The game of Go is an ancient Asian board game involving the placing of stones on the intersections of lines on a board, with the object of surrounding more territory or capturing more of the opponents stones. With elegantly simple rules, it has a depth and a multi-layered fascination which surpasses even that of Chess. My composition, A Game of Go, is a move-by-move musical setting for 2 pianos of a classic game, the sixth game of the 30 game match between Ota Yuzo and Honinbo Shusaku played in 1853 in Japan. For more information about Go, contact the American Go Assocition at

For more information about Haskell Small, go to his website at

I believe that Go is not just a sport or pastime, but an art of equal status to the art of music. Both Go and music are enwrapped with mystery, subtlety, and the beauty of an inevitable, ineluctable truth. Furthermore, like music, I contend that Go is capable of the expression of human emotions- Go moves can be found that exude joy, despair, even humor. It is in this spirit that I have found the major interests of my life crossing paths.

As a professional musician (pianist, composer, and teacher) who also suffers from an addiction to Go, I had for some time wanted to find a way to combine these interests. This came to fruition in 1987 when I conceived of the idea to compose a piece of music based on a game of Go. I decided to employ 2 pianos, one representing black, the other white, to set each move or sequence of moves of a classic game, the sixth game of the sanjubango (30 game match) between Ota Yuzo and Honinbo Shusaku played in 1853. I chose this game for its balance of expanding moyos (large framework) versus territory, an ongoing protracted race to capture, as well as several exciting ko (a recapture of a single stone after playing elsewhere) battles.

To write this piece I had to sit in four different chairs. I started at the Go board, playing through the opening moves of the game, cerebrating on their meaning, then moved to an armchair where I attempted to imagine a musical rendering of these moves. Although if observed I would seem to be napping, I consider this the hardest step- mentally grappling with the given materials to create from whole cloth a gratifying musical design. Then I would go to the piano to confirm and sketch out the ideas, and improvise possible continuations. Then back to the Go board to try to discern a feeling or direction for how the music would continue to best serve the flow of the game. Then back to the armchair or piano, etc. With this process I eventually completed a rough draft, then to the next chair- at a writing table to produce the manuscript (or these days on computer of course). During this last stage, often I would retreat to one of the other chairs again for final revisions. Miraculously, after a number of months of hard labor, my baby was born.

The piece naturally partitioned itself into three sections analogous with the opening of the game (placid, spacious, much thinking time), middle game (signaled by the first contact play- faster paced, intense), and finally the relatively calm unwinding of the endgame. The several ko fights that erupted during the game afforded me the opportunity to help unite the work with a recurring ko theme, which punctuated the exchanges of ko threats between the players/pianos. Another feature of the music is a choral idea (that eventually culminates in a fugue), used to suggest the rich subtleties of the aji (latent potential) remaining in the evolving race to capture. The climax of the piece (and I believe of the game) is the resolution of the ko at moves 185 and 186. The race to capture is now resolved, and both players probably knew at this point that their mutual struggle for victory produced the ultimate result- jigo (tie game).

A Game of Go was premiered at the third U.S. Go Congress in Amherst, MA, in the summer of 1987. A colleague and I played the piano parts while Marvin Wolfthal, also a Go player and a pianist, performed the video part by pressing return on a computer in time to each move as indicated in my score. It has since enjoyed a number of performances, both with and without the video component, including performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and was also featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Mar. 6, 1988. Two recordings have been released, one by the 2-piano team Quattro Mani, who titled their CD A Game of Go (Klavier 11106).

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46 Comments

DocPi314

July 13, 2020

Listen at 2x speed its dope

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RatatRatR

July 13, 2020

There's got to be a way to temporarily mark each new play differently so it stands out. Place a penny on top of it, for instance, take the photo, then make the next play and move the penny onto it.

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Rex Juglandorum

July 13, 2020

I'm high af watching this at 2x speed. Can recommend

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nuff sed

July 13, 2020

Sorry but the video information is some of the most pretentious word salad, airy fairy, arty farty rubbish that i have ever had the misfortune of reading. Still i battled on to see how much further it could "GO".

OKAY its a skilled game but your quote "I contend that Go is capable of the expression of human emotions- Go moves can be found that exude joy, despair, even humor." is just pure words with no substance. Well i contend that although i hate football, the game can do the same, the players fall over, they cry, they shout, they fight. Its a lot more emotive then a game of go, and i would bet my house on that being the general consensus.

Its as though stuck up sesquipedalian artists are trying to make the actual discussion the art. ANYWAY back to the point, can you please elaborate on what you mean by a humorous move, or a move that shows despair? Do you mean a stupid move is humorous, or do you find the move humorous because its a nice artsy adjective?

Im sorry, but its hard to read something that has been written in an obvious attempt to display a grandiose intelligence.

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ED - 12MJ - Glenforest SS (2172)

July 13, 2020

this level of play was actually really low… many beginner mistakes

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fowling snicker

July 13, 2020

The music is so expressive

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milica milosavljevic

July 13, 2020

Anyone know name of anime or cartoon. The action is related to "go" and the main character is a boy who is just getting to know the game and is rapidly progressing in the game, while later a boy appears who, when he wins an opponent, opponent can't never play
#MyEnglishIsBadImKnow

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ModestDeity

July 13, 2020

Horrible music

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Adam Meldgaard

July 13, 2020

Anyone else here because of Elon Musk?

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Rogerio Lecariao Leite

July 13, 2020

where I can see go game rules?

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Retrograde Motion

July 13, 2020

No idea what was going on here, but the music made it seem profound.

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TwitchtvTrigun52

July 13, 2020

ive just recently gotten into this game after watching that korean movie the devine move…downloaded the go game on my phone and it's been driving me crazy lol..games like go and chess really do take a different type of thinking to excel at but i like them because they make me think outside the box..playing on a 19 board size is a real challenge after awhile..

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walter0bz

July 13, 2020

reminds me of 'conway's game-of-life', I guess go had a role in inspiring that.

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Huanran Diao

July 13, 2020

This is the best go game video that I've ever watched!

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tubertom

July 13, 2020

The quality of play here is ridiculous.  Along with other absolute beginner mistakes at 6:25 Black could and should have recaptured White's stone.  I can't even image why White would have made that capture to begin with as the resulting Ko Battle was a certainty.  However when Black didn't capture back (he played a stone a few positions to the left of where he should have, then White could have ended the Ko Battle by capturing Black's stone right below White's stone which was in the Ko Battle.
For all the comments on Chess: although Go is usually translated into English as 'Chess' (like in Jet Li: Hero where they fought an entire fight in their head akin to retrograde Go calculations) Chess and Go truly are different beasts in that Chess pieces and move and Go stones can't: and the calculations are likewise entirely different.

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Vector

July 13, 2020

Chess is the art of war and Go is the art of politics

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Bai Yang Wang

July 13, 2020

And it would really help if you know Chinese…

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Bai Yang Wang

July 13, 2020

Just for people who are serious about go. Go search for 新浪围棋. It's a weiqi online gaming platform for Chinese Korean and Japanese. You can also watch pro games on it. You should expect fairly skilled opponent even as a starter. Also there are many early game settings and basic tactics that you need to know to play a real game. You can find it on the web page too

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Faiq Emall

July 13, 2020

The music is so ominous. What my piece has no liberties, neither do you!

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Nope

July 13, 2020

Interessting enough, some of the best composers keep saying that music is simple and people put too much thought into it. Like classical music, people make it out to be some sort of special thing that only a few choosen people can enjoy and understand. But reallity is that it's just music, there to listen to and enjoy. Nothing special about it.

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Nope

July 13, 2020

It's called igo in Japan.

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Minato Arisato

July 13, 2020

hikaru no go lol that brings me back memories

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Parafox

July 13, 2020

go and igo are used interchangably in japan. baduk is used korea. wei qi is used in china.

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whybecauseman

July 13, 2020

Definitely need more high quality games set to classical music.

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ALLNEWSUX

July 13, 2020

I love my chess, but lately I found myself wanting to learn the game Go…this video helps and the music works quite well.

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naruto uzumaki

July 13, 2020

goto chorm web store search "go board game" and download "flyordie go"

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Thanawat Phumipraphat

July 13, 2020

PGxElNino from KGS : D

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VoiceofCthulhu

July 13, 2020

I have a stupid question. Do you think it would be possible to play Go on a Nintendo DS? Like, through homebrew?

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peter

July 13, 2020

try online-go just type in google online-go and it is the first result

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TheXxgamerdudexX

July 13, 2020

@zoe745 umm no its not wired because i am fuckin CANDIAN

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zoe745

July 13, 2020

@TheXxgamerdudexX I know it may sound really weird to you, but it is possible to buy stuff through the internet in sites like ebay.

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TheXxgamerdudexX

July 13, 2020

where can i buy a board with stone and how utch does it cost

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Go Hikaru

July 13, 2020

On Go and Chess. The essential difference between Go and Chess is the exquisite elegance of Go. From a small, simple rule set, a virtually infinite set of possibilities arises. Specifically:
In Go, all pieces have the same value: In Chess there are six different pieces with different value.
In Go, all pieces 'move' the same. In Chess each of the six different pieces move differently.
In Go there are 19*19 intersections to play on, in Chess, 64 squares. The difference in the number

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Go Hikaru

July 13, 2020

ran out of characters:(
that is, number of possible games is astronomical.
In Go openings, each of the four corners have openings, all of which relate to each other and the whole board.
In Chess, there is only one main battlefield in the opening, the four central squares.
In Go, the person who moves first wins half the time: In Chess, almost always.

In sum, if you are looking for the ultimate game of skill, there is no comparison between Go and Chess, or for that matter, Go and any other game:)

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Go Hikaru

July 13, 2020

On Go and Chess. The essential difference between Go and Chess is the exquisite elegance of Go. From a small, simple rule set, a virtually infinite set of possibilities arises. Specifically:
In Go, all pieces have the same value: In Chess there are six different pieces with different value.
In Go, all pieces 'move' the same. In Chess each of the six different pieces move differently.
In Go there are 19*19 intersections to play on, in Chess, 64 squares. The difference in the number of squares

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Thomas Rohde

July 13, 2020

Thank you 🙂

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Xarai

July 13, 2020

@ajtaggs lol no sorry chess is simple you just gotta think ur moves out clearly GO on the otherhand has multiple things to pay attention to lots of rules and way too many tactics in fact not all of them have been discovered

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kingjamison99

July 13, 2020

fuvk u i just had to say that bitch

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sinchi558

July 13, 2020

Go is far more complex than chess, just check the number of possibilities in any given game.

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otherdude15

July 13, 2020

no dont need to google. just type in gokgs.co you know

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DasKammergericht

July 13, 2020

@sm0kie420 Love the name! Go is the Japanese name for the Chinese game Weiqi (Can't tell if sarcasm is being applied).

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abandonwareguru

July 13, 2020

@sm0kie420 Or even Baduk.

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vago1234 vago1234

July 13, 2020

What's Go? This is Wei Chi

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David Y

July 13, 2020

i dont get it cause i cant c it.
i mean like strategy n stuff
im a chess player btw

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Fockersd

July 13, 2020

there's 45 seconds of introductery stuff

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shinarit

July 13, 2020

@ajtaggs sure, 19*19 is a much larger playground, also the rules of killing ones figures and placing them are much wider, so that adds to the complexity too. in chess your moves are very well limited, the reasonable ones are even more… while in go you can put wherever you want (with a few exceptions). and to hit you only have to replace a figure, in go you have to surround it.

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