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

GoGameGuru: Expanding the Nexus of Useful Go Information

Sunday February 10, 2013

GoGameGuru, the online go “hub” founded in 2010 by Australians David Ormerod, An Younggil 8P and Jingning Xue, started with a bang – literally. Ormerod and Xue were among the 469 passengers flying from Singapore to Sydney when one of the engines exploded four minutes into the flight. The captain was credited with averting what could have been one of the worst air disasters in history. In the wake of this narrow escape, Ormerod reassessed his life priorities, and dedicated himself to bringing go to the West, with the help of his two friends. “More than anything else, Western go needs a steady stream of new players,” Ormerod told the EJ. The result, GoGameGuru (GGG), is a rapidly-expanding nexus of useful information from the ground up, as well as premium services and products for everyone, especially new and intermediate players. A growing collection of essays such as “Thinking Big in Go” and “5 Tips for Dealing with Unexpected Moves” is available, along with problems, game analysis, extensive news coverage of important tournaments and events, and a weekly newsletter claiming more than 5,000 subscribers. GGG has a related Scoop.it account, where visitors and and specifically tailored search algorithms find and suggest related content, and account owners can easily distribute stuff and grow their communities of interest..

Part of GoGameGuru’s idea is to also operate a successful business. “If GGG can be financially viable, we’ll have more time and resources to introduce go to
more people,” says Ormerod. “If we achieve our goal, the market for go products and services will grow, making a better business environment for everyone.” Last summer, GGG established a partnership with Korea’s BadukTV, making 24/7 go TV available in the US. A subscription also includes access to translated lectures. More recently, GGG has opened an online store, featuring affordable and premium goods. All equipment ships for free, and to support American Go, and GGG will donate 10% of the proceeds from any sale to the AGA (when you use this link). When GGG says “premium,”  they’re not kidding – the finest board available will set you back a cool $100,000. Personally, I’m not sure I need to own that one (some more reasonable options also look very nice), but I’d love to play a game on it some time. Use this link to do your shopping and support the AGA at the same time!
- Roy Laird

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Maeda Osaka Go Camp Details Released

Friday February 8, 2013

New details have just been released on the Kansai-Kiin’s 3-week intensive go camp with Maeda Ryo 6P in Osaka this summer (Maeda Organizing 2013 Go Camp in Osaka 8/6/2012 EJ). It will be held at the Osaka University of Commerce from June 30 – July 20. Attendees will receive intensive training from Kansai-Kiin professionals, play against top amateur players and former inseis while they make friends and go sightseeing around historical cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Himeji. There are also some optional tours to Hiroshima and/or the Shusaku Memorial Museum in Innoshima. Register before February 28 and get a 5,000-yen discount. “Maeda is hoping — and excited — to show the best part of Japan and have great time with attendees!” reports Akane Negishi.
- photo: Maeda at the 2012 US Go Congress; photo by Chris Garlock

Your Move/Readers Write: Responding to ‘SGFs and iStuff’

Tuesday February 5, 2013

“Regarding Roy Laird’s article, ‘SGFs and iStuff’ (2/1 EJ),” writes Eric Anderson. “Please — if you’re going to do a comparative product review, please spend the effort to investigate the features. Otherwise, you’re using your powerful and respected platform to spread casual (and misleading) opinions, and it’s really quite unfair to your readers. Specifically — ‘Seems worth the extra cost unless you really need to import large databases.’ Um, no. SmartGo Kifu is an excellent problem and game collection, combined with a Go playing engine. It includes a form of SGF editor; but that editor is not particularly suitable either for recording games or for constructing problems — at least, not compared to EasyGo, which is specifically (and very well) designed to do … SGF editing. Bulk file import and export is only one of the features you’d want in an SGF editor; other features include tree-editing capabilities (ever tried fixing a recording mistake in SmartGo Kifu?), problem editing (ever tried entering un-numbered initial conditions?), and variation analysis. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s an independent review. Although at first sight EasyGo looks like a close-cousin to SmartGo Kifu, it is not. They share a goal though: analyzing games, exploring variations and solving problems. But they focus on different sets of features, and work very different. That review — only six paragraphs long — is much more insightful and thorough, and helpful to readers, than your ‘Seems worth the extra cost…’”
“All that seemed necessary was to copy the linked-to sgf on the web page onto my desktop,” suggests Kirby Smith. “Then I could use the ‘edit’ mode of the KGS interface (CGoban3) to view it and its commentary. I recall that The Many Faces of Go will also open these. Thanks for your journal’s many interesting articles.”
A number of readers also suggested this solution, which works great for desktops, but Laird’s review was specifically referring to smartphone apps available for Apple products.

 

 

SGFs and iStuff

Friday February 1, 2013

When I was reviewing Weiqi2Go (Weiqi2Go Update 1/29 EJ) and discovered that there was no “Import” function, I thought it strange. I assumed that most go apps include this function, but it turns out that a good sgf reader is surprisingly hard to find. Most apps just save the records the user creates. I found only two programs that allow the user to import games: Smart Go Kifu, priced at $19.99; and EasyGo, priced at $11.99. It’s easier to import a large number of files into EasyGo; Smart Go Kifu only lets you do one at a time. On the other hand, Smark Go Kifu already contains a library of 40,000 games,  as well as a way to record your games, a tutorial, a pretty strong playing program, 2,000 problems, 30 annotated games, a joseki matching feature, and more. You can also purchase and read many classics from Smart Go Books. Seems worth the extra cost unless you really need to import large databases.

What if you just want a free app to look at your sgfs? For now, it seems there is only one option. It’s a little clunky, but it works. Here’s how:
1. Install the latest version of Panda-Tetsuki, Pandanet’s client for  The Internet Go Server client, on your device.
2. Install Dropbox on your device.
3. On your desktop, move the files you want to review to a directory in Dropbox.
4. Make sure your device is connected to the Internet.
5. Open Dropbox on your device, find the sgf you want to view and click on it.
6. A window will open with a button containing the Pand-Tetsuki icon. Click on it.
7. Voila! The game appears onscreen.

You need to be connected to the Internet to load a game, and you can’t save sgfs in Tetsuki, so if you have 3G great, but Wi-Fi has its limits. I guess if you’re serious enough about go to collect game records, you’ll have to spend a few bucks.

Thanks to Tomasz Podolec for pointing out the Dropbox connection.

- Roy Laird

 

Weiqi2Go Update

Tuesday January 29, 2013

In a recent E-Journal article about Weiqi2Go, the new iPod/iPhone/iPad app for viewing recent tournament games, we complained that the players were only listed in Chinese, limiting its usefulness to non-Chinese reading users, and we’re pleased to report that game lists now identify events, games and players in English. Some game descriptions are still only in Chinese; there is also a Chinese option, and Korean names can be viewed in Korean. Nearly 1,000 recent pro games are available on the server, which is continuously updated with the latest top tournament games, organized in a way that I found difficult to browse; games from several tournaments are lumped together in one directory. A subdirectory structure for each tournament would be a welcome addition. The graphics are OK but still fall short of other programs. The stones seem too small for the board, which in turn could be larger on the iPod (which I used to review these products).  If you want to look at games from the current tournament scene, Weiqi2Go looks like a good option. Just find the games online that you want to look at and download them to your device, then save them to a directory. All the events I looked for were there. I was however disappointed that there is no “Import” function, and “Export” is also missing, but that’s another story . . .
- Roy Laird

Kiseido Offering 10-15% Off English-language Go Books

Saturday January 19, 2013

Kiseido has announced a sale of 10-15% off selected English-language go books, including Cho Chikun’s Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game, Kano Yoshinori’s Graded Go Problems for Beginners series, Graded Go Problems for Dan Players and more. Order three or four books and get 10% off the listed price with free shipping; order five books or more and get 15% off the listed price with free shipping. Sale books include the Mastering the Basics Series and the Get Strong at Go Series. The sale runs through February 28, 2013

Your Move/Readers Write: Android for SmartGo?

Thursday January 17, 2013

“I want an Android app for the smart go books!” writes Lee Frankel-Goldwater.
“I’d like an Android version for SmartGo Books too,” responds SmartGo’s Anders Kierulf. “And I keep getting requests from people for Android versions of SmartGo Books and SmartGo Kifu. However, when looking at the costs of maintaining another platform, both in $$$ and in time that could be spent improving the iOS apps, it’s not so clear. Several articles (The shocking toll of hardware and software fragmentation on Android developmentWhy we’ve decided to stop producing TNW Magazine for Android) highlight some issues with adding Android support. I’m not ruling out possible Android support in the future, but my current plan is to improve iOS support and add a Macintosh version before I consider adding any other platforms. Meanwhile, if you’re desperate for SmartGo Books, an iPad mini may be the ticket.”

An E-Book Author, Publisher and Reader Walk Into a Bar…

Tuesday January 15, 2013

The ongoing development of electronic publishing is often framed as a battle to the death between two formats, hard-copy versus electronic. But the reality may be more complex, as creators and users seek to maximize the advantages of both formats in a rapidly-changing technological landscape.

“The e-book version has the advantages of both printed books and a go file on the computer using a go program,” says Michael Redmond 9P, a top player and author of many hard-copy go books, who has recently released ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’, written specifically for SmartGo Books. “The greatest advantage of go file on a computer is the ease and speed with which one can view the moves and variations, without having to search for the next move, and no problems with misplaced stones. I think the advantage of a printed book is that it is easier to grasp the overall flow of the game when you can see a number of diagrams on the pages, and can compare diagrams, check the text analysis, with it all there in front of you. With SmartGo Books you can start with the book view, and it looks just like a printed book. Then you just touch a diagram, and you can enlarge it, play out the moves, and do just about anything you might want to do while viewing a file on a pc. You can try adding moves, in case you want to be sure about if that ladder really works. Then you return the diagram to it’s original size, and everything is as it was before, in the book form. Any moves you added will disappear, so you don’t need worry about messing up the diagrams. This combination of the strengths of books and computers allows the author to present more information, and for the reader it is relatively easy to understand. When I first saw what SmartGo could do on an iPad I thought it was perfect already, then I wanted to write a book for it, and that is how the book ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’ came to be. Since then, (SmartGo Books publisher) Anders Kierulf has actually managed to make it even better, with inline diagrams and links between diagrams that add depth and enrichen the learning experience.”

Kierulf notes that since SmartGo Books — which has now released several dozen e-books, many of them re-issues of classics like the Elementary Go Series or Janice Kim’s Learn to Play Go books — “are currently limited to iOS devices (iPad and iPhone), the impact on printed book sales will necessarily be limited.” In fact, Kierulf (at left showing Eric Cotsen the ‘Invincible’ e-book at the 2012 Cotsen Open) says, “There’s some indication that releasing a book on SmartGo Books actually increased sales of the printed copies, which I’m glad to hear, as we need to keep a healthy ecosystem for go book authors and publishers.” Kierulf adds that “For me personally, being able to carry ‘Invincible’ in my pocket has made the whole SmartGo Books project worth it. So many people (including me) own the printed copy, but have never had the opportunity to study the games properly.”

“In reviewing both the print and SmartGo version of ‘Patterns of the Sanrensei’,” I found that is was very easy to read the SmartGo version because of the virtual go board capability,” said go player Robert Huang, an AGA 6 kyu. “This is much more convenient than the print version and simple eBook version on iBook or Kindle. I was able to start, stop, pick up where I left off, and finish the entire book in a relatively short amount of time. I think being able to actually visualize the move sequence, as opposed to mentally playing the sequence is very helpful.” Huang adds that “I am not sure how much I actually retained at this point, but the proof will be in the pudding as I play more games. Hopefully, I will see my ranking improve.”

What are your thoughts on hard-copy vs. electronic go books? Let us know at journal@usgo.org! photo by Chris Garlock

Janice Kim on Why Solving Go Problems Isn’t Boring (& Two Books to Read Now)

Wednesday January 2, 2013

Although I agree with most of the article on how to improve (The Spirit of Play: “What can I do to improve?” 12/31 EJ), I must — tongue firmly in cheek — object to the statement that solving go problems is ‘boring’.

When I was a student at the Korean Baduk Association, the protocol for solving a problem was that you had to be willing to stake your life that your answer was complete and correct. ‘Complete’ is key, as you definitely didn’t want to scramble for a reply if an alternate move in some sequence was suggested; the executioner may have itchy fingers. Solving problems to this day remains a high-octane, nail-biting affair for me, especially if it’s not much of a reading challenge, so tempting then to omit steadying the nerves and triple-checking. You can hold yourself to a higher standard when practicing, and everybody loses sometimes so the pressure is off when playing, so you might think it’s the actual competition that is the tedious part of go…”

Last (well, not really) thoughts. They don’t call the experts ‘practitioners’ for nothing. Janice’s brain cross-references with two suggested reads: The Little Book of Talent, questions-answered-from-real-world-not-author-agenda-practical-really-works tips for improvement in any endeavor, and the science fiction novel Ender’s Game, almost required reading on the American Cultural Experience syllabus. Spoiler alert the entire premise is this idea of thing-itself-is-a small detail or afterthought, the lead-up to the game, not during the game, is where the winner is decided.
- Janice Kim 3P; photo: Kim playing primary schoochildren at the Shuang Huayuan campus of the Beijing Chaoyang Fangcaodi International school on December 17; photo by Chris Garlock

 

The Spirit of Play: “What can I do to improve?”

Monday December 31, 2012

by Gabriel Benmergui

From time to time students ask me “What can I do to improve?” This is a funny question because I suspect what they really want to know is “What can I do to improve that doesn’t involve solving problems?”

When this subject comes up, someone invariably says something like “I know at 5-dan who never picked up a problem book.” I know a few of these cases, too, and understand that the comment is not really about recognizing that player’s natural skill but as proof that solving problems is not required to improve at go.

There are many factors that contribute to a player’s skill. Unless you’re one of those rare cases of raw natural talent, trying to convince yourself that solving problems is not one of those factors is simply laziness.

An informal poll I once conducted revealed that over 50% of players don’t do any problems at all on a weekly basis. And of those that do, only 10% do enough to reasonably expect any improvement. The good news is that this means that solving problems gives you an absolute edge over the vast majority of players.

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: solving problems can be terribly boring. It doesn’t have the excitement of a game and there is no companion or rival. Also, the benefits are hard to measure with precision in the short run, and no matter how diligent we are and how many problems we solve correctly no-one will praise us.

Solving problems, more than any other training activity, requires effort. But you can be assured that when you do put in the effort, you will reap the benefits. How much you want to work is up to your personal ambition, and nothing else.

My Advice: Ignore whoever or whatever tells you that solving problems is a waste of effort. Effort equals results.

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. photo by Ivan Vigano