Sunday, September 25, 2005

Searching for the right table goban

I'm sure a lot of you have experienced this problem: choosing a goban. Mine is compounded by the fact that it must meet with ChiyoMama's aesthetics to be displayed in the living room while at the same time conforming to ChiyoDad's deeply-ingrained frugality (i.e. cheapness). Thankfully, I'm in no rush to buy.

For now, I'm shelving the idea of a floor goban since it doesn't seem practical.

I posted a call for opinions to with the hope of getting advice from experienced consumers but I still wish I could view, handle and compare my choices in person. The shortlist that I'm looking at includes:

A 2" spruce from The Go Gamestore - The Go Gamestore confirmed that this board is made from shin-kaya. The description says that it's made of 3-4 pieces of matching wood. I'd prefer one solid piece but have heard that solid pieces of this size can warp. One advantage of buying from this vendor is that they sell 9mm marble stones which I consider preferrable to yunzi (Note: I had compared these two types of stones in a previous post.). The bowls are made of jujube. The photo above is for the 1" board set which is special-priced at $145. They've offered me a set, replacing the 1" board with their 2" board, for $197. (One caveat: The marble stones are a little larger in diameter and would be a bit tight on the 2" board.)

A 2" agathis table board from Samarkand - Agathis is supposed to be a harder wood of Indonesian origin. Most agathis boards seem to be finished dark on the sides and don't appear to have the most attractive grain there. A lighter semi-opaque finish is often used on the top. I wonder if this finish gets scratched off and if it might be too glossy? In my price range, Samarkand sells 10mm glass stones which would be an acceptable alternative to marble. Combining all the preferred components, including shin-kaya bowls, will cost $198 excluding shipping.

2" boards from Yutopian - They offer agathis, spruce and an inexpensive "kaya" but only one of these has a photo and and the descriptions call into question whether they might be of lesser quality. Total material cost of a spruce board with shin-kaya bowls and 10mm high-quality glass stones would come to $194.

Various sellers on eBay
- You can find "bargains" with bids starting at $100 for a full set (which only offers yunzi stones in jujube bowls); but you'll never know what you're really getting for your money until it arrives on your doorstep. If you don't like it, you'll have to shell out again just to ship it back (assuming the sale isn't final). It's never a bargain if you've not gotten real value for your money. Oddly enough, bamboo gobans less than 1" thick are getting bid higher than 2" shin-kaya gobans. I know bamboo is a durable material but it strikes me as odd that they would be valued over shin-kaya. Then again, as we learned in Economics 101, imperfect information leads to imperfect valuations of goods and services.

The set pictured above is sold by Yellow Mountain Imports for $250 at full retail price. They are now a prominent Chinese gifts auctioneer on eBay.

Kuroki Goishi Ten's 2" Bargain Special- About $330 excluding shipping. It's the most expensive option. In this case however, I would be buying actual 8.8mm slate and shell stones although not of the highest grade. The bowls are made of "new sakura". At a premium of just $133 over the set from the Go Gamestore, it's an interesting alternative if I go upscale in my budget. The set would be shipped via surface mail from Japan and that would add about $50.

If any of you know of other vendors, please feel free to post info on them in the comments.


At 7:59 PM, September 25, 2005, Blogger GreatnessBlog said...

The boards at are beautiful, too. I bought one of those 50$ sets on eBay and regret it. The board's okay and the stones are just awful.

At 8:37 PM, September 25, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Thanks for the suggestion. Those are attractive non-traditional gobans. I particularly like the maple finish on some of them.

What would work best in our living space (filled with what I call nouveau-Shaker darkwood furniture) and keep me in good with ChiyoMama is probably the simple lines of a traditional 2" board. I'll keep in mind in case that changes.

At 8:09 AM, September 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chiyodad!

I agree with greatness. I have one of Carol's Purpleheart wood boards. It cost me close to $200, but is absolutely stunning.

Kurouki Goishiten's bargin sets are nice also. I have a set of stones/gosu/gosu baco from them and have noticed they're vastly superior to similar products. What other sites call tsuki, K G calls jitsuyo. I highly recommend their products. I'd also ask them for prices on non advertised sets. They frequently give discounts when ordering sevral items together. My gosu baco ended up being free when compared to their list prices. Excellent customer service as well. They sent me step-by-step directions+photos when i asked how to tie the traditional knot.

Samarkand has nice gear, but i think they're a little overpriced. Their leather go set is a great value though. TTFN!


At 8:34 AM, September 26, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Thanks for the info ScatCat. I hadn't thought about asking Kuroki about prices for non-advertised sets so that's a helpful idea.

There's a lot of eye-candy when you go through their site. It makes you wish that you might win the lottery so you could buy all their top-of-the-line items with abandon.

At 12:25 PM, September 27, 2005, Anonymous Petronius said...

Hi Chiyodad!

Maybe this unpacking-ceremony can help you make your decision ;-)

At 1:25 PM, September 27, 2005, Anonymous chiyodad said...


Great pics! I'll need to blog your album. Many, many thanks!

At 2:18 PM, September 27, 2005, Anonymous Petronius (28k?) said...

Unfortunately this isn't my album... and worse: I've only got a set of plastic stones. So I envy you a lot ;-)

Maybe if I'll get rid of the "?" and advance to a higher KGS-rank I'll have the sort of problem you're experiencing right now.

At 9:59 AM, September 29, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chiyodad,

I bought a 1" spruce board from Go-Gamestore on ebay, and it seems to be of very nice quality. I also bought "The Traveller" from Samarkand - the folding "shin-kaya" board is nice, but the included stones are a bit to small for the board (diameter-wise).

A great suggestion from Milton N. Bradley - buy a goban (i.e. with legs) and place it on a coffeee table to play. We Americans aren't so used to kneeling on the floor anyhow, and the hieght will work out just right for playing in a chair.


At 10:51 AM, September 29, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Great to hear from you NightGhost!

My heart seems to have been stolen by those sets from Kuroki but, realistically, I wouldn't want to spend about $400-$600 on a goban right now. So I may yet buy a set from The Go Gamestore since their prices are more reasonable than those from other vendors.

The thing I would have to watch out for are the board and stone specs since some are Chinese-sized and others are Japanese-sized.

At 10:57 PM, October 29, 2005, Blogger Patrick Kelly said...

I purchased the set here:

I had been thinking about some higher priced options, but in the end opted to be more bargain minded. In fact, they list some "discounted" sets on their ebay store. So I ended up spending almost as much on shipping ($60+) as I did for the set itself ($68+).

Anyway, I'm very satisfied. I like the yunzi stones much more than the glass set I've had for years and years. My old board was of the folding type and made of some sort of particle board. My new board and stones actually make a more of a "click" where my old board made a dull "thud" (but loud enough to even be a thud) sound.

I'm even happy about the baskets! The caps fit snuggly into the basket so that they don't easily fall off/out. This makes it easier for me to transport them since I don't have to tie them shut. I just stick them in the back of my car with the board.

At 11:50 AM, November 06, 2005, Anonymous Peterium said...

I think you can consider talking to Kiku Imports, a californian based antique store, that has kaya goban with legs (may have scratches and stuff, but you can pick and choose) and comes with slate and shell. Take note that if the board is fixable, you can always send it in to Japan for repair. The price range is maybe about 350 US or whatever, and maybe an additional 3 or 400 dollars for shipping and repairing, but in the end you'll probably be paying about 7 or 800 bucks for something worth maybe 3 or 4 thousand, and a set of low end slate and shell. So if you're into investing, this is probably an option.

At 11:52 AM, November 06, 2005, Anonymous Peterium said...

Oh, and by the way, yunzi stones are cheap as hell in china, one set is probably around 90 rmb, which roughly translates to 12 or 13 bucks US. It's also easy to find some good quality Chinese particle boards for under 10 dollars, if you look around in Chinatown or something. Go Gamestore is overpriced, I think.

At 5:32 PM, November 07, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Thanks for the suggestions and info Peterium! I may drive by Kiku Imports one of these days since they're right in the city.

I have seen particle boards sold for about $10 in Chinese bookshops. These also sold single-convex Yunzi stones in baskets but for $35 or $45. I guess they have to make a profit somewhere.

At 5:44 PM, November 10, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Given Peterium's comments, I wonder what the local price in China would be for a set that had (1) 2 jujube bowls, (2) a set of 9mm bi-convex Yunzi stones, and (3) 2-3/8" kaya table board?


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