Friday, May 8, 2009

The Oldest Board Game

Care to know what is the oldest board game still being played? The answer is quite an interesting game indeed.

One's first guess might be Senet, the Egyptian game. However, not only are the official rules for this game unknown, but it is not commonly played, nor is it a very popular or well known game. It is the oldest known board game, however.

The true answer is Go, which began in China over 25 centuries ago. Go is a game played with black and white colored stones on a 19 by 19 grid. The stones are placed on the points of the grid, rather than inside the spaces, like in Chess. Black always goes first, and the players take turns placing a single stone of their color anywhere on the board. The object is to capture or surround as much territory (area of the game board) as possible. Capturing an opponent's stones is done by completely surrounding them with your own stones.

Go is one of the most fascinating games that has ever been invented, and is very fun to play, even for beginners. There is a ranking system as well. It ranges from 30 kyu down to 1 kyu. A player with a rank of 20 kyu is a casual player or beginner, where a 10 kyu is an intermediate player. After attaining the rank of 1 kyu, a player steps up the the rank of 1 dan, and is considered a professional. At that point, the ranks go from 1 dan up to 9 dan. What I find most interesting about Go is that computers cannot be programmed intelligently enough to beat the pros, unlike Chess. Typical "gobots" will play at about the 15 kyu level, with some variation. Even fairly skilled amateurs have no trouble defeating the best computer programs.

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