Capture Game Teaching Method

Some teachers believe that the best way to introduce go to a complete novice is to begin with a slightly simplified version generally known as "The Capture Game." This approach was developed by Yasuda Yasutoshi, an 8 dan professional player and one of the most devoted teachers in Japan. Yasuda sensei, an ardent believer in the educational and therapeutic value of go, is the author of Go As Communication and Let's Play Go!. The rules can be learned in two minutes, even by quite young children, and beginners can play each other immediately, making it possible for the teacher to deal with large groups. This pamphlet describes the "Capture game" in complete detail.

Capture Go is played like go but the objective is different -- the first player to capture anything wins. This means there is no ko rule, nor do students need to learn about live and dead shapes. Nor is there passing, as most people play it. If the players manage to surround territory without a capture occurring, they eventually have to fill it in. The game continues until someone wins, i.e., makes a capture. The capture game should be played on a 9x9 or even 7x7 board. Thus, all the teacher does is explain that Black goes first, the stones are placed on the intersections and do not move, connected stones share their liberties, and a stone or group with no liberties is captured. Then let the students begin playing! Having two teams play a game on the demonstration board is a good way to start a class off.

There are several ways to develop this basic form of the capture game into regular go. One common way is to change the rule for winning. After playing first capture of anything wins, change the rule so that five or ten stones must be captured to win. After that, say the one who captures the most wins. This version will require the introduction of the rule of ko. At this stage, or perhaps the earlier one, players will begin to surround territory. At some point, the teacher can explain that when the only plays left are inside one's own territory, you can just count and see who will win. It is an easy transition from that point to regular go.

Another way to develop the first capture game into regular go is to help the players to understand that the best way to play is by surrounding more safe places to play than the other player, i.e., make more territory. Then show them how the game can be counted when all the edges of the groups are finished. Having introduced the idea of territory, show that if we determine the winner by counting territory, a further complication makes the game more interesting, namely, allowing one or more of your stones to be captured to gain yet more territory. Now the players learn about ko, passing, live and dead shapes, etc.

Some teachers just jump ahead into regular go after the students have played first capture go enough to become familiar with placing the stones and paying attention to liberties. As a way of leading players into regular go, the capture game is very flexible. Its main advantage is that the clear ending makes the game more easier for beginners to understand for most beginners, and it enables a teacher to work with a large group of beginners all together.

A Trip with Yasuda Sensei The American Go Foundation sponsored Jean DeMaiffe's 2001 trip to Japan to learn more about the "Capture Game" from its creator and observe him in action. This is her report.