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The Go Board
/studying/rules/.img/7x7.gif Go is played on a square board consisting of any number of crossing lines. The usual board sizes are 9x9, 13x13 or 19x19 lines, the latter being the official tournament size. To explain you the rules of the game we will use a 7x7 board since that will be more than sufficient for this purpose. You start the game with an empty board (but see also section handicap). The dark spot in the middle of the board is useful for orientation but also used as indicator (again see section handicap).
Legal Moves
/studying/rules/.img/inturn.gif A Go move is played on the intersections of the lines. This is different from what you are used to from other games like chess and checkers. In the figure we show you the first four moves of an instruction game. The moves are numbered to indicate the order in which they were played. That's right, in Go the black player moves first! Another legal move, hard to display in a figure, is pass. When both players pass the game is finished.
Capturing Stones
Dia 1-1: Black plays 1
Dia 1-2: and takes one stone
Dia 1-3: Capturing one stone...
During a Go game one or more stones can be captured by completely surrounding them, i.e. filling all empty points around them. We show two examples: on the left a one stone capture, on the right a three stone capture. Once black has played 1 he removes the captured white stones from the board leading to the 2nd diagram positions. /studying/rules/.img/capture3.gif
Dia 2-1: Black plays 1
Dia 2-2: and takes three stones!
Dia 2-3: Capturing three stones...

Note 1: Needless to say that being captured usually is bad. There are numerous situations though where one would sacrifice one or more stones just to gain an advantage elsewhere.

Aim of the Game
/studying/rules/.img/endgame.gif The purpose of Go is to conquer a larger part of the board than your opponent. The conquered part exists of the stones placed on the board plus the stones which could be added safely, i.e. inside your own walls. The figure shows a final position. The score for this game would be: black has 11 stones on the board and could add 16 stones inside his own walls, white has 11 stones on the board and could add 11 stones inside his own walls, so the score is 11+16 - 11+11 = 5 points for black. Black won this game.
/studying/rules/.img/endgame.gif You might argue that it is not fair that black won the instruction game because he had the advantage of moving first. You are right about that. That's why the white player receives compensation for the fact that he moves second. This compensation is called komi (Japanese).
Remarkably enough, the komi hardly depends on the boardsize. According to Japanese professional Go players the komi should be 5½ points for the boardsizes 9x9, 13x13 and 19x19. In the instruction game we played on a 7x7 board. Let's assume that the komi would still be 5½ points, then white would have won the above game with ½ point, the smallest margin possible.

Note 1: The amount of komi can differ between countries. It can even differ between tournaments. Basically, it is up to the organiser to decide with exactly how much komi the game is played.

Note 2: The fact that the komi includes half a point (5½) ensures that the game can't end in a draw.

The Ko Rule
Dia 1: Black to move in this position...
Dia 2: Would he decide to capture one white stone...
Dia 3: It would lead to this position...
But now it's white's turn... /studying/rules/.img/ko2.gif
Dia 4: White could decide to capture one stone...
Dia 5: Leading to the position of dia 1...
Dia 6: Endless...
You get the picture: this process could repeat itself endlessly. To avoid this to happen the game has a special rule, the ko (Japanese) rule. The ko rule prohibits that the same position (i.e. the whole board!) repeats itself.

Note 1: So in the above diagram sequence white 2 is prohibited because of this ko rule.

Note 2: Its not allowed to repeat the "whole board" situation so once one (or more) stones have been played elsewhere you're again allowed to take the ko. When it's important to capture (and win) the ko these "moves elsewhere" are usually threatening something so that your opponent has to answer and thus has no time to connect the ko. Such moves are called "ko threats".

One of the (many) nice features of Go is that you don't need an opponent of equal strength/experience to have an exciting game. The Go game allows you to equalize the players' chances to win by adding some initial stones on the board. The larger the strength difference the more stones you would add. /studying/rules/.img/handicap3.gif
/studying/rules/.img/handicap9.gif These stones are called handicap stones. The handicap stones are usually placed on predestined points, indicated on the Go board by a thick spot.
We show two examples: a handicap 3 and a handicap 9 game. The latter is usually considered the maximum for 19x19 Go and (as you can see from the figure) is far more than reasonable for 7x7.

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