Go is a two-person board game in which players alternately place black and white “stones” on a square grid. The stronger player traditionally uses the white stones, and the weaker player uses the black stones, plays first, and, if appropriate, starts with a handicap of extra stones at the beginning of play. They take turns placing stones on the intersections of lines on the board, each building patterns in an attempt to acquire more territory than their opponent. Stones may be captured if enemy stones occupy all adjacent intersections. Capturing stones is not a primary goal, but may be instrumental in seizing control of territory from the opponent. Play usually begins near the corners, on the 3rd and 4th lines away from the edges, since territory is most efficiently controlled in these areas. The game is over when the all intersections on the board are clearly in possession of one player or the other.
To learn more about the rules of the game, follow this link and check out The Rules, or if you are in the Sacramento area, contact one of the people mentioned below or come to the Cafe Roma on Thursday evening and ask.
The advantage of playing first in the game, or of having extra stones on the board at the beginning is very distinct. This provides the basis for a handicapping system that allows players of somewhat different strengths to enjoy playing with equal opportunity to win. Each handicap stone represents one playing level difference between the players.
There are about 40-45 different playing levels from beginner to professional. These levels are divided into student (kyu), teacher (dan), and professional (professional dan) categories. Beginners generally begin at about 25 to 30 kyu, and progress to 1 kyu before graduating to 1 dan and later progressing to (in theory) 9-dan. In practice, almost all amateur dan-level players switch to the professional ranks before reaching amateur 9-dan.
To learn the game, playing strong opponents and having them explain your errors during or after the game is ideal. To enjoy the game, it is best to play an opponent within nine ranks of your strength. The average strength of Go players is about 6 kyu. Fortunately, most beginners can advance to about 15 kyu within 20-40 games, so finding an interesting game with a human opponent is not usually too difficult. Computer programs can serve as surrogate opponents during this initial learning phase, but the best computer program is not as good as an average human Go player. To avoid learning bad habits from software, find human opponents as soon as possible.