March 11, 2015
People are sometimes baffled by my love of Go. This often inspires from me a gushing, almost manic explanation of everything great about it, condensed into as little time as possible. I'm pretty sure I don't do it justice.
But even ignoring the fact that it's thrilling and mentally stimulating, there's a lot about Go that makes it fun and accessible that has nothing to do with the relentless gameplay:
Feel like playing? Sit down at the board, take the lids off the bowls, and lay your first move. None of that card-shuffling, or queen-goes-on-her-own-colour nonsense.
At the end of the game you'll have to separate the black and white stones and put them back into their respective bowls, but it's kind of soothing, especially after a furious match.
Which reminds me:
You have an entire bowl of smooth stones at your disposal. Some serious players consider unnecessary touching and/or rattling of the stones in the bowl to be rude, but it feels really great on the fingers. Go ahead; I won't judge.
In Go, it's perfectly acceptable to slap down your stones with some force. In fact, it's encouraged! Feels great in an aggressive game, and it can be intimidating for your opponent. Or, you can quietly slide your moves into place, lulling your opponent into a false sense of security before playing the sneaky move you've been plotting for half the game.
Can't get three people together for Catan? That's fine, because you only need one friend for Go. Even if you've got extra people, they should be perfectly happy to sit and watch, because:
It's the House of Cards of board games — two players test each other, fighting small battles that tie into their overarching plans. Then, after some thrilling twists, someone plays a shocking move that completely throws the other person under a subway (spoilers). A lot can happen in 250-300 moves.
Are you truly, utterly alone? Not even that matters, because you can always log onto a Go server and find an opponent with a similar rank. On KGS it usually doesn't take me more than a minute to get a game started, and it's a great place to get exposed to a huge range of playing styles. Plus, you can step in and watch most of the games being played, so it's an endless, free source of entertainment. Unlike House of Cards.
The game has been played for thousands of years. Strategies have come in and out of vogue with the changing of dynasties, and yet the game itself has hardly changed. And while it's fun to read about champions of days gone by, you can also study the hundreds of Go proverbs that have passed the test of time. They'll help your game and give you some insight into dry Go humour.
So what more could you want from a board game? Play through an interactive tutorial and see what I get so crazy about.
December 16, 2013
It seems like every day I play a game of Go unlike any I've played before! This is of course a mathematical certainty, but it does not mean that I don't repeat sequences that have proven successful in the past. Here are some of my favourite moves that you too can attempt:
This is a fairly basic sequence but never fails to bring a smile to my otherwise emotionless face. I'm not sure what stone is supposed to be the 'egg' in the situation but I like to think it's the one that gets cleverly sacrificed.
Another bird-themed position is also a favourite of mine, and it's a rare treat when I can make it work. The shortage of liberties of both sides of a split group prevents the capture of the invading stones, forcing the losing player to give up the position immediately. I used to call it an "Awkward Split" but its Chinese name is far superior.
A play on the second line is an insidious way to invade an opponent's corner-side, as it allows a follow-up either into the corner or off to the side. It does, however, give your opponent the choice of which side to defend — so if the corner is what you want, just take 3-3 right away instead.
Can't leave this one out. A great way to reduce territory near the endgame. I think it's fair to say that everybody likes doing Monkey Jumps.
Probably my favourite shimari and the main reason I like to open at 4-4. This holds the corner but it's also high enough to have some influence on battles in the center.
This kind of jump can be cut easily, and I often use it to offer up a sacrifice stone. If your opponent is greedy, the Elephant Jump will be almost irresistible to cut through, and you can use this to leverage the side you want while losing only one stone. Greed, it's said, is something we don't need.
OK I'm done.