American Go E-Journal » Tools: books, software & hardware

New in Print: Commented Games of Lee Sedol (Volume I)

Sunday September 23, 2012

by Roy Laird
What does the world’s top player do when he’s not playing go? In the case of Lee Sedol, the answer turned out to be: write wonderful go books. In June 2009 Lee abruptly retired from tournament play in a dispute with the Korean Baduk Association, which was later resolved. During the break, as Lee reflected on his career, he reviewed several of his most important games in detail with his sister Lee Sena, a former female amateur Myeongin (Meijin), who had just returned from a long stay in Australia. Three books emerged from this collaboration, and, as we reported last week, the first  has just been published in English by Baduktopia as Commented Games of Lee Sedol I. In unparalleled depth, Lee explores his first title-winning game in 2000; his loss against Lee Changho in the 2001 LG Cup; and the game with which he won his first international tournament, the 2002 Fujitsu Cup.  Using dozens of game records and hundreds of explanatory diagrams per game, Lee takes us through each contest step by step, with more than 100 pages of analysis per game. As a mid-level player, I was slightly daunted to find that the very first page of analysis explains why Lee decided, at move 6, to avoid a 30-move variation of the hard-to-fathom takamoku taisha variation. But as I kept reading, I also found clear and insightful points on many different levels. There’s something for everyone in these wide-ranging game analyses. The large format, open layout and use of multiple game records – some contain only two or three moves — make everything so easy to follow, you may not even need to play along on a real board. Lee also offers personal reflections on subjects ranging from his life growing up on a farm on Bigeum Island off the southern coast, to his thoughts and feelings during and after the games. Lee’s father was a crucial figure and great go aficionado — we learn that he even included the word “Dol” (“Stone” in Korean) in his children’s names.  (“Sedol” means strong stone.) With more than 300 7.5”x10” pages in quality paperback form, it’s a hefty volume, with a price to match – over $40. But if the best way to improve is to study professional games, this is the most thorough discussion ever in English of play at the highest level. It’s found a home on the top shelf of my library with Invincible and those great classic game review books that John Fairbairn has been putting out lately. I’m looking forward to Volumes II and III.
photo: Lee Sedol with his daughter in 2008

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Go Review: Pro Game App Released; Two Books for Advanced Players

Friday September 21, 2012

Pro Game App Released: Canadian software developer Wei Cheng has just released “Weiqi2Go,” an Apple iOS app aimed at bringing the latest professional games from Asia into the hands of North American go fans. “Many of us (are now) forced to stay up late watching games on Tygem or other go servers which is neither good for our family life nor good for our work the next day,” Wei Cheng says. Weiqi2Go — $4.99 in the App Store — currently includes about 500 professional games from the past year. On the plus side, there are 650 pro games from 2011 and 2012 tournaments, and the app has handy auto-play and numbered-move options. Minuses: the app’s game interface is a bit clunky at this point: the board and stones are small and cannot be enlarged, and the forward and back arrows are not terribly responsive. Also, virtually all the game and player names are in Chinese, so for those who don’t read Chinese it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at. Apparently you can search using names in English but as all the game info is in Chinese it’s not much help. Wei Cheng suggests this is a feature, not a bug, telling the EJ that “Serious student(s) of go would be interested in the game records without paying attention who played them, as long as they are played by top pros.” Bottom line: great idea, decent execution but has some serious drawbacks for non-Chinese players; plenty of room for improvement in future updates. Note: there’s no extra charge as the games library is updated.

Two Books for Advanced Players: Two books recently came our way from Hinoki Press – The Ins and Outs of Life and Death and The Art of Positional Analysis (both available from Yellow Mountain Imports and both translated by Robert Terry). All professionals recommend studying life and death problems to get stronger – among other things it improves your reading ability – and Ins and Outs is a valuable addition to any serious student’s collection. Examining life and death problems from a variety of perspectives, including the artistic, Ins and Outs 150 problems are drawn from the pages of Kido Magazine, the famous publication from the Nihon Ki-in, and feature legendary tsume-go masters like Maeda Nobuaki, the ”God of Life and Death Problems” (including a fascinating examination of his career and one of his teaching essays), Mimura Tomoyasu, 15 masterpieces from the inimitable Fujisawa Shuko and six of the late Hashimoto Utaro’s compositions. As a special bonus there are ten problems selected by professional players as the best of all time. In and Outs is on sale for $20 but note that it’s correctly filed under “Advanced” go books; definitely not for beginning or intermediate players!

Ditto with The Art of Positional Analysis (also on sale for $20), a collection of high-level game analyses, first published as a series of articles in Kido Magazine. The 323-page book addresses the question of where this is the time to be aggressive, or to consolidate the lead by looking at a dozen games analyzed by Kobayashi Koichi, 12 more with commentary by Takemiya Masaki, as well as the five games of the 11th Kisei Title match. “Positional judgment requires more than intuition,” notes Yellow Mountain, “it requires a reasonable amount of analysis and the discipline to alter course accordingly.” This book enables the advanced player to see that analysis in action.
- Chris Garlock
Got review? We’d love to hear your thoughts on go software, apps, books and equipment! Email journal@usgo.org and let us know what  you’re interested in reviewing.

New Turn-Based Go Server Comes to U.S.

Monday September 17, 2012

The world of turn-based servers – the modern equivalent of postal go – has expanded with the addition of the International Network Go Organization (INGO). INGO, based in Japan, launched back in May 2011 and has since expanded to China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Germany and England.  “We think we should invite the United States now,” says INGO Chairman Isao Yamashita. The advantage of turn-based go (TBG) is that “A player can think long or short as he likes,” notes Yamashita. “Thus a game may take a month or longer depending on the total number of moves of a game or how frequently each player sends his move.”  Many turn-based players play multiple games simultaneously. Links to INGO and other TBG servers – as well as real-time servers – can be found on the AGA’s Internet Go page.

SmartGo Books Releases 3 Kiseido Classics

Monday September 17, 2012

SmartGo Books now includes three classics from the much-requested Elementary Go Series (Kiseido). “Life and Death” and “Tesuji,” both by James Davies, and “Attack and Defense” by Akira Ishida & James Davies. “These are books you read and re-read as you get stronger,” says SmartGo’s Anders Kierulf. Other recent additions include the first two volumes of Yilun Yang’s “The Workshop Lectures” (Slate & Shell), with chapters on when to tenuki, choosing the direction of attack, how to invade, pincers, extensions, and more. Click here for details. SmartGo Books is a free app for iOS (iPad & iPhone), with 42 go books now available for in-app purchase.

Baduktopia Releases English Edition of “Commented Games by Lee Sedol, Vol. 1″

Saturday September 15, 2012

The English edition of “Commented Games by Lee Sedol, Vol. 1: One Step Closer to the Summit” – which some are calling “a Korean version of Invincible” — is the highlight of eight new books published recently by Korean publisher Baduktopia. Keenly awaited by his fans — Lee wrote the 3-volume series during a leave of absence in mid-2009 when he temporarily stopped playing professionally — the book doesn’t disappoint. Over 320 pages Lee Sedol 9P comments in great detail on three of his own games; click  here for sample pages. “Commented Games” also includes unusually honest and frank stories about Lee’s life, thoughts and emotions, providing rare insight into the mind of one of the world top players. There are three volumes of the Lee Sedol books, with three games in each for a total of nine commented games, the English translation of Volume II is scheduled for release in the first half of 2013. Baduktopia has also released the continuation of the “Level Up! Series,” five new “Jump Level Up!” books along with their answer book. The “Level Up” books contain short explanations, practice problems and entertaining material like comics and texts on go culture. Originally designed for children at Korean Go schools the books are intended to systematically teach essential techniques step-by-step. The “Jump Level Up!” series is recommended for single-digit kyu players. Available from Baduktopia, Go Game Guru and SchaakenGo. Note: the AGA receives a 10% commission on books sold through the GoGameGuru shop.

AGA Pro Tourney Game Records Posted; Women Who Get Go; Vogue interviews Xie Yimin; GoGoD Publishes Chinese Classic in E-Book Form; Go Mention in Stevie McCabe Mystery; Nice Go

Wednesday September 12, 2012

AGA Pro Tourney Game Records Posted: AGA-TYGEMGO Pro Tournament game records for both the main tournament and the Exhibition League have been added to the AGA Professional System page on the AGA website. To see the tournament draw – and download game records – scroll down to “Results.” Thanks to Dennis Wheeler and Steve Colburn for their work on this.

Women Who Get Go: Go has been catching on recently among young women in Japan, Daniel Krieger reported in The Japan Times earlier this year (The women who get go 5/15/2012). “Just last year, it started to get more popular,” said Mayumi Otsuka, 29, who has been hosting monthly get-togethers since last year at a go parlor in Osaka where she and her 27-year-old sister, Satomi, have been working (and playing up to 10 times a day) for the past three years. International Go Federation vice president Thomas Hsiang said that “To facilitate the next big change, we need a model” like a “Bobby Fischer” of women’s go, and suggested that the two best bets on the pro scene are 18-year-old Joanne Missingham, who is a sensation in Taiwan, and Hsieh Yi Min (Xie Yimin), a 22-year-old prodigy who came to Japan 10 years ago and is now at the top of the women’s game. photo: Yasuko Mantani (left) and Aya Kitano commence a game of go at the Shinsaibashi Igo Salon in Osaka. photo by AIMI NAKANO, courtesy The Japan Times

Vogue interviews Xie Yimin: In a related story, GoGameGuru’s David Ormerod reports that “Vogue Taiwan and the fashion house Chanel recently did a video interview with Xie Yimin, the Women’s Honinbo Meijin in Japan. It’s part of a series of interviews with directors, musicians, go players – basically artists.” Although the video is in Mandarin, GoGameGuru has posted an English transcript along with the video here. “When I first arrived at the Nihon Kiin, I had to learn to kneel while I played,” Xie Yimin says in the interview. “I would kneel until my legs and feet went numb. However, my Go Sensei (teacher) said that, before the goban, one must learn to display a modest demeanour before one can become strong at Go.”

GoGoD Publishes Chinese Classic in E-Book Form: GoGoD has issued another e-book on Amazon: Gateway To All Marvels. Gateway is special edition of the 1347 Chinese classic Xuanxuan Qijing (Gengen Gokyo in Japanese), which John Fairbairn says “is surely the most significant go book ever produced. It has become the foundation for virtually every problem book since, as well as being the main source for early go theory.” The new e-book version “brings together every problem and every variant from perhaps every subsequent edition, and discusses how the almost 500 problems and their solutions have evolved and varied, and also how even modern professionals often disagree on the correct solutions or, dare we say it, trip up,” Fairbairn adds. Previous GoGoD e-books include Inoue Genan Inseki and The Life of Honinbo Shuei, also available on Amazon.

Go Mention in Stevie McCabe Mystery: “Go is mentioned in the fifth novel in the Stevie McCabe mystery series, No Shadow in the City by John Callaghan, a Scottish author,” reports Su Co Chon Duc (Marjorie E. Hey). “In Chapter 4, there are several pages introducing go to the private investigator, Stevie McCabe. It is mentioned again in passing in Chapters 6 and 29. There’s some mayhem, but there are no ripping viscera, no splintering skulls. Yes, there are sexual encounters, because the characters have real lives, but no lingering erotica. It is marked for For Adults because of language.” While the first four books are available in paperback and Kindle format, Su Co Chon Duc notes that this book is currently only available on Kindle.

Nice Go: Bob Barber reports that go pops up in “Mr. Nice,” a 2010 film about a Welsh drug dealer. “There’s a minute of go at minute 19,” says Barber.

SmartGo Kifu Half-Price Through Sept. 15

Sunday September 2, 2012

SmartGo Kifu is on sale for half-price until September 15. Building on the acclaimed SmartGo Pro for the iPhone, SmartGo Kifu offers a go board with tools to study go: professional game records, go problems, and annotated games enabling users to replay master games, solve problems, play against the computer, and record their own games. The first-ever sale for SmartGo Kifu, it may also be the last, says SmartGo author Anders Kierulf. “The main reason for the sale is to give SmartGo Pro users a fair way to upgrade to SmartGo Kifu. SmartGo Pro, now discontinued, was iPhone-only, and has since been superseded by SmartGo Kifu, which works on both iPad and iPhone. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t provide a solution to upgrade users from one app to another.” At the sale price of $9.99 — instead of $19.99 – “This is your chance to upgrade to SmartGo Kifu, or simply get SmartGo Kifu at half off,” says Kierulf. “The next release of SmartGo Kifu will include joseki matching. Get ready by upgrading to SmartGo Kifu now.” For more information, see Kierulf’s blog post.

 

Jasiek Releases “First Fundamentals”

Saturday September 1, 2012

Designed to “help beginners to rise above their current level and become intermediate players as quickly as possible,” First Fundamentals has just been released by author Robert Jasiek. The 212-page book (also available as a PDF) is also intended to help intermediate players “abandon their remaining mistakes,” says Jasiek, who notes that “A lack of awareness and understanding of mistakes is the by far greatest obstacle for improving.” First Fundamentals includes clear and simple principles about the fundamentals of strategy and tactics and illustrates the principles with examples from beginners’ games. “Apply these principles and improve several ranks!” says Jasiek. Click here for sample pages.

 

Kaya Go Server Releasing Beta Version

Sunday August 19, 2012

After 7 months of intensive development, the Kaya Go Server  (Kaya Go Server Aims at Online Audience  9/19/2011) programmers are releasing the beta version. “Kaya has been growing a lot technically in the past six months,” reports lead developer Gabriel Benmergui. “We have made weekly releases improving and adding features, including automatic professional relay games, variation sharing and voiced countdowns, Fischer time system and many more since we came out on Christmas 2011.” The server can now broadcast simultaneous game video and commentary and the system’s been field-tested at several tournaments, with Guo Juan 5P using it for a lecture at this year’s Canadian Open, which was broadcast on Kaya, courtesy of the Quebec Go Association. In addition, “OpenKaya, the open-source side of the project, has had collaboration by many people and contains hundreds of hours of work,” Benmergui adds. Over $13,000 in donations thus far have enabled the team to develop the project full time. “Kaya works in all devices,” Benmergui notes. “Although it’s not optimized yet for Android and iPad, it is usable in those devices, without the need to download anything.”

 

Android Go Programs

Wednesday July 25, 2012

It has been a while since the E-J reviewed go programs available on the Android platform, and given that not all of us have iPhones, I thought it was time to do an update.  I should note first that I love Apple, and have three Apple computers in my home.  However, I hate the iPhone and iPod touch for go.  Why? One simple reason:  the screens are so tiny it makes me go cross-eyed; as for the iPad, it is too big to fit in my pocket.  I have had several Android devices, and my current one is a Samsung Galaxy player with a 5″ screen.  It is small enough to carry easily, but big enough to see what I am doing.  Another advantage Android offers is that it is open-source, which means people can develop and change apps very quickly.  On the whole, I have found Android developers incredibly responsive, and three programmers actually changed their application based on user comments, in some cases overnight! I also have no need for a cell phone contract, or expensive data plans, what I wanted was a wireless only device, and I got mine specifically to record go games.  There are a ton of apps out there, so I thought letting our readers know which ones I found most helpful would be useful. A tip for searching, don’t bother with “go”, search for “baduk” or “weiqi” on the Google Play Store. I will review three game recording apps this week, and then review apps for Go Problems next week. I am not reviewing KGS for Android as it requires a data connection, so I can’t use it to record games if I don’t have internet access.  People who play on KGS, and want to do so on their phone, or watch games, will love the app though – it is beautiful and functions very well. Continue reading…)