Japanese Rules Popularity


Assuming we’re talking about Western players, it’s not just the rules. The language too (komi, joseki, dame, you name it).

Now it seems obvious: all the Japanese loan in words, America learned it via Japan. Those Japanese loan words are also quite annoying for a newb trying to learn. Go YouTubers just speak another language. As a newb (I started last week) I prefer Chinese the rules. Japanese rules punish you for unnecessary moves. Knowing when a move is unnecessary can be learned on Chinese rules by playing them and seeing it didn’t help. But if / until I get there, I like having the option to play things out more to explore without the penalty.

Anyone prefer one of the other rule sets like AGA or Korean?


I agree with @AdamR . Chinese and Japanese rules yield the same relative score most of the time (and that means that you don’t actually “loose a point” when playing defensively in Japanese rules that you wouldn’t have lost if you were using Chinese rules.)

I will say though that I think Chinese rules are better for beginners, not because it is any “easier” to score but because the stress is taken off of capturing.

I’ve taught a lot of people the rules over the years, and two things that I have found to really help a new person is (1) teach stone removal as a byproduct of the rules rather than a goal (i.e., talk about stones getting removed under certain situations rather than talk about actively trying to capture stones,) and (2) use Chinese rules so the player doesn’t make such a strong association with “capturing stones” and “gaining points”.

That’s what makes Chinese rules better for a new player IMHO, the sense that when your stones are removed it means you just waisted time rather than the sense that removing your opponents stones gets you something. Sure the net effect is the same, but the attitude of the player changes from an aggressive one (take the opponent’s stuff) to something more cooperative (work with your opponent to slice up the pie, just try to get a bigger slice than (s)he gets.)


Dame aren’t filled in actual games, though. See: just about any pro game played with Japanese rules. Dame are left open and players understand what is/isn’t seki.

Here’s a random example on go4go: https://www.go4go.net/go/games/sgfview/79935


actually I think is the other way around. Chinese is easier to count, you just have to count large areas in pieces. Japanese could be very hard to count if you have complicated eye shape.

During the game I can do an estimate using chinese but i can never count in Japanese.


again, actually i think is the other way around. in real game, both player understand that it’s not necessary to fill dame.
online, sometimes the computer cannot recognize that and do funny things in scoring, therefore its better to fill dame online.


It is not necessary to fill all of the dame under Chinese rules either. Once only an even number of “true” dame are left, both players can simply pass, since they should accept that filling in the rest won’t change the relative score.

I think the significant advantage of Chinese/area scoring rules is that life and death disputes are much more easily resolved by playing things out.


I would assume that globally speaking, there are many more people playing with Chinese rules simply because China has a huge population.

Outside of China, and in the West in particular, the spread of the game of go was heavily influenced by Japanese culture. As others have mentioned, even the English terminology and the name of the game are predominantly Japanese loanwords.

On OGS, Japanese rules is also the default, so that might boost its prevalence.


i concur. Like the “bent 4 in the corner” in the other posts, it could have been easily resolved by playing it out, instead of resulting in a time out game where both parties felt they have been cheated.


I’ve been in these discussions and debates before so I’ll make this post short. I use Japanese rules because I (subjectively) find them more intuitive.

That’s because it fits the concept of surrounding: your territory is the area (like a plot of land) that you surround with the walls. The walls themselves are just walls, they are worthless on their own. In another analogy, you can think of a box of chocolates. The chocolates are the product, the box is just a container. But obviously I appreciate that not everyone thinks the same way.


You mean like how they “don’t” fill in dame like in this example?



But…the japanese rules explicitly require you to fill in dame? Don’t they?

In general I think japanese rules are most often used, because “we” learned it from them and I think the Nihon Ki In also promotes the game in the USA.


There are also some interesting things that can happen with Chinese rules when there is a bent four in the corner along with another seki providing an unremovable ko threat. I discuss a particular example here:

Although it’s just a rare edge case, I prefer how this situation is handled under Chinese rules.


Isn’t Japanese rules simply the default in many cases? For example, all of the ladders have to use Japanese rules. Perhaps that is boosting the usage of Japanese rules?

  1. The Japanese rules are used in more games just because that’s the default. If you never choose a ruleset on OGS, you get Japanese rules.
  2. Unless you’re a pro, it doesn’t matter anyway, Chinese or Japanese rules will almost always give the same result. Actually any ruleset will usually give the same result.
  3. Japanese rules have a couple of aesthetic flaws: (i) they treat repetition of moves in kos differently from other repetitions of moves, (ii) they add unnecessary complication by having rules for some special cases like ‘bent 4 in corner’.
  4. Modern Japanese rules prevent games from being drawn by equal score for both sides (because komi is now non-integer). Whether you think this is good or bad depends on personal taste. Personally, I think that if both players play perfectly, a draw is a fair result, so I don’t use the Japanese ruleset, I use one of the rulesets that allows integer komi. Draws when komi is integer are in any case much rarer than in games like chess.


I think it’s wrong way in intuition as you don’t care how efficiently you did surround these empty spaces ( you don’t care how many stones you used to do it) and this is a part of the “intuitive” equation. You shouldn’t forget about putting back the prisoners either.

Most difficulties to understand how rules work tend to disappear if you first start to understand the Chinese rule (simply put:count all) and then Japanese rule ( ok just count inside because same number of stones played… So let’s adapt)


Commentary on the Japanese 1989 Rules is quite an amusing read on the topic.

(Even just the Preface and Conclusion)

Fortunately in practical terms these problems rarely present, and we appear to have a reasonable handle on how to manage them in the OGS context.


Robert Jasiek is a highly opinionated and very passionate student of the rules of go. His commentary on the Japanese rules actually spans 4 large, wordy, highly technical essays.

From his rules page discussing Japanese/Korean style rules:

You like difficulties? Read about the official ruleset then:

  • The official Japanese Rules require several commentaries: One, Two, Three, Four
  • There are also the old World Amateur Go Championship Rules but you should not get interested in them.
  • Korean rules are like Japanese rules with some superfluous extras.


I need to bookmark this for next time we have a Japanese Rules dispute :smiley: :wink:

(Which, as I mentioned, is remarkably rarely: generally, I think we all known and play to the OGS spirit of those rules).


I think they are actually very present, and I was referring to that in another thread.

For example in the diagram below (taken from your link) there are no points because both groups are seki according to the rules:

That addresses one point from this thread: in Japanese rules it is necessary to fill dame.


If I recall correctly, that exact example is used in part of the discussion about " Why Literal Application of the Rules Creates Nonsense".

(I guess I need to go back and refresh myself if that is not the case - can you point to where it is, there is so much!)

I think it is only theoretically necessary, due to nonsense determination of seki in some cases. For example, in Diagram 15 of the rules it says that you would need to fill in that dame, but as far as I can see it is quite clear that both groups are alive and have territory.

This nonsense hinges from this regrettably simplistic statement in the rules:

" " Stones which are alive but possess dame are said to be in " seki ."

I recall reading that even the original author regretted this. It is not in the spirit, nor even (as I understand it) reflective of how it is played live (though I am on shaky ground with having no experience there).

But certainly that is not how it is interpreted at OGS.

At OGS, no-one is required(*) to play at A in Diagram 15, and unless there’s something I’m missing, the black group in the above picture is alive (but I still can’t find that example in the commentary to check if I’m missing something).

(*) Note: I’m just one person stating an opinion and observation, not the official rule-maker of OGS. Because I"m a moderator, I do find myself having to make calls on these things, and that’s why I’m interested. So what I’m saying is reflective of how I would currently call it. But this is a discussion… if I’m wrong somehow - entirely possible and likely - then that just gets noted and fed back into future debate/decisions.