Alexander E. Stevens
I mean 5x5 or 9x9 boards. It seems to me that the game would play the same way if it used an odd board with the center square open. That way it woudn't be necessary to remove pieces to begin play and each player would begin with an equal number of stones. What I don't know is how that change would affect first-player advantage, if present. Any comments?
I think the change would not be superficially evident, but the gameplay would be altered enough by this in that there is definitely an element of strategy present in what stones are chosen to be removed. To that end, because stones can only jump straight lines, having a fixed open space would limit the number of opening moves compared to that of two open spaces on potentially unaligned spaces.