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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:
(1) The concept of territory is very useful in estimating the score during the game.
(2) Nearly meaningless moves are avoided as much as possible at the end of the game.
(3) 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 considerable importance.

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 later.

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.

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