Japanese Rules Popularity

Just learned Go last week. I was surprised to learn of the various national rule variations. My impression reading online and playing here is it seems like Japanese rules are more popular than Chinese. Is that a correct observation, and why is that the case?


I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I think Chinese rules are recommended and more popular for beginners, due to the simplicity of scoring. Stones of your color on board + empty spaces and dead enemy stones inside your borders = your score

Japanese rules reward efficiency, because only territory counts toward your score, and captives of your color count against you. Playing unnecessary stones inside your own territory not only wastes a move, but reduces your score as well. Playing your best game thus requires you to know whether a stone is necessary or not for securing any given territory. This seems to be more popular with higher level players.

Then there is the AGA scoring system…

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yes, here at OGS (not sure about worldwide, that is probably a different story) Japanese rules are the most popular by far. As to why, that’s hard to say :slight_smile: I like them the most, but that can largely be just matter of habit.

It is true that Chinese rules may be more forgiving in certain aspects, but I would not be sure about recommending them for beginners because of it. It does not make the play easier to understand, it just makes it less obvious (smaller punishement) when playing meaningless or even bad moves.

Just for the record given sensible play by both players the result of any game is usually same under both rulesets (not quite perfectly always, but most of the times)

Also to avoid confusion, when Skurj said

He meant that the space surrounded by your color with an enemy stone still counts for one point - as would the space without an enemy stone (there is NO extra point for prisoners under Chinese)

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I always thought that Go in the “West” (maybe just Europe) is generally played with Japanese rules because it was introduced by Oskar Korschelt who learned it in Japan.

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Japanese rules are superior since it avoids millions of people spending their lives filling dame.


Filling dame is actually necessary for scoring under J rules as well; only online there’s no such need.

I think the most practical difference is the following: under Chinese rules it’s easier to prove who won the game (playing it out doesn’t cost points), under J rules it’s easier to count (no need to count live stones).

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Filling in dame is not necessary to score j rules. Just ignore them… Or have I been doing this one thing wrong all this time?

Reread my post, read every single word, pay attention to the one in bold.

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I understood that you are saying that in real life (i.e. not online) you need to fill in dame to score under J rules. I can’t claim particular expertise in either Go scoring or reading comprehension though!

Article 8. It’s weird, doesn’t seem to make much sense, but there ya go.

To prevent such nonsense from changing the “should-be” result, it is quite necessary to fill dame. Is it necessary to fill dame in order to accurately predict the score? No. Is it required by the rules that you fill all dame? No. Is it necessary to fill all dame in order to properly score the game? Yes. And that’s my point.

Quite so. Thanks!

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Ok, I’ve learned something, although now I feel the need to ask why this would not be necessary online!

I don’t see fundamental difference between Japanese and Chinese rules. Most of the games end up one resigning so filling the dames is not really necessary in Chinese rule. Typically it does not have that many dames to fill. It is quicker than most thinks at the end of the game to fill in those dames.

One inconvenience of Japanese rule is to keep track of the captives, which is not needed under Chinese rule.

One thing I was told to do 20+ years ago in China is to estimate the game with Japanese rule, because it is quicker.

I can speculate two possible reasons that Japanese rule is popular in western world:

  1. Culture: Japanese interacts with western world more.
  2. Research: Japanese had more systematic research and books than Chinese. 20+ years ago, most of the Go books I read in China was translated from Japanese.

One with more experience of Go books of western languages may be able to give some insights.

We can only drop requirements by implementing assumptions. Most Go clients will implement a lot of assumptions. Some of these are:

  1. “No nonsense” - You can’t make illegal moves (unlike on some Shogi servers like 81dojo, which let you make illegal moves and then immediately slap you in the face with a loss by rule violation). Presumably to simplify gameplay and make it easier to newbs to recognize rule violations.

  2. Nigiri is mostly implemented as a poll of some RNG, removing the players’ agency. Ostensibly because “it doesn’t matter”.

  3. You don’t have to fill all dame, presumably because a) it’s already a pain to write scoring algorithms and b) we will assume that both players implicitly agree to only care about the practical difference between their territories+caps, not the literal application of the ruleset.

The list goes on, but the main reason for dropping requirements is “common sense”. This makes it more difficult to prove who won, because if you take a look at the comments about article 8, you’ll find that all scoring algorithms used on any of today’s Go servers violate the strict interpretation of article 8. If the scoring algorithm doesn’t let you apply the actual rules,… there is no way to enforce them.

Assuming we’re talking about Western players, it’s not just the rules. The language too (komi, joseki, dame, you name it). The explanation is that Go spread in the West in the 70s and 80s thanks to Japanese initiatives and translated Japanese publications. At the time, China was just transitioning out of the Mao era.

I like this animated timeline. It shows how Japan dominated the world Go scene in the 70s and early 80s.

Worldwide, the Chinese rules are certainly the most popular (I heard China itself has an estimated 60 million players).


Chinese scoring makes the game a little easier to teach to new players, because they can play unnecessary safety moves without reducing their points.

As to why Japanese rules/scoring is so popular in the west, I think it’s in part because a lot of the (earlier) teaching materials were translation of Japanese books.

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I hear this a lot and honestly never quite understood that. Unless all dames are filled they are STILL losing points under Chinese rules too (or rather not getting any, while their opponent is, which is a distinction without difference). If all dames are filled then spending a move in your own territory is weird, because if there was something there it should be too late to fix now usually.

So while it might be “easier” I guess, it is still wrong in my opinion :smiley: and not a relevant advice for beginners. Again just in my opinion… Not that there is anything wrong in playing Chinese, I just do not understand this trend of saying it is better for beginners. I don’t see how… At least Japanese makes you question the move more. And asking questions is a good way to learn :slight_smile:

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Poor guy, just learned the rules and already dragged into a “which rule is best” debate…