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

Go Review: GoClubsOnline

Sunday November 11, 2012

By Peter Drake

I’ve used several different tournament management software packages over the years that I’ve run the Portland (Oregon) tournament. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using GoClubsOnline (GCOL). This has certainly been the most stable, least frustrating option and I plan to continue using it and recommend it to others.

GCOL works through a web browser and all data is stored remotely in the “cloud”, so there’s no worry of files being corrupted or lost. That does mean, however, that GCOL is not the right choice for a tournament director (TD) without reliable internet access.

For the TD, a package like this has two core jobs: pairing (deciding who plays whom) and recording results. Pairing is notoriously difficult because there are many constraints. GCOL does as good a job at this as any software I’ve used, with a plethora of options, like avoiding pairing players who live in the same city. While GCOL has on rare occasions given me some strange pairings it allows the TD to make some pairings manually and then automatically re-generate the rest. This is a recurring strength of GCOL: if something doesn’t work perfectly, there’s almost always a workaround.

There are a number of options for communicating the pairings to players. With two or three dozen players, I tend to just turn my laptop screen where they can see it, but you can print out pairings as well. Players can also log into the GoClubsOnline site and see their pairings and results.

Recording results is as easy as checking boxes. These can be displayed in the same variety of ways, and winners can be automatically computed; in my tournament, I compute the top three in each of dan, single-digit kyu, and double-digit kyu. The otherwise-tedious process of emailing the results to the AGA is accomplished with a few mouse clicks.

The stability of these basic features alone makes GCOL worth using, but there is much more. Players can register in advance online, for example, drastically reducing check-in time. GCOL also keeps track of income and expenses and how much needs to be forwarded to the AGA for tournament fees.

Is it perfect? Not quite yet. The system does take a bit of learning, as there are many options, but the default settings are generally good. Some may balk at the annual $39 cost, but this only covers “out-of-pocket expense” according to GCOL’s author, Robert Cordingley 2k of Sante Fe. “It is still very much a volunteer effort,” he explains. We are fortunate to have a volunteer willing and able to produce such complex, high-quality software for such an obscure niche. Cordingley has been extremely helpful; I’ve often been able to get help from him during a tournament and he’s added features requested by various TDs, like allowing players to specify meal preferences at a tournament serving lunch.

GoClubsOnline is reliable, clean, and easy to use. I have every reason to expect that it will become even more so as the number of users increases.
Drake is the Tournament Director of the Portland (Oregon) Go Tournament and runs the Lewis & Clark College Go Club in Portland.

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The Spirit of Play: “I’m Stuck”

Monday October 29, 2012

There are countless books, dictionaries and other materials aimed at expanding knowledge in go. But Argentinian champion and teacher Gabriel Benmergui 6D says that “what most of these resources don’t take into account is that there are many things that happen to the players, before, during and after the game that have just as much effect on the result.” In this new column for the E-Journal, Benmergui goes beyond tactics and strategies to look at the player, with a goal of helping develop “an unshakable spirit.” This article is dedicated to Benmergui’s first teacher, Franklin Bassarsky, “the greatest teacher I could ever become,” who recently passed away. “He was Argentina’s greatest go teacher,” says Benmergui, “creating generations and generations of go players here.”

A common situation for go players is the feeling of not moving forward or improving, of being stuck. The reality is that most players go through this phase, and there are actually well-known rank barriers, located around 9k, 5k and 2k, ranks that hold unusually high concentrations of players. In Lessons in the Fundamentals Kageyama 7P said “You can identify when you are stuck when you find yourself playing for fun, with disregard of the outcome. Maybe you even read books but they don’t help you improve. You also rarely review the games you play.”

As a teacher I have seen many go players “plateau” like this. Their common denominator is a fear that they’ve peaked, that they’ve reached their maximum potential and that studying any further will be a waste of time. This usually happens when players are no longer improving naturally, as they tend to do between learning the rules up to around 10k, where just getting advice and playing was enough to steadily improve. The truth is that expecting to go up in rank with little or no effort is like expecting to lose weight without diet and exercise. So when people ask me “I’m stuck, what should I do?” I immediately respond “What are you doing to improve?” And it’s no surprise for me to hear “I watch and play games” as if that alone were an appropriate level of training.

My advice: Just do it! If you want to improve you have to be proactive. You have to set goals and perform a more rigorous training regime. Solve life and death problems, read books with the intention of putting in practice the knowledge gained. Take lessons. Remember that people improve at different speeds, but with effort everyone improves.

Gabriel Benmergui lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentinian Champion in 2011 and 2012, he has extensive international amateur tournament experience, representing South America twice at the World Student Oza, two-time Prime Minister Cup representative for Argentina, captained his country’s team in KABA’s World Team Championship in 2005 and was Argentina’s representative for the 2005 WAGC. Benmergui studied go in Korea, in Lee Sang-hun’s dojang, at Kim Sung Rae’s KBC and at BIBA (Blackie’s International Baduk Academy) and now runs the Kaya.gs Go Server. Photo graphic by Chris Garlock

SmartGo Kifu Includes Fuseki & Joseki Matching

Monday October 22, 2012

SmartGo Kifu 2.0 includes fuseki and joseki matching: given any board position, it finds all the matching full-board or corner positions in 40,000 pro games and shows you how the professionals played. “Programs like SmartGo for Windows have long done this on the desktop,” says author Anders Kierulf. “Now you can have this capability in your pocket.” SmartGo Kifu runs on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and is available in the App Store. Click here to read more about the newest changes.

Cho-U Go App for Kids now on iPad

Monday October 8, 2012

The Nihon Ki-in has just released an English version of Cho-U’s 4×4 Go Puzzle. Cho-U 9P came up with all of the problems for the program, and has developed a clever system for introducing go to young children.  The app is available for iPhone and iPad, and is being offered on the App Store at an introductory rate of just 99 cents, until October 19th, when the price will increase to $2.99.  The app introduces a colorful cast of cartoon characters, including Minigo, a black cat, and Diego, a big white dog who is taking over the playground and won’t let the cats into his territory.  Children can enter story mode for flash animations that teach the basic principles of go as part of the cat’s quest to get back to the playground.  The graphics are terrific, and the stones are cats and dogs.  When “stones” are in atari, they shake and shiver (this can be turned off in settings for a bigger challenge).  The story is  interactive, and kids are asked to help Minigo solve various problems as he confronts various opponents. Players can also go to the free and challenge levels, where they can solve go problems directly.  The board size is limited to 4×4, but Cho-U has made very clever puzzles within this limitation.  Many of the problems revolve around seki, and you can choose what level to play with, or progress through the levels as you improve.  Players can also buy more problems for the program, which come with all new festive graphics.  The Snack Pack problem set gets you 100 problems, with chocolate and pink frosted donuts for pieces.  The Rainy Pack and the North Pole Pack offer additional cute themes and more complicated problems.  I bought the Rainy Pack for .99 and was charmed by frogs and snails playing on a lily pad field; the first problems I tried revolved around snapback.  This app is perfect for kids from 5 to 10 years old, and even older kids will enjoy some of the more challenging problems. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor. Picture courtesy of the Nihon Ki-in.

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

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.