What Is Go?
Go (also known as weiqi, or baduk) is an abstract two-player strategy game. The players take turns in placing black and white pieces, called stones, on the intersections of a 19 x 19 grid, with the aim of surrounding empty areas of the board. In addition to surrounding territory, players can also surround their opponent’s stones, capturing them and removing them from the board. Despite the simplicity of the rules, the resulting game has an unrivalled depth and sophistication of strategy.
Originating in China some 4000 years ago, the game spread throughout East Asia. The classical period of the game was in Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate (1600–1868) where Go was sufficiently esteemed for the shoguns to subsidise four schools of professional players. In the modern era, the top professional players continue to earn millions annually in prize money, although Japan’s dominance has since given way to Korea and China. Globally, there are approximately 20 million active players, and many more who are familiar with the game.
Go in Ireland
Go has been played in Ireland since the late 1980s. A Trinity College group combined with Collegians Chess Club to found the Irish Go Association in 1989, with the aim of promoting competitive play across the island of Ireland. Ireland sent its first representative, Noel Mitchell, to the World Amateur Go Championships in 1990. There are now clubs in Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Galway, with each club running an annual tournament. The Dublin tournament is a well-established fixture on the European calendar.
The first server for online play, the Internet Go Server (IGS), was established in 1992, and remains active today. It has since been joined by many other servers — along with IGS, the Online Go Server (OGS) and the American Go Association’s KGS are popular with western players. Go made international headlines in 2015 when AlphaGo became the first computer program to defeat a top professional, Korea’s Lee Sedol. AIs modelled on AlphaGo are now part of the armoury of serious students of the game.