments.
Another big drag factor is that historical games have been played with handicap.
Handicap issues should not impact rule issues. Handicaps have their value in informal games, where formal rules might be less essential.
One of the problems seems to come from the counting phase, where groups are to be accepted as dead (or alive) - but it might not always be clear. See also Alternating Play.
IMHO the confusion stems from wanting to define L&D based on the concept of eyes, rather than "liberties".
Rulesets that list a series of positions and their status/point value, are suspect: there is no guarantee that a future problematic position might pop up that should have been covered. But this happened several times in the past, of course during important games in tournaments...
Allowing suicide opens the door to a few extra possibilities. What's wrong with that? The suicide rule (either allowing or forbidding it) is ballast: instead, the rules should state that at the end of the move, no dead group should remain on the board (which is the case). Period. And suicide is often a source of confusion for beginners.
IMO, suicide is to be left away altogether: it must be allowed to kill your own stone(s) (and only an idiot will kill a single own stone, but there is no reason to describe such situation in the rules).
Removing a suicide rule does not reduce the amount of rules: eg Tromp-Taylor rules:
7. A move consists of coloring an empty point one's own color; then clearing the opponent color, and then clearing one's own color.
Interestingly, suicide of a single stone could be forbidden by some ko rule (because the board prior the move would be reached after removal of the dead stone).
A HUGE weak spot in Go, that has traditionally been solved by the "basic" ko rule, plus some odd rules (eg triple ko leading to annulation).
The fundamental problem that remains is that the human player might not accurately detect a superko situation - although in reality it is unlikely to having to remember a whole board. (And what happens if a player falsely claims a move may not be played because of an actually inexistent superko?) Software should have no issue: a board can be coded into approx 71 bytes per move.
Ing seems to have made the first (yet difficult) steps in a possible solution: reduce superko to a set of ko situations.
Associated with repetition is how to handle passes: when, how much? AGA seems to offer a good answer.
Repetition and signalling end of game might very well be covered by the same superko rule.
Interestingly, repetition is a fundamental issue due to the limited size of a goban.
Another obs: "If you believe they really are different, try retaking a ko 'illegally', then rotating the board 90 degrees and claiming that its a new board position. " (anonymous, Small board Go)
A penalty under territory scoring; dismissing this feature would limit the game (a little bit). It is related to "efficient play", so someone who plays efficiently should be rewarded. Also, dame filling is (often) a mechanical and boring process (but sometimes it can force to play in own territory), so rendering dame useless is an interesting idea. Top players however will insist that a single point can change the outcome of the game... Equivalence scoring seems to have this inconvenience.
Maybe (to confirm) this feature is just the dual of dame filling under Area scoring, in which case we are happy. (It is dual until an even number of dame remain).
My personal taste tells me that this is a positive side of the Japanese rules.
For some reason the Japanese rules (?) exempted seki groups from scoring. Why? Maybe seki is the result of insisting that groups must have two eyes to be alive; therefore, seki is perceived as something odd. But Go is about territory, not eyes.
OTOH, if a player manages to reduce the value of a big group through "seki neutralisation", that player deserves a bonus.
Maybe seki made defining 'life' more complicated.
Unfortunately, because it is tournaments that triggered ruleset research, tournament rules must also be part of the rules. Doh!
And rules of conduct are yet another chapter.
Seems to be part of Ing rules.
IMHO, what we need:
This is not final...
One can wonder if it is necessary to define the rules as if they were to be telephoned over or sent to some alien civilisation. (I can imagine the objections of mathematicians here...) Another example from Ikeda:"A certain rules theorist has proposed a rule that would permit repeating cycles that do not become endless. This is exactly the sort of language that we must keep out of the rules. It is nonsense to talk about a repeating cycle that does not become endless."
We have seen that territory rules have merits, and these can be perceived as helping go to advance from its primitive rules. But the advance was carried too far, and created difficulties in codifying the rules.
RJ is a big hurdle one has to take before claiming significant knowledge on rulesets...
Japanese rules are difficult to understand for various reasons. One of them is exceptions. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that professional Japanese rules consist of exceptions. Japanese rules are not as elegant as Territory Scoring rules could be but as ugly as tradition and careless professionals have made them. ( Commentary on the Japanese 2003 Rules)
Notice that Go Seigen already drew the attention to defects in the rules (see Rule Disputes Involving Go Seigen).
As a result, I think that stone counting is so close to territory scoring, that the latter will become the better way to introduce the game to newcomers. Also, to me it is obvious that the rules will become more unified in a nearby future: many texts seem to go into the same direction (away from Japanese rules!). The biggest resistance coming from Asia, because of tradition. And from the old player, not finding it necessary to change anything: it's the eternal struggle of life, where change is rarely welcomed (meanwhile people forget that life==change).
I have been musing over these issues for a while now, and I'm increasingly overwhelmed by the feeling that Go rules are FAR from beautiful, and there is no solution in sight.
 the "beauty of omission", (a criterion possibly more appropriate to Noh opera than to a worldwide game of strategy), Bill Taylor, John's Go page. (Personally, I interpret boo as territory scoring, and getting a penalty for playing in own territory. "Yes, but in what phase?", yes, I know...)