A Guide for the Complete Beginner
Go is a two-person strategic board game, invented in China millennia ago (Confucius wrote about it), and still played today just as it was then. Wildly popular in Asia, it is oddly unknown here, one of the West's best-kept secrets. Welcome to a small but growing "in" group who have discovered the ultimate mind sport!
Go is the essence of simplicity. The rules and object of Go can be stated in nine words: "Take turns placing stones; control more of the board." That's it! But without further understanding of implications of those words, new players often find the game puzzling.
Go is also the essence of complexity. The absence of arbitrary conventions means that a player can play anywhere on the 361 intersections of the board. As a result, the number of possible games far, far exceeds the number of subatomic particles in the known universe! If you seek quick mastery, look elsewhere. But for those who are looking for a game with fathomless depths of understanding, worthy of time spent, you have come to the right place. If you aren't convinced yet, have a look at The American Go Association's "Top Ten Reasons To Play Go."
To get started, you'll need to learn a little of the "conventional wisdom," some fundamental concepts that have evolved through centuries of play. Playgo.to, an interactive tutorial, is a good place to start. The KGS Go Server also has a tutorial, and it's great place to get online and start playing too. If you prefer something offline, Igowin will play you help you get started and then play against you on a 9x9 board, while Smart Go Board is available for a 14-day free trial. See below for more on these programs.