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

Lee Sedol’s Commented Games, Volume II: Another Triumph

Sunday November 17, 2013

Book Review of Lee Sedol’s Commented Games:  Volume II (Baduktopia)

by Fritz Balwit

The arrival of the English version of Lee Sedol’s Commented Games Volume I in 2011 fulfilled a dream of our go study group: a high-quality, detailed view into the highest levels of the art of go as practiced by the Korean super-talents.  We had worked our way through stacks of old Go Worlds, graduated Slate and Shell’s magnificent Fairbairn volumes on Go Seigen’s famous Jubangos. But here was something new and different: Lee Sedol, the world’s number one player famed for games of staggering complexity, uncompromising fighting spirit, quadruple ko and half-point wins. I was immediately struck by the superb quality of the books. Everything from the paper to the layout and its large diagrams made for a most enjoyable reading experience. There are just three games in each volume, but the depth of the commentary more than compensates.

Lee actually wrote three books during a six-month hiatus in his tournament schedule while he worked out some kinks in his relationship with the Korea Baduk Association. Volume Two,  now available from GoGameGuru, begins with Lee’s fantastic triumph in Game 3 of the LG Cup against Lee Changho 9P. Lee devotes 100 pages to this game alone. Large diagrams head the chapters and typically include a general point of strategic advice or an insight into the psychology of the game. Indeed, the book abounds in the latter sorts of reflections, both in Lee’s own words and those of the writer, his sister, Lee Sena, who glowingly covers aspects of Sedol’s personal development and the ups and downs of his career. Game Two, against Chang Hao 9P, similarly runs to more than 100 pages and includes commentary and annotated variations at a depth I have never seen before. However, the last game is the best of all. Again, the opponent is the Lee Changho 9P. This time, the occasion is the World Oza 2006. Whereas the first two games will surely repay careful study and help players of all levels to improve their understanding of whole-board vision, deep reading, modern joseki and the like, the last game is best approached as a lesson in humility. I suggest you play through this game with a 6-dan, as we did at our club. He was utterly flummoxed by it and unable to predict the moves or discern the flow of the game.  Lee’s avowed dislike of being “coerced” by his opponent manifests itself in a taut duel of nerves in which each player defiantly shifts the location of the battle in what appears, even to strong amateurs, to be chaotic mayhem. The strangeness of this game has its own beauty and excitement, but don’t expect to pick up any tips.

Baduktopia deserves high praise for putting out these splendid books on one of the most exciting players of our generation. (Click here for a review of Volume 1.) The editorial decision to include few but thoroughly commented games with a limited number of moves per diagram results in a book that you can read anywhere, even without a board.  The biographical materials add a nice dimension to our appreciation of the life of a professional Go player. All in all, I recommend Lee Sedol’s Commented Games: Volumes I and II without reservation. We await with eagerness the arrival of the promised third volume.

Balwit (in cap at right in photo above) was The American Go Foundation’s 2011 teacher of the Year

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Honolulu Go Club Member Releases Introductory Go E-Book

Monday September 30, 2013

Honolulu Go Club member Brian Johnson has just published Beginner’s Mind: an Introduction to the Game of Go, an introductory go eBook. Johnson is a teacher at Punahou School who teaches a credit high school go course called “Buddhism and the Game of Go” and introduces around 150-200 students each year to the game. The ebook’s text is designed to take advantage of the touchscreen features of the iPad and contains numerous picture galleries, animations, and interactive elements to help explain and clarify basic and more advanced concepts of go strategy. Only available for the iPad, it’s $9.99 in the iTunes Store, where you can download a free sample.
- Sid Kobashigawa, Honolulu Go Club

Why Doesn’t the West Play Go?

Friday September 27, 2013

Why isn’t go more popular in the West? That question has preoccupied go author and scholar Peter Shotwell for decades. Shotwell’s recently published “appendix” on the subject — appended to his ongoing “Origins of Go” study — is entitled Why the West Plays Chess and the East Plays Go: How Classical Chinese and Ancient Western Grammars Shaped Different Strategies of War, Weiqi and Chess. Shotwell examines his idea that the presence or absence of abstract nouns, the verb “to be” and other linguistic features developed and shaped the philosophies and resulting different strategic thinking of early Greece and Classical China. He provides the historical background of how and why this happened and concludes with an examination of the Thirty-six Strategies that encapsulate the strategic yin thinking of Chinese generals like Sunzi (right) and weiqi players of the Han dynasty, along with a short discussion of the reasons for the fall of the Qin dynasty. The full article is 274 pages, or you can download a 16-page summarizes of the most significant findings here.

Streaming Online Games

Monday September 9, 2013

Popular streaming site twitch.tv is pulling in 38 million viewers a month, by streaming video gamers playing and commenting on their games.  The site’s goal is to “connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play,” according to their website.  Why not stream online go games as well, asks AGA member Royce Chen? “Streaming go games, with entertaining and informative comments made by the streamers, could potentially attract the interest of young players, especially those who are already familiar with streams of conventional games,” says Chen. “The idea is to make videos like those by TheOddOne, a popular League of Legends player, who is known for providing entertaining commentary.”

The AGA would like to recruit volunteers of any playing strength, who would stream some of their online go games. All that’s needed is a webcam and a twitch.tv account. Live streams would be promoted on the AGA Facebook page, and  archived recordings can also be submitted for uploading to the new Go AGA YouTube channel, which is being managed by Shawn Ray (AKA Clossius on Youtube).  Anyone interested in streaming can email Royce Chen for more details. Ray also plans to promote lessons from several popular online go teachers on the new Youtube channel, with archived videos from both twitch and youtube available.  Subscribe to the new channel to get updates on this content. -Paul Barchilon, E-J Youth Editor

Go Game Guru Celebrates 3rd Year Anniversary and Looks Ahead

Sunday August 25, 2013

Congratulations to Go Game Guru, which recently celebrated its third birthday. “When we started this project, we set out with the idea of building a sustainable business that exists to promote go worldwide,” writes GGG founder David Ormerod. While conceding that “I didn’t fully anticipate exactly how much work that would be, or how long it would take to get certain things done,” Ormerod says the GGG team and systems “are running very smoothly at last, which frees up a lot of time to improve how we’re doing things and to work on new stuff.” That includes new go equipment in the GGG store, more articles for beginners and intermediate players, and affordable, basic equipment for beginners. Perhaps GGG’s most ambitious idea is one that the E-Journal strongly supports as well: worldwide go demonstrations on the same weekend in 2014. Stay tuned for more details. Meanwhile, happy birthday to Go Game Guru and best wishes to the team for many happy returns!
- Chris Garlock, Managing Editor, American Go E-Journal 

Go Spotting: Japan Woodworker Catalog Features Go Board

Monday August 19, 2013

A custom-made go board is featured on both the July 2013 edition cover of The Japan Woodworker Catalog and the August 2013 Woodcraft catalog. A post on the Woodworking Adventures blog describes both the construction of the board and the game of go. “This is a great family project and game piece,” says the blog. “Great for all ages to keep your minds sharp, worthy of ‘Spock’ like mentality. Head to your woodshop, build one of these, learn to play, live long and prosper, but most of all, ‘GO’…have some fun!” Thanks to David Doshay for passing this along.

GoGoD Summer 2013 Update Released

Thursday August 8, 2013

The Summer 2013 update of the GoGoD (Games of Go on Disk) Database and Encyclopaedia has been issued and now contains a total of over 77,000 games with extra games from Hashimoto Utaro, Kitani Minoru and Go Seigen, to add to their “complete collections”, reports T Mark Hall.

SmartGo Kifu Adds GoGoD Game Collection, Streamlines Look

Wednesday July 24, 2013

The latest version of SmartGo Kifu includes the GoGoD game collection of more than 73,000 professional games. It also sports a “clean new look and icons,” reports SmartGo author Anders Kierulf. An immediate benefit of adding John Fairbairn and T Mark Hall’s GoGoD collection “is better player name translations,” says Kierulf, who promises that “there’s more to come.” Scott Jensen’s new modern look streamlines the user interface, “and there’s more to do for iOS 7,” Kierulf says, “but this takes a big step towards the future.” Kierulf plans to offer the GoGoD collection with the Windows version of SmartGo, but says that SmartGo for Windows will be temporarily unavailable until that work is complete. “The recent additions of joseki analysis and tree view have pushed SmartGo Kifu way beyond what I imagined five years ago,” Kierulf says. In other SmartGo news, Kierulf tells the E-Journal that SmartGo Books will be releasing “some very interesting books soon.” One is a book on a single 300-year old problem, “The most difficult problem ever: Igo Hatsuyôron 120″ as well as John Fairbairn’s book on 466 problems from 1347, “Gateway to All Marvels: The Xuanxuan Qijing of 1347.” Kierulf expects that both books should be released before the upcoming US Go Congress.

BadukMovies: Mid-Level Videos and a Great Game Archive

Monday July 15, 2013

Every week for the past year or so, BadukMovies co-founders Peter Brouwer and Kim Ouweleen have added an “episode” to their archive of nearly 80 short videos aimed mostly at aspiring mid-level players. The clear, bite-size chunks of information seem easy to digest, and many of the early ones are free (click on still at right for a sample). You can also subscribe to BadukMovies Pro series for €8/month for exclusive access to additional material. The content is created by Korean 9P Cho Hye-yeon and two experienced authors, Yoon Young-sun 8P and Kim Sung-rae 8P. Another remarkable feature is the pro game database. The “pattern search” function is pretty cool. Place stones on the board, select an area and you can search an archive of more than 47,000 pro games and find all the games where that pattern appeared and see how those games came out. The free lectures are great for mid-level players; it looks like BadukMovies Pro is more advanced.
- Roy Laird

New Site Features Video Go Lessons

Friday July 12, 2013

Jonathan Hop 3d, author of the “So You Want to Play Go?” series, has opened a new website featuring video lectures for go players of all levels. There are several free lessons for new users to try the service out, and then lessons on various topics can be rented for $1.99.   “Currently the site has about 20 lectures,” says Hop, “but little by little I will put more up.  My goal is to make go more of a game that Americans can relate to, and see as fun and personable.  You’ll find lectures for total beginners, as well as those on more advanced topics like invasions and josekis.”   Hop has given  lectures on KGS, and has been teaching players, from total beginners to single digit kyus, for a number of years.  Check out Hop’s site here.