© 2006 Milton N. Bradley






Technology continues to advance at a furious pace! In addition to the "dial up" telephone/modem based system described below that was the only thing widely available only a year or two ago, there are now vastly faster alternatives. Among these are cable modems and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), and by the time that you read this who knows what else? But these newer alternatives are typically much more expensive than the dial up modem based system and some have the security disadvantage of being perpetually connected to the internet where "hackers" can then have the opportunity to penetrate and compromise your computer! In addition, higher line speed has almost no payoff in playing or watching Go because the players' thinking time is orders of magnitude greater!

The well established dial-up system now in wide use consists of the following elements:


    Almost every new computer sold today already comes adequately equipped, and you already have them all if you're reading this! Better video cards, sound cards and bigger monitors with higher resolution will increase your playing pleasure, but faster CPU's and modems offer no advantage in playing Go on line!


    Your regular telephone line will work fine but will be unavailable for calls while you're on the internet, so obtaining a dedicated line is best if you can afford it!

    CAUTION: If you use your normal home phone line to play Go, you MUST disable such add-on functions as Call Waiting while you are playing on-line, or they may mess up your internet access!

    Since the average internet Go game takes about 60-90 minutes, playing Go on line using ordinary telephone company protocols can become expensive, especially if your ISP access number (see below) is not in your local dialing area. The solution is to obtain "unlimited local" and even "unlimited regional" telephone service. With these you pay the same flat fee no matter where your ISP is located or how long you stay on line!!


    Although you also already have an ISP if you're reading this, it is important to realize that many services charge by the hour for internet access, and this can become VERY EXPENSIVE if you're playing Go. Far cheaper is to contract with a local or national ISP for an UNLIMITED INTERNET ACCESS ACCOUNT, preferably PPP or faster ("shell" accounts are not adequate). On Long Island such service typically can be obtained for under $20/month, and some ISP's charge as little as $15/mo on a yearly basis and about $10/mo for 3 years paid in advance! So shop around for the best deal!


    On any of the several Internet Go Servers listed below you can:


      Until recently, the only way to play Go on the internet was via dedicated Go servers, using special software called "clients"(described below), but that has changed! It is now possible to play and watch Go on the internet directly through your browser (mainly The Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator), if it has Java capability.

      Getting started is much simpler in this mode, since all that you need do is to access the site through your browser, register (in most cases, "cookies" must be enabled to do this!), and then follow the on line instructions they provide for playing and watching

      The major problem with all of these browser accessed sites is that there is no rating system, so you never really know the strength of your opponent or the players you are observing! And in some cases, as with Yahoo, the display only provides for a small board, which even on my quite large 19" screen is still only a mere 5"x 5", and must be much smaller on the 15" or 17" screen that most have. Once you have gotten used to the 8" x 8" display provided by the "client" software, it's hard to go back! And the move sound provided by these servers is also not nearly as realistic or audible.

      There are also a number of other "goodies" available on the client accessed sites we discuss next that a serious Go player will miss on these browser accessed sites, but for the beginner who just wishes to experiment with Go the ease of getting started on the browser sites more than makes up for this.

      The major browser based Go sites are:

      Its Your Turn (IYT) differs from the others because it's a "turn-based" game site. What this means is that you make one move and the system then automatically e-mails your opponent letting them know it's their turn to play. So IYT is really a correspondence (rather than real time) site, and this means that games can take weeks or months to play. The result is that IYT is really suitable only for those whose time for Go is severely limited.

      The IYT Go Guild maintains a list of Go players on IYT and their relative strengths, to help find opponents against whom you can play properly handicapped games. It also runs Go tournaments.


      Getting started in this mode is much more complicated than simply using your browser, because you must first download and install a "client" software program, but the advantages of having a much better display, a rating system, clocks, ability to save games for later review, and especially being able to observe the world's strongest players in action much more than makes up for any extra initial effort! For anyone who is at all serious about Go, this is the only way!

      The major client based Go sites are:

        The Internet Go Server (IGS) is not only the oldest server but also by far the largest with over 30,000 registered players, and at any time typically has about 250-400 games in play! It attracts the strongest players in the world including a number of 9-Dan professionals, some of whom play anonymously. Although formerly based in Korea and now based in Japan, the default language on IGS is English, which is used with rather surprising fluency by players from all over the world. The ratings on IGS were long the toughest in the world, but have recently seen that position supplanted by some of the Chinese and Korean servers.

        The No Name Go Server (NNGS) is much smaller than IGS and supposedly has a more friendly, less competitive atmosphere which some prefer. Its ratings are reported to be about 2 stones less rigorous than those of IGS.

        The other Go servers are mainly ethnic (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) or national (Canadian, English, Polish, etc.), and at one time attracted few players outside their own groups. But KGS in particular has become rather popular recently, especially as a result of sponsoring some unique events. Its realignment of ratings at the end of 2005 has resulted in a downgrade of its ratings by a full 5 stones, with the result that its ratings are now that same 5 stones stronger than those of the AGA! So, once again, it has become necessary to be careful to ascertain where a new player you encounter has established the rating he quotes, because otherwise the results could be embarrassing! Despite this, IGS is still the place where most of the major championship events which appear on the internet are available, so it still remains #1.


      1. Obtaining and installing a "client" (= A "shareware" program that enables you to dial up the Go servers and play Go using beautiful representations of the Go board and stones.) To obtain a client:

        1. Type <ENTER>

        2. Click on "README" to read the README file!

        3. Click on "igs clients/"

        4. Click on the icon for your computer system (Win98, Mac, etc.).

        5. Click on "select client".

        6. Click on the client you desire to download.

        7. Download and install the selected client on your computer.

          1. Create a master folder (mine is called "Go") and an appropriately named sub-folder for each client in an appropriate directory in your computer.

          2. Find the downloaded client program (usually automatically entered into your "Program Files" folder in a Windows system).

          3. Decompress the download and install it into its sub-folder in the Go folder.

          4. Find the .exe file in that sub-folder and right click on it to create a shortcut icon, then place that icon onto your desktop for easy routine access.

            Because these "clients" are shareware they are nominally FREE, but they usually contain periodic annoying "pop up" registration reminder messages which can only be disabled by registering each with its respective author and paying his nominal registration fee (usually about $25-$30). This is not only advisable but more than fair, since a great deal of time and sophisticated programming effort was expended to create these programs. So once you've decided that you like a particular client and intend to keep using it, register it ASAP.

            An important advantage of using a client is its ability to save games in Smart Go Format (sgf), for later replay, editing, analysis and print out. If you use WinIGC as your client (as I do) this replay function is performed by a dedicated program called WinMGT, which is downloaded in exactly the same way from the same site! And all games saved in WinIGC are automatically and instantly available to WinMGT if both sub-folders have been placed in the Go folder.


        These instructions are for the client WinIGC 1.00. To the extent that other clients differ from this you may have to experiment a bit or use your client's "help" file to figure out exactly what to do.

        1. Initial Access

          1. Set up your client.

            1. Start the client by double clicking on its desktop shortcut icon. (You do NOT have tostart or use your web browser to do this!)

            2. Maximize the Terminal Window and click on "Connect" on the tool bar at its top.

            3. Click on "Connect to a Server" to bring up the address book.

            4. Click on "Add" in the pop up dialogue box.

            5. Enter the telnet addresses (and alternates, where available) for all the Go Servers to which you desire to connect. (See list below.) The numeric form of the address is preferred because it gives faster access.

              In all cases access can only be obtained if the specified port # has been entered as shown below, and these addresses need be entered only once.

              You will not yet have the data to enter into the first two fields "Login Name" and "Password", because you can obtain that information only after you have contacted the servers and registered with them! So for the moment simply leave those two fields blank!

              The major Go server addresses are:

              • IGS = 6969 , or

                = 6969 (Alternate Port # = 7777), or

                = 210.146.353.10 6969 (Alternate Port # = 7777)

              • NNGS = 9696, or

                = 9696

              • LGS = 9696

                = 9696

              • CTN = 8888

                = 8888

              • WING = 1515

              • CWS = 9696

                = 9696

            6. Left click to highlight the desired server address.

            7. Click on "Connect!" in the right side tool bar to connect to that Go server. If you haven't already connected to your ISP, this will first do that automatically.

            8. Log in as "guest".

              WinIGC automatically enters "guest" when you connect to IGS for the first time. With another client or for a different server you may have to enter "guest" yourself. (No password is necessary for guests.)

            9. Register.

              Each time you contact a server as a guest you will be prompted to register as a permanent member of their Go community by simply following the instructions they provide. Since all servers are free outside of Japan (and only IGS charges there) and registration is necessary if you desire to obtain a rating and use all of the server's facilities, there's no reason not to do so!

              1. Select a user name. (If the name you select is already assigned, you will be prompted to choose another. For example, my main IGS account name is "philonist".)

              2. You will be logged in and your assigned password will be emailed to you within a few hours.

              3. When you receive that email, enter your user name and password into the appropriate fields to complete your client's "connect" address book.

                If you neglect to do this, you will have to manually reenter both of these items every time you log on!

        2. Routine access.

          Once your server address book is completed, just:

          1. Double Click on your client's desktop shortcut to start it.

          2. Click on "connect" in the terminal window.

          3. Click on "Connect to a server".

          4. Click on the desired server's address in the pop up box to highlight it.

          5. Click on the "Connect!" button!

          WinIGC then does the dial up, connect and sign-in automatically!


          1. Download the server's commands.

            1. Type "help commands" <Enter> to see the list.

            2. For each command of interest, use the "mail me" command to have its description emailed to you.

            3. Download the email attachment, print it, and put it in a loose leaf binder next to your computer for quick, easy reference as needed.

          2. Use the appropriate commands to watch others play, kibitz, converse, and to arrange and play your own games.

          3. Playing your own games.

            1. Before playing your first game, it is advisable to declare a RANK, if you know your approximate playing strength. CAUTION! On IGS most ratings are at least several stones stronger than those of the AGA! (Until recently I had believed that the difference was 2 stones, but on Jan 26, 2006 I discovered that a well established AGA 2 Dan and 3 Dan were each 2k* on IGS, which implies, at least at that level, that the difference is actually as much as 4 or 5 stones!)

              This same sort of ranking disparity exists across national,regional and internet Go server ranks, and has been (approximately) cataloged at the following web site: //

              But please note that this table shows only a 2 stone disparity between AGA and IGS ratings, as opposed to the approximately 4 stones my example cited above implies, so these figures should be applied with caution!

            2. If you have no idea of your approximate RANK, you can play as a non-rated (NR) player, but if you do so there will be 2 penalties:

              1. Most rated players will NOT play with you.

              2. None of your games will count toward obtaining a RATING.

                So, sooner or later, you will have to declare a RANK if you wish to become a full fledged rated member of the on-line Go community!

            3. After you've played 20 rated games, you will acquire a RATING (designated by an *), which is a relatively true measure of your playing strength and which will become ever more accurate as the number of your rated games increases. If you've chosen your initial RANK well, your initial RATING should be within a stone or two of that level.

            4. To find a suitable opponent, use the "who" command to find players at the RATING of interest who are currently logged on and not already playing or marked as unavailable. Or you can "shout" your desire for a match to all logged-on players.

            5. The basic way to arrange a game is via the "match" command, which has a specific syntax that you must learn and obey. Most games are played "even" (without handicap except for Komi), but handicap games are also possible.

            6. All games are played with time constraints, which must be chosen with care consistent with your ability to think accurately. Most players on IGS prefer fast games and beginners may find this difficult, although it does have the very real advantage that you get a lot of experience quickly!

              Time constraints consist of two parts:

              1. "Standard time". One minute is usual, and anything above 10 minutes is considered slow. After this is used up, you automatically go into Byo Yomi (= overtime).

              2. Byo Yomi. Less than 5 minutes is fast, more than 10 is considered slow. In Byo Yomi the player must play 25 stones in the allotted time or lose the game "on time". If those stones are successfully played the player repeats the Byo Yomi period with a new 25 stones. Unused time is not carried over.

            7. Games are won or lost via resignation, overstepping the time constraint, or by final count.

              HAVE FUN!!!


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