If you like puzzles and logic games, you'll love Go.

The game's origins are subject to myth and debate but it seems certain to have been played for three or four thousand years.

It took root in the Far East where there are millions of players in countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Go is the Japanese name and the game is also known as Igo there. In Korea it is Baduk, and in China, Weichi (also spelt Weiqui, approximate pronunication 'way chee').

Go's fortunes in the Far East have waxed and waned down the centuries. Currently it is enjoying a surge in popularity as this BBC reporter discovered.

Many players in the Far East are professional and compete for titles and big prize money in highly publicised tournaments.

The game's spread to the West has been slower but many countries have thriving populations of Go players.

How is Go played?

The full-size board is normally made from wood and is ruled with grid of 19 x 19 lines. Sometimes games are played on smaller boards such as 13 x 13 or 9 x 9.

The pieces are known as stones. One player has a supply of white stones while the other has the black stones. Stones are commonly made from glass or plastic, but the best ones are made from slate and shell.

At the start of a game, the board is empty. Players take it in turns to place a stone on an intersection.

Once on the board, stones do not move.

The object is to lay claim to territory by surrounding it with walls. Vacant intersections inside your walls each count as a point. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

A completed 9 x 9 game

Above, on a 9 x 9 board, Black has surrounded eight points on the upper left and three on the lower right, making 11 in total. White has eight on the upper right and three on the lower left, making 11. If there are no prisoners, this is a draw (uncommon in Go).

Simply constructing walls would be very dull. What brings Go to life is the ability to capture your opponent's stones. Each prisoner adds a point to your score.

The tension between capturing stones and building territory produces an exciting game of subtlety and skill at least equal to Chess. In fact, many Go players do or have pursued Chess seriously.

Is Go for you?

Go has its geniuses, child prodigies and meteoric talents. However, popularity spanning thousands of years and its huge grass-roots following in the Far East show that it is a fine game for the rest of us too.

Don't get the idea that you have to be 'clever' to enjoy Go, or need to be a strong to play at a club. Most clubs welcome raw beginners and an efficient handicapping system enables players of different abilities to play with an equal chance of winning.

Although the mechanics of Go dictate that one player usually wins while the other loses and it is nice to win and to see your grade improve, you can have an interesting and satisfying game but finish with the smaller score.

Looking for satisfaction through creative and interesting play is often more rewarding than judging your success solely on whether you won or lost.

Two strong players at the Wessex Tournament 2009Strong players at the 2009 Wessex tournament in Bath

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