The Game of Go
Go is an ancient game which originated in China about 4,000 years ago and is said to be the world's oldest board game. Since then it has gained in popularity, mainly in the Orient, and to some extent in the West in the last 100 years. Like the game of Chess in the West, the game of Go, or Weiqi as the Chinese call it, is just as well known in Asia and appears in newspapers and on television. It is very popular in Japan (where it is called I-Go or just Go), and Korea (where it is called Baduk). In China, Japan and Korea there are professional players who compete in tournaments for large cash prizes - Go is a serious game! Having said that, for every serious professional there are literally thousands of keen amateur players, of varying abilities - but they all have a lot of fun. Go is a serious mind sport, but it is also fun to play.
StrategyGo is primarly a game of strategic thinking, like chess. Also, again like chess, it is played between two players on a board with black and white pieces who take it in turn to make moves. This is about as far as the comparison with chess can be taken, for Go differs in many ways. The first most noticable difference are the pieces, called stones, which are all identical (apart from being black or white that is):
Once placed on the board, they do not move, unless they are captured (then they are removed). Another major difference is the size of the playing field. In chess there are 64 squares (8x8), but in Go there are 361 intersections (19x19) - that's right - the stones are played on the intersections not the squares. This massive increase in playing area means that the number of combinations in Go are astronomically more than chess. This is one reason that computers are nowhere near close to beating the top players, because it is just not possible to "read out" all the variations and pick the best one, as there are too many variations to compute. To be a good Go player means to try to read as many variations, yes, but also to rely on instinct and recognition of "good shapes". Seeing patterns on the board and potential patterns and how they relate to each other is something humans are good at but not so good for computers.
RulesThe rules of Go are exceptionally simple and can be taught to anyone in about five minutes. To master the game of Go however takes much much longer! For a simple guide to the rules see Sensei's Site.