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Old January 27th 10, 11:45 AM posted to,,,soc.culture.japan,soc.culture.china
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Default Five-in-a-Row (Renju) For Beginners to Advanced Players

Five-in-a-Row (Renju) For Beginners to Advanced Players

by Goro Sakata and Wataru Ikawa

Foreword by Sam Sloan

Renju, as the game is known in Japanese or Lianzhu in Chinese
(Japanese/Chinese: 連çŹ*), is a modified and improved version of the
ancient game of Five-in-a-Row, also known by its Japanese name of

The reason it was necessary to modify the basic game of Five-in-a-Row
is that in the traditional game, the player of the first move has such
a big advantage that he will win every, or almost every, game.
Therefore, in order to give the second player a fair chance to win,
restrictions have been placed on the first player.

Five-in-a-Row was traditionally played on a 19x19 go board. However,
the large board increases the advantage of the first player.
Therefore, Renju is played on a 15 x 15 board.

The object of the game is simply to get five stones in a row. Thus,
when a player has four stones in a row and neither end is blocked, the
player has in effect won the game because no matter which end the
opponent blocks, the player will add a fifth stone to the opposite end
and will have won the game.

For that reason, if a player is able to play a move that
simultaneously creates two different rows, each three stones long,
with none of the ends blocked, he will have a forced win, because no
matter which end the opponent blocks, the player will be able to
extend the other row to four and thus will have won.

For this reason, the creators of Renju have made a rule that the first
player, who customarily plays with the Black stones, is not allowed
ever to make two rows of three on the same move. If he does that, even
by accident or by oversight, he loses the game.

Another rule is that the first player may not simultaneously make two
rows of four each. A third rule is that the first player may not make
a row of more than five stones. Thus, if he makes a row of six stones,
he loses immediately.

All this has been done to try to give the second player an even
chance. These restrictions only apply to the first player. The second
player can play anywhere he wants, without restriction. However, the
second player usually wins, not by making five-in-a-row, but by
forcing his opponent to violate one of the above rules by making a
3x3, a 4x4 or 6 or more in a row.

The way the first player usually wins is my making a 4-3. By doing
this, he forces the opponent to block the row of 4 and then extends
the row of three to four, thereby winning.

Even with these rules, Black still has the advantage. Therefore, new
rules have been added and the rules are in a state of flux.

One of the newer versions of the rules adds this:

There is a unique sequence of opening moves:
1.The first player places 2 black stones and 1 white stone on the
2.The second player now chooses whether to play black or white.
3.White then places one more stone on the board.
4.Black places 2 stones on the board.
5.White removes one of the two black stones from the previous move.
6.White places a white stone.

All these new and often changing rules have greatly increased the
interest in the game. A good example is this book. This book was
originally published as a vanity press deal, as no other publisher was
willing to publish it. Sales were slow and for years thousands sat in
our warehouse in unopened boxes. We thought we would never get rid of

Then, suddenly, sales increased considerably. Soon, we were sold out.
Now, none are available even as a used book and this reprinting has
become necessary.

During this same period, Renju associations have sprung up all over
the world. There is now a World Renju Championship, contested every
two years. Not only are there Renju associations in China, Japan and
Korea, but there are Renju Associations in Russia, Sweden, Finland,
Estonia, England, the Czech Republic and many other countries of the

There are also many Renju websites.

It appears however that this is still the only English Language book
published on Renju. There are many books in Japanese, Chinese and
Korean, but so far, as far as we know, there are no other books in

I decided to reprint this book because in September 2009 I spent two
weeks in Shenyang, China. A chess player there whom I defeated easily
in chess challenged me to a game of Renju. I was surprised that he
knew about the rules that 3x3 and 4x4 are prohibited. He told me that
they play under those rules in China too. The Japanese have always
claimed that these rules were Japanese inventions.

This caused me to look up this book and realize that we were out of
stock and that this book needed to be reprinted.

Sam Sloan
New York
January 25, 2010

ISBN 4-87187-301-3
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Old January 27th 10, 11:56 AM posted to,,,soc.culture.japan,soc.culture.china
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Default Five-in-a-Row (Renju) For Beginners to Advanced Players

About the author:

Born in Tokyo, Japan on May 9, 1928, Goro Sakata was awarded shodan in
1956 and 8-dan in 1979. He has served as editor-in-chief from 1960 to
1970 of the magazine “Renju Sekai” (Renju World) issued by the Nihon
A specialist in composing Renju problems (Tsume Renju), some of his
best problems are well known to Japanese Renju players. He has
published several books on Renju in Japanese, including “A Guide to
Renju”, “A Guide to Renju Illustrated”, “How to Win at Renju”, “The
Sure Win Theory of Renju”, “Gomoku and Quizzes”, and several others.

* * * * * * * * * * *
ISBN *4-87187-301-3

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