Top Ten Reasons To Play Go

1. Go is the simplest of all games. When we play go, we try to surround territory and to avoid being surrounded. No muss, no fuss, no thought-up fancy rules. The distilled essence of "game" in one simple concept.

2. Go is the most complex of all games. There are many more possible go games - 10 followed by more than 300 zeroes -- than there are subatomic particles in the known universe. Unlike many other games, all moves are possible at all times, adding even more to the complexity.

3. Go is the most popular game in the world today. Although still rather obscure in the West, go is wildly popular in Asia, especially in China, Japan and Korea, where there are more than 100 million active players. Major tournament winners are international celebrities. With daily newspaper coverage, popular weekly and monthly go magazines, 24-hour "all-go-all-the-time" cable stations, go is an incomparably intense part of Asian culture, and its popularity is growing quickly in the West.

4. Go is about building, not destroying. Most popular board games begin with a set position. Go begins with an empty board. Players seek to create strong, flexible structures. "Life and death" issues may arise, but many games end without the capture of a single stone. As you gain playing experience and the game begins to make sense, stones form meaningful, wondrous patterns, in the same way that letters and spaces can form a beautiful poem.

5. You always know where you fit in. All experienced players have a "rank," like a handicap in golf, that expresses their playing strength. Players estimate their rank based on their result with other players, or earn an official rank by playing in AGA tournaments or on a prominent server such as The Internet Go Server or The KGS Go Server. Over time, properly handicapped players can expect to lose about half of their games. Go players ultimately want to raise their rank by improving their skills -- we are competing with ourselves.

6. All players are equal. Ranks are an essential part of a unique handicapping system that enables players of widely different strength to play on even terms. The weaker player simply places several stones on the board to begin the game. The number of stones placed equals the difference in rank. Thus nearly any two players can have a mutually challenging game.

7. It's easy to learn from mistakes. "A stone laid is a stone played." It's easy to study and improve, because each move remains on the board for the rest of the game (unless captured and removed by the opponent). Each game is a record of itself, and the player can reflect on the consequences of early mistakes that are still staring him/her in the face. Thus, as in life, players have to live with their choices. But unlike life, the player can learn from their mistakes and try to correct them in another game.

8. Ancient rituals impart important values. As in the martial arts and other ancient Asian disciplines, many traditions have been passed down among go players that allow us to express respect for the opponent, humility, and other important virtues. Time-honored customs govern every aspect of the game.

9. Every game has a winner. Some games can be difficult to win. Chess matches can go on for months as draws, stalemates, and zugzwangs pile up. Go results are based on a final score, and White wins ties (because Black has the advantage of playing first) so there's a winner every time.

10. Go is the oldest game still played in its original form. When you place a stone on a go board, you join billions of people who have done exactly that act in exactly that way for thousands of years. Go probably originated in China or Tibet, no one really knows. 2500 years ago, Confucius advised his readers to avoid frivolous pastimes and learn the virtues of this already ancient and venerable game. In Japan, the strongest players have been viewed as national heroes for centuries. Koreans were playing at least 1200 years ago, even before the Japanese. With hundreds of millions of fans in these three countries and growing popularity in the West, it may be the most popular game in the world today.

Go is the ultimate mind sport. It has no equal in the strategic gaming world. The learning path can seem steep at first, but it gets better as you go along. We welcome you.