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

Redmond and Garlock release “AlphaGo to Zero”

Sunday March 8, 2020

Four years ago today, the whole world watched as a computer program took on one of the top go players in the world. And won. From the historic AlphaGo-Lee Sedol showdown in Seoul in March 2016 to the release of AlphaGo Zero in November 2017, Michael Redmond 9P and Chris Garlock have had a front-row seat, commenting, analyzing and reporting as the AlphaGo AI upended thousands of years of human history. Today, on the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match, they’ve released Volume 1 of AlphaGo to Zero, the first of a 4-volume EPUB series that will thoroughly cover the AlphaGo phenomenon.

Redmond (right) and Garlock commenting AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol 9P Game 1, March 8, 2016

Redmond and Garlock will discuss the book and review games from the AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol 9P match on Twitch at 7p EDT on Thursday, March 12. They’ll also discuss their experience doing the commentary on the historic match and take viewer questions.

Since the 2016 AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match, Redmond and Garlock have released a popular series of AlphaGo videos and game commentaries on the American Go Association’s YouTube channel. In AlphaGo to Zero, Redmond and Garlock use the power of the EPUB platform to take an in-depth look at the March 2016 showdown between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol 9P. The EPUB not only includes new insights into the match and each game, it enables readers to easily review video game summaries Redmond and Garlock recorded after each game, including some never before released to the general public. The game commentaries include clickable diagrams and Redmond’s original commentaries alongside brand-new comments. It’s also illustrated with color photos of all the action, including some never previously published.
In addition to EPUB, the book is also available in the Go Books app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

As the AlphaGo Team says in their introduction, “Chris and Michael experienced first-hand the anticipation and excitement felt by the entire AlphaGo team, and understand better than anyone the significance of these games in showcasing what can be achieved when human and machine come together to solve complex problems.”

“This book is our attempt to capture that story,” say Redmond and Garlock, “to tell you what we saw at the time, what we see now, and to try to place this moment in the history of the game, to get a sense of where we may be headed. When AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, some said it was the end of go. As we have seen since then, it is rather more likely that in many ways the game has just begun.”

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New 3D tsumego app BadukPop launches

Sunday March 1, 2020

BadukPop is a new mobile app that provides Go problems with fun visuals and game mechanics featuring a 3D-animated Go board, a curated library of Go problems for all levels, and a global leaderboard. Players start at Level 1, low double-digit kyu, and can progress up to Level 6, the high-dan to professional category.

Hajin Lee, a former professional Go player and creator of “Haylee’s World of Go” on YouTube, participated in the design and development of BadukPop. “Many Go players are too busy to play a full game every day. Playing BadukPop can be helpful practice – it’s quick, fun, and trains your intuition, pattern recognition, and reading skills,” Lee says.

The app is currently available in English, Korean, and Chinese, and is compatible with all recent Android and iOS phones and tablets. It can be downloaded for free on both Google Play (Android) and the App Store (iOS). Visit https://badukpop.com for details.

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Learn to Play Go series now available as ePub

Monday February 24, 2020

The five volumes of Janice Kim’s popular Learn to Play Go series are now available as ePubs from SmartGo Books, which opens them up to readers on Android and Windows. “Janice Kim’s award-winning series takes the complete beginner step-by-step all the way to playing real go,” says SmartGo’s Anders Kierulf.

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Spindrift: Leon Chen 4P’s Original Tsumego now available on OGS

Monday February 10, 2020

Need some fresh life-and-death Go problems for inspiration? Check out Spindrift: Leon Chen 4p’s Original Tsumego, featuring 136 original tsumego puzzles of various levels written in both traditional Chinese and English. It is available for purchase electronically for 10 USD, and accessible after purchase through the buyer’s OGS account. 

This is Hsi “Leon” Chen (陳禧) 4P’s first published tsumego collection of many more to come. Chen – one of Taiwan’s top professional players – has crafted thousands of puzzles and is excited to share his work with Go fans all over the world. “To me, every life-and-death puzzle is a condensed gem discovered by the tsumego creator,” says Chen, “like a precious cloud of spindrift resting on top of a reef rock. Puzzles encapsulate memories; but more importantly, they tell the stories of our times. I can’t call this a valuable gift, but it’s a little something from my heart!”

In addition to the tsumego variations, each puzzle includes a short story written by frequent E-Journal contributor Stephen Hu, who designed the cover and wrote the English language text. “Every original tsumego reminds me of a painting, a song, or perhaps a certain story,” says Hu. “It is the imagination that breaks all bounds; despite the simplicity of Go stones on the wooden board, they are capable of composing melodies that mesmerize. I just wish I could look through the artist’s kaleidoscope, and capture all the vibrance beyond the black and white.”

Interested players can order a copy today or start with a free preview of 5 puzzles.

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AGA Developer Meetings update

Thursday January 23, 2020

Beginning just after the 2019 US Go Congress in Madison, a group of AGA developers have been meeting to discuss software after the historical slow development of the tech used within the AGA. These developers have begun a renewed effort to enhance and upgrade AGA software for enhanced functionality and user experience. Meeting monthly, the group discusses ongoing progress, upcoming projects, and plans for the future. Examples of current projects include modernization of the Go Congress website, updates for the AGAGD, server updates, and development of useful Go apps. Anyone interested in these developments is encouraged to read the meetings minutes, which can be found on the left navigation bar of usgo.org under About the AGA, and check out the AGA Github repositories. We have been working hard to make our software easier to use and involve more volunteers in the process. If you have experience in development and are interested in being involved, please contact volunteer@usgo.org.

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EJ Mailbag: Joseki guide for kyu players; Don’t mourn, organize; Columbus discovers Go; Gameboy Go?

Sunday December 15, 2019

Columbus discovers Go: “Devin Fraze can teach you how to play Go in about two minutes.” That’s the lead in the “It’s always Go time for enthusiast of ancient game” report last month in ThisWeek Community News, about the Columbus Go Club in Ohio. “To try and teach yourself the game can be confusing and frustrating, but to sit down across the board from an experienced player is a great way to learn,” Fraze said.

Joseki guide for kyu players: Learn Go Joseki for kyu players is a new way to view common joseki for kyu players designed, coded and populated by Neil Moffatt. They’re drawn from the 21st Century Dictionary of Basic Joseki volumes one and two, with a few exceptions.

Don’t mourn, organize: “I am saddened by Bill Cobb’s article,” writes Jean de Maiffe. “I find internet play soulless and am grateful to live where I have been able to start two different Go clubs in my town, at different times in my life. My heart goes out to Bill for his isolation. I started my first Sunnyvale CA club about a year after my husband and I moved here. When I turned that first club over to someone else, I learned that while I didn’t need to drive for an hour to attend, I did have to drive a narrow, twisty, dirt road in the Coastal Range to get there. During the rainy season, when the sun retires early, I found it terrifying to drive to and from there. Hence my starting a second club in our nearby Senior Center, which is within walking distance and which is open during the day only, a blessing for me in my 70s. Best wishes to Bill on finding a new GO home in the Arkansas mountains or nearby.”

Gameboy Go?: “I’m very interested in Go and used to own a portable chess game similar to the Gameboy,” writes a usgo.org visitor. “Do you know of any electronic go handheld games available today? I have tried for hours to find something that’s not on the app store.” Email journal@usgo.org with suggestions.

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The goban, elevated

Tuesday December 10, 2019

Playing go on a traditional goban is one of the joys of the game. But aging knees pose a painful obstacle. Former AGA president Phil Straus elegantly solved the problem with help from fine woodworker Sylas Navar. The table he designed for Straus allows the traditional go board to be used while sitting in chairs. It’s made of hickory and flame maple with walnut inlay, which complements and extends the aesthetics of the goban, where the grain and glow of the wood are an integral part of the game. If you’re interested in such a table, contact Sylas at ironwoodartistry@gmail.com  or check out his website.

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Sixth volume in Black to Play! series published by Board N’Stones

Saturday December 7, 2019

Board N’Stones have just released the sixth and final volume of the Black
to Play! series by Gunnar Dickfield, available in books stores as a paperback or as an ebook from gobooks.com.

The Black to Play! series begins in the first book with problems for beginners – 30k to 25k – and is aimed for players who have just gotten in touch with the game. It provides exercises to help deepen and ingrain the understanding of the rules. They will learn about the correlation and dependencies of the stones to each other, and thereby be able to improve your games. The exercises throughout the six volumes gradually increase in difficulty as the player learns and grows stronger, accompanying the player on the way to Shodan, the first master rank. This sixth volume is dedicated to players from 5k to 1k, and includes more whole-board problems, allowing the learner to apply local problem solving strategies in a larger context and real game situations.

This series is available in English (Black to Play!), German (Schwarz am Zug), and French (A Noir de Jouer). Board N’Stones (Brett und Stein Verlag) is a long time publisher for Go books based in Germany with about 45 titles in print, focusing mainly on Go books in German with some titles in English and French.

-report by Gunnar Dickfield

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AGF invests in KGS

Wednesday December 4, 2019

-Paul Barchilon, AGF Vice President and KGS Liaison

The AGF is instituting a series of changes to the KGS Go Server to make it more available and more useful as a tool for promoting go. As a first step, KGS+ events will now be free with users able to make a donation – not only to support KGS+ but to cover server costs and fund improvements on the software. All of this year’s saved lectures are now also free, and can be viewed under the KGS Plus menu.

For those that haven’t tried it, KGS+ provides lectures and lessons with professionals and very strong amateurs. In the past, sales of KGS+ provided enough income to pay for itself as well as the server costs. However, attendance has dropped in recent years and the server has not been able to meet its costs for quite some time now. The AGF Board hopes that by opening the lessons to everyone, more people will attend, join the community, and support KGS.

We recognize that the software is now almost 20 years old, and we have a very long list of things we want to improve.  Our current all-volunteer model for making those changes and maintaining the server has not kept up.  Those with the necessary skills are far too busy.  As a first step the AGF will be hiring a software engineer to write a web based registration module. This will allow people to register from any device, including phones and tablets, and from any computer whether it is running Java or not. The current requirement for Java has kept the server blocked entirely from many environments (such as public schools in the US and many international locations).

While the AGF is willing to run KGS at a loss as a service to the go community, we would rather a smaller loss or to break even with any added money invested back into KGS. We hope that by switching to a donation model, we will generate the revenue for upgrades, fund more events, and provide a stable platform for play.  Since the AGF is a 501c3 charity, donations to support KGS will be tax deductible.

Although KGS has seen declining attendance in recent years, there are still between 350 and 800 players on at any given moment. We feel that KGS builds community in a way that other servers don’t.  The chat and room functionality allow people to meet new friends, create virtual go clubs, and learn together with what are still some of the best game editing tools available. Our hope is that the community shares our regard for KGS and will contribute to help keep it afloat. If you would like to donate to the server, through Paypal or with your credit card, click here.

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Go Spotting: The inscrutability of artificial intelligence in go… and nuclear warfare

Sunday October 6, 2019

In a September 7th article titled “Battle algorithm,” The Economist writes of a “paradox” that may be familiar to readers who analyze their games using Leela Zero and other AIs. “AI might at once penetrate and thicken the fog of war, allowing it to be waged with a speed and complexity that renders it essentially opaque to humans.” The article notes that in AlphaGo’s March 2016 victory over Lee Sedol, the AI “played several highly creative moves that confounded experts,” and this led a workshop at the Chinese Academy of Military Science to conclude that, in the words of one source, “an AI could create tactics and stratagems superior to those of a human player in a game that can be compared to a war-game.”

While the article in The Economist focuses on conventional warfare, the strengths and weaknesses of go-playing AIs also appear in recent publications on nuclear warfare.

In 2017, the American think tank RAND Corporation held a series of workshops on AI and nuclear war, which noted that AlphaGo’s victory “astonished even AI and strategy experts.” “[T]he decisionmaking in Go is far simpler to address than in nuclear war…. but by the year 2040, it does not seem unreasonable to expect that an AI system might be able to play aspects or stages of military wargames or exercises at superhuman levels.” It is “likely that humans making command decisions will treat the AI system’s suggestions as on par with or better than those of human advisers. This potentially unjustified trust presents new risks that must be considered.”

This year, an August 16 commentary by two American researchers also cites AlphaGo. The commentary notes that AlphaGo Zero “learned through an iterative process”; “in nuclear conflict there is no iterative learning process.” “The laws of war require a series of judgments…. Software that cannot explain why a target was chosen probably cannot abide by those laws. Even if it can, humans might mistrust a decision aid that could outwardly resemble a Magic 8-Ball.” Nonetheless, the commentary argues for having AI take more control over US nuclear weapons.

Thanks to Fred Baldwin for once again spotting go, this time in “Battle algorithm.”

-edited by Joe Cua

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