As a beginner, I was handed a full go board. And, somehow figured it out.

A beginner friend wants to start "small" on something like 1/4 of the board.

Personally, I think that we should start with the entire board.

  • 1
    This might be of interest to you boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/6336/…
    – user1873
    Jul 3, 2012 at 2:14
  • It is a bit late now, but the title suggests that the question is purely about the mechanics of setting up the board, while the body suggests that it is about what size board to start on.
    – PJTraill
    Dec 13, 2015 at 23:58

6 Answers 6


There is a lot of discussion on whether starting on 19x19 or 9x9 is preferable, the general consensus tends to 9x9. Personally, I started on 19x19 but would have preferred 9x9.

As a beginner, you first need to understand the most basic melee fighting tactics (atari, ladder, snapback, basic life and death, etc). Those can be learned on both big and small boards, but small boards avoid introducing complex strategic issues and make for faster games that are easier to review.

You probably should stick to small boards until you are familiar enough with the game to stop making "obvious" mistakes (crawling with a dead group on the first line, playing out ladders, stuff like that).

  • 3
    I preferred 9x9 when I was first starting to learn because the games were faster. Jul 3, 2012 at 22:27
  • Play on a 9x9 board goes much faster, and allows people to learn by playing the "capturing game", in which the first person to capture any stones wins. There are even some professional games on a 9x9 board. Nov 12, 2012 at 14:05

If you have played go for a while, a full board can seem like a natural place to learn. Obviously it is possible; So that asks the question: "Why do so many people learn on a 9x9 board?" and "Why does a 9x9 board exist at all?"

I have found, (past 10 years of teaching Go), that a 9x9 is the right place to teach people. There are lots of reasons, (that you will probably find in the other answers - "get through your first 100 games quickly"), but my top reason is fear.

19x19 lines looks like 18x18 squares to someone that has learnt to play, almost all other board games. The mind can boggle at how complicated that must be; A 9x9 looks like 8x8 squares, which is the same dimensions as some other games use, (though they are mostly tactic based games and Go adds strategy into the mix.)

So to sum up, some reasons to learn on a 9x9:

  1. Friendly size
  2. Get through teaching games quicker
  3. Learn the rules without the distraction of the deeper complexities, (the fun part), getting in the way.
  4. Still fun
  5. Cheaper to make or buy
  6. Easier to store

A 1/4 board (11x11), is not a standard size, so I do not believe that any official setup for black handicap stones exists.

Some confusion exists on what a quarter board is though, as I have seen a 9x9 also called a quarter board. The handicaps for that board are listed here.

  • 8
    1/4 likely refers to 9x9, I have never seen 11x11 in this context.
    – mafu
    Jul 3, 2012 at 10:06

Actually setting up the 'quarter board' is hard to do on a 19x19 board. Most people use a small board specifically made for the size, or make their own. It is possible to crop an area from the large board, but this can be inconvenient.

As for learning on one, I feel Pieter Geerkens comment is quite correct. 13x13 gives a more balanced vision of the game than 9x9. 19x19 is too large, 9x9 is too small, but good to introduce the rules with.

Once the player has the basic rules down 100% on 13x13 then 19x19 becomes more interesting. After some years playing primarily 19x19, I've gone back to 9x9 and 13x13 to improve my life and death techniques and starting moves.

  • 1
    I always found it relatively straightforward to ‘trim’ a 19x19 board: just lay a couple of pieces of paper along the edges of the area you want to play on, and weight them a bit.
    – PJTraill
    Dec 13, 2015 at 23:55

a 9x9 is a board that is set for a battle not a war.
and that is ok.

There is a lot less centre area in a 9x9, which is good because there is no territory in the centre.
I find a 9x9 takes 15 minutes to pay, where as a 19x19 will take an hour or more.

A 13x13 is a interesting compromise. A small war.

  • 2
    13x13 at least has four corners, and can very dramatically demonstrate either the power of a wall or its impotence, depending on full board situation. I highly recommend learning on a 13x13, and not anything smaller, except perhaps for a beginner's very first game. It has been estimated that a beginner advances by around 4 kyu during her first game. Don't hinder that advancement by starting on too small a board. Jan 20, 2014 at 4:59
  • @Pieter: Mind if i more or less copy-paste-edit that into may answer. Sep 1, 2014 at 13:00
  • 1
    Simply credit me as a contributor in case the comment tree gets deleted at some point, then be my guest. Sep 2, 2014 at 1:59

The basic board sizes are 9 x 9, 81 points or a "one-quarter" board, 13 X 13, or a "half" size board of 169 points, and 19 x 19, for a "full" board of 361 points.

Many full sized boards will have a 9 x 9, or 13 X 13, board printed on the back. Otherwise, you could take paper and "block off the extra ten rows or columns of points above 9 x 9 on a full board.

I learned to play Go on a full-sized board and never looked back. You might want to use a smaller board for the first five or ten games, just to learn the mechanics, but you'll want to transition to a full sized board as soon as possible so that you don't learn strategies that work on the smaller board but may be inappropriate for the full version.

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