Differences between rulesets

Thank you! Can I ask another question while I have you here to help? Thanks!! Do you have a link for a good explanation about Japanese vs Chinese scoring? Most people seem to play Japanese here but from what I can tell this counts all stones, not only the empty spaces?
But all of the videos I can find on YouTube only explain scoring as the empty intersections inside your territory?

It would probably be best to split this into it’s own topic (moderators?) but the scoring is only part of the ruleset. What you’re referring to is “territory” scoring, or “area” scoring.

Territory scoring is used in Japanese rules, and counts only the empty intersections completely surrounded by a player’s stones as their territory. This is the most common setting you’ll see here, for sure. It also penalizes unnecessary plays inside your own territory, as you’re filling in one intersection with your own stone.

Area scoring is used in Chinese rules, and a player’s scored territory consists of their stones on the board (after removing dead stones) and the empty intersections surrounded by their stones only. The main difference here is that extra plays inside your own territory will not reduce your score.

In both rulesets (and others not listed here) prisoners are also worth one point each. This does not change. I’m editing this post to make it more clear that they’re scored differently though. In territory scoring, the prisoners are actually counted and modify the score from the board. However, in area scoring, the prisoners can be disregarded as their removal from the board has already factored in their point value.

It’s worth noting that, in almost all games, the result will be the same regardless of scoring method. There are some more complications such as pass stones and pass order with area scoring, and changes to how points are scored in seki as well.


Thank you so much! Yea so I prefer Japanese I think, I’ll pay more attention to how the games are scored… the “estimate score” option on the side menu seems to include your stones? Like the Chinese area scoring you described?

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Of course you preffer Japanese! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise :smiley: (we have a sort of running battle between Chinese and Japanese rules enthusiasts here - to be fair they all have their advantages).

Well spotted on the estimator - it really uses Chinese rules no matter what rules the game is played under. The thing is, it does not matter. Unless you played something very weird (and usually very wrong), both rulesets almost always end with the same result - sometimes off by one point. I am told Chinese is easier to program somehow - that’s why the estimator uses it - and when only estimating it super does not matter. The estimator is very unreliable anyway, so one point difference is meaningless.

Here are some comparisons if you were super curious, but if you are just learning the game I would not bother. It gets very technical very fast.

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Thanks a lot for the links, I’ll check them out!
Yea the estimator was annoying me because I thought I was being scored on area, so when I played I nice move that makes someone fill in their own territory I was feeling a bit short changed but now I know which rule set is which this shouldn’t be a problem anymore!

The ruleset doesn’t matter. Your opponent loses 1 point either way. In territory scoring they lose 1 point of territory, in area scoring they don’t get a point for playing a stone. Either way, they lose 1 point compared to them filling a neutral point.

Btw. I recommend equivalence scoring. Then area and territory scoring give the same result. This way you can use either counting method in each situation.

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It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “yay, I just got ahead, I’m good now” only to find that it was much closer than you thought.

The estimator gives a ROUGH ESTIMATE.


Thanks! I’ll bear that in mind! I’m fairly new so I’m using these tools for guidance but I’ll take it with a pinch of salt!

Thanks! I’ll look into this! Sounds helpful to get my head around the difference!


This is true, but it seems to contradict with what you say earlier (which might cause confusion):

Under both Chinese and Japanese rules, one damages their own score (usually by much more than one point) by making unnecessary plays inside one’s own territory. The only case where the above distinction applies is at the end of the game, when there no more worthwhile moves left to play (i.e., when both players would typically pass). Only then would playing further moves inside would cost a point under Japanese rules, but not cost any points under Chinese rules.

These are not necessary complications to area scoring rules. Pass stones and the convention of “white passing last” are just bookkeeping tricks to get the area score while using territory scoring mechanics. See equivalence scoring as mentioned by @flovo.

Seki is an example where Japanese rules become a whole lot complicated to score. Under Chinese and virtually any other area scoring rules, sekis are treated like any other living group and any eyes are counted. However, under Japanese rules, since “eyes in seki” don’t count, one must always determine whether each living group is actually seki or not, which adds complications to the rules.

The Chinese (and other area scoring) rules are easier to program since life and death disputes are resolved by “playing it out”, which make the rules much simpler to formally state. On the other hand, life and death (and other issues, like ko/cycles) under Japanese rules is much more complicated to resolve (and sometimes cannot be accurately resolved by playing it out). Although in >99% of cases, the life and death status between both rules are the same, there are many different weird cases in the <1% where Japanese rules become extremely complicated to apply correctly. It is very difficult to accurately formalize the Japanese rules in a manner for computer programs to work with (see https://lifein19x19.com/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=17089 and https://lightvector.github.io/KataGo/rules.html). That is why many go bots, analysis engines, and score estimators use either Chinese rules or the even more simplified Tromp-Taylor area scoring rules.

The complexities of the Japanese rules are not of interest to beginners, but I’ve been writing a thread going over some of these complications (this thread is still incomplete and has barely begun to touch upon the complexities of ko under the Japanese rules).

In most games, the differences between area scoring and territory scoring are smaller than they appear. I think, for many beginners, it is beneficial to overcome the illusion of a much larger difference, as I discuss here:


The most convenient general reference explaining the different rulesets is on senseis.xmp.net.