Go: A Quarantined App Release

The world has been on lockdown.

Our medical professionals are battling the pandemic everyday and many jobs have been lost. Grocery stores, truckers, and delivery workers continue putting themselves at risk, so that you and I can put food on the table and go about our usual quarantine. I am deeply appreciative for these people because they are making a sacrifice for everyone else.

In the meantime, I’ve been inspired to work on an app for the game of Go.

While it feels odd to release a new app during this time, I'm quite excited to share what I've been working on.

The Gist: I’ve released a new app called Go. It’s the first version, so it needs a lot of improvement. But hey, it works! You can invite friends to play a game. See scores and chat with your friend about how badly you’re winning. 😎

Download the app here:

Why I Built this App

First off, I really just wanted an app to play Go with my friends. There’s one or two glitchy apps that almost work, but not really. So I said, "Screw it, I’m just going to build this thing."

Second, it’s an interesting technical challenge. The scoring algorithms are non-trivial and scaling another app that’s used worldwide sounds fun.

"Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games, they should study Go."

- Confucius, The Analects, ca. 500 B.C.E.

Why You Should be Interested in Go

Go is an Ancient Chinese board game and the oldest game on Earth that still has active players. People have been playing for over 3000 years! And personally, I think the number of people playing is going to keep increasing. Possibly even becoming more popular than chess someday. So if you jump on now you will be ahead of the curve.

Sun Tzu and Confusious themselves likely contemplated life and various territorial strategies while playing Go, exchanging stones with their opponents over sips of tea.

"Chess has only two outcomes: draw and checkmate. The objective of the game... is total victory or defeat – and the battle is conducted head-on, in the center of the board. The aim of Go is relative advantage; the game is played all over the board, and the objective is to increase one's options and reduce those of the adversary. The goal is less victory than persistent strategic progress."

- Dr. Henry Kissinger, Newsweek, 11/8/04

The strategic thinking which is required for the game of Go is quite different from chess.

In chess, ultimately you win with a precise killing of the king. Go forces you to think about how the stones relate to one another on the board, with the objective of capturing and controlling space.

Not only is Go easier to learn than you think, it also has incredible depths to it if you wish to immerse yourself in it.

Basics of the Game

You may have heard that Go is hard, however did you know Go is taught to children as young as 5? Now, to prove how easy the game actually is I will describe the basics.

1. Each player takes turns setting stones on the board and black always goes first.
2. Capturing the other player is key.

You can capture by completely surrounding your opponent. For example, below all black stones would be captured and removed from the board.

3. Scores are determined by stones.

There are multiple ways of scoring. This is the most simple way.

  • You get 1 point per stone on the board.
  • When you capture stones, you get 1 extra point per stone.
  • White gets an extra 1.5 points, because black goes first.
  • 4. You can pass or resign.
  • Pass if you don't have a good move. This gives your opponent 1 extra point.
  • If you know you've lost, admit defeat, resign, and the game is over.
  • When both players pass, one after the other, the game is over.
  • 5. Winning the game.
  • If your opponents timer runs out, you win.
  • If your opponent resigns, you win.
  • If you both pass, one after the other, the player with the highest score wins.
  • It's really that simple!

    Now that you're ready to play, level up your strategic thinking and check out the app for iOS and Android!