Rattling The Go Stones

    Keywords: Culture & History, Humour

There are those who can't stand the sound, there are others who don't mind. I'm of the first kind, but I don't consider it as being a very bad habit.


It's also got to be said that the sound made from plastic stones is even worse than that from glass or shell/slate stones. Brrr.


Sasquatch: Wouldn't it also be possible to chip any stones besides those made of plastic, too?

sIG: a bad habit? :D

I often flick the stones between my fingers whilst waiting for my opponent to play (purely a nervous thing), this is silent, but is it also rude? -- ian

Yes, I would call it rude; it's distracting to your opponent across the board, partly because it's an irritating movement in their field of vision, but also because if you're concentrating properly on the game it's inevitable that you will lose control of the stone and drop it onto the table, or worse, onto the stones on the board. Apologising when that happens isn't really good enough; it was hardly an accident since you should be focusing on the game, not on a needless stone in your hand. If you don't fiddle, you won't have to apologise for dropping the stone. -- Bignose

I can hardly think of anything worse! Akin to waving in front of someone trying to line up a shot in snooker/pool. Go is highly visual and the peripheral vision is highly sensitive to movement. I have a great deal of difficulty accepting that any player who does that type of thing once it has been brought to their attention is doing it "accidently".


Good thing it's out of their field of vision then ;-) ~ian~

I usually pick up one stone and play with that. That way you make no sound and have something to keep the nerves at bay with. As for people rattling the stones, I knew someone who put his hand in the bowl and stirred while thinking!


~OK - I enjoy dancing to music while playing Go, especially African Makossa or Bikutsi. A handful of stones can really rattle like maraccas. Plastic stones are useless.

Of course rattling the stones is much kinder than throwing salt at your opponent.

Can any Japanese person explain why Sumo wrestlers and Go players should follow different codes of conduct? Is it because one is a battle and the other is a war?


I actually love the sounds of Go. By that, I mean the rattling sound of the stones in the bowl, the sound the stone makes when it hits the board, even the sound of the game clock being pressed (except for the Ing clocks). I never stir the stones while thinking, but I never try to take the stone from the bowl too quietly, either. This is only because I like the sounds.


The sounds are indeed a wonderful part of the atmosphere. What is irritating is when the sounds are needless and fidgety. The determined rattle of fingers in the bowl seeking a single stone to play, or the decisive "thunk" of a played stone, are lovely. The sounds of sweeping the board clean and pouring the stones back into the bowls give a nice final sound to the end of play.

However, fidgety nervous tapping and rattling are irritating because they betray the tension of the person, and indicate the high probability that stones will be scattered at some point from nervous hands, possibly upsetting the board, definitely upsetting the concentration of the players and their neighbours.

This is one of the reasons I like Go; it rewards a calm mind, and makes a scattered mind obvious, further encouraging mental discipline through public embarrassment :-) -- Bignose

Japanese pros recommend that players should not touch a stone in the bowl until they are ready to play it. This promotes focussing on the move and maintaining a calm attitude. It also may help avoid hasty, ill-considered moves.

Personally I dislike it very much when people rattle the stones compulsively. Even worse are the people who take a handfull of stones out of the bowl, put them in a pile on the table in front of them, and proceed to fiddle with them while thinking about their moves.


Gaius: In our go club, putting some stones on a pile in front of you is considered good etiquette, as we play in the same room as the chess club. And apparently, those chess players found the beautiful sound of stones being taken out of the bowl for every move irritating, so now we have this as a solution.

axd: Tact is not what I excel in, but I would never give in to chess players like that; although I don't know the exact circumstances in your club (maybe you are lucky the chess players gave you some room, for example), but this sounds to me like the Go players are bending over for the chess players. If you can agree to pile stones (I think the bowls have a function for that, they are part of the game rather than "just" containers, I'd say), why couldn't you agree to minimize the rattling then? For me, this sounds like a subtle way of the chess players to keep control over the Go players.

PatG : I really don't see a problem with this as long as the chess players hold up little cards printed with check rather than saying it out loud. We all know how rude and distracting it is to call out Atari so I'm sure the chess players will understand.....

must be a very boring chess club if they all play in silence, I tend to leave clubs like those.

I like the sound and feel of rubbing two black slate stones together while I'm playing over master games and thinking, and I would never think of doing it with anybody else in the room. --Scryer

In my few years as both a chess and a go player, I have witnessed and partaken in my fair share of bad habits. I used to click two pawns together in my palm, rock back and forth, and grab a stone and play with it while it was my opponents turn. Through time I relized these habits were just an outward showing of a lack of confidence. Now I'm still when playing. Your moves and your pose should both be still but delibrate for good play. It's ok to rattle the stones for a brief second while selecting one, just don't be dramatic. Just a side note, I have a hunch that fidgeting leads to bad play. That is, it's causal, not just coorrelated. Movement arouses the autonomic nervous system, which robs energy from the prefrontal lobe. The only exception is the fidgeting of chewing, which elevates blood flow to the upper lobes, but you don't really see players chewing on stones or other equipment...

 --Robert, the Bruce

Tell this to Alexandre Dinerchtein. I have seen him playing on several occasions, and my gods, he moves & fidgets *all the time*! Plus, he rarely sits on his chair in the usual fashion... -- Gaius

RE: Robert - I strongly recommend that my opponents don't chew on my stones, as they are Yunzi stones from YMI, which I have not confirmed whether they contain surface-accessible lead or not. But I am always eager to inform them of this before we play, as to give them the option to play with a different set. So, in general, don't suck or chew on stones and especially not Yunzi stones. -- pillbox

RE: pillbox - One should not put stones in the mouth regardless if they have lead or not, who knows how many times ones hands has touched the stones and in what condition of the hand was and how dirty the stone is. Plus I would never let children play Go unsupervised, it is perfect swallowing size even slate and shell stones can be swallowed. -- RedPanda?

I don't know if this counts as a bad habit, because I'm not sure if it would actually annoy anyone, but I occasionally tap a stone against my forehead before I play it. -- TheBigH

Rattling The Go Stones last edited by on February 17, 2015 - 20:33
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