In the most populated countries by Go players - China, Korea and Japan - the dimensions, materials and the appearance of Go equipment aren’t exactly the same. What are the differences between the most popular Go sets in these countries?
Dimensions of Go equipment
First of all there is a difference between the dimensions of Go boards.
In China the most popular size of a Go board is about 47cm (length) x 44cm (width), while in Korea and Japan the boards usually are about 45cm (length) x 42cm (width).
And to make the stones fit well on the board, there is also a difference in diameter between stones. The Chinese Go stones usually have a diameter of about 2,2-2,3cm in contrast to about 2cm diameter of Korean and Japanese stones.
It’s important to keep in mind the differences in size before buying boards and stones separately, because Chinese stones might be too big to fit onto Japanese Go boards.
Single convex vs double convex Go stones
The regular Chinese Go stones are single convex. It means that the surface of a stone is convex on one side and flat on the other side. On the other hand, the Korean and Japanese stones are usually double-convex.
As the Chinese stones are single convex, they are usually being played the flat side touching the board while playing a game. However, when the game is being reviewed and a player wants to suggest a move which hasn’t been played during the game, they put the stone, so that the convex side touches the board.
There is a practical reason of playing with single convex stones instead of the double convex stones. During the game the stones are more stable on the board while being played on the flat side. However, the move suggestions played on the convex side during reviews are easier to be taken off the board.
Thickness of Go boards
Nowadays the common tournament boards are quite thin, usually ranging between 0,3cm and 1,6cm, which makes them lighter and easier to carry. The more elegant boards are often a bit thicker, i.e. between 4cm and 6cm. And that’s similar for each country of origin - China, Korea, Japan.
When we dig a bit into the Far Eastern culture, we can notice that in some countries it’s normal to spend time while sitting on the floor. Many Japanese and Korean restaurants are designed this way - people sit on the floor and the food is placed on very low tables. The most expensive Japanese and Korean Go boards are designed for this culture - to make people play Go while sitting on the floor. These kinds of Go boards are usually very thick (sometimes exceeding even 20cm) and have four legs. Go boards with legs aren’t popular in China, though.
Materials of Go stones
Korean and Japanese double convex stones are usually made of glass. Chinese single convex stones are usually made of ceramic. It’s also possible to play with Go stones made of paper or find some plastic stones, but plastic Go stones aren’t much cheaper than their glass and ceramic equivalents. And as you plan to play Go, you will probably spend long hours with those stones, so a few bucks more for a better game experience shouldn’t matter that much.
The luxury Go stones are usually made of slate (black stones) and clamshell (white stones). Even though the luxurious slate/black stones are relatively not so expensive, the price of clamshell/white stones might be very high due to a lack in supply of clamshell. And the higher the stones, the more difficult to find such big clamshell, so their price can reach really astronomical levels.
Materials of Go boards
The cheap, thin and common boards are made of MDF (small leftovers from cutting wood that are pressed together). The more elegant and thicker boards are usually made of a few pieces of wood.
The most luxurious are the solid boards (made of a single piece of wood). A piece of wood, from which a Go board is made, shouldn’t have any defects and it shouldn’t come from the central part of the tree trunk, as it could generate durability problems. So, there are lacks of supply, as it’s difficult to find such thick trees. Thus, the price of the solid Go boards can be very high.
Appearance of gosu (containers for Go stones)
In Korea and Japan Go matches are generally played with Japanese rules. So, after some stones are captured, they are taken off the board and put into the lids of gosu. To be able to keep more captured stones in the lids, they are usually being made concave from one side (and convex from the other side).
In China most of Go matches are being played with Chinese rules, so the captured stones don’t need to be kept by the player who captured them. Instead, the stones can be simply put back into the opponent’s gosu. That’s why the gosu lids in China usually aren’t concave, but flat (and cheaper, as shaping the lids into the concave form makes the production costs higher).