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

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

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

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