The Nature And History Of Go

© 2002 Milton N. Bradley

Go is one of the supreme accidents of human creation! Now universally recognized as the premiere strategic board game of all time, it originated in China during the Bronze Age about 4000 years ago. As might logically be expected of a game of such incredible antiquity, Go play is governed by a surprisingly few simple rules which can be learned in only a few minutes even by young children. But don't be deceived by this! While one might reasonably expect that a strategic board game with such an astonishingly simple structure would lack the depth and challenge of more modern and superficially complex games like chess, in reality exactly the opposite is true!

In this regard (only) Go resembles mathematics, because from its few elegant rules there derives an almost unbelievably complex structure of tactics and strategy which not only challenges all that the best human minds can offer, but which also remains far beyond what even the fastest and most powerful supercomputers can handle.

But trying to explain the almost unbelievable beauty and fascination of Go to someone unfamiliar with it is an essentially impossible task! In a very real sense, it's much like that of a music critic describing a concert, but with a serious complication. If the reader of the criticism is familiar with the music, then the critic's analysis of the performance exists in a context which gives it meaning. But just suppose that the reader not just unfamiliar with the music, but has also been deaf since birth! In that context, attempting to describe the eloquence and beauty of the composer's conception and the skill with which the orchestra and soloist rendered it can have little or no meaning. One can admire the skill with which the critic expresses himself and his obvious knowledge of the subject, but any visceral, emotional connection with the concert he describes must necessarily be absent.

So it is with Go and what I'm trying to do here.. Until one gets beyond the stage of rudimentary knowledge of its elegant concepts even the slightest inkling of the immense attractiveness and fascination of its incisive tactics and profound strategy and the pleasure which playing it gives its devotees is hard to imagine for all but an exceptional few. One of those exceptional individuals who could instantly grasp why Go is the most fascinating purely intellectual pastime ever created was former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, and his introduction to Go is described below in the section of this web page entitled How Go Came To America.

What follows in the remainder of this web page emphasizes the value of Go in the development of children's transcendently valuable Reasoning skills rather than its fascination and the pure intellectual challenge and pleasure derived from playing it, but this should not confuse the reader. This emphasis was deliberately chosen because it provides a practical justification for skeptical parents and school teachers and administrators to encourage children to learn and practice Go. This has regrettably proved necessary because in the intense competition for children's already scarce "free time" perceiving Go as just another pleasurable leisure time pursuit won't "cut it" in today's highly competitive school environment. But be assured, once learned Go will provide a lifetime of the greatest purely intellectual pleasure conceivable, and after 48+ years of Go experience I can personally attest to that!

For those who would like to find out a bit more about the background of Go and its place in history, the following web references are suggested:

The AGA's "What Is The Game Of Go?"

Mindy McAdams "What is Go?"

Ken Warkentine's Go Page (includes the fabulous Go Pages Index)

"Go in Ancient China" by John Fairbairn

Andrew Grant's Go History Pages

Harry Fearnley's Go Pages Links (even more fabulous than Ken's!!!)

But please remember to return to my web page after you've visited them!


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