Monday, July 25, 2005

Gnu Go: Training on the simulator

I can't comfortably play a straight 13x13 or 19x19 game with an online opponent due to a heavy workload this week. I'm instead training on the simulator: Gnu Go. This way, I won't have to worry about abruptly and impolitely ending a match if I get an urgent call in the middle of my breaks.

Gnu Go seems to be the strongest freeware Go computer available and and plays at the level of 9k. It has 10 level settings and I am using the lowest (1) with handicaps.

I've selected DraGo as my Gnu Go interface because the game tree (which tracks the moves) is integrated into the main window and it allows me to quickly navigate back and examine my move sequences. glGo can also be used as an interface but the tree displays in a separate window.


At 11:40 AM, July 25, 2005, Blogger NightGhost said...

GnuGo can be a useful training tool in a pinch, but I would advise against relying on it too often. I'm probably a weaker player than you, but I've managed to defeat GnuGo without a handicap a few times (on a 19X19 board), by using anti-computer strategies. That would never happen with a human 9k (I've seen a claim of 7k for the latest version).

At 11:47 AM, July 25, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

That's interesting, NightGhost. But what exactly is an anti-computer strategy?

At 3:02 PM, July 25, 2005, Blogger NightGhost said...

Ahh - I have some experience with such strategies, since I played chess for many years. Although I am a weak go player, I learn every time I play GnuGo, but it doesn't alter its strategy based on my play. I noticed that it tends to "respect" my moyos too much, in situations where a human player would chew me up. I was able to defeat it with no handicap by opening on 5-5 points, avoiding contact fights, and sketching a huge moyo just beyond the center of the board. A human player would see what I was aiming at and never allow it, but GnuGo kept patching its line near the center, and I was happy to concede a point or two, occasionally dropping a "safety stone" within my territory. If you want, I can send you a game file or two.

I've also noticed that GnuGo often doesn't "see" multiple threat moves until it's too late. For example, it may save a stone in atari, only to allow a tesuji that kills a group a few moves later.

My sons and I started out by playing Igowin (the free 9X9 version of The Many Faces of Go). My older son discovered that he could win on the handicap levels simply by forming a diagonal across the board. The head of our go club told me that this never occured to him, since he already knew how to play when the first programs appeared, and he employed realistic go strategies to defeat them.


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