Philosopher's Football

    Keywords: Variant, Humour, Ongoing game

This is a game that can be played on a Go board with Go stones. (See Go variants for more such games.)


See [ext]

An official board is not 19x19. It's usually something like 19x13 or 19x15. I.e., the board is longer than it is wide. The extra width doesn't really matter.

On each player's turn, that player has two alternatives.

  • First, the player could place a stone on any empty intersection.
  • Second, the players can perform a jump with the ball. The ball jumps over one or more stones (horizontally, vertically or diagonally), removing them from the board. The jump can occur in multiple steps, and can change direction. More than one stone may be jumped in a single step.
Legal single jump to a  
Legal single jump to a  

So in my notation, I'm marking jumped and removed stones with a square. Observe that a single square jump usually accomplishes nothing. The other player merely replaces the jumped stone.

Legal double jump to a  
Legal double jump to a  

Double jumps are important because the change the parity of the board. A double jump tends to make existing stones unreachable, and a double jump is a serious threat.

Legal two step jump to b via a  
Legal double jump to b via a  
Legal two step jump to b via a  
Legal double jump to b via a  

You can also change direction. There is no limit to the number of stones per jump, and number of jumps in a turn. A stone is removed immediately after it is jumped.

Also observe that if Left wants to foil the jump to b, Left can tackle by playing at a. This still is moving in the wrong direction, but it frequently is the lesser of 2 evils.

You win when the ball is over your goal line, or on your goal line at the end of a turn. You may temporarily jump the ball on your opponents' goal line provided you immediately jump it back as part of the same turn

Left can win by jumping to a, Right can escape to d.  

In this position, Left can win by jumping to a. Right can escape to d via a, b, and c. Right temporarily places the ball on his opponent's goal line, but he moves away on the same turn.


Starting Position  

If anyone would like to play it, pls feel free to edit this page. Enter stones by writing odd numbers into the diagram. These will be rendered as B1, B3, ... When the ball jumps, enter its trace with letters (a, b,..). After each jump or if B9 is reached, copy the whole board diagram and continue.

B1 - Anonymous: Isn't '1' considered to be the standard opening?

B3 -

B5 - unkx80: Let me try this game.

Anonymous: Perhaps it would be better to use a marked stone for the ball, black stones for Right's moves (the player moving to the right goal) and white stones for Left's moves.

BTW: There has to be one white and the rest black stones on the board, the "ball" can be played by either side as a move or placing a black stone. Black stones are can be used by either side for jumps closer to their goal.

BTW, B5 is an AWFUL move for Right. I'm going to change it to something more reasonable.

unkx80: Yes I played B5. Never played Phutball before, sorry. By the way, I did not play B3.

Improved Notation  

Anonymous: Playing B3 at a is a wasted move for Right. Any stone a knights move from the ball has very little value. Playing W4 at b is "standard" for Left at this point, but I'm playing Right. Playing W4 at c is being too greedy. W4 at b forces Right to jump to d. With W4 at c, Right can just play a stone at e.

(Sebastian) I'm confused. What do you mean by "jump to d"? Jump with the ball? Or do you mean a 0 space jump from B3? Also, could you pls elaborate for absolute beginners like me what you mean by "forcing"?

Re Notation: Looks like you're proposing to use letters from a-z for marks. Would you say there's never any need to write down the ball's path?

Rules-Question: left/right vs up/down?

Another thing I find confusing: In football, team A tries get the ball into team B's goal. However, from your choice of words it appears that Right tries to get the ball into his/her own goal. Is this the common way to talk among Phutball players?

Anonymous: I don't know what is standard for Phutball. For the game that's already started, Right moves first. Right's goal is to get the ball on or over the right goal line. Left's goal is to get the ball on or over the left goal line.

unkx80: Interesting. Because from what I read on the [ext] Wikipedia, it says "Ohs tries to move the football to rows 19 or 20 and Eks to rows 1 or 0.", so I thought that I am supposed to move the ball towards the top. Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous: In Winning Ways, the place where the game is first mentioned, the orientation given is left-to-right. Obviously, the game is the same either way, but it's important to agree on the orientation before starting! So we'll follow the convention I outlined above on this page.

Paul: The game is NOT the same either way, because the board isn't square (this is NOT a go board). We have to play up and down...

It's Left's move.

10/31/03, Anonymous: So this game has been abandoned?


Outis: It looks like it has :( ... and I came here to learn more about the game. (weeps)

Anonymous: Outis, there are a couple programs for the game now, [ext] ConwayGo and, also, [ext] Vying Games has Phutball


Anonymous: This is really cool game. Something more fast. :)


Quacki: I wonder whether Monty Python's thougth about this when they did the Philosopher's Football Match. Sad to say, it has no similarity with this one.

Anonymous: A little research on wikipedia shows that the monty python sketch predates Winning Ways by about 10 years. So a better question might be whether the game was influenced by the sketch...

Philosopher's Football last edited by on April 17, 2009 - 13:51
RecentChanges · StartingPoints · About
Edit page ·Search · Related · Page info · Latest diff
[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library