It comes quite handy to assign different genders to the two abstract players "Black" and "White" and than use gendered personal pronouns in order to refer to them.

But who should be male, and who should be female?

Berlekamp and Wolfe in their book Mathematical Go use Wright White (male, "he") and Bella Black (female, "she") for the two rôles, but in this answer Using the edges of the board in Go by Benjamin Cosman it seems that the opposite assignment is used. Where does it originate from?

Which assignment is preferable?

EDIT: I just noticed that Sensei's Library seems to use the White/she convention.

  • 2
    I don't know of any convention one way or another - my assignment in that answer was quite arbitrary. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 16:07

3 Answers 3


Employing some search engine tesujis, I found the page Player Gender on senseis.xmp.net. It clearly states my anecdotal finding, that Sensei's Library uses White=she and Black=he as a convention.

The same convention is used in several influential books, e.g., Whole Board Thinking In Joseki by Yi-Lun Yang, Essential Joseki by Rui Naiwei and in the works of Janice Kim (co-author of the Essential Go series).

Note that traditional Yin/Yang symbolism would support the other assignment that is also used by Berlekamp and Wolfe in their book Mathematical Go. From all what I can see, this is the minority position.

My conclusion is that—if one want to use gendered abstract players at all—the White=she and Black=he convention is used in the majority of influential sources and therefore preferable over the opposite convention.

  • Chinese languages are generally gender-neutral ( The use of letter 'She' only started in early twentieth century and in written form only). I find it rather odd to assign gender to stone colours. Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 7:36

There have historically been a few different ideas how to approach this issue, as you have discovered. Nowadays, if genders are assigned to colors at all, usually white is female, and black is male. As a source I can only name my personal experience on Go servers and discussion boards, so I'm curious to hear other experiences.

I'm not sure where this convention originated - myself, I read about this in a book translated from Japanese, though I can't remember which one. Most people however prefer to just use the colors themselves as nouns ("Black made a mistake here").

As a side note, if either player is a computer program, and you want to gender it, I encourage you to use it to address it. There have been moves to assign a female gender to computer programs, though that was, I believe, not well thought through, and leads to a wide range of related problems, some not too obvious.


I severely dislike the idea of assigning gender to a color under any circumstances, unless the only reason you want to do this is for personal use as some kind of a mnemonic that you wouldn't share with anyone. A couple of reasons why:

  • There will always be people who associate themselves with the color that you assigned to the opposite gender, and your (semi-)arbitrary choice may frustrate them.
  • There are just too many negative connotations with the colour black that could come out as offensive to some people, such as "evil", "bad", "sinful", etc.
  • There are people who dislike the idea of thinking in the binary sexual terms.

With this out of the way, it is important to remember that from the physical point of view, white is the colour formed by a multitude of electromagnetic waves of different lengths, while black is nothing but the lack of any visible light and colour.

Colour white can "give birth" to any colour of the visible spectrum by means of refraction, colour black cannot give birth to anything. Colour white is also the colour that our Sun gives to Earth to bring and maintain life, while colour black is the color of lifeless space. Colour white = fecundity, colour black = lifelessness.

From the above, it seems more logical to consider colour white more feminine than colour black.

  • Well, we are talking about the game of Go: Like checkers or 9-men-morris it is traditionally played with Black and White stones, so the colours are given. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:28
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    @jknappen Colors are given, genders are not. I see absolutely no need to sexualize the game. If for some obscure reason you still want to do that, read the second part of my answer.
    – undercat
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:31
  • Your conclusion agrees with the majority of sources I have seen so far. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:37
  • If by my "conclusion" you mean choosing one of the two colours for each gender, there can only be two "conclusions" in this problem. ;-)
    – undercat
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:54

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