My Go Rules Proposal

As I explain in my Rules Elegance page, I'm not completely happy with any existing rulesets. Even though there are ruleset with no big flaws, every single one I know has at least some minor detail which bothers me a bit.

I say in that page that "I believe that if Go was a game where short, simple and elegant rules were possible, it would be a much more boring game." However, this doesn't mean I couldn't try to formulate my own set of rules which try to achieve exactly this... ;)

Most ideas in this ruleset are mostly taken from several existing rulesets, probably mostly from the AGA ruleset (which I find one of the least bothering). It tries to be simple and easy to understand, while still being fair and being rather easy to play with. I'm not claiming this ruleset is flawless, I'm just saying that I would personally like to play using this ruleset.

The ruleset

The board

  1. The game is played in a board with a 19x19 grid of points by two players, the Black Player (playing with black stones) and the White Player (playing with white stones).
  2. Each point is connected to four adjacent points with a vertical or a horizontal line (except in the sides, where the points are connected to three adjacent points, and the corners where they are connected to two). These points are also called intersections.
  3. An intersection can be empty (when there's no stone on it) or it can be occupied with a black or a white stone.
  4. Two stones of the same color are connected if they are adjacent to each other (horizontally or vertically) or they are reachable by following adjacent stones of the same color. All stones of the same color connected to each other form a group of stones. (It's possible for a group to have only one stone.)
  5. A group of stones has liberties if there's at least one empty intersection adjacent to it.


  1. A play consists of placing a stone (of that player's own color) on an empty intersection, and then removing from the board all opponent groups with no liberties. These removed stones are called captured prisoners. The player who made the play gets the prisoners for himself.
  2. A play is forbidden if:
    1. It repeats the board position left by the player in his previous turn.
    2. Does not capture any opponent stones and leaves one of the player's own groups without liberties.
  3. A move consists of either a valid play (ie. not forbidden) or a pass.
  4. The game begins with an empty board and the players take turns to move, beginning with the Black Player.
  5. The game ends when both players pass consecutively (ie. they agree that there are no worthwile moves left).
  6. If after ending the game one of the players wants to resume the game, his opponent gets to play first. If both players want to resume the game and they can't agree who should play first, then the one who passed last does not get the turn but his opponent plays first (because it was his turn anyways).
  7. If during the game a succession of valid plays would repeat earlier board positions infinitely and neither player is willing to stop the loop (by playing somewhere else) then the game is ended with no result.

Dead stone removal

  1. After the game has ended the players must agree which groups on the board are dead and which are alive.
  2. If there's a disagreement about the status of a group, that is, the owner of the group claims it's alive and cannot be captured but his opponent claims it can be captured, then this group must be captured explicitly by the opponent. The owner of the group gets to play first. The regular rules of play (rules 6-10) apply but with two additional rules:
    1. A play is also forbidden if it repeats an earlier board position left by the player.
    2. For each play the opponent makes, the owner of the group either makes a play himself or gives a stone to his opponent as prisoner. The owner of the group cannot pass after an opponent's play. (That is, the owner of the group can pass only as his first move and after his opponent has passed.)
    If the opponent refuses to play and capture the group explicitly, then the group is considered alive.
  3. When the players agree on the status of all the groups on the board, dead groups are removed from the board and taken as captured prisoners by the opponent.


  1. The territory of a player consists of all empty intersections from which it's not possible to reach an opponent stone by following adjacent empty intersections.
  2. The score of a player consists of the number of empty intersections in his territory plus the number of captured prisoners he has.
  3. An additional compensation can be given to white in order to compensate for the advantage of black having the first move (which is demonstrably worth several points). The compensation (komi) is a given number of points added to White's score. At the time of writing this text, the standard compensation (used by Japanese professionals) white gets in even games is 6.5 points.
  4. The player with the higher score wins.

You can read some comments about this ruleset.

Copyright 2004 Juha Nieminen

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