(The historical information in this article is based on The History of Go Rules by Chen Zuyuan.)
As we saw in the first half of this post, go was first played with stone scoring, then with territory scoring, and then also with area scoring. Although territory scoring is nowadays attributed to the Japanese rules, they, similarly to the two other scoring methods, it originated in China. Therefore, in a sense the dichotomy of ‘Japanese rules v. Chinese rules’ as ‘territory scoring v. area scoring’ is in fact false. From a historical point of view, Japanese go players took in the Chinese game of go and its rules and built upon them, resulting in the Japanese rules of go. Then, in response, the Chinese of the 20th century built their own official Chinese rules of go to compete with the Japanese – even though both rulesets describe the same game, and the Japanese rules even have a Chinese origin.
While international politics may explain at least part of the rules competition between China and Japan, there is another angle to this topic. This is the fact that there are merits and demerits to both rulesets (and to territory scoring and area scoring), and neither is absolutely speaking superior to the other.
Territory scoring, and with it, the Japanese rules, are extremely efficient when it comes to scoring a game after it has ended. The territory-adjusting process is quick and smooth, and the whole-board position is also retained in the process, making the result possible to verify and also helping the players discuss parts of the game with the remaining visual cues.
Area scoring, and with it, the Chinese rules, are more exact and straightforward when it comes to more complicated endgame positions. One example of this is the bent four in the corner combined with unremovable ko threats, which the Japanese rules unfairly deem dead.
In exchange, the area scoring process is not as efficient or elegant, requiring one player’s stones to be removed from the board and the other player’s stones to be counted in a seemingly chaotic procedure. If only there were some way to automate this process … Oh, wait!
From a modern go player’s view, it seems like a false dilemma that go players should be limited to either territory scoring or area scoring all the time, when each method has their optimal use case. Namely, area scoring benefits greatly from the fact that a computer can perform the complicated scoring process automatically, without the board position having to be messed up or removed. Territory scoring, on the other hand, is as easy as ever to perform on a real board.
It seems to me, that rather than ‘Japanese rules’ and ‘Chinese rules’ (and the other numerous alternatives), whose names mainly carry the weight of history, we should have more descriptive ‘online rules’ and ‘irl rules’ instead. The online rules would make use of the computer's counting help and implement area scoring, thereby leaving the system’s greatest strength while eliminating its greatest weakness. As a valuable bonus, this makes it easy for beginners to start playing the game online, since area scoring can be explained off as stone scoring, which is arguably the easiest way to learn the game. The irl rules, instead, would implement territory scoring. Depending on the situation, if it was two beginners playing each other, they might choose to use stone scoring anyway; while, if they have a person explaining the rules (as is often the case in irl settings), territory scoring is then the easier of the two common alternatives for manual counting.
Beyond the choice of territory or area scoring, there are several more important choices to make for the ‘online rules’ and ‘irl rules’; for instance, whether superkō (and what type) is implemented, and whether suicide is allowed or not. As I am not an expert on rule technicalities, these details are probably better left for more qualified people.
All times are in Helsinki time (eet with summer time).
2nd Corona Cup on November 2 – December 15! Tournament details are here.
Gothenburg Online Open on December 5–6! Tournament details and registration are here.
New pairing for the online league made every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month.
Public lectures on Twitch every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at 1 pm.
Jeff and Mikko stream on Twitch on Fridays at 6 pm.