Spock, the Small Girl and a game called Go


While the simplest rules of chess escape me, my children seem to understand the game perfectly. In fact they’ve given me up as a lost cause. I’d like to add here, that I whip them at Snakes and Ladders.

Bored now of the easy win, they’ve begun to play a Chinese game called Go. They’re learning the game at school and Small girl aged 6 takes a rather obscene pleasure in beating her headmaster at every opportunity.

Edward Lasker, chess master, says:

“The rules of Go are so elegant, organic and rigourously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they would almost certainly play Go.”

I imagine Spock would be a master and this definition would render me one of the lowest life forms.

Apparently it is about 2 500 years old and its name translates at “encircling game”. In Japan it is called wéiqí and is played by two people of similar intelligence i.e. not me and Small girl aged 6.

The board is made up of 19×19 grid, but we’re only on a 9×9 one to start! The players alternately place their playing pieces (traditionally black and white stones) on the vacant intersections (points) of the grid.

The point is to use your stones to surround a larger total area of the board than your opponent. If you surround your opponent’s piece you can capture it off the board.

At the end of the game the one with most captured stones controlling most of the territory on the board wins.

I’ve simplified it, but hell, if Small girl aged 6 can get it, surely I can!

I am getting to the point of this story, just hang on…

Our project this weekend was to create our own Go board based on the 9×9 grid. Small girl aged 6 and I invested in a large amount of mosaic tiles and went to work.

This is what we ended up with. It would probably make the Chinese masters cringe in horror, but you can’t please everyone. I did intend it to have the centre tiles all being the same colour, but I didn’t buy enough! So there.

What appeals to me is how much my kids love it. They would rather play Mastermind, Go or Monopoly (cringe) than a game on the Wii. A lot of that is to do with their brilliant school, Kairos, which believes in learning by doing and doesn’t rely on electronic media to teach.

And I got to slice the cost of my satellite TV channels into a third after two weeks of realising no one watching it.

Go links – if you want to find out more:





This one is from the Wall Street Journal and is quite brilliant:

What Kind of Game Is China Playing?

Forget chess. To understand geopolitics in Taiwan or the Indian Ocean, U.S. strategists are learning from Go





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