A brief history of Gomoku

Gomoku game is also known as “Five in a Row” in English countries. It is one of the simpler and more popular versions of the ancient board game of “GO”. And the Gomoku history is long too. But despite its simple rules Gomoku is a logic board game more complex and difficult than Tic Tac Toe and the modern Connect Four (Four in a Row). This game is very thrilling and challenging and requires the tactical skills and strategies.

The Gomoku game also has some other names: Kakugo, Gomoku-narabe, Itsutsu-ishi, gobang, morphion. People played Gomoku on Go-boards since 2nd millenium B.C. This game came to Japan from China in the 7th century.

The ancient Gomoku board history
The ancient Gomoku board

The name “Gomoku” is from the Japanese language, in which it is referred to as gomokunarabe (五目並べ). “Go” means five, “moku” is a counter word for pieces and “narabe” means line-up.

Gomoku rules

Actually there are many variants of “Fife in a Row” games. The modern Gomoku game see at the photo below.

Gomoku board
Modern Gomoku board

The common rules of all five-in-a-row games are:

  1. Play alternates between one player who starts the game (usually called Black because he is playing with black stones) and another player (usually called White because he is playing with white stones). Every Player puts the the stone in the intersections of a board with vertical and horizontal lines. The board has the limits 15×15 intersections. But long ago the board had the same size as the Go-board i.e. it had 19×19 intersections. It is also possible to play writing crosses and circles in the squares of a piece of paper. Such kind of paper usually is made for mathematical calculations. This variant has no special limits because it is possible to add a new paper to the first. So the game may be infinite as was usual in Sweden for example. Of course it is only possible to put the mark or the stone on an empty place.
  2. The first player to get an unbroken line of five stones (marks) whether vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, wins the game.

But the playing with the above mentioned “completely free” 1-2 rules was in great favour of Black (the beginner of the game). It is also proved that there is a sure win for Black when playing with “completely free” rules. So there are the additional rules to make game more fair for the both players.

The professional variant of Gomoku has the Renju name. The word “Renju” (連珠) comes from the Japanese language, and means “connected pearls”. This name was provided by Japanese journalist Ruikou Kuroiwa (黒岩涙香) on December 6, 1899 in a Japanese newspaper Yorozu chouhou (萬朝報).


The Renju International Federation (RIF) is an international organization which was founded in Stockholm, Sweden in August 8, 1988. The main purpose of the federation is to unite all the Renju and Gomoku national federations all over the world, organize international tournaments such as World Championships, together with other activities in Renju and Gomoku, and spread popularity of these great games in the world. The official site of RIF is http://www.renju.net/index.php. Here you can read the full “Five in a Row” rules, find tournament records, player profiles, photos, videos, articles etc.

You can download Gomoku game with two different rules types from Google Play and play it online on our site.

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