The Rules of Go
Black goes first. Take turns placing one stone. Surround territory.
There you have it! No arbitrary addenda, no complex conventions to memorize. The above ten words state the object of go, and the only "rule".
In actual play. you will encounter a few conventions that go players follow, such as komi -- compensation for the advantage of making the first move -- and ways of handling certain special situations that may arise, such as ko and seki. But don't let that stop you! When it comes up, stronger players will explain.
Here are three ways to learn what you need to know:
Online Tutorial: Playgo.to describes the rules, and other aspects of the game, in a problem-oriented format that helps it sink in more deeply.
Booklet: The Way To Go has taught thousands of beginners to play.
People have been playing go for thousands of years, but the rules are so simple that no one bothered to write down a complete set of rules until 1949. Yet the game is also so profound that it cannot be captured in a single series of sentences. At least five separate rule sets exist, each internally coherent yet mutually exclusive from the others, all yielding the same result. No worries -- you only need to know the rules the people you play with use. However, some people find the ineffable nature of the rules fascinating; and for you ,we offer the most complete rules resource on the Internet.
1989 Revision of the Japanese Rules Revises and replaces the aforementioned historic first attempt to set forth in writing a complete set of rules. The Japanese scoring method, counting territory (vacant intersections), is commonly used in the West.
Chinese Rules: The official rules adopted by The China Weiqi Association in 1988. Under Chinese rules, the entire occupied area is counted, stones as well as captured intersections. White stones are removed; Black fills their territory with stones; if there are more than 180 stones on the board, Black has won.
Concise AGA Rules: The American Go Association developed this widely respected rule set, which reconciles Japanese and Chinese counting methods. AGA rules have been adopted by several other Western nations.
Complete AGA Rules: A more thoroughly annotated version of the AGA Rules.
Additional Clarification of AGA Rules: A further refinement of a few fine points.
AGA Rules Committee Memorandum Regarding A Change In Komi: A discussion of the issues involved in the recent increase in komi adopted by various go organizations.
Ing's SST Laws of Wei-ch'i: Taipei-based philanthropist and go enthusiast Ing Chang'ki developed a rule set requiring each player to have exactly 180 stones, and designed and manufactured equipment to make this possible. These rules have been used in many major national and international tournaments where suitable equipment was available.
New Zealand Rules
New Zealand Rules: The main distinguishing characteristic of New Zealand Rules is that suicide is permitted.
Simplified New Zealand Rules: A more conise statement of the new Zealand rules.
Background and Commentary
The History of Go Rules: A leading expert describes the evolution of go as we know it today.
Behind the Rules of Go: Charles Matthews considers the essential components of a go role set and concludes that they "can based on what are ultimately simple concepts of striking clarity."
Sufficient But Not Necessary: Charles Matthews considers the specific implications of the concept of "two eyes."
Comparison of Five Rule Sets: The British Go Association put together this side-by-side comparison of Japanese, Chinese, AGA, Ing and New Zealand Rules.
Other Rule Sets and Variants
Korean Rules: Click on "Korean Rules" on the leftnav bar to learn about an ancient set of rules used in Korea more than 1500 years ago.
Survivor Wins: A particularly terse rule set.
Go Variants: Some unusual things to do on the go board.
Other go variants: More out-of-the-box games that can be played on a go board.
Still Other Go Variants: Thirst for novelty still not satisfied? here's a page from Sensei's Library with some additional fun ways to use go equipment.
Daoqi: Go with no edges.
A Round Goban: Go with no corners.
Elwyn Berlekamp's "Coupon Go": The prominent combinatorial game theorist Elwyn Berlekamp describes his attempts as a mathematician to measure the exact value of go moves, culminating in the creation of "Coupon Go." See also the Q&A associated with this video.
FreedGo: The game of go in 3d.
Diamond Go: A real-world 3D go board.
Conversion Go: An Othello-like variant.
3D Gomoku: Gomoku (five-in-a-row) on a 3D board.