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Go: The Strategy Board Game That Revolutionized My Life

Every time I’m asked about my hobbies, I mention that I play Go. Nine out of 10 times, I am met with a blank stare. So here, I will answer some of the common questions I get asked about the game. 

What is Go?

Go, or Weiqi (围棋,) is a strategy board game for two players originating from China. The objective of the game is to surround or occupy more territory than your opponent. The game was founded over 2500 years ago and is the oldest board game still played today. As of now, Go is played by tens of millions across the globe. 

How do you play?

A player will randomly draw some stones, and the other player will guess if the stones are odd or even. If the guessing player is correct, they play as black. If they are wrong, they play as white. The two players then take turns placing a black or white stone onto the 19×19 board. When a stone has been surrounded, it must be removed from the board. Stones can “link together” to increase their size and the number of stones needed to surround them. Encasing two separate intersections on the board makes it impossible to be surrounded, thus leading to staying on the board permanently. 

The primary strategy of the game lies in efficiency— every stone you place must be of greater value than your opponent’s. There is zero chance involved in this game. Every move is the result of meticulous planning and calculating all the possible outcomes the opponent can play. The main thrill of the game lies in the calculation. 

What’s Alpha Go? 

AlphaGo is a computer program developed by DeepMind Technologies, a subsidiary of Google, that plays the board game Go. This artificial intelligence relies on machine learning and tree search techniques to create its algorithm. It began by scanning gameplay to calculate the success probabilities of each move. It can now predict the best possible play based on every possible outcome in response to each action. AlphaGo has beaten several professional players, including Ke Jie, the number one ranked player globally at the time of the match. As of today, there is a multitude of different AI technologies for the game, including software available for download like Xing Zhen Weiqi (星阵围棋陪练,) which is designed to help players learn from their mistakes and calculate potential outcomes for each move. 

Should I play?

Yes, absolutely! I am a firm believer that everyone should try to play Go at some point. Learning the game has had a significant impact on my life and my way of thinking. Go teaches you problem-solving, quick thinking, and pattern recognition skills that have helped me in almost every area of my life. 

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Ruby Chao

Northwestern '25

Ruby is a freshman majoring in Communication Studies. In her free time, she enjoys getting coffee, binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and going to the gym.
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