Thursday, December 29, 2005

Understanding and applying the Tsuke Nobi Joseki

After B-Q18, W-N17 becomes a vital defense point.
W-R14 exposed this point to attack.

As much as I have received counsel to not bother with josekis at this early a level, I have continued to study them (becuase it's fun) and the one I am focused on these days is the tsuke nobi. I've been opting for high(er) handicap games in order to test my understanding.

In my second game of the day, White played the joseki out perfectly up to move number 7. With the right tactical skill, an invasion around the vicinity of Q14 to R13 is still possible but, in this particular handicap position, it would serve to strengthen Black's position in the lower right. The corner will live easily. A tenuki is generally the next move after B-R10.

Instead, White opted to push and hane with P16 and Q15 (moves which Yoshio Ishida calls "reckless"). Black Q14 and Q18 ensure the defensibility of the corner and certainty of White dying if the corner is sought and if the vital points are understood. After Black Q18, White must protect with N17 as it becomes a weak point.

White opted instead to play R14, allowing Black to make the cutting move.

The game as it progressed to move 34.
I wonder if I could have kept White's group smaller?

As the game progressed, the O17 group died, Black lived in the corner and got outside influence after containing White.

It might have been possible for Black to better contain White to the side but I was trying to keep it simple for myself. If anyone has some ideas, I'd really like to hear them.

My understanding of this joseki is based on Ishida's writings from 1977. There's always the possibility that the Koreans may have discovered new countermeasures in their own jeong-seok (정석). Among the current crop of English Go bloggers, Mr. Ooijer would likely be the most knowledgable of Korean improvements to joseki. It would be interesting to see if something new exists.

7-Handicap game with Krystal

Krystal (currently 12k? on KGS but she's probably stronger) offered me a free handicap game which allowed me to experiment with the tsuke nobi tesuji; good for defense and territorial grabs in high-handicap games. She showed me a few variations that could be used. Many thanks!

I lost by 6.5 moku as I missed several effective plays and ko threats. The game had a lot of interesting points for study. ScatCat helped with the review.

I haven't had any teaching games lately as the holidays have actually been very involved both at work and at home. ChiyoChan and I have been kept busy with her Lego Mindstorms set.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

You don't want to hear this

About the English dub of Hikaru no Go

What follows is just my opinion and your reaction may be different. Note however that I wouldn't bet real money that you'd react differently.

I heard the warnings but I thought, "Gee! They can't mess up the English dub that badly, can they?"

First the good news. All of Yukari sensei's lessons were included. (Yay!) The Japanese soundtrack with subtitles are available. (Yay!)

And now, those of you who have tears, prepare to shed them now.

Hikaru and Akira sound much older than their ages would suggest. At the tender age of ten, both of them sound like they've already turned at least sixteen. Hikaru is almost acceptable but Akira has lost much of his qualities.

And now about Sai, the second most important character in this series (and the most important to some).

In the original Japanese version, Sai, although occasionally comic, projected a voice befitting his role as a member of the Emperor's household; courtly, elegant and just a shade effeminate (after all, he is supposed to be a gentleman in the strict sense of the word). Sure he weeps over playing Go, but he can also project fierce resoluteness and determination befitting the confidence from his mastery and love of the game.

Talk about losing your dignity. Sai, in the English dub, sounded rather buffoonish. It almost reminded me like a bad combination of Robin Williams and Carson Kressley with occasional old forms of English (without a British accent) thrown in. You'd have to hear it to get the same reaction I got.

ChiyoChan got a bit of an amused laugh from the English dub.

It was terribly disappointing but, as with some of the other anime that has been viewed in our household, we can at least still enjoy it with its original soundtrack and subtitles.

Applying the Bent Three

If White responds with N11 instead of M14, then N14 looks
like it could be used to form a Bent Three.

I've had groups killed by the Bent Three in the past. Today, I applied that same lesson in a game on IGS. I played my formations light while my opponent chose to play heavy; perhaps trying to break-up my stones.

White responded to an insignificant atari at N9; giving me sente. A lone stone that I had given-up for dead looked like it could be used for form a Bent Three. My surrounding formations looked like they could mutually support each other. So, as yoyoma always counsels me, I started to execute a plan ("Any plan. Even a bad one. As long as you have a plan!").

With the stones in place, it's now a matter of playing
solidly and keeping sente.

In the end, 32 stones were captured and White resigned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Go video from Leonard Dragomir

If haven't already gotten the news on, Leonard Dragomir of the Warriors Go Academy up in Canada has put together a very serene (music) video on Go. The images and background music were very nicely selected.

I have no idea what the demand will be like but I have the Hikaru no Go DVD on the top of my Netflix queue. I'd really like to see how the English dub came out. It seems to have already gotten a bit of a thumbs down from the Anime News Network but I'd like to form my own opinion.

In other news

Per her subtle request, I got ChiyoChan a Lego Mindstorms set for Christmas without hesitation. Adding a robotics engine to these blocks strikes me as a natural extension to the Lego concept.

Thus far, we've just built the first roverbot with a single-bumper sensor and will be working on a custom program for it today (after I take care of ChiyoMama's "Honey-do ..." list for the garage). ChiyoChan also wants to experiment with the optical sensor.

ChiyoChan already got an inspiration to use her Harry Potter Lego set to build a small castle on the walking version of the roverbot to create Howl's Moving Castle. She's a bit concerned about the weight ratio so we're not certain if this would be doable.

I wish this set came with more projects. The manual contains only three (with variations). I'm guessing that we'll need to go online or purchase books to find a few more. I know that there are many elaborate Mindstorms that have been built by engineers but I'll need to find some that aren't too complicated for a bright ten-year-old.

Friday, December 23, 2005

That special day is almost here!

I'm of course talking about the December 27th English release of Hikaru No Go on DVD!


Experimenting with the Nirensei and Sanrensei

I think it was back in August that yoyoma had introduced me to the Chinese opening and explained how this formation gave a little more balance than the sanrensei. The latter used to be my usual opening.

Having acquired a little more confidence, I've been dabbling again with the both the nirensei and, when the situation warrants it, the sanrensei. I'm trying to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the star-point corner positions in relation to neighboring stones. I've adopted some of Barry Phease's advice to me and am studying the joseki related to approaches to the star-point stones as I need them (like the tsukenobi).

Finding my friends again on IGS

As most of you know, I play a lot on Kiseido Go Server these days because I like how its client is well-suited to reviewing games. I played on Pandanet (aka IGS) in my first month-and-a half. I remember meeting Zero9090 there for the first time back in July.

When my old homebuilt PC crashed back in August, I lost all of my saved IGS games and, most regrettably, my list of friends and contacts. This week, I've been occasionally playing on IGS to bring my rank there on par with my rank on KGS. I'm still 22k on IGS.

In the process, I've been running into old friends who play more frequently, or exclusively, on that server. It was nice to again meet bernix from Austria and Tlina from France over the past couple of days; and even nicer that they remembered me!

Vigilance in yose

If I had a dime for every game that I blundered in yose (endgame moves), ... well, I might at least be able to buy another book from Kiseido or Yutopian.

W-F12 would have been better than W-A12.

In my game (SGF link) with Bomberman (18k), White surprised me by ignoring a potential threat to a cluster of stones to the left. This allowed me to bring two large dead groups suddenly back to life and forced the game to an end.

I was probably ahead by only 0.5 moku before W-A12 but was probably still subject to a territorial reduction in the bottom right corner.

This game reminded me about that discussion on on when a beginner should resign. It's hard to answer because beginners develop their area skills to different degrees. This goes back to Ikuro Ishigure's introductory comments to In The Beginning. Professionals play consistently strong in their middlegames and endgames and can recognize when it is impossible to make-up for a bad opening. Thus they sometimes resign earlier in the game.

Among lower-kyu amateurs, it's a different story. Unless a game is blatantly lost, playing on might not be unreasonable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Conundrums: Empty triangle and territorial reduction

Did W-O3 really have to collapse my moyo on the bottom?

I had a good game (SGF link) against goisart (19k) this evening but I still lost by 16.5 moku. My lower moyo collapsed when I responded to W-O3 with B-O4. In hindsight, I think B-N4 might have been better even though it created an empty triangle.

White has almost perfected his moyo. How to invade or reduce?

My opening moves were poorly coordinated. I played B-G17 (Move 21) in gote and so White was able to extend with W-D10 (Move 22). I think Move 21 was wholly unnecessary and Move 22 was obviously big for White. Had Black taken D10, it might have helped neutralize the influence of White's wall.

White also limited my shimari at B-R5 (Move 31) with his extension to W-K3 (Move 32). After B-M3 (Move 33) I tried to reduce White's moyo with B-H4 but this probably wasn't the right move. I couldn't see an exit path that was reinforcible. Maybe there was a better way? Maybe B-J5 would have worked instead?

Perhaps I should have launched my invasion at C7 at this point but, judging from White's strength, I expected to live small and only give White more central influence.

I also wonder whether it was wise not to have played my 3rd move at R9 to create a Chinese opening.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Results of the Fall Poll & a new Winter Poll

My thanks to everyone who voted in this blog's Fall 2005 poll! The results are graphed below.

You can click on the chart to enlarge it.

Just in time for the Winter equinox, I've started a new poll and you'll find it in the column to the right. Have fun!

It's going to be a busy week as we head into the final stretch before Christmas. I'm hoping to find time to play at least a game every two days. I haven't had any time at all this weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Epilogue: Yellow Mountain Imports responds to my blog

I received an email from Pong Yen at Yellow Mountain Imports this morning and I thought I should share it with all of you. It's good that they're monitoring their customers' feedback and it should raise your confidence level if you're a prospective buyer.

As always, you should patiently work with your vendors if any merchandise you receive is not to your satisfaction.

Hello Chiyodad!

We came across your blog and appreciate your clear and balanced review on our company's goban. I would just like to let you know of the many steps to improve the quality of the boards and the packing standards. We have only recently entered the Go market and so our first batch had a few problems of which we hope to clear completely for out next shipment of boards in January.

In our first batch of goban we made the mistake of having the manufacturer ship directly to our warehouse Los Angeles. The next shipment all our boards carefully inspected and screened in our China warehouse before they even leave for our warehouse in Los Angeles. We will accept or reject the boards on the spot.

Secondly, we've had quite a lot of problems with the custom packaging the manufacturer provided us. They ensured us it was good enough for shipping. However we have found out otherwise, and will from now pre-pack everything ourselves with heavy gauge cardboard box and 6cm thick styrofoam packaging on all sides.

Our goal is to provide a great goban set at accessable prices that arrives safely and promptly at your door. Yeah!

Best regards,
Pong Yen
Yellow Mountain Imports
155 West Washington Blvd
Suite 605
Los Angeles, CA 90015



In other news

If I can, I'll be taking a couple of days away from my PC (Yeah. Sure ... you believe that.) so my left eye can recover from a minor retina burn.

I'm also rather exhausted from work. I've been working some odd hours to deal with issues from both Scotland and Japan. In today's corporation, the sun never sets.

Awww! I missed!

Sadly, one of my coworkers left for her nephew's wedding in Japan without telling me in advance. I could have ordered a set of slate-and-shell stones from Mr. Kuroki and had him ship it to her. Oh well! Next time!

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

On the environmental activism front, the National Resources Defence Council just informed me that pro-drilling senators had sneaked their Arctic drilling measures into the Defense Appropriations bill. Given their long pro-environmental records, I already know that California's senators Feinstein and Boxer will demand that these be stripped out; but many senators will be under pressure to vote "Yes" on this bill lest they be branded as not being supportive of our military.

Senators on both sides of the aisle agree that Arctic drilling provisions do not belong in a defense bill. I've been trying to call their Washington offices but the lines are busy. A vote could take place as early as Saturday.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Purchase assessment & new Go bibliography

Purchase assessment of the Kaya table Go set from YMI

I received my five replacement Yunzi stones from Yellow Mountain Imports on the evening of the 14th, just five days after I reported the problem of broken stones. I left them positive feedback on eBay for the auction.

Now that the transaction is fully-closed, let's do a recap and overall assessment.
  • I'm very satisfied with the set given that I paid $153 for it, shipping and tax included. There were no visible defects and transit from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area was fast.
  • To date, of the eight people that have communicated their purchase experiences to me, four reported damage to their sets. Of those four, three worked with YMI to get satisfaction and they either got replacement gobans/parts or decided the damage was minor enough not to bother with a full replacement.
  • The sets seem to be priced close to what you might buy them for at full retail in China.
  • The gobans themselves are heavily finished. Although your eyes will be pleased with the beauty of the grain, you're divorced from the other sensual dimension of a waxed kaya or spruce board - its scent. This is why I decided to add a scent to the oil I used on the stones.

Thumbs Up or Down?

Overall, I recommend YMI with reservations. For myself, my set is a great value and they've really disrupted the US market by offering these at attractive auction prices.

However, based on the research and feedback that I've gathered, it's obvious that, as of this writing, your shipment has a 50% chance of suffering from handling damage and that's rather high. To their credit, the folks at YMI seem to make a strong effort to satisfy their customers; offering the options of return or exchange. It's just that some of us find it a hassle to have to return a package and and wait for its replacement.

Ouch! It's the little details like these ...
(Photo c/o frankiii)

... that can lower your overall customer satisfaction.
(Photo c/o Snakeeater)

It's not like these problems can't be overcome. YMI needs only to carefully select its gobans from their inventory, handle them carefully, and ship them in more protective packaging.

My table goban seemed to have been very well protected in transit. I suspect that YMI has made a better effort to package these carefully as was snakeeater's (4k) exchange experience. Packaging for the floor gobans may need improvement; three of the four damage reports were for the floor gobans.

I wish I could give YMI a more solid nod but perhaps we'll soon hear of improvements to their selection and packaging.

Another vendor to consider in this price range

For now, if you're notably risk-averse or just find exchanges a pain, and you're only searching for a table goban, you may want to consider the auctions offered by The Go Gamestore. Three of their customers that I know have been very satisfied with their products and reported no shipping and handling problems. You might pay a bit more (they seem to have lowered their prices slightly) but I think the odds are in your favor that you won't have to return a defective product.

The Go Gamestore also auctions nicely-discounted seconds (i.e. slightly blemished merchandise).

A new Go bibliography makes its debut

Screen capture of Nemir's new Go bibliography site

Nemir (8k?) has launched a new Go bibliography website in an effort to continue the work started by David Carlton (creator of Nemir's site is still in its beginning stages with reviews and write-ups still sparse. Still, it is quite an impressive start and I would recommend that you have a look at it and see if you can contribute some input.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Island Go, frankiii's Goban & Womens' Basketball

Sunset on Oahu's Waikiki beach
If you visit this island and are in good shape, hike up Diamond Head.

Aloha mai e
. If there's one state in the union that the ChiyoClan might love more than California, it's got to be Hawaii. If I hadn't picked-up go, I might still be strumming my guitar, trying to learn ki' ho-alu from brother Ozzie Kotani's books.

Image from Phlatphrog's gallery

I discovered that there's one island Go player who has created a notable online footprint and that's Phlatphrog. He's started a Hawaiian Go Wiki and has a photo gallery of a table set that he bought from the Go Gamestore.

We're hoping to visit the big island by Spring of 2007 (and we pray it might be sooner). ChiyoMama and ChiyoChan would go at the drop of a hat. If we're able to afford our next trip, maybe I'll take a moment to visit that Starbucks in the Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center for a quick game with the Kaneohe Go Club.

frankiii's goban arrives

Time to see what's in the box! frankiii sent me more pics but
I'll let him release them on his blog.
Photo courtesy of frankiii

frankiii's (aka saiclone) floor goban arrived and he'll probably be blogging a product report on his site soon. If you're considering a purchase, then I strongly suggest that you follow it. He has a few issues and he's sent an email to Yellow Mountain Imports. We'll see how they respond and what resolutions they offer.

Before I made my kaya table set purchase, I polled five eBay customers of YMI to get more details about their Go products and their purchase experiences. Of the five:
  • All were satisfied with their purchases vis-a-vis the prices they paid.
  • One reported that the leg of his floor goban was damaged but YMI sent him a replacement.
  • One reported damage to the side of his floor goban but he had not contacted YMI.
  • One alerted me in advance that the stones were less than 10mm in thickness. YMI has since amended most of its product descriptions.
  • One felt that the stones were too cheap-looking relative to the quality of the floor goban and that he should instead get real slate and shell.
  • One mentioned that the actual thickness of his 14cm goban was slightly less but that he was still happy with it.

frankiii reported breakage among his white Yunzi stones as well and he now has only 178 of these. I too have only 178 now as I discovered this evening that another one had cracked. YMI said on December 9th that they were sending me replacements and these have yet to arrive.

Peterium mentioned to me that current Yunzi stones are more fragile than older ones. He said that the older white stones had a creamier yellowish color. I'm only guessing but this could be because they might have used more amber in the old mix. Using less would probably make the stones weaker but also make them whiter.

In other news

It's late Fall and ChiyoChan and her friends are back into basketball. That's means I won't be playing Go on Monday nights.

Back in the Fall of 2002, I had created a website for ChiyoChan's basketball team so all the parents would have easy access to the practice schedule and be able to view the action photos I took during the games.

ChiyoChan's (center) first youth basketball team back in 2002.
Her best friend, GinnyChan is to the far left and they're
again in the same team for 2005.

Laurent Doche, editor for in France (a site which specializes in women's basketball), discovered the team's website and ran a short feature article about "les futures stars de WNBA" (the future stars of the WNBA). Our local paper later found out about this and ran their own article about the team.

All this shows how the internet can bring a lot of attention to a small corner of the world.

Janet and Justin made this humor possible.

Last Sunday, we watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Everyone enjoyed it. It was a clearly lot easier to encapsulate this shorter book into the screenplay than it was for many of the later Potter books.

ChiyoChan's aunt in in the UK had introduced her to The Chronicles of Narnia years ago. ChiyoChan finds much of the tie-in merchandise quite ridiculous. "Who came up with the idea of Chronicles of Narnia lip balm, Dad?" she once asked me.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Watching Go price movements on eBay

Learning about the Nirensei fuseki on a cold
Northern California morning

Yellow Mountain Imports raises its starting bids

I took a look at YMI's recent auctions and noticed that they have increased the starting bids on their Kaya and Shin-Kaya sets to $145 and $125 respectively. I had previously blogged that the former sold for an average of $166 with the bids trending downward.

Two bidders managed to get these kaya table sets for $100 each; the auctions ended on a late Saturday evening and an early Sunday morning. Lucky them!

Perhaps to nobody's surprise, the floor bamboo gobans that I had blogged about back in September are not selling that well. Sets with 15cm-thick playing sections are not getting bids even at $250. Layered bamboo is likely to outlast most other woods and these gobans are probably more labor-intensive to make; but they don't have a very appealing look to them. In my humble opinion, YMI should sell these at a discount.

The table bamboo gobans are selling well with bids still going up to the mid-$80s. These have both 19x19 and 13x13 grids on them.

The Go-Gamestore offers thick-board sets at auction

Starting Bid $90 with a Buy-It-Now of $120. Auction 8736702455

It looks like The Go Gamestore in Canada is offering-up challenges to YMI. They're now offering spruce sets (2" thick boards) at starting bids of $90 with a Buy-It-Now option at $120. I saw two of these this morning. Standard shipping to the US is $31. If you live in Canada, it's $27.

It's always good to have competition in the market. The Go Gamestore was apparently one of the first vendors to introduce Yunzi stones to the Americas.

In other news

ChiyoChan got back from Outdoor Ed in Loma Mar (Santa Cruz) last Friday and I'm just happy to have my daughter home and the house a little noisier in the afternoons and evenings.

Parents had to pay a fee of $285 for each child. Based on what we've heard, I'm a little disappointed at how the camp was run. Although ChiyoChan and her best friend GinnyChan enjoyed their time together, they noted that:
  • The food at dinner and breakfast matched less than 60% of what was described during parental orientation. The better foods were never served.
  • Lunch was just peanut-butter sandwiches with fruit and jelly-sandwiches for children with allergies. The latter group thus consumed mostly sugars and no protein for the afternoon leg of their hikes.
  • Each kid had only about three minutes for showers.
  • The toilets were worse than those at camps of the National and State parks. ChiyoChan and GinnyChan would know since both of our families go camping. You might wonder, "How could they be worse?" It was that these weren't cleaned daily.
  • The heater in one of the other girls' cabins broke down on Monday and wasn't fixed until Thursday. We had a cold snap last week
  • Although parents and family were encouraged to write cards and letters to be given daily to the children from Tuesday to Thursday, some kids did not receive these until the Thursday.
ChiyoChan's own personal peeves were:
  • One of the kids in her cabin snored and woke up frequently in the night. Most of the kids had bags under their eyes when morning came.
  • There was some "interesting" graffiti in the cabin.
  • The male counselors (who were assigned to the boys) "sang too much" on the bus.
  • They played "An Extremely Goofy Movie" on the bus as their in-transit entertainment. (Tough luck kid, but not every parent would approve of "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" for 10-11 year-olds.)
My thoughts are that this program requires better oversight and should perhaps be overhauled. I think ChiyoChan learned more from our camping trips to Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Sequoia National Park, and Big Sur.

frankiii's 15cm floor Kaya Go set arrived in Champaign, IL, this evening according to his FedEx tracking numbers. Unless the weather becomes an issue, it should be delivered this Tuesday.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Go set from Yellow Mountain Imports arrives

The Go set that I had won at auction on eBay arrived late last week.

This post will cover the unpacking and stone cleaning (mostly taken with flash photography since I was pressed for time) and product detail photos (taken in natural light). You can view 1200x900 enlargments of all these photos by clicking on the images.

I later will post my overall assessments of the product and the purchase experience.

This blog entry may take longer to load since there are a lot of photos. I hope they will be useful for your own evaluations. Feel free to ask me any questions through the comments section. I'll entertain requests for additional photos if my time (and photographic skill/tools) can accomodate.

The shipment arrived in two boxes; one for the goban and another for the stones and bowls. The goban box was oversized (a good sign) and both did not show any indications of rough handling (an even better sign).

The goban box had this label on both sides. It was good that YMI tried to drive home the message that the content (as heavy as it was) needed careful handling.

The goban was enclosed in large bubble-wrap plastic and sandwiched between sheets of styrofoam along the top, bottom and three sides. Styrofoam popcorn was used to fill the remaining empty spaces. I judged the protection to be adequate.

The stones, bowls and carry bag were packed with styrofoam popcorn. The stones were in zip-lock bags and tucked into two corners of the smaller box.

Here are the bowls (inside the bag) and the stones after I had lifted them out of the box. You'll notice that the black stones appear powdery. I've learned that all new Yunzi stones ship this way and that they need to be cleaned before use.

The jujube bowls seem to have been nicely protected inside the carrying bag. The lids were sleeved in foam netting. There were no signs of scratching or scuffing.

Brochure: Front and Back

Brochure: Inside

A Yun-Zi brochure accompanied the stones. Clicking on the images will give you a (hopefully) readable enlargement (assuming that you can read Chinese).

Here you can see the grain detail of the kaya board. The board alone weighs 14 pounds and is made from one solid slab of wood. Most table boards are made from 4 sections that are glued together. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

I had heard that table gobans are made from multiple pieces of wood either because (a) manufacturers need to make use of every piece they've got or (b) it reduces the risk of warping. Still, I remember being told that, as long as the wood has been properly dried, the risk of warping or shrinking is minimal to non-existent. Maybe someone can enlighten me on this.

Here you can see the pattern of the grain. Click on the image for an enlargment.

This board is not plain wood with a waxed-on coloring as I understand traditional Japanese gobans are. You can compare it to a Hyuga Kaya table goban from Kuroki Goishi Ten that I had blogged about back in early November (bottom of that link). This goban from Yellow Mountain Imports is more like a finished piece of furniture with a satin sheen. The playing surface is smooth and almost glass-like. More on this later.

I thought the board nicely complemented our furniture. I placed nine thick felt pads on the bottom for protection.

The bowls and board were set aside so that I could get started on washing and oiling the stones.

The stones were all covered with powder so I needed to wash them in the kitchen sink. After closing the drain, I placed a large towel in the sink and set the stones on it. I added a generous amount of dishwashing detergent and submereged the stones in water and suds. Using my hands and the corners of the towel, I scrubbed them clean.

I used six 1x1 foot kitchen towels for the whole process. One in the sink, two for drying, two to set the stones upon to dry, and one for wiping off excess oil.

I used a strainer to collect small batches of stones from the sudsy water and rinse them under the tap. These then went onto a drying towel.

The black stones were laid out to dry further. I then repeated the process for the white stones. Both batches are now ready for oiling.

My oiling mix was 6 drops of light canola oil and 6 drops of an aromatherapy oil from The Body Shop. This mix is just an aesthetic preference of my own. I selected a scent called Pink Grapefruit which is somewhat flowery and citrusy. The scent is both pleasant and waking at the same time.

You can opt to instead use sewing machine oil as is sometimes recommended for slate stones.

I placed the mix and the black stones in a zip-lock bag. The stones were then gently rolled about in the bag until I could see that they were all coated in the oils.

Now begins the tedium of wiping the excess oils off the stones. It's a slow process and I could only do six stones at a time. You have to admit however that these look much nicer after being washed and oiled.

All in all, I had 183 black stones. Here they all are: washed, oiled, counted and ready. (Whew!)

Of course, I need to do the white stones too (Groan!). I didn't add any more oil to the bag as there was still a lot left-over. I just tossed the white stones in. There was no residue from the black stones.

With the black stones, it was easy to see excess oil. Not so with the white stones. Wanting to do a thorough job, I slowed down my wiping process to two stones at a time.

Finally, both sets of stones were finished. There were five broken white stones in the batch that was sent to me and I contacted YMI at They responded later in the evening that they would mail me replacements.

The auction stated that these stones were 10mm thick. I measured a sample of ten stones with a caliper and, they are, in fact, only 9.5mm thick making them equivalent to Size 34. Still, I noticed that they were thicker than the biconvex stone samples that I got from the Go-Gamestore which were 8.8-9mm thick.

This by-the-window shot helps show the satin-like surface of the goban. I'm not an expert on wood finishing but it looks like the kaya was painted with one layer of a transparent shade and finished with a second clear layer. The clear layer was probably then buffed to its satin finish.

This close-up hopefully will provide you with more detail of the board's surface. The top surface feels completely smooth to the hand. You can only feel the grain on the sides. The bottom is glossy which is why I think they used a second clear layer on the board.

I'm guessing that the lines were silk-screened onto the board's surface. This enlargement shows minor imperfections that I found to one line on the goban. Notice how there seem to be notches on the second line from the top?

The angle and lighting of this shot makes the board look paler and less saturated than it really is.

And now for a close-up of the Yunzi stones. You'll notice some slight imperfections to the black stone to the left but these are nothing that you would notice unless you used a magnifying glass. Yunzi stones are supposedly molded from a mix of amber and ground stone. About a handful had visible imperfections; a pock here or there, perhaps a tiny chip, or a less-than-perfect curve.

The board color in this picture is very much what it looks like in real life; a warm orange-tan.

Here's another close-up of the stones. The black Yunzi stones look like slate and the white ones remind me of Mentos. Keep small children away from them. I had a hankering for candy last night while I was studying with these.

Here's one last close-up so you can enlarge it and see the texture of the black stones.

This is the set photgraphed indoors when illuminated by diffused sunlight. The colors seem just a little more saturated but it's roughly accurate.

This is a photo of the set outdoors under direct sunlight. The intensity and contrast of these lighting conditions really overemphasize the warm colors of this set.