I was musing about the topic of Go rules with my wife one time. I had tried researching to out what the original rules were. I was surprised to find that the best facts we have are the partial and potentially incomplete records that have survived history. But nobody knows for certain who originated it or when. All we’ve got are traces of physical evidence scattered over time, and numerous anecdotes spread throughout various written records. But nothing truly definitive.
As Go moves throughout history it is continually modified by people, in an attempt to address perceived issues. Plus there is the way that different cultures and time periods play the game. That is, Go is still the game of Go, but there will be cultural influences to how people play (like Go’s history in Japan) or people simply aren’t very good at it (like in the Wu Diagrams).
The top modern rulesets today are all pretty similar and each sets out to fix something that is wrong with the game. Most use Komi, but that is a rather modern notion, coming into existence in the 1930’s. But how do we know that we are even playing Go?
There are a lot of rulesets that we know about in the modern day, but most of them are also of modern origin. Who knows how many have existed that have not survived history. Each one changes the game in small ways and some change it in big ways. Some turn the game completely on it’s head. Others add players, some add new colors, and several change the design of the game board. Each game offers new strategies, depth, vectors for mastery, and new shapes and patterns to interpret and memorize.
The 9x9 itself isn’t even considered Go. It is a Go variant, just as much as Double Board Go or Atari Go. What we accept today as the true Go, is nothing more than what was has remained popular over the many years Go has existed. Had those in power favored a different kind of Go at any point along the way, we all could easily be playing TriGo, scoffing at those who favor square boards.
I’ve actually struggled with this realization a bit. Seeing little tweaks that people have come up with to modify Go, has left me wondering if spending a great deal of time “mastering” one version is in my best interest. Folks barely adjust the wording of rules, which in turn render substantial implications on the board to tactics and strategy. Perhaps I would be better served exploring their creations, or could myself try playing with the rules of Go to see how that affected the general experience.
I find that prospect far more desirable than to continue memorizing a single way for the rest of my life. I can see the value and the cool factor in a lot of the ideas I’ve come across. In the same way that I find value in so many different abstract games. I’m not walking away from Go by any means, but expanding my horizons surely couldn’t hurt . I don’t have a point really. I just think this particular angle on the world of Go rules doesn’t get much attention, but is worth thinking about