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1.3 Origins of Go and Chinese Rules

There is little chance that we will ever know when, by whom, or in what way the game of go was created, but at least we can use our imaginations. We shall not go far wrong if we assume that go was first played widely in China three or four thousand years ago, that the game was improved over the millenia, and that players' skill also advanced until gradually go assumed something like its present form.

The explanation offered by Go Seigen (9 dan) is that the go board and stones were used in the past as tools for research into divination and other fields of learning, or for presenting findings in these fields, but after the invention of paper they gradually evolved into equipment for playing a game. One can imagine diviners or philosophers tiring from their researches with the board and stones and suggesting to their fellows that they play a stone-placing game. It would have been natural and easy to start from the simple rules of placing stones alternately on the board and removing stones that became surrounded, and arrive at the conclusion that the player who could place the most stones on the board should be the winner. This idea must have occurred to many people.

The problem that immediately confronts this basic idea is the need for a definite way to handle ko. If you want to avoid falling into cyclic repetition, the ko rule (playing elsewhere before recapturing) is a good solution. Since it is also a natural solution, it was probably invented at nearly the same time. This completed the primitive form of the game of go. If you write these rules down, you have the primitive rules of go.

In the vast reaches of China, over the long span of Chinese history, one would expect to find these most primitive rules subjected to various modifications and improvements, each of which had its reason. Various rules may have held sway during Chinese history. From literary sources one can deduce that the territory rules followed in Japan were used in ancient China. It may be more appropriate to consider the rules still seen in Tibet and Korea to be survivals of ancient Chinese rules, rather than modifications made in those particular places.

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