War and Territory
The Chinese game of weiqi and its Korean and Japanese derivatives, baduk and go, comprise East Asia’s consummate board game of skill. At least as old as chess, and arguably even more intellectually challenging, weiqi seems deceptively simple at first glance. The game is played by two players on a board marked with a grid (now standardized at nineteen by nineteen lines), each player using a set of identical disk-shaped pieces. The players take turns placing their pieces on the interstices of the grid in an attempt to surround each other’s pieces, and the winner of the game is the player who ends up with the most pieces that are not surrounded. Despite its apparent simplicity—the rules are few and the pieces have no directional moves as in chess—the possible permutations are almost infinite. It is significant that weiqi has become a favorite game of mathematicians in the West. At present, no computer has been able to defeat the top players, which suggests that the game requires a type of predictive ability that is not purely mathematical.

Scholars Playing Weiqi under Pine Trees
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Scholars Playing Weiqi under Pine Trees
China; Yuan dynasty (1279–1368)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk; 122.24 x 69.06 cm
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of funds from Ruth and Bruce Dayton