How to score this game? (Japanese rule discussion)


I think you might like this talk by curator Irving Finkel. He actually makes the point that the rules of ancient games used to be learned by observation, as in the game precedes codified rules and not the other way around (and that it wasn’t until the age of mass manufactured board games that rule books started to be used to define games).

On this line of reasoning, the document that codifies the Japanese Rules is merely a model, a guide of sorts, to understand how the game is played under different circumstances, but it is the spirit of the game what remains most important.

(I apologize if this is the wrong video, I’m not completely sure. It’s an interesting talk nonetheless)


Yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say.

It is a good thing to bear in mind. It’s also important that it doesn’t solve every problem without the need for adjudication. At some point, there will be a nasty situation like the one at the top of this thread, and someone will have to make a call.

It’s important (for those not merely viewing this as an exercise) to realise that this is how it works in practice.

That’s not to say we could not do with a clearer document saying how we think it works in practice :slight_smile:



So here is one possible path:
Both players pass.
Black claims that the central white group is dead.
Before black provides a proof, white invokes article 9.3 to resume the game.

What are black’s options at this point?




So black accepts to lose? No other option?

Because I don’t see why white wouldn’t save her stones at this point.


Well, pretty much, yeah. If White forces the ko (which they totally should), White wins. Black accepts the loss just as they would accept any other —albeit less contrived— loss.


@GreenAsJade and @Leira okay, then you are just confirming the answer I posted 25 replies ago.

I thought both of you were trying to make a point about “the spirit of the game” that would be different from the strict application of the rules.


I understand that the original Japanese version of that document is the official version used by the Japanese professional go association for their sanctioned competitions. The document that we have been discussing appears to be a reasonable translation into English. Maybe somethings have been lost in translation, creating ambiguities where things may be clear in Japanese, but I believe it is reasonably accurate.

I believe the modern practice is that the written rules are authoritative rather than the historical precedent. Judges are occasionally needed to settle disputes, but I think they have to base their judgments primarily on the rules rather than tradition.

“Every commentary” and “nonsense” seems like too strong of a claim. I do not like the complexity of the Japanese rules, but I have not yet found any self-inconsistencies, indeterminate situations, or wild departures from the commonly practiced spirit.

I saw the “sekis due to unfilled dame” issue was brought up in the other thread, so I will respond to that point there. Besides that issue, where else do you feel that one needs to depart from the written document in order to adhere to the spirit of the rules?

I prefer using other rule sets, but if we are to follow Japanese rules, I think we should make our best efforts to understand and follow what is officially written. My question to begin this thread was an attempt to understand a particular position under that officially written document. The position is complex to judge, but there does not appear to be any ambiguity with respect to the written rules.


it started to sound like common law vs continental law. maybe there is a fortune to be made studying GO case law.


That’s good to hear. I was recently involved in a call about a Japanese game and it did take some digging and interpretation to get to a conclusion. But this may just have been the education process.

Perhaps “every commentary” was too strong, but the word “nonsense” came from

Why Literal Application of the Rules Creates Nonsense

In this section, it is shown what would happen if the Japanese 1989 Rules were applied literally. This would lead to nonsense. Therefore the conclusion has to be: The Japanese 1989 Rules ought not to be applied literally.

However, this might be a biased source?


Nice bit of European Go history, especially considered that it encouraged the EGF to change ruleset. I think some people will disagree with me on this but the dispute seems like it was a really cynical ploy by Jasiek and not in the spirit of fair play.


It’s an interesting ploy. I’m not sure how cynical, but it’s fascinating that this is (I presume) the same rules expert who’s commentary is scathing about Japanese.

So was it “cynical” or just “I know the rules really well, and I’m going to play to the strict letter of them to see if that sticks”?