The roots of Go are cloaked in the mists of ancient Chinese history. The game is believed to have been created at least 2500 or more years ago. It is deemed to be one of the oldest games, yet its mode of play has remained in its the original form. Given the lack of proof about the origin of the game, much folklore surrounds Go. For instance, it is rumored that the renowned Emperor Yao conceived Go to educate his son Dan Zhu in matters of discipline.
Some people are of the opinion that the board, having 10 points from the midpoint in all the directions, might have initially been a precursor to the abacus. Some also think it might have been a fortune-telling instrument, with the black and white pieces signifying yin and yang.
In the period around 500 BC Chinese intellectuals such as Confucius wrote about wei-chi (the Chinese name for Go) to demonstrate by analogy the accurate thinking about familial devotion and human nature. Consequently, wei-chi became one of the Four Accomplishments (along with playing the lute, painting, and calligraphy) that a Chinese man needed to learn in his lifetime. This manner of consecrated thinking about the game has, through the ages, motivated many individuals to try to master it.
The Spread of Go
Wei-chi/Go passed into Japanese and Korean culture via trade and other interactions between nations in the first millennium A.D. In early Chinese art, aristocrats can frequently be seen playing Go. Later, the game advanced more slowly in China than in Japan, and during the period of the Cultural Revolution, it suffered through being considered too much of a scholarly endeavor.
Since then, and after the creation of a ‘special arrangement’ in 1978, the talent of Chinese players has once again become on par with the Japanese. Go is now taught in numerous schools, and competitions are held all over China.
The Korean expert system was founded in the 1950s, after Cho Nam-chul came back from specialized training in Japan. Currently Go (baduk as it is known in Korea) is more prevalent in that country than any other place worldwide. It is estimated that from 5 to 10 percent of the populace frequently plays the game.
The first Go players in North America were undoubtedly Chinese personnel working on the continent-wide railway. However, the game did not draw attention outside the Chinese-American population. Currently, with over two thousand affiliates, the American Go Association is a minor, though committed national community that commonly greets a fresh player as a long-lost member of the community.
Beyond the rich and long history of the game, the modern generation has also taken up the game as an integral part of the sporting world. Initially the game was viewed as an Asian game, but European countries are now actively playing the game, despite their lower standards compared to their Asian counterparts. However, through their intense study of the game in Japan, Korea and China, the gap is gradually closing.
In the last decade international competitions between Go masters have seen a significant increase, where the top players from China, Japan, Korea and other places compete to be recognized as the world’s finest. As is the case with other games, Go has also found a home on the Internet. There are sites where Go can be taught, discussed and played by almost anyone who can access the Internet. A huge number of people of all categories of strength and nationalities play the game online. Tournaments are also played online over longer periods than usual, unlike typical board gaming.