Renju For Beginners - Revised Edition

Here are some pages from the revised version of the book "Renju For Beginners". The new version is now possible to order. The price is 10 US $ including international freight. If you also want to order "From the opening to the middle of the game" by Sagara the international price is 20 US $ including international freight. Usual way to pay is to send so little money in cash with usual mail. Other forms are expensive for the receiver of the money and then the price most be another. You are able to order from Tommy Maltell (e-mail address:

The authors wish to express their gratitude to Mr E. Morozov and Mrs M. Gardstrom whose combined remarks and editorship made this revised edition possible.

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1.1 The Rules of Renju . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1.2 From the History and Geography of Renju . . . . . . . . . . 5 CHAPTER 2. TERMS AND DEFINITIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 2.1 Accessories of the game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 2.2 Simple structures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 2.3 Forks and fouls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 CHAPTER 3. PRINCIPLES OF TACTICS IN RENJU . . . . . . . . . . . .20 3.1 A forced attack at the end of the game . . . . . . . . . .20 3.2 The art of Pause . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 3.3 Methods of Defense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 3.4 Advice to a beginner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 CHAPTER 4. OPENINGS IN RENJU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 CHAPTER 5. SELECTED GAMES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 CHAPTER 6. RENJU EXERCISES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69 CHAPTER 7. CONCLUSIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77


1.1 The Rules of Renju.

The present text is meant for beginners. The authors hope though, that advanced players will also find something interesting here.

Why is this game so attractive?

First of all, the game has very simple rules: it seems very easy to build five-in-a-row. The unpretentious equipment (it is even possible to play with a pen on a sheet of paper) also does much to capture the hearts of people of different ages and professions. But as far as studying the game goes, it opens new and unexpected situations. "There is nothing simpler, than this game",- a beginner will exclaim after playing a few games. "Nothing more complicated",- a master would say. And he will be as much right. In fact, to study how to make moves is much simpler in Renju than in many other logical games. Little by little, studying the richness of the game, one will see for himself, that in subtlety Renju does not yield anything to any other logical game. Sudden changes of situations, multimoveness, carefully calculated attacks and quick counterattacks, beauty of the final thrust - that's what attracts a mature master in Renju.

In short, rules of Renju are:

1. Two players, one after another place stones of white and black color on the intersections of an empty game-board, which consists of 15 horizontal and 15 vertical lines. Black makes the first move beginning from the middle of the board (stones must be placed on the INTERSECTIONS!).

2. The winning player is the one, who builds the first "five-in-a-row" (an unbroken horizontal, vertical or diagonal line with 5 stones of the same color).

3. A game is considered a draw, if the players think, that there can be no winner or loser (e.g. the board is full of stones). Any player, unable to make a move, can refuse to place a stone on the board. If both players refuse to place their stones one after another, the game also ends in a draw.

4. Since Black begins the game he is not allowed to build with one move at least two "Threes", or "Fours", or an "Overline" (that is, a line of more than 5 stones) under the penalty of defeat. This prohibition is called a Foul in Renju.

5. White does not have prohibited moves. White can build an Overline and win. The exact definition and explanation of terms will be given in the next chapter.

1.2 From the History and Geography of Renju.

Renju first appeared in its simple variation, without fouls for Black. Practically in its first variation, Renju exists all over the world.

The game was first born in the delta of the Hwang Ho river in China. The time of birth is XX Century B.C., so this game is more than 4000 years old! It is surprising, but archaeology proves that this game was independently created in the Ancient Greece and pre-Columbian America. All of this makes Renju one of the oldest and easiest (as the rules go) logical games but not so simple as it appears.

The second birth, this time as a serious sports game, was given to Renju in Japan. Initially the game was brought to the Japanese Islands in the 270 B.C. by Chinese emigrants. It spread very quickly under a name of "KAKUGO" (five steps - Jap.). The chronicles say that by the break between XVII and XVIII centuries everybody was playing this game - the old people as well as the children (Oriental traditions were reflected in the original etiquette of the modern Renju). The first books on theory of Renju were published in the beginning of the last century. However, right up to the beginning of our century, the game was still played leisurely by the people. This act is evidenced even in the variety of names given to the game: "GOREN" (five-in-a-row - Jap.), "GOSEKI" (five stones - Jap.), "GOMOKUNARABE" or simply "GOMOKU" (five points in a row - Jap.).

Finally, the modern name - Renju - was born, and it is used now only for the game with the fouls for Black, whereas the remaining name, GOMOKU, is used only for the game without fouls.

The term "RENJU" (string of pearls) was introduced by Tenry Kobayashi, a Chinese poetry expert, in 1899. It is difficult to say now, what had inspired him to such a poetical image. Maybe it was a winning row of five black or white stones which reminded him of a string of beautiful pearls, or, maybe, a victory in Renju which is as hard as diving for pearls to a sea bottom. Indeed, there is a lot of poetry in the modern Renju. How lyrical are, for example, the names of some Renju openings: Flower, Asteroid and Meteor, Far, Cold, Lucky and Gold Stars, Silver Moon and New Moon, Valley and Canyon, Glory and so on. Evidently, national temperament of the Japanese and their attitude to logical games as an art more than a sport, found their ideal here. The Japanese believe, that by playing the game, the partners are creating a masterpiece, and sport result of a single game is a minor detail.

From that point of view, our understanding of games is a little bit more pragmatic: in the combination of words "sports-logical game" we are inclined to make an accent on the first half - "sports game". It seems like both points of view have right to exist and every single player must decide for himself, where he wants to make an accent in this dialectic combination.

How did the definition of foul appear in Renju? It appeared like an inevitable result of process of transforming game to a sports game. Official beginning of this process is creating in 1906 the first union of Renju-players - Tokyo Association (Federation) of Renju. The next important milestone in the history of Renju is 1936, when modern rules of Renju were finally, adopted, and Japanese Federation of Renju began active work. The thirty years, which had passed between these two dates can be called "vague time" of Renju in Japan. What appeared as its result?

First of all, a traditional Japanese system of sports qualification had been created - kyu and dan. Now, the uppermost category of kyu is the l-st, the lowest is the 12-th. The lowest dan is the l-st "sho-dan", the uppermost is the 9-th. The highest title is Meijin.

Second, and this is most important, thanks to appearance of hundreds of talented new players (Dans), it became apparent that when playing without prohibitions for Black, White always loses the game no matter how skilfully he plays and defends. This situation is explained by the inevitable for all logical games "rule of the first move", which is Black. An idea to get over the threatening crisis of the game (the apogee of it was in the middle of the twenties), by setting prohibitions for Black, had appeared. Very quickly an agreement was reached to restrict the board - first to 19x19 (like in Go), and then to 15x15. There were attempts to restrict the third move for Black, making it outside the 5x5 square. However, all these experiments, did not pass the test of time. Then players approached the problem from the other end, and forbade Black to make Forks 3x3. But it was also not enough. Finally, by the proposal of Grossmaster Rakusan Takaki the rules of fouls 3x3, 4x4, and overline were adopted which we now call Classic. The only Fork 4x3 remained for Black.

A skilled player can ask a question: who will guarantee that all these complicated restrictions will suffice? Will anything new appear? It is possible to say for sure, that in the coming decades changes will not happen. Almost fifty years of experience along with the various regulations of modern rules, practically equalized the players' chances.

And one more argument for the Fouls: their introduction, quite unexpectedly for their creators, had sharply enriched the game tactically and added new quality to it. How beautiful and graceful White victories look with the help of forced Foul for Black, whose victory seemed to be inevitable one move before it! Playing without Fouls...

That's why it is possible to say, that Renju, at least in Japan, had gone out of childhood of creation and revision of the rules, and became the beautiful time of adulthood. It is not necessary to repeat all existing mistakes of the Japanese, where this game originated and was cultivated.

The modern Renju in the world is a young sports. The Renju International Federation was created in 1988 in Stokholm, Sweden. It organized three World Championships of Renju and Five-in-a-Row: First in Kyoto, Japan 1989, Second in Moscow, Russia 1991, Third in Arjeplog, Sweden 1993.

In the former USSR first Renju tournament, the Moscow Championship, was held only in 1980. At the same time, the first articles about Renju were published in "Science and Life" magazine the First National Competition among the solvers of Renju exercises was held. And already a year and a half later there were so many players, that it became possible to hold the First National Renju Tournament for the trophy of "Science and Life" magazine. In November 1983, the Second National Tournament was held, which collected already 60 best players from 23 cities of the former USSR.

This book was written in 1984 , but now, in 1995, we shall add some good news for the English edition. There exists now a regular English issue of the RIF - "RENJU WORLD" magazine - where Renju and Five-in-a-Row information is published. Other Five-in-a-Row and Renju books in English are:

1. "Five-in-a-row/Renju" by Mr Goro Sakata & Mr Wataru Ikawa.

2. "From the Opening to the Middle of the game" by Mr Sigeru Sagara.

There is a lot of literature in Japanese, Russian and Swedish. There is also software for Renju and Gomoku. There are playing programs for DOS and Windows as well as a database program called RenBase with Base-7000 with 7000 real games from all competitions of last years also for DOS and Windows.

We hope that after reading this book you will be interested enough to contact RIF: we are able to help you either find a Renju-club in your country or create one. Please, write to
RIF main office, Box 249, S -551 14 Jönköping, Sweden,
or send e-mail to
You are also able to receive information about RIF from RIF´s Internet URL address


2.1 Accessories of the game: A complete set of Renju, used in the tournaments, includes: a playing board, a set of white and black stones, tournament clocks and blank sheets to record the game.

The playing board, is a wooden, paper or veneer board with 15 horizontal and 15 vertical lines. The intersections created by these lines, are called points. To mark these points, the letters of Latin alphabet (e.g. A, B, C...X, Y, Z...a, b, c...) or move numbers are used. In Japanese literature they also use hieroglyphs and some digits.

Numeric notation is less popular. This is so because on the diagrams (which are called records of the game) the move numbers are marked, and the corresponding stones do not move until the end of the game. Besides diagram notation is clearer than numeric one.

The playing board is shown on the cover of this book. On this diagram a short game is shown (because of the Black's mistake in the opening on the 7th move), which finished after Black's losing by Foul in the points X or Y.

Out of 225 points of the board, five are emphasized by darker dots: one of them is Central (for the first move) and four of them are Corners (for better visual attachment of diagrams to the board).

A set of stones, usually consists of 50 black and 50 white stones. Experience proves this amount to be enough for most games (during the tournaments the referee supervising the tournament will be notified of any lack of stones). Stones in the set are not numbered. The size of stones and playing board are selected so that between adjacent stones there will be about a millimeter gap.

Tournament clocks - double-faces (chess-clock). It should be mentioned in addition to Renju rules mentioned in chapter 1, that if tournament clocks are used, any player loses the game when the time given for the game expires.

Sheets used to record the game contain the image of the board, information about the players (last name, first name, ranking, team), time, spent on the moves, code of the tournament, code of the opening and result of the game. After the game ends they are signed by the players and the referee. During the game the players must mark the moves on their blanks. Black's moves are marked by black circles with move numbers inside, whereas White's moves - by red circles with numbers or only by numbers without any circles.