Davis/Sacramento Go Club Information

About the game:

Go is a two-person board game in which players alternately place black and white "stones" on a square grid. The stronger player traditionally uses the white stones, and the weaker player uses the black stones, plays first, and, if appropriate, starts with a handicap of extra stones at the beginning of play. They take turns placing stones on the intersections of lines on the board, each building patterns in an attempt to acquire more territory than their opponent. Stones may be captured if enemy stones occupy all adjacent intersections. Capturing stones is not a primary goal, but may be instrumental in seizing control of territory from the opponent. Play usually begins near the corners, on the 3rd and 4th lines away from the edges, since territory is most efficiently controlled in these areas. The game is over when the all intersections on the board are clearly in possession of one player or the other.

To learn more about the rules of the game, follow this link and check out The Rules, or if you are in the Sacramento area, contact one of the people mentioned below or come to the Cafe Roma on Thursday evening and ask.

The advantage of playing first in the game, or of having extra stones on the board at the beginning is very distinct. This provides the basis for a handicapping system that allows players of somewhat different strengths to enjoy playing with equal opportunity to win. Each handicap stone represents one playing level difference between the players.

There are about 40-45 different playing levels from beginner to professional. These levels are divided into student (kyu), teacher (dan), and professional (professional dan) categories. Beginners generally begin at about 25 to 30 kyu, and progress to 1 kyu before graduating to 1 dan and later progressing to (in theory) 9-dan. In practice, almost all amateur dan-level players switch to the professional ranks before reaching amateur 9-dan.

To learn the game, playing strong opponents and having them explain your errors during or after the game is ideal. To enjoy the game, it is best to play an opponent within nine ranks of your strength. The average strength of Go players is about 6 kyu. Fortunately, most beginners can advance to about 15 kyu within 20-40 games, so finding an interesting game with a human opponent is not usually too difficult. Computer programs can serve as surrogate opponents during this initial learning phase, but the best computer program is not as good as an average human Go player. To avoid learning bad habits from software, find human opponents as soon as possible.


The game originated in China around 2250 B.C. and is known as Wei-que (or Wei-chi) there. The game traveled to Korea (where it is known as Paduk or Badook) and Japan (where it is known as Go or Igo). The game has been spreading around the world in the last century, and many tournaments are now international. Previously (up to about 15 years ago), the top tournaments were only held in Japan or Korea. Prizes in top tournaments are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and, like other competitive enterprises, endorsements and books are bringing in additional funds to top players.

Comparisons to chess are inescapable. Edward Lasker, chess master and champion, said, "I consider it (Go) more profound than Chess despite its extremely simple structure." While top chess computer programs are currently able to beat master-level chess players, the top Go software is only now approaching the ability to beat the average Go player. For computers, the difference has been that brute-force "search every possibility" algorithms are swamped by the number of possibilities in Go, and "smart" board position evaluation algorithms have not yet been developed. The human brain has so far proven much more adaptable to the pattern recognition skills that are needed in Go than computers have.

About the club:

The club meets at the Cafe Roma, 231 E Street, Davis, CA, on Thursdays from 6 p.m. until closing, and at the Sacramento Food Co-Op, 1900 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento, CA, on Mondays from 6:30pm or so. Some players are also meeting at members homes on some Fridays. We play four tournaments a year and hold two simuls (simultaneous games) in which a well-known player plays several local players. These events are held at other locations, as available space can be obtained.

The club has been active now for almost ten years. The majority of players are between 1 and 7 kyu, though both high-kyu and dan-level players are represented. Recent tournaments have drawn as many as 24 players, both members and non-members. While the university (UC Davis) has brought many players to the club, the club does not have any affiliation with the university, and is not a student organization.

The low overhead for Go playing space (the price of coffee bought by players at the Cafe Roma or Sac Food Coop) has allowed dues to remain relatively low. Most of the dues go to covering the costs of space for tournaments and subsidizing simuls. These costs are considerably higher in most metropolitan areas with Go clubs. One goal of this club is to promote the enjoyment of a fascinating game without unduly flattening your wallet!

The club is an American Go Association affiliate. If you are interested in being an individual member of the AGA (dues are $30.00/year) write: American Go Association, P.O. Box 397, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113.


Davis/Sacramento Go Club
c/o Frank Berkenkotter
Box 4, Guinda, CA 95637

Frank Berkenkotter (530)796-3582
Will Haynes (916)929-6112


For $16.00/year dues you receive postcards for all events and quarterly newsletters. For $5.00 you receive postcards only, but are still eligible for club championships. Dues are effective for the calendar year, and are prorated on a quarterly basis for new members joining during the year. Make checks payable to Frank Berkenkotter, not the D/SGo Club, as bank account costs are too expensive. At year's end an income and expense sheet is issued.

Lessons for beginners are free at the Cafe Roma or Sacramento Food Co-op; just ask any member.

Equipment and books:

Go stones, boards and books are available at Ishi Press, Samarkand, and Yutopian (and Kiseido) via mail-order. They are also available in some game stores in Sacramento, such as The Game Keeper in the Downtown Plaza.

A cheap set may cost between $15 and $30 with a vinyl board and plastic stones, while a nicer board with glass stones may cost $60 to $150. (Take care to observe the size of the board when purchasing a set, as cheaper sets often use 9x9 or 13x13 boards to save money on stones, or use tiny plastic stones that are easily disturbed during play. These sets are ideal for learning, but this warning is intended to prevent surprises.) The board, stones and bowls (to hold the stones) are often sold separately.

Modified last on March 22, 2003 by Jeff Newmiller, derived from material developed by Frank Berkenkotter.
(Comments and suggestions welcome.)

Davis/Sacramento Go Club Homepage