Go go, gadget Go! Time to play Baduk!

If you know me,  you know that I love the ancient Asian board game,Go (also called Baduk in Korea and Weiqi in China).  So today I’ll try to convince you to give it a shot.

Why should I care about Go / Baduk / Weiqi?

  • First, it’s the most infinite board game we know of, which has made conquering it the holy grail of AI research. In fact, human professional players used to be considered unbeatable by computers because they played on intuition, which computers just couldn’t do.
  • In 2016, Google DeepMind created a AlphaGo, which for beat a human prosfor the first time. Consequently, this means a board game will end up changing the world at a fundamental level!
  • Hey, did you know it’s is the oldest board game we know of that is still being played? Cool, huh?
  • I’ve written a couple of cool stories about it, but they’re not published yet. You can check out my go-less bibliography here.
  • It takes 5 minutes to learn the rules if someone shows you. If you have 25 minutes free, you can get a pretty detailed course here. 
  • Othello is based off of it
  • Child prodigies in Asia study from the age of 6 in full-time academies in hopes of going “pro”. Only 10% of child prodigies that try to go pro ever succeed.
  • It’s pretty damn fun for us non-pro, normal mortals
  • Hey, there’s even an anime about it! Check out Hikaru no Go.
Go / Baduk Anime!
Hikaru no Go

What I’ve been doing

Well, I’ve been focusing on improving my ability to read ahead and improving my opening moves, and it seems to be paying off.  In fact, For a while there my rank shot to 6 kyu, which is amazing for me. (Ranks in Go start at 25 kyu and go down. After 1 kyu they start over at 1 dan and reach as high as 9 dan. This is very similar to the belt system in Karate.)

To get there, I did lots and lots of problems. All sorts of riddles.

In other words, I did drills! Deliberate practice. Look at me, a broken record!

Tsumego for You!

The Japanese call Go riddles “tsumego.” C’mon, check this one out! Black to live:

Go riddles!

Once you get into go (baduk, weiqi), the game just gets deeper. There’s a point where the board seems suddenly smaller and less intimidating, but that’s when you realize just how infinite the game really is. It keeps going and going, neverending.

On this board, whole universes are created and destroyed.

I keep seeing a statistic that shows there are more possible board combinations than there are atoms in the known universe. While I have no idea if this is true, the factoid pops up all over the place. That no one’s questioned it should give you a clue about how vast the game really is.

Enjoy, and have a good day writing!

Go / Weiqi / Baduk


So as an escape from the mundane (and a vent for stress), I started studying Go (a.k.a., Weiqi in Mandarin, Baduk in Korean). It’s the oldest board game we know of that is still played today, with boards and pieces dating from 2,000 years ago.

We call it Go because that’s what the Japanese call it, and they introduced it to the west.

If you are after a challenging, infinite game that has no luck to it, this is your game. It FAR easier to learn than chess — almost as easy as checkers — but the strategy is much deeper.

Only this last year did a computer finally manage to beat a top human player in Go. (They started beating Chess Grandmasters in the 70’s).  According to one article, there are more legal board positions in the game then there are atoms in the universe. This has made Go the holy grail of AI research, because if you can make an AI that can learn to master Go, it can — by definition — master anything easier than Go.

All hail our new AI overlords, AlphaGo and (soon) Zen. May they be kind and gracious tyrants. 😉