1.4 Merits of Territory Rules
It is extremely interesting to consider the reasons for the development
of territory rules from the primitive rules that simply contested the
number of stones on the board. In terms of rules, the primitive rules of
go were as simple as possible, and they were not illogical in any way.
The reasons for the development of territory rules from these rules are
of some importance, and one of the main purposes of this discussion is
to consider those reasons. I think there were three reasons:
|| The concept of territory is very useful in estimating the score during the game.
|| Nearly meaningless moves are avoided as much as possible at the end of the game.
|| The problem associated with reinforcing territory when there are an even number of neutral points is avoided.
Although this is arguing from consequences, as a basis for (1) I would
like to submit that go reached the highest standard of play in Japan,
where territory rules were adopted. It is of course true that the
number of stones and the sum of territory and prisoners are nearly the
same, but when the concept of territory and prisoners was arrived at
in ancient China, this acted powerfully to motivate improvements in go
technique. Territory is a direct concept that is important even when
you play under the primitive rules that only contest the number of
stones. Introducing the concept of territory directly into the rules can
therefore be considered as a step in the development of go.
(2) is not impossible in the primitive rules of go, but in rules that
contest the number of stones on the board, there are no neutral points.
The neutral points (dame) all have to be played out, unless the players
both read out the entire ending sequence and agree to stop without
playing it. Under territory rules, playing on the neutral points is
generally meaningless. This is an important practical consideration. The
territory rules followed in Japan are said to preserve the "beauty
of neutrality." That this fits well with the Japanese esthetic
sense certainly does not provide any basis for claims of illogicality.
Rules that permit meaningless moves to be avoided may actually be of
I will discuss (3) in greater detail later. This is the only defect of
the primitive rules. It does not make them illogical, but it is a defect
from the standpoint of go as a competitive game, and it is worth noting
that this defect is most completely avoided in territory rules. Rules to
avoid problem (3) were also created in Taiwan; we shall compare these
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