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

Your Move/Readers Write: Mac Go?

Monday March 25, 2013

“I’m looking for a good Mac computer go program to play against as I learn,” writes an EJ reader, “any suggestions?” Email suggestions to journal@usgo.org

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Your Move/Readers Write: Folding Board Found

Thursday March 14, 2013

That (Folding Board Query 3/8 EJ) looks a lot like the folding Agathis boards — B101, B102 & B104 — currently available from Kiseido,” writes Paul Barchilon. “Samarkand used to sell them too. I had one that lasted fairly well, though it did have metal hinges. I made it sit flat by putting little felt circles on the four corners. The lines eventually came off around the center, but that was after several years of frequent use. They used to sell the same model with a fabric backing, which is probably the one Ramon saw. One could inquire from Kiseido about this, and show them a copy of the photo.”

“That board looks like one that I’ve seen for sale at Uwajimaya, a Japanese grocery and market in downtown Seattle,” adds Dennis Wheeler. “Or it’s also possible that its from Shiga’s imports in the University District (near the Seattle Go Center). I’ll try to remember to stop in to see what they each currently have to offer the next time I’m nearby and report back again.”

Go Review: GoCommentary.com

Tuesday March 12, 2013

reviewed by James Acres

GoCommentary.com is a cool service from Nate Lee, a very strong amateur player living in Shanghai. His work is kind of like Yuan Zhou’s “Deep Thought” books, except that what Nate does is create a video in which he narrates a professional game while he plays out the moves and some key variations for you.

At first I felt like there would be something lazy about just watching a video of a game. After all, if you aren’t even putting stones on the board yourself, how can you possibly be doing any learning?

But the thing I’ve found about Nate’s commentaries is that they help me appreciate some of the strategic and tactical subtleties of a great professional game, without my having to do much work. And since he provides the game record, you can review the game yourself as many times as you like before or after watching the commentary.

The first thing that Nate does is name most every move. So he’ll say something like “white star point, black keima approach, white jump, black side extension…” which is very helpful in getting into the flow of the game. But at the same time, Nate will choose some specific strategic point on which to hang his narrative of the game, which particularly highlights the difference between the professional and the amateur.

For example, in his commentary on Game Six of the jubango between Go Seigen and Fujisawa Kuranosuke, Nate is careful to explain how Go sacrifices a group simply to build a a four-stone wall in the middle of the board, and how that thickness was decisive to the game. In other games he’s focused on how professionals think about ko, and prepare themselves for ko by not just creating ko threats for themselves, but even deciding to make the ko itself worth more so as to obviate some of their opponent’s threats.

Finally, Nate throws a little John Fairbairn-style historical commentary into the mix, which adds to the fun. To be clear though, where with John the historical context can be seen as the main course, with Nate it is added purely as spice.

All in all, Nate’s videos are the only thing I’ve found in English that let me just be a spectator of a professional game. And that’s a fine thing for those evenings when the kids are in bed, I’m too tired to play or do problems, but still want to spend some time with go. I very much recommend them, both his free sample videos and his subscription service. The subscription service is $5/month, and he makes two commentaries per month, which seem to average about 45min each.

Finally, I do believe Nate’s commentaries have helped me gain a little strength. I was able to push myself firmly into dan territory on Dragon Go when I started watching his videos. I’m not saying that Nate’s videos are anywhere near as valuable as doing problems for getting stronger. But if you follow his habit of naming all your moves, then it does give you a useful structure on which to hang your thoughts while you’re playing.

Tesujis: NJO Results & Standings Posted; AGA Website/Social Media Updates; 25% Off Slate & Shell Books; Guo Juan School Accepting Students

Monday March 4, 2013

NJO Results & Standings Posted: Our New Jersey Open report (Andy Liu 1P Wins New Jersey Open 3/3/2013) has been updated to include links to a full NJO tournament report, including prize-winners, and complete tournament standings, including updated ratings and all game results. photo by Rick Mott

AGA Website/Social Media Updates: Liking AGA’s Pair Go Facebook Page: The new AGA Pair Go Facebook page has new photos and urges you to check it out and “Like” it. Go9dan Added: The new go9dan.com server has been added to the AGA’s internet go page; the server’s features include the ability to observe and play multiple games, a teaching game auction, rated and unrated tournaments, and the opportunity to play against professional world go champions.

25% Off Slate & Shell Books: Slate & Shell is having a sale on all its books, publisher Bill Cobb tells the E-Journal. All S&S books are discounted at least 25% on the web site. The sale — which does not include books imported from overseas lasts through 10am EDT Monday March 11.

Guo Juan School Accepting Students: Guo Juan’s Internet Go School is currently accepting enrollment for its online group class for the 2013 second term, beginning on April 13. Participants also receive a 20% discount on annual membership of the school’s pro lectures. The teaching faculty includes Guo Juan 5P, Young Sun Yoon 8P, Jennie Shen 2P, and Mingjiu Jiang 7P.

 

Apple App Update

Sunday March 3, 2013

iPad/iPod/iPhone user alert: In “SGFs and iStuff” (2/1/13), I looked at some issues related to viewing sgf files on iPods, iPads and other mobile Apple products. I managed to confuse some readers, so please note that I was referring specifically to apps for mobile devices, not desktop-based software. One reader disagreed at some length with my conclusion favoring Smart Go Kifu (SGK) over EasyGo, so I took a closer look at the two apps. The reader raised some specific questions: What about when you’re recording a game and realize you skipped a pair of moves? How do you place un-numbered stones when setting up a problem? I found that both apps have these functions. He also offered a link to a review from last April with information that is, in some cases, incomplete or inaccurate. SGK actually does keep problem statistics, but only for one user (EasyGo can track multiple users.) SGK only imports one file at a time, but that file can contain many games or problems; just concatenate them into one file on your desktop, using software such as the freeware Kombilo.  EasyGo does offer one unique feature — a “time line” type graph that shows where the next comment will be. You can test it in the free version if you like. On the other hand, SGK’s problem collection is better. I’ve been studying a lot of problems lately. I find it is the perfect time filler when you’re waiting in line, riding the train or otherwise briefly idle. If you guess the wrong answer in EasyGo, you get a big red X that tells you to try again. SGK’s response is more thorough. Your wrong move says “1?”, and the other side’s best response appears, so you can play out failed variations and see why they don’t work. (If you don’t even get a “1?”, you know you’re not even close.) When you’re right, your stone says “1!”, but you still have to finish the variation to get credit, and if you go wrong along the way, you’ll get a “?” to let you know, and you can play it out and see why. With so many other features — a playing engine, a collection of 40,000 pro game records and a “Guess Next Move” function , to name a few — SGK still seems clearly worth the higher price. When I’m finished studying SGK’s >2000 problems, I’ll probably pick up EasyGo too, for the problem collection; or I may just get one of the classic problem books that’s available through Smart Go. Or both.
- Roy Laird 

Kiseido Digital Launches New Line of Interactive Go E-books

Thursday February 28, 2013

Kiseido Digital has begun publishing a new line of interactive go e-books. The first two books cover the eighth and tenth Kisei Title Matches, in 1984 and 1986, and include Go World’s comprehensive commentaries on Cho Chikun’s exciting matches against Rin Kaiho and Koichi Kobayashi.

“Our books differ from other digital go materials in that they can be downloaded from many ebookstores and read on various ebook readers,” says Kiseido Digital’s Bob Myers. Currently, they are available on Apple’s iBookStore, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo bookstores.

The Apple versions are fully interactive, meaning that sequences described in the narrative can be animated on the figures and diagrams by tapping them. The Kindle, Nook and Kobo versions are not interactive.

“Kiseido Digital plans to make available additional great content in this format,” Myers adds, “including additional commentaries, problem sets, and tutorials, from both its own library and other publishers.”

Click here for the Apple versions of the books: Tenth Kisei Title Match and Eighth Kisei Title Match. Other versions can be found with a Google search for “Kindle Kisei”; both Apple and Kindle support download of free samples of the books.

Jasiek Releases New Book on Positional Judgement

Sunday February 17, 2013

Robert Jasiek has released Positional Judgement 1 / Territory, designed to help go players accurately assess territories in a given position. It also “answers the fundamentally important questions: who is ahead and by how much, what are the potential strengths and weaknesses in the current position, and which sequence of moves gives the best result?” says Jasiek. Click here to download a sample from the book (EUR 26.5, 272 pp.).

Osaka Go Camp Update

Saturday February 16, 2013

Thirty go players from North America, South America and Africa have already signed up for the Osaka Go Camp (Maeda Osaka Go Camp Details Released 2/8 EJ), June 30-July 20 in Osaka, Japan. Click here for details and to register before the camp fills up.

Cacomo, the Go Card Game, Comes to iPhone

Saturday February 16, 2013

 

The Cacomo iPhone game is now available in the Apple app store, as of Feb 12th. Cacomo is a casual, go-like card game, where players try to capture each other’s stones on a board, but unlike go, players can only play a stone on a spot if they have the card for that spot.

Cacomo is perfect for relatives and friends who want to learn go but find its complexity intimidating, or for go players looking for a casual, portable go experience.

The card game was invented by Hiroko Shinkai 5P of the Nihon Ki-in.  It was made into an Apple app by Danielle Hyatt, a Seattle Go Center member.  The two met at the Seattle Go Center Anniversary Party in September of 2012.
- Brian Allen 

The Spirit of Play: “Nature vs Nurture”

Monday February 11, 2013

by Gabriel Benmergui

In my last column (The Spirit of Play: “What can I do to improve?” 12/31/2012 EJ) I discussed players who reach moderately high levels of play with little effort, especially regarding problem solving. Since those players often have a big effect on others, I think it would be valuable to delve deeper into the matter.

I find it damaging when I hear a strong player say “I got to X-Dan with little study. If you only play games and review you can get to X-Dan like me.” Such cases seem to prove that effort is a waste of time, but they’re really damaging because they discourage players from putting in the necessary work to improve.

The reality is that naturally strong players are quite rare. For each player that rather effortlessly reaches a moderately high level of play, there are thousands that do not. The “system” of just playing and reviewing simply doesn’t work for the vast majority of players. And despite their rapid improvement, these players are not really the clear success cases they seem; without proper effort they’re not going to reach the highest level they can achieve.

In the end, natural skill doesn’t really matter. It’s just not something you can control. What you can control is the effort and work you put into improving. Natural skill has a limit that effort does not have. We live in an age where one of the most renowned players of all time, Lee Changho 9P, fell extremely short in skill when compared to his teachers and his classmates, but through an immense amount of hard work Lee attained a place at the top of the world.

My Advice: For amateur players, go should first and foremost be about enjoyment. Do what pleases you most. However, if you want to improve, be ready to put some effort into it. Self-study, lessons, and reviewing your games will all help you get better. And when a naturally strong player crosses your path, learn what you can from them but ignore any advice that seems to offer an easy path to improvement. Slack training will never be better than proper study. But don’t take my word for it; here’s Lee Changho’s #1 tip to get stronger: “Solve life and death problems!”

Gabriel Benmergui lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentinian Champion in 2011 and 2012, he has studied go in Korea and now runs the Kaya.gs Go Server. Edited by Chris Garlock; photo by John Pinkerton