The Capture Game

there are many simple board games for children. depending on the child's age, they can hold interest for a few minutes or hours, but most have a limited shelf life. the only common exception for most people is chess, which has many virtues and is loved by millions. however, there is an older game that is played by far more people while being relatively invisible in europe and the us. in china it is called weichi, in korea baduk, and in japan go or igo.

in my experience it is not more common because it is considered very difficult to learn. it is usually played on a board that is 19 lines by 19 lines, and for a first time observer, watching a game is almost an experience in randomness. during a trip to japan ten years ago, i observed many different teaching styles for learning the game of go. when i returned, i developed an easy way to introduce the game, and practiced it with hundreds of people.

the rules of the game allow it to be played on any size board. so the first step is to limit beginners to a board that is nine lines by nine lines. (smaller is possible, but not suggested.)

the second step is to change the definition for the end of the game. the beginner's version is called the capture game. all other rules of play remain the same.

the web has many references to learning to play go. having taught hundreds of people, i know some ways are easier than others.

however, after you learn the definitions, the rules reduce to one statement: a stone, or group of stones, stays on the board as long as it has at least one liberty (or touches an empty intersection.) at the moment the last liberty is filled by the opponent, it is immediately removed from the board.

next, find someone else who wants to learn and begin playing on a 9 x 9 board. start with four stones in the middle, black on the center, white touching the black stone, the third black stone touching either side of the white stone, and the fourth white stone separating the two black ones. then black goes first. end the game with the first capture. play this hundreds of times.

if one person wins three games in a row, change the handicap to two stones. black always goes first.

if the same person continues to win, change it to three stones. this is the maximum number of handicap stones for the capture game. if the other person wins three consecutive games, switch back to an even game.

this version of go uses all of the normal rules. the only change is the definition of the end of the game. hence, it is called the capture game.

after you have played this hundreds of times, and feel like you really understand capture, contact me. i can write to you about the next steps

even if you have already begun learning the game by playing against a computer program, i have found that stopping, and playing this version against another human, is likely to speed up your learning curve.


the game is for two players or two teams.

the playing pieces are called stones. black always goes first. black plays one stone, white plays one stone, black plays one stone, and so on.

stones are placed on the intersections, not on the squares. a stone must touch at least one empty intersection to be a legal move.

once a stone is placed on the board, it does not move for the rest of the game, though it can be captured.

when a stone touches another stone of the same color along a line, not diagonally, it loses its individual identity and becomes part of a group. groups can have any number of stones.

even game
here are nine games played in seattle in 1989. the players are either top-ranked amateurs or professionals. go to to download a program that will display the games.

game 1 game 2 game 3 game 4

game 5 game 6 game 7 game 8 game 9

two-stone game
copyright © 2005 bill camp, oakland, california home
three-stone game