Go for It!

Until the Internet came along, I had never been able to find anyone to play go with. Go is a board game widely played in Japan, China, and Korea (go is the Japanese name). The rules are simple, but it’s as difficult to master as chess. More difficult, for a computer: The best computer programs that play go are just plain lousy.

You can’t play go by correspondence, the way people used to play chess using postcards, because each player needs to make more than 100 moves, on average. A correspondence game would take a year. So until the Internet came along, the only way to play was face to face. And somehow, I could never fit weekly visits to a local go club into my schedule.

But at sites like Dragon Go Server, I can play go against opponents who are at my own (very modest) level of competence, making four or five moves a day. I can keep eight or ten games going at once, which speeds up the learning process immeasurably. It’s a wonderful thing.

Here’s what a game in progress looks like:

This is a dramatic moment. (The most recent move is the stone marked with a circle.) Black is trying to surround the stranded white group in the upper center.

I’m not going to set out the rules of go here. If you’re curious, enter “go game” into your favorite search engine. The game is, at the same time, both rigidly logical and very intuitive — almost musical. Also, it’s about life and death. There’s a real thrill in winning.

I like to win. I’m black in the game shown above, and I’m licking my chops. I may not be able to kill the white group, but I’ll certainly give white some uncomfortable moments.

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