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

Bitcoin.io: A New Server With Unique Prizes

Sunday March 9, 2014

What do you get when you cross the world’s oldest game with the newest form of currency? A bitcoin go tournament, such as the ones being organized online every week at Bitcoingo.io. “Bitcoins are an ideal currency for an international game like go,” founder Steven Pine told the EJ.  “It allows students and teachers to connect and transact without concern for currency exchanges or waiting on a check or wire transfer to clear. The same is true for tournaments. I think the currency has lots of potential to transform the go community in many positive ways.”

Anyone can sign up, enter a tournament and begin playing on Bitcoin’s own Python/mySQL-based server. Komi is 6.5 points, and each player starts with 15 minutes; there are five 30-second overtime periods. Territory counting is used but no full rule set has been formally adopted. A tournament win earns the victor at least one point, depending on how many points their opponent has. A new tournaments starts, and the old one finishes, at midnight each Saturday. The self-paired “most points” format favors active competitors, so if you plan to play to win, you may need a comfy chair. The winner of the February 10 tournament had 78 points.

Bitcoins are notoriously unstable – last week it was discovered that as much as 5% of the total bitcoin money supply had been stolen from a prominent exchange without detection several years ago; the exchange declared bankruptcy. (NY Times 2/25/14) If you plan to convert your winnings to real-world money you may face a challenge. The weekly pot has been 6,000,000 “satoshis” but before you start planning your retirement, you should know that it breaks down to about $40 depending on the bitcoin’s daily value relative to the USD. (On 3/1/14 one bitcoin was valued at $556.85 on Coindesk, which monitors exchanges, down more than ten percent from just ten days before.) “Although the ‘satoshi’ – the smallest fraction of a bitcoin that can be transacted, currently .00000001th of a bit coin —  is not well-known, we decided to use it as a base unit to drive home the point that bitcoins are easily divisible and can facilitate micro payments,” Pine said. “Some services talk about ‘millibits,’ but we thought it would be more fun for people to win like 1,000,000 satoshis.” Pine and cofounder Jonathan Hales are underwriting the prizes themselves, hoping that tournament and teaching fees will make the site revenue positive.

If you check it out, bear in mind that it’s a work in progress.  Traffic is very low; a private room on an established server would probably bring in more users. But if you enjoy checking out new servers, Steven and Jonathan will appreciate your visit!
- Roy Laird 

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GoGoD Goes Online Only

Tuesday February 25, 2014

Though the “D” now stands for “Download,” GoGoD is continuing, following the death of T Mark Hall last December (In Memoriam: T Mark Hall, 1947-2013, EJ 12/12/2013), who originated the massive go game collection. Originally an acronym for Games of Go on Disc, GoGoD is no longer available on disk but will continue to be available online as Games of Go on Download. Surviving GoGoD partner John Fairbairn expects the collection of go games – currently at 79,000 — to reach at least 100,000. The only item being offered now is the database of sgf games. The Encyclopaedia (including the Names Dictionary) has been removed from the download package and the price has been significantly reduced. The GoGoD database is and will continue to be incorporated in various SmartGo products, along with the Names Dictionary.
- Tony Collman, British correspondent for the E-Journal, based on a report by the British Go Association

Go Game Guru Announces First Book Will Be on Gu-Lee Jubango

Saturday February 15, 2014

Go Game Guru has announced that their first go book will feature the ongoing 10-game match between Gu Li and Lee Sedol. “Over the last few years, many readers have emailed us and suggested that we should publish a go book of my game commentaries,” says GGG’s An Younggil 8P. “We’ve been too busy to do so up until now, but this match is special, so we’ve decided that our first go book will be about Lee Sedol and Gu Li’s jubango,” says An. 

In an unusual move, An has already published his commentary of the first game of the match online, as a draft, and welcomes reader comments and questions. “You can play a part in shaping this book, by asking questions about each game and discussing the games together,” he says. The final book will include extended commentary, based on readers’ questions, and detailed discussion about modern opening strategy with reference to each game. 

More details can be found on the official page for the as yet untitled ‘Lee Sedol vs Gu Li Go Book‘. In related news, Benjamin Hong 3-kyu – working with his teacher (“frozensoul” on KGS) — has just published a move-by-move review of the Gu-Lee game on his blog designed to “allow kyu players to easily follow the game and understand some of the most significant moments of the game.”

Yunzi Stones and Lead: An Update

Friday February 14, 2014

“I bought ‘Yunzi Stones’ from Yellow Mountain Imports as a gift for my young children so we can play baduk together,” wrote EJ reader Jason Lee recently. “Later on after ordering, I saw online that this kind of stone can contain lead. So when my order arrived I got a lead test kit from the local hardware store to check them for safety. It turns out that the stones sent to me did contain lead. This is unsafe for my children to use and maybe me too. I wrote about my experience here. Thank you for the great work (the EJ does) for baduk players. I read the website every week.”

The EJ originally reported on this in 2008 (Go Review: Chinese Go Stones 2/4/2008) and we later reported (Yunzi Stones Now Lead-Free 6/23/2008 EJ) that YMI had contacted the manufacturer, who had agreed to eliminate lead from the manufacturing process of yunzi stones, which are special go pieces manufactured in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Apparently the manufacturer did not completely eliminate the lead, instead reducing it below the levels recommended by the Consumer Products Safety Commission; see below for details.

Yellow Mountain Imports responds: “Thanks for reaching out to us. We thought we had resolved this many years back when we had gone through all the reformulation and subsequent tests with the Yunnan Weiqi factory so obviously we were concerned. We take product safety seriously so when we heard these new complaints, we contacted the Yunnan Weiqi Factory immediately. They were equally concerned and arranged for a current official radio spectrometry test. The black stones tested positive at 0.005% (50 parts per million). Lead was also found in the white stones, at an even lower concentration, less than 0.002 (20 ppm). The Yunnan Weiqi Factory reformulated Yunzi stones to be within safe levels as per our request many years ago, while maintaining as much as the original qualities as possible, but it turns out that they cannot eliminate it completely. Lead makes the stones more durable and less brittle. These levels are well below the 0.009 (90 ppm) level recommended by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, but we do not claim that they are lead-free. Anyone who has purchased Yunzi stones and wants to return them can do so and should contact us.” Email customerservice@ymimports.com with any questions or concerns.

New In Print: Classic Handicap Books; SmartGo Says “Oui”

Friday February 7, 2014

Classic Handicap Books: Whether giving or getting stones, two new translations of classic handicap go books will come in handy. Go master Guo Bailing’s “Sanzi Pu” (Three-Stone Games) and “Sizi Pu” (Four-Stone Games, Part 1 & Part 2 have just been translated by Ruoshi Sun and published on Amazon’s Create Space. The books contains hundreds of diagrams from Guo’s research on three- and four-stone handicap games. In Guo’s own words, “It is the author’s intention to elucidate the countless variations and let people realize that they all follow the basic principles.” Both books were recently added to the AGA’s “New and Noteworthy” page where you’ll find information and links to hundreds of go books both new and old.

SmartGo Says “Oui”: Meanwhile, SmartGo Books is branching out into other languages. After releasing books in Japanese, Spanish, and German, SmartGo Books recently added two books in French: “Comment ne pas jouer au go” is the French translation of “How Not to Play Go” by Yuan Zhou (Slate & Shell), translated by Micaël Bérubé. Also, “Black to Play! – Train the Basics of Go” by Gunnar Dickfeld (Board N’Stones) now includes both French and Spanish translations. Click here for more information on SmartGo Books or here for information in French. Also just added to the SmartGo Books line-up: John Fairbairn’s “New Ways in Go: A complete translation of Honinbo Shuho’s classic Hoen Shinpo”.

Michael Redmond’s Kisei Bonus Tsumego (solution)

Friday January 17, 2014

[link]

Black to play. Both sides must find a clever move for optimal play. The first move is relatively easy, as White lives easily if Black plays any other move.
Published in the January 17, 2014 edition of the American Go E-Journal.

This bonus tsumego is just one example of the material, including pro game commentaries, available to Member’s Edition subscribers. Click here for more on how you can sign up today.

Michael Redmond 9P shares with the E-Journal some of his own tsumego compositions. For these more challenging problems, dan players can test their reading speed and accuracy, while kyu players can play through the solutions to learn ideas and techniques.

Michael based this problem on a very similar position that arose around move 63 of the just completed 1st game of the Kisei championship match in Spain. Click here to see the game record.

Michael Redmond’s Kisei Bonus Tsumego

Tuesday January 14, 2014

[link]

Black to play.  Both sides must find a clever move for optimal play.
Published in the January 14, 2014 edition of the American Go E-Journal.

This bonus tsumego is just one example of the material, including pro game commentaries, available to Member’s Edition subscribers.  Click here for more on how you can sign up today.

Michael Redmond 9P shares with the E-Journal some of his own tsumego compositions.  For these more challenging problems, dan players can test their reading speed and accuracy, while kyu players can play through the solutions to learn ideas and techniques.  The solution will appear in a few days.

Michael based this problem on a very similar position that arose around move 63 of the just completed 1st game of the Kisei championship match in Spain. Click here to see the game record.

Baduk TV Now Available on Apple TV

Sunday January 12, 2014

Live Korean go matches with commentary, game reviews and lessons are now available 24/7 through KorTV on Apple TV. KorTV — an Internet television network designed to provide free live Korean IPTV — provides HD quality live Korean go streaming services for $2.99 a month. KorTV also provides baduk (as go is known in Korea) VODs, such as lessons for various levels from beginner to professional and hour-long world matches and Korean leagues. The live broadcasting is in Korean, but some VOD have English subtitles or dubbing. Note: this is a separate service from Baduk TV English — the partnership between Baduk TV and Go Game Guru. 

AGA Website Updates Detailed

Thursday December 26, 2013

The AGA’s crackerjack web team has been as busy as elves with updates to the usgo.org website. Here are a few highlights to check out over the upcoming holidays. The new “Learn To Play” page is a great intro for absolute beginners. All the tournament pages have been updated, especially the calendar — which has a much cleaner, more accessible look – but also the pages for major tournaments and championships, tournament resources and tournament crosstabs, which includes crosstabs for major events from 2008-2013. The “Fun and Miscellaneous” page has some great new stuff, including links to History and Culture, Go Around The WorldLearn Overview, and Rules of Go. The ratings page now includes a tournament ratings status page. And following on the heels of the just-concluded SportAccord World Mind Games, there’s now a handy chart showing the International Go Federation’s global relationships and events. Greg Smith heads up the AGA’s website team, which includes Roger Schrag and Tom Hodges, with support by Karoline Burrall, Jason Preuss, Jonathan Bresler, Paul Barchilon, Roy Laird, Terry Benson and Thomas Hsiang. There are a few spots available on the team for qualified and committed volunteers: email journal@usgo.org for details.

ARGO: Go In Augmented Reality?

Sunday December 22, 2013

A team of researchers from UCLA and Osaka University are developing a way to learn go with “augmented reality” goggles. Players using an actual physical board will “see” highlights on certain intersections as the game proceeds in real time. Check out the Youtube video to see how it’s supposed to work. The authors – S. P. Chuang at UCLA and Kikoshi Kiyokawa and Taruo Takemura at Osaka University – believe many beginners get discouraged because it is hard to apply lessons from books on the real board in actual play. On the other hand, computer play lacks the aesthetics of placing real stones on a real board, which also deepens the learning process. ARGO aims to integrate the best aspects of “real” and “virtual” experience. The video illustrates four functions.  “Fuseki Tutor” uses Kombilo to search a database of 80,000 professional games, identify moves that pros have used, and “project” them onto the board, while “Joseki Tutor” uses Kogo’s Joseki Dictionary in a similar way. As play moves into the middle game phase, “Go Engine” mode allows the player to connect with an open-source program such as GNUGO or Fuego for next-move recommendations. ARGO can also attempt to count the game and provide estimates of the current “score.” The authors also claim that ARGO enables online play with a real board by transmitting the player’s next move to the server.

At first glance, ARGO appears to set forth on a potentially promising path. We’ve all encountered and experienced “bewildered beginner syndrome,” in which new players have no idea what to do next. A few recommendations can help to move the game along so that protracted helplessness does not become part of the experience. In years to come, players may look back on ARGO’s little green dots as we now recall Pong and the Commodore 64 — quaint relics of a primitive era. One can easily imagine color-coding good moves, best moves, pitfalls, trick moves and so on. Future players may “right-click” on recommended moves view possible outcomes while a narrator talks them through each variation. For now, ARGO is probably mostly of benefit to new players by providing them with specific options to think about. Cynics may say that ARGO also makes it easier for players to “cheat” with a program that is stronger than they are, especially online, but anyone with two computers can do that already.

Unfortunately, the 60 MB download does not seem to include easy instructions; and of course one would need a pair of AR goggles. Nothing has been posted or revised for several months and we were unable to reach the developers for comment, so it is hard to know whether this project will move forward or remain “vaporware” for now .Visit Chuang’s Github site for the latest information.
- Roy Laird