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

Expert On “How to Learn Go in 20 Hours”

Tuesday June 18, 2013

“The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast!” by author Josh Kaufman includes an entire chapter on go, one of the things Kaufman – a bestselling author, learning expert and business advisor – learned using his “systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition.” Covering the history and basics of the game, “It is a good intro from an interested beginner’s perspective,” says EJ reader Howard Cornett. “It is great to see our game as a full chapter in a book about learning something new!” Kaufman notes that “Learning go will require time and concentration. I’m already playing other games, but I have a very limited amount of leisure time. If I want to progress in go as quickly as I’m able, I’ll need to focus.” His summary of “How I Learned to Play Go” may be useful for beginners, teachers and go club organizers, and there’s also some cool go footage in the trailer he made for the book.

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Virtual Go a Labor of Love for Games Programmer

Wednesday May 29, 2013

When Glenn Fiedler first came to go in 2004, he was immediately taken with the aesthetic side of the game, the black and white stones, their biconvex shape, the sound they make hitting a wooden board.  “I especially loved the way go stones wobble and how stone placement becomes irregular as the game progresses, because the go stones are just slightly larger than the grid,” he told the EJ.  Playing on a computer, though, was not the same experience.  “When I play go on a computer it feels like I’m playing on a magnetic board. In real life, I don’t want to play on a magnetic board. I wanted to make a go board that I could play on the computer that felt like I was really playing go.”  The desire led the Australian Fiedler to a career change.  He became a network game programmer with a specialization in physics and started developing methods of synchronizing physics simulations across multiple computers.  “I ended up inventing new techniques and talking at GDC (Game Developers Conference) about how to network physics simulations. And all the techniques I invented were originally thought up because I wanted to network a simulation of a go board and stones!”

Now, after finishing work on his latest project at Sony, “God of War: Ascension,” Fiedler has finally turned his attention to programming go.  The idea is not to provide an AI opponent, but instead provide a beautiful and compelling simulation of an actual 3D goban and stones that other developers could include in existing go software like SmartGo or Many Faces of Go, Fiedler said.  It is a painstaking step-by-step effort he is chronicling in a blog on his website, Gaffer on Games.  The blog lays out the code and the physical reasoning behind it.  Fiedler hopes to make some commercial use of the software eventually, though it will be hard to do.  In the meantime, that’s not what’s on his mind. “I’ve had some time to work on my dream project after almost 10 years. It’s really satisfying.” -Andy Okun.  Diagram of a stone from Fiedler’s blog: Gaffer on Games.

KBA Donates Free Beginner’s Book to AGA

Thursday May 23, 2013

With the publication of Falling in Love with Baduk: Play a Game in One Week, The Korea Baduk Association has taken yet another important step to support Western go.  Written in both Korean and English by Dahye Lee and Jihee Baek, two young Korean pros, this is a book aimed at beginners, and especially Westerners. “People with different skin colors and different languages can understand one another when seated across the Baduk board,” they write.  “It thrills us to imagine a view of Easterners and Westerners playing the game together.” This is a valuable book for serious newcomers of any age. Basic principles are broken down into seven simple lessons, presumably one per day, with dozens of problems illustrating each day’s lesson. Ms. Lee will attend this year’s US Go Congress and will participate in the AGA’s first teacher training program. The book is ideal for classroom situations too, and can be used as a manual for non-players who find themselves running go programs at libraries or schools.   The book is available as a free download from the AGF website here, it is 86 mb, so expect it to take a little time.

The text in Falling in Love with Baduk appears side by side in Korean and English, following a style developed by Korean publisher Oromedia. Perhaps Oromedia had an uncredited role in developing this book. Oromedia’s Speed Baduk series (9 volumes) has been all-English, but their other books feature side-by-side presentation of the same material in English and Korean. Examples include Korean Style of Baduk, the Think Like a Pro series ( 2 volumes), the 100 Tips for Amateur Players series (3 volumes ), Inspiration of Pro and Creative Life and Death (2 volumes), all available from Yutopian. Here, as in the other bilingual books, it’s fun to see what the authors have to say in both languages on the same page, especially for language learners. The English text uses Korean terminology for concepts lacking an English equivalent, rather than the terms of Japanese origin that Western players learned from the first generation of English go books. For instance, the position known as “atari” is called “dansoo.” The emergence of Korean-based synonyms may further bewilder newcomers who are already struggling to grasp the vast, abstract nature of the game itself. But in the end, it all adds to the ineffable richness of the game. The worldwide community of players has been unable to agree on a single set of rules. There is not even agreement on what the game should be called; we are unlikely to produce a universal lexicon any time soon. Confused readers can always consult Prof. Chi-hyung Nam’s Contemporary Go Terms, if they have one handy, but the question remains – if you want to tell your opponent that their stone is about to be captured, what should you say? -Roy Laird

European Go Catalog Near Completion

Thursday May 23, 2013

Dutch go player Theo van Ees 1d, one of the authors of Bibliogo, is developing a catalog of go books and articles. The project started in 1975, and is now a listing of about 3,200 go titles in the main European languages plus Russian. The European Go Cultural Centre, meanwhile, started a library of go books in 2003 and today this collection is managed by librarian Henk Mourik 1k. Database specialist Otto Versteeg 8k has put both collections together in a searchable database listing all of the titles in van Ees’ catalog, with an indication of which items are available at the European Go Cultural Centre library in Amstelveen, Amsterdam. You can search the go catalog, and the plan is to update it frequently. You may report comments and wishes to van Ees at tvanees@xs4all.nl. He is especially interested to hear about omissions and newly published material.

New IGS Client, AGA City League

Tuesday May 21, 2013

There is a new IGS client available, GoPanda 2, which is being distributed as a standalone application. Version 2.1.0 was released May 15th. “Aside from a ton of bugfixes and new features, we also moved away from java as the supporting technology” report the developers. “The new client handles like a native app, and doesn’t rely on any specific browser being installed anymore. It’s still missing some features, but we will be adding new things constantly.”

The Pandanet/AGA City League plays Round 7 for the A & B Leagues and Round 5 for the C & D Leagues. Observers can watch live on IGS starting at 1pm EST/10am PST on Sunday March 26th. For more info on the league, click here.  Pandanet encourages players and observers to try the new client  during their games on Sunday.

 

New From Hinoki Press: “Theory and Practice” series by Russian Master

Sunday May 12, 2013

In Russia, they take their mind sports seriously. Case in point: the Russian Sports Federation’s (RSF) chess program has produced many of the world’s finest players. Similarly, the RSF’s go program has produced top Western professionals through their partnership with the Hankuk Kiwon, producing players such as Alexander Dinerchtein 3P (“breakfast” on KGS) and Svetlana Shikshina 3P, and continues to produce promising up-and-comers such as Ilya Shikshin 7D.

If asked to name their mentors, all would certainly mention Valery Shikshin, an Honored Trainer of the Russian Federation (and as you may gather, father of both Svetlana and Illya). Shikshin has been teaching and coaching Russian go for 25 years, and has developed a set of axioms and principles that he sets forth in this four-volume “Theory and Practice Series,” now available exclusively in the US through GoGameGuru. Volume 1, The Theory and Practice of Tsumego, includes more than 300 original life-and-death problems, many from Russian master games. Starting with the basic shapes, Shikshin takes the reader all the way through corner positions, side formations, and on into the intricacies of seki and ko. I found the chapter on seki to be uniquely systematic in its understanding of how these strangely symbiotic shapes arise.

While Volume 1 of “Theory and Practice” is a new approach to an area that has been widely studied, Volume 2 — The Theory and Practice of Semeai — is surely unique in English. Here Shikshin takes the same systematic approach to capturing races, illustrating a few dozen basic principles with numerous problems and game examples. As in Volume 1, the principles are illustrated by hundreds of problems and examples, many from actual games. Two other volumes will complete the series in the next few months – The Theory and Practice of Shapes, and The Theory and Practice of Analysis. These materials helped to produce some great Western go masters – they are surely a worthy entry into the Western go canon.
- Roy Laird

 

AGF Expands Go World Offer

Wednesday May 8, 2013

Now that Go World magazine has ceased publication (EJ 11/16/12) , back issues of this matchless archive of top analysis and instruction have become more valuable than ever. The American Go Foundation’s Store offers a selection,  and the first 108 issues are also available as PDFs from Kiseido Digital.  The AGF was delighted to recently receive a generous donation of hundreds of oldies but goodies from the publisher, including twenty issues that have never been available from the AGF before. Click here to browse the contents of all but the last seven issues. If you’re unfamiliar with this great resource, download a free sample issue of Go World and check it out.  A total of more than 50 back issues are now available to AGA members, and AGF programs.  Click here to order from the AGF,  who will ship anywhere in the US.  If you enjoy the “real feel” of actual paper-and-ink, act now — when they’re gone, they’re gone!  Still missing an elusive issue? Kiseido is offering all back issues from #72 – #124 on at $8/each including airmail from Japan. Issue #125-129 are $10/each. Some earlier issues are also available.   Click here to find more info about Kiseido’s offer (at the bottom of the page). -Roy Laird

Fairbairn’s “Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei” One of 3 New Books from SmartGo Books

Thursday May 2, 2013

SmartGo Books has been quietly adding more books over the last months, publisher Anders Kierulf reports. John Fairbairn’s “The Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei” is one of three more books added recently, bringing the total to 61.

“Honinbo Shuei” contains a full biography, detailed commentaries on 79 of his games, and 11 commentaries written by Shuei. “It combines six books that were available for the Kindle (combined price $54) into one $20 masterpiece while vastly improving readability and interactivity,” says Kierulf. “One reason Shuei is so famous is because of his pure but elusive style; he is still esteemed as the best model for even modern professionals to follow.”

“Schwarz am Zug: Das Go-Übungsbuch” by Gunnar Dickfeld is SmartGo Books’ first book in German, containing 131 go problems for beginners. “As with our other multi-lingual books (“Patterns of the Sanrensei” in Japanese and “How NOT to Play Go” in Spanish),” notes Kierulf, “English is always an option.” Click here for more information on books by Brett und Stein Verlag.

“The Workshop Lectures, vol. 5” by Yilun Yang 7P looks at choosing areas in the opening, handling unusual opening moves, and protecting positions. “As always, Mr. Yang emphasizes the importance of understanding general principles rather than memorizing particular patterns,” says Kierulf.

SmartGo Books is a free app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, with books available through in-app purchase.

GoEye for iPhones: Good SGF Reader/Organizer Falls Short

Wednesday May 1, 2013

Reviewed by Roy Laird
GoEye
, the latest go-related app for iOS 5.0+ iPhones, helps you organize, build and enjoy your sgf collection, but offers no content of its own. I’m pretty happy with the sgf readers I’ve written about before, but GoEye does have a couple of unique functions. For commented games, the PDF creator turns the SGF into a PDF file with numbered stones on a series of diagrams, and the accompanying comments at the bottom at the bottom of each page. So for instance, if the first comment appears at move 5, the PDF will show a game record with moves 1-5 and the comment; if the second comment is at move 17, the next record will show move 6-17; etc. Explanatory diagrams also appear, and the pages curl nicely as you “turn” them. There’s an “Alert” function that tells you when you get to the next comment. The game info pops up, pushing the board down, a move that is sure to get your attention; you can swipe it back into place, but I would prefer an alert that doesn’t disturb the status quo.

I was unable to load large files, such as Kogo’s Joseki Dictionary. I told the developer, who then released an update he claims fixed this bug, but I still can’t get such a large file to load. A link with Go4go.net gives you access to recent pro game records, or for €9.99 purchase the entire 33,000 game archive; but at present you can’t search Go4Go while within GoEye. They also plan to integrate seamlessly with others sites such as GoBase, but for now it’s easy enough to collect the files you want directly, then use the reader of your choice to view them.

GoEye also contains an “image recognition” feature meant to read images of go games and transform them into sgfs.  I found it somewhat tricky and picky. You can use it for instance when players post positions on GoDiscussions.com and ask for comments, but it doesn’t work well with photos. GoEye is integrated with Facebook and Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site.

GoEye provides users with first-rate graphics and a couple of nice features, but falls short of its self-proclaimed status as “the best iOS app for go.” If you spend a lot of time looking at SGF files, and you’re not happy with any of the readers that are out there, maybe it’s worth $11.99 to give GoEye a try; unfortunately there is no free trial offer. But if you’re shopping for software that helps you study, consider other apps that offer original content and additional features.

Second Life Launches Go League Tournament

Wednesday April 10, 2013

Two dozen go players from around the world gathered in a beautiful old Japanese style dojo for a brand-new tournament on April 1. Lush bamboo rustled in the breeze while the sea whispered nearby. But the only real thing was the go. The tournament is taking place in “Second Life,” the popular 3D simulator world with millions of users all over the world. The online virtual world enables many different kinds of activities, including playing go. Second Life’s Kido Go Club is a beautiful old Japanese style location where your 3D avatar can play and review your games online using voice chat. The games are saved on the server in SGF format and can be downloaded. The Meijin League — which runs through the end of the month –  tournament is the largest in Second Life history. It has two subdivisions with 12 registered participants each, the first 7d-9k, the second 10k-30k. Players are from the United States, Russia, Japan and many European countries. Each subdivision is a round-robin where players arrange the time of their games and both leagues will reward the first right places with Linden Dollar prizes, the in-game currency. Five matches took place on April 1, when the League launched; The very first day was marked by five Go matches. The games will last at least till the end of April and new participants can still join the tournament. Click here for more on playing go in Second Life.
- Daria Koshkina