A BRIEF HISTORY OF GO

Go is an ancient Chinese board game, in fact it's so ancient there is no other board game in the world that we have found evidence of existing before go. There are references about go dating over 4000 years back. How the game came about nobody really knows for sure, but the most believed theory is that the Chinese emperor Yao(2337-2258 B.C.) had one of his counselors design a game for his son to teach him skills like discipline, concentration and balance, and that game is what we now know as go.

In the early days of baduk, the game was played on a 17x17 board, and this was the standard size all the way up until the Chinese Tang Dynasty(618-907) when 19x19 took over. Around the same time as 19x19 became popular, go spread to Korea and Japan, and ever since has China, Korea and Japan been in the forefront when it comes to go advancements and go strength.

Lets move on to the year 1612. This was the year Honinbo Sansa founded the infamous Honinbo Go School in Japan, which became one of the four major Japanese go houses at the time. The other houses being the Hayashi go house, Inoue go house and Yasui house. These houses were all Buddhist institutions, which means all the players were male. The high level of play at these houses and the competition between them made the Japanese go strength unrivaled. When arguably the strongest player in the history of go, Honinbo Dosaku, was head of the Honinbo house, the Honinbo Go School became recognized as the strongest institution, and since then many more remarkable players would continue to emerge from this very school. Dosaku also invented the kyu/dan ranking system.

In 1884 the Honinbo house and the Hayashi house merged, and the head of the Hayashi house, Hayashi Shuei, became the head of the Honinbo house, Honinbo Shuei. Today, none of these houses exist, but the last Honinbo heir, Honinbo Shusai, decided that the Honinbo title was to be competed for in a yearly tournament starting after his death. Shusai died 1940 and the first tournament was held in 1941. The winner of the first Honinbo tournament was Riichi Sekiyama.

In the 1950s a komi system was introduced, since it was unfair for the black player to go first without the white player getting any sort of compensation, so to make up for this white was given 4.5 compensation points. In 1974 this was changed to 5.5 points, and again changed to 6.5 in 2002, since the statistics showed that 5.5 wasn't enough, as black was still winning more than white.

Go started to get known in the Western world in the late 19th century and has kept slowly increasing in popularity to this day. This is for several reasons. Go first spread to Germany after a German scientist named Oskar Korschelt wrote a treatise about go. In 1905, an American man named Edward Lasker learned go when he was visiting Berlin, and he later founded the New York Go Club with a man named Arthur Smith. In 1934 Lasker wrote a book which he entitled "Go and gomoku", which helped spread go in the US. After World War 2, go continued to slowly spread throughout Europe. Go got another popularity boost after the manga/anime "Hikaru no Go" was made in 1998. This helped awaken the Japanese children's interest for go, as well as for people all around the world who read/watched the manga/anime. Today, people all around the world play go. The internet makes this easy, and there are numerous go servers to play on. For more information about these, check out the Online Go Servers page.

Japan, which was regarded as the strongest go country for many years was surpassed by China in the 1980s when China won more supermatches between the countries. South Korea also got really strong in this period. Since 1989, international go tournaments has been held. South Korea and China have performed best with Japan lagging behind.

To read more about the history of go check out my Baduk Legends page, where I talk about the greatest go players throughout history.