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


Sunday December 5, 2010

It was only a matter of time. The e-book revolution has come to the world of English-language go books. Translator Bob Terry has just published not one, but two books available only on the Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reader.  The Startling Beauty of the Game of Go contains 200 problems from every aspect of the game, the “cream of the crop” from Kido magazine, the resource of choice for Japanese players for decades, while Amazing Happenings in the Game of Go — also drawn from the pages of Kido — “is packed with material that has rarely been seen in the West,” Terry tells the E-Journal. “It’s part almanac, part teaching manual, part travelogue, part cultural treatise and part game collection,” adds Terry, noting that this is just Volume 1 and that “each volume totals more than 1,000 pages” with “more than 30 games, with 15 fully annotated” between the two volumes. Terry — who’s also working on iPad versions of the books — is the translator of the hard-copy Heart of Go series, Shuko’s two-volume The Only Move series, Takemiya’s This Is Go The Natural Way, and other works.

Steganography, our vocabulary word for this installment, refers to a process by which information is encoded in other information. In ancient times, considerable ingenuity was required; Herodotus reported in 440 BC that one ruler concealed a message by shaving a slave’s head, tattooing a message on his scalp, and sending him to deliver them message when his hair grew back. More recent uses include watermarking intellectual property online and hiding information in e-mail attachments, a sort of digital “invisible ink.” If you like this kind of cloak-and-dagger stuff, you may enjoy a 2005 article we recently found and posted at The Bob High Memorial Library, entitled “A General Methodology and Its Applications to the Game of Go.” The authors have developed Stegogo, a program that encodes information in game diagrams. Reading this article, go author and scholar Peter Shotwell was reminded of an old mystery novel he had read, The Chinese Lake Murders, where crucial details were found encoded in a game diagram. Click here for a brief article Shotwell contributed to the Library that provides more detail; you’ll find articles there that explore many other facets of the game as well, including a recently-posted short version of Shotwell’s Appendix V of the Origins article–the one that revamps early go history.



Sunday October 24, 2010

“As we all know, practicing your reading is one of the best ways to get stronger,” writes programmer Tim Kington. “To that end, the popular program GoGrinder has just been released for iPhone and iPod Touch. Now you can have thousands of go problems in your pocket and fit a little practice in whenever you have a few minutes to kill. GoGrinder uses problems in SGF format, and is the only app that lets you add your own problem sets.” The iPhone and iPod Touch versions of GoGrinder are available in the iTunes store.



Sunday October 24, 2010

The Many Faces of Go iPad app, “Igowin HD” is now available in the iTunes app store.  The app plays with an adjustable AI strength ranging from 18 kyu to the full-strength Many Faces of Go engine of “about 1 dan on 9×9 and about 3 kyu on 19×19,” says author David Fotland. Users can set their strength, or have it adjusted automatically by the app, which plays on 9×9, 13×13, or 19×19 boards.  Handicap and opponent strength can be adjusted or chosen automatically. “It includes an sgf editor that supports variations, comments, and marks, so you can analyze your games when they are finished,” Fotland adds. You can try out a variation and continue the game against the AI from a new position.  Games can be saved and restored, or emailed as attachments.  At any time you can ask for a score estimate or a hint.  This is the seventh mobile app from Smart Games, all under the Igowin brand.  Igowin Tutor is a free introduction to the game.  Igowin 9×9, Igowin 13×13, and Igowin Pro let you play go against the AI.  Igowin life is for practicing solving life and death problems, and Igowin Joseki is for learning Joseki.



Saturday October 9, 2010

Tuttle, the mainstream publisher of three books on go by Peter Shotwell, has added another title, but this time, he is only the co-author, while the principal author is none other than Richard Bozulich, the architect of the Kiseido catalog. Winning Go, like his Kisedo publications, is a problem book. But whereas other problem books usually focus on a a single subject — joseki, tesuji, life-and-death — Winning Go gives us a little of everything. Problems from all aspects of the game are organized into one book, designed to help kyu-level players discover their strengths and weaknesses, with suggestions for further study. Personally, I prefer the Kiseido format, where several problems appear on one page, and you turn the page to see the answers. Here the answers appear below the problems–cheaters beware! If you have made it solidly into the SDK range, you should easily solve most of the problems; but it’s a unique resource for advanced beginners. I’ve been playing a friend some nine-stone games, and I’m putting it on his Christmas list. — reported by Roy Laird



Monday October 4, 2010

Neil Moffatt reports that he’s developed an “HTML5 canvas based go game viewer and rudimentary editor.” Says Moffat, Secretary of the Cardiff Go Club in Wales, UK, “It embraces ideas such as access to key moments in games via a list of clickable position descriptions, and a list of alternative move sequences by description.” The site includes games for beginners, josekis, “guess the next move” and game commentaries. In most games, a list of key game positions is presented. Click on ‘Black has now created a large moyo’, for example, and you will be taken you to that exact board position. Moffatt adds that “The site as it stands is in essence a kind of go blog, but it may develop beyond this” and notes that it does not work with Internet Explorer. “It may or may not be palatable to a large audience,” he says, “The user testing to date seem to be relatively happy with it.” Click here to check it out and let Moffatt know what you think at


NEW IN PRINT 2010 (PART III): Six More Important New Works

Monday September 20, 2010

First off,  Slate and Shell added three more important titles to their catalog this year. Magic On The First Line is a compendium of eponymous oddities that only the great Nakayama could have come up with. In Understanding Dan Level Play, Yuan Zhou 7d continues his popular “Understanding . . . ” series by analyzing his own games as the US representative in the 2009 Korea Prime Minister’s Cup. And with New Moves, Slate and Shell adds an important new author to its roster — Alexander Dinerchtein, a 3P in the Korean system, better known as “breakfast” on KGS. By “new moves”, the author seems to mean trick plays. Dinerchtein charges $3-$5 per trick on his site — by that measure, 25 plays for $18 is quite a bargain.

The burgeoning Korean English-language publishing industry has produced a full thirty titles titles in the past few years, all of which are available from Yutopian.  Now comes the first extended attempt to discuss haengma, a Korean construct that is difficult to translate, but has something to do with the natural flow of the game. Janice Kim called it “The Way of The Moving Horse.” This Is Haengma by Sung-rae Kim and Sung Ki-Chang, and Master of Haengma Sung-ho Beck, try to explain this elusive way of understanding the game. And the Korean titles keep on coming.

I’m on Yutopian’s “send-me-everything-as-soon-as-the-ink-dries” list, so a few weeks after the Congress, I got my copy of 21st Century New Openings, Volume 2, also by Sung-rae Kim. It’s so new it’s not even listed on the Yutopian site  yet, but it looks good. Kim continues his discussion of modern changes in opening strategy, with extensive discussion of the mini-Chinese opening and others.  Now that komi is 7.5 points, some pros feel that Black has to play more aggressively, making many of the established openings obsolete. This series is some of the fruit of that thinking. Possibly a must for the serious competitor.  To see a comprehensive annotated list of go books in English click here.
- Roy Laird



Monday September 13, 2010

Alexandra Urban’s Badukbooks is back in business. Badukbooks specializes in a veritable treasure trove of Korean go books, many never seen – or very hard to find – in the West. A wide range of material, from the Baduk Nara book series for beginners to life and death books – choose from the just-published Hye-Yeon’s Creative Life & Death I, the 4-volume Sahwal series or the 20-volume Classic Life & Death collection – to Lee Chang-ho’s 2-volume “Brilliantly Beautiful Endgame,” and the “New Moves, New Shapes” yearbooks from 1999 and 2000. Though many of the books are in Korean, some are in English, and each are clearly marked on the site. After a year-long hiatus, Urban says she’s back in Korea “this time at least for 3 years,” and is willing to try to track down any Korean go book Western players are interested in.


NEW IN PRINT 2010 (PART II): A Beginner’s Bonanza

Monday September 6, 2010

by Roy Laird
The past year has produced a notable bumper crop of books for beginners and newer players — the so-called DDK (double-digit kyu) range. Jonathan Hop, a 3D amateur, published So You Want To Play Go?, a three-volume series that aims to give the reader the knowledge to improve ten ranks per book; if it works, at the end you’ll be ready to aim at shodan. Click Volume One, Volume Two and Volume Three to learn more about each book. 21st Century Baduk for Beginners is the latest offering from Sung-rae Kim, the author of several other works in the growing number of English-language works from Korean publishers. Some of these early efforts suffered somewhat from clumsy English, but Diana Koszegi 3P helped with this translation, suiting it more fully to the idioms of the English language. Finally, we note the publication of Go Made Easy by Sam Sloan. Sloan, better known as the last non-lawyer to argue before the Supreme Court, and for suing the US Chess Federation, has also written beginner’s books and DVDs on chess, shogi, Chinese chess and poker, while also delving into more, um, unusual subjects. Visit his home page for more information. All the new beginner books are available from Yutopian.
Next week: Six More Important New Works



Sunday August 29, 2010

To play go,” writes programmer Reg Braithwaite, “one needs a huge amount of humility and patience. At first I thought I lacked these qualities, but then a funny thing happened: I purchased my first-ever mountain bike. In cycling, I receive regular positive feedback. I can measure my improvement with little things like occasionally feeling myself hit the balance point when working on a ‘1/2-1/4 to manual wheelie drop.’ Or popping the front wheel up onto a bench and driving the rear wheel up and under me. In go, I received no such affirmation. I play, I lose, and games are too long to be able to identify the specific mistakes without extensive personal coaching. I simply don’t know whether I am succeeding or failing when I make a move unless it’s a spectacular blunder.” Click here for the rest of Braithwaite’s thoughts on go, bikes and learning in Eyes of Wood, Hands of Stone, Heart of Paper, including Wood & Stones, his program to turn your iPad into a go board for playing face to face.
- thanks to Steve Colburn for passing this along


NEW IN PRINT 2010 (PART 1): Classic Games

Saturday August 28, 2010

by Roy Laird
Strolling through the vendor area at this year’s U.S. Go Congress, I realized that it’s time for some updates on what’s happening recently in the small but active world of go publishing. Watch for posts over the next few weeks and feel free to email me with suggestions of 2010 go books I should mention.

The first thing I noticed was that it’s been a busy year for GoGoD co-author John Fairbairn, who has embarked on an ambitious project with his publisher, Slate and Shell: a series of books on the ten-game matches Go Seigen played when he was at the top of the go world. Drawing on multiple original sources, each book provides extensive historical material, and integrates game commentary from a variety of sources.   Kamakura, covering Go’s first matchup during WW II with Kitani Minoru, came out last spring. It was followed by Final Summit, describing the last jubango, against Takagawa Shukaku in 1955-56. Then came 9-Dan Showdown, focusing on two ten-game matches and two shorter encounters with with Fuijisawa Kuranosuke (later Fujisawa Hosai), one of the great players of the 1940′s and 1950′s. In a change of pace, Fairbairn also translated The Go Consultants, in which Kitani and Seigen team up against Segoe Kensaku and Suzuki Tamjiro for a “consultation game.” Inspired by a similar practice among Western chess masters, in a “consultation game” the two-player teams discuss the game while it is in progress.  Stay tuned — more exciting titles are on the way!
Next week: A Beginner’s Bonanza