Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Another Dragon Goban

A second dragon-relief floor goban that Pong found in Henan.
Note the carved legs.

I've gotten a handful of inquiries via email about that Dragon floor goban on my last post. I thought I should put-up two more photos that Pong Yen emailed to me. These are of another dragon-relief goban that he saw at the same shop.

This is the best detailed image that he sent to me.

My preferences in Go equipment lean towards simple and clean designs like those of Kuroki Goishi Ten's; but I can certainly understand the appeal of these exotically-carved gobans and of contemporary gobans like those from Board Game Go.

Pong informed me that these gobans were being sold at that store for US$500 to US$700 but he noted that Yellow Mountain Imports could offer them at "much better" prices.

Inquiries and YMI eMail address changes

Pong had mentioned to me that they were switching to a new internet service provider so Yellow Mountain Imports' current email addres (for sales and customer service inquiries) is: welisten@chinesebrasshardware.com.

If you do have an interest in buying these Go goods, I recommend that you send an email to YMI (I believe Aaron is minding the store down in Southern California) and reference my blog. If enough of you put in a request, Pong just might import a few.

Monday, February 27, 2006

eMail from China

Pong Yen from Yellow Mountain Imports is currently in China and he took the time to email me some photographs of Go equipment at retail. He will be visiting a factory soon and will, if he can, send more photos of the manufacturing processes.

The images below are at their actual sizes. They may have been taken with a phone camera.

This goban has an interesting dual-dragon relief.

This seems to be a replica of an antique goban. One like it was featured in a woodblock print by Kubo Shunman in the 1800s.

These are Go Seigen styled bowls but Pong said that they were of a different wood and too small. I'm guessing that single-convex Yunzis would fit in these but not bi-convex ones.

These look like they might be slate and shell, but the black stones are unusually glossy. The slight greenish tinge makes me think that they might instead be made of marble. Pong didn't give details in his email.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Many meetings at Games of Berkeley

As it turned out, ChiyoChan's regional spelling bee competition was at Le Conte Hall in UC Berkeley today (instead of at the Lawrence Hall of Science). Today also happened to be the beginners Go tournament at the nearby Games of Berkeley.

Since ChiyoChan's competition wouldn't finish until noon, ChiyoMama suggested that I walk over to the tournament. I wasn't going to have enough time to compete but I thought that I might at least be able to get in a couple of friendly games before the tournament started.

Surprise! I ran into ScatCat, Iceman and Toastcrumb. I also reaquainted myself with Herb and Charles from The Berkeley Go Club.

Toastcrumb took the above photo of ScatCat's board. The bowls are from Kuroki.
Many thanks!

ScatCat and I played a 6-stone handicap game on his marvelous Purpleheart board which was nicely accented by purple clam shell stones from Kuroki Goishi Ten. The combination made a beautifully unique Go set. I was rather surprised how heavy Purpleheart is.

Those of you who are interested in this board can find it, and many other contemporary and exotic boards, on Board Game Go's eBay store.

These stones from Kuroki Goishi Ten seem to have been made to be paired with a Purpleheart board.

Sadly, I wasn't able to chat extensively with Iceman because the competition rounds started shortly after he arrived and then I had to abruptly depart for lunch with the family. My apologies! We'll meet again.

Games of Berkeley tops Kinokuniya in Go books

Three shelves of Go books from Kiseido, Yutopian, Samarkance and
the defunct Ishi Press. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

I was remarkably impressed with the on-hand inventory of Go books at Games of Berkeley. Months ago, my friend Alan had told me that they had a better selection than Kinokuniya but I wasn't able to check it out. This is definitely the place to browse and examine if you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I'm sorry to report that, as of last week, the inventory of English books at Kinokuniya is almost depleted. I couldn't get a clear answer of whether they would be restocking soon or not.

Some new goods at YMI

It looks like Yellow Mountain Imports has begun adding some items to its inventory on eBay. A few of you of had told me that you were looking for these.

Single-convex Yunzi stones in straw bowls.

Single-convex Yunzi stones in jujube bowls.
These bowls can hold size 34 bi-convex stones.
Notice how the stones don't quite fill the bowl.

9x9/13x13 Combo boards.
Don't know what material these are made of.

Folks in or closer to Canada can also find Yunzi stones and other playing equipment at The Go Gamestore (they also have auctions on eBay).

I've seen a vendor in Australia (in the lovely city of Melbourne) that goes by the name of Ready Set Go. I imagine that there may be Yunzi distributors in Europe but I haven't seen any online to-date.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mr. Kuroki's Gallery of Wonderful Goods

500 year-old Hyuga Kaya, 8.5 sun goban.
It has been dried
over a period of 15 years.
$110,000. Must protect those soft little goban legs!

Mr. Kuroki has made a new addition to his website, The Gallery of Wonderful Goods. These are beyond the discretionary spending limits of most of us but you may want to keep them in mind if you ever win the lottery.

Below are a few more of the highlights. As always, you can click on the images for enlargements.

Island Mulberry gosu for $4,200.

Black Persimmon gosu for $3,100.

Size 40 (11.3mm) Snow Grade Hyuga clam stones.
Price based on negotiation. (The size 38 ones go for $126,400.)

Yahoo! Auctions (Japan)

Maybe you're the sort that prefers something a little more exotic or embellished. In which case, you should prowl about Yahoo! Auctions in Japan and look at some of these other items.

Offered at a starting bid of 6,000,000 Yen (about US$52,200) was this goban and gosu painted mostly in gold with scenes from historical Japan.

Stunning artistry!

A little easier on the wallet is Sai's goban offered at a starting bid of $13. That looks like a cell-phone next to it in the first photo. I'm guessing that the goban is a miniature replica.

Below is an image from the Hikaru No Go Artbook upon which the goban is based. The goban might have been based on an actual historical piece similar to that shown on Mr. Oojier's blog.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Life & Death regimen

No. She's not a harsh task-mistress.
But I am feeling a little sense of urgency.

tetris convinced me to shift the focus my studies to Life & Death to help deepen my reading ability and improve my game.

Our discussion was prompted in part by shygost's List; fundamental questions a player should ask oneself when assessing the next move.

  1. Am I okay? (Am I about to get hurt or hassled?).
  2. Is my opponent okay? (Can I chase or hassle to get profit?).
  3. Where is big area (going for wide area or big points).

One problem most kyu players have with applying the list is that they have absolutely no idea if they (or their opponents) are okay or not. Ergo, they will waste moves when there are bigger points to be had on the board.

I had shied away from L&D for a while after an unpleasant experience in my earliest kyu months. After doing a series of these problems I began to look at every situation as if I had to kill any adjacent stones. I've gotten past that crazy 28-kyu fixation (I hope).

I'll be using the 4th book of the Elementary Go Series, Life and Death by James Davies. This book distinguishes itself from similar books in that it uses the status approach to solving problems.

Most tsumego problems give specific instructions like: "Black to kill" or "White to make life". To improve the reader's analysis, Davies instead presents positions and asks the reader to determine the status if either Black or White moves first. This method makes more sense to me.

To-date, I've only gotten to the 5th section of this book. There are 36 sections in all. I'll need to pick-up the pace a bit.

A 19-kyu KGS wall?

Gnats! Why can't I break through?

My L&D regimen is intended to help me break through my 19-kyu plateau. All excuses aside, I just can't seem to move forward right now. Thus far, I think my win-to-loss ratio is about 4:5 and I'm barely holding on to my rank.

Maybe it's just my imagination but I'm suspecting that there is some sort of KGS wall in the 20-kyu to 18-kyu range that some of us have difficulty breaking through. Some of you have moved easily past it but I've also seen others like myself who seem to stay in this range for more than a couple of months.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

KGS Accountant

Screen capture of KGS Accountant

Aah, rank. Love it or hate it, we're still often fixated by it, aren't we? After all, it's probably the most convenient method for measuring our progress at Go.

While hanging out at the English Game Room on KGS, I discovered that Ceiter had created a program called KGS Accountant. It's a great little applet which downloads all of your game statistics from KGS. Once downloaded, you can export it as a tab-delimited text file or use the applet to chart your win/loss ratio. It therefore offers a little more functionality than joncol's KGS statistic calculator.

The program works on Mac OS and Windows.

In other news

Strip Number 1 from Simply Potterific
Clicke to enlarge

ChiyoChan uploads her artwork to DeviantArt.com. There's a remarkably large pool of talented artists on that site.

One of our current favorites is KT Shy who created the extremely funny fan-art entitled, "Simply Potteriffic!" She has 15 comic strips on the site and I've placed one above for you to sample.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Iceman's Go class takes off and grows

Students at Iceman's school watching Hikaru No Go

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about how Iceman has been working hard to launch a Go program at the elementary school where he teaches. I'm very happy to report that it is off to a very strong and successful start, and that some members of the KGS community have helped with their support.

Iceman teaches Go both to his 4th grade class and to an after-school recreation class for 3rd to 6th graders (the latter for two hours a week). Enthusiasm for the program is spreading quickly and Go is now being played and taught on a daily basis during recess and lunch. A number of parents have stopped by to learn more.

His 4th grade class has now moved from the basics of capture Go (PDF link) to proper Go.

He made all those.
I couldn't even make one! (Except on paper.)

You have to admire Iceman's hard work and dedication. He has since finished making several 9x9/13x13 combination boards for this school program. Each of them are laquered and have silicone pads to give the boards a nice resonance when the stones are placed.

Iceman's teaching tools. The tiny goban that you see at the
front uses M&M candies.

Iceman's training arsenal is pictured above. His inventory includes:
  • Home-made boards ranging from 6x6 to 19x19
  • Several sets of Go stones in plastic gosu
  • Five sets of the Hikaru No Go manga (Volumes 1 to 6)
  • The first two DVDs of Hikaru No Go (presented using the school's digital projector)
  • A home-made magnetic board constructed using office supplies from IKEA

Close-up of the magnetic goban.

Iceman also uses resources from the American Go Association, including Anton Ninno's PowerPoint presentation (PPT link).

Go Seigen said that he doesn't know which country the next great players of Go will come from. Korea, China and Japan clearly have a big head-start and you have to appreciate the efforts of Iceman to promote the growth of this game here in the US.

Offer a game, or even a teaching game, when you run into him on KGS.

Speaking of Iceman's students ...

When they play online, Iceman's students play on IGoServer. However, last Friday afternoon, I encountered one of his newer pupils who ventured on his own into KGS using a guest account. He later tried out a 9x9 match against Iceman while Joyride and I watched and kibbitzed.

We may see a few more of them soon.

Beginners' Learning Resources

These sites are in my right-column but they're noting in a post.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Anywhere on the internet: Safety First

I've seen some sore losers since June 2005, but kasaku on IGS takes the cake.
Clicking on the image will produce an enlargement.
His expletives have been blurred.

Go servers are great and they allow us to conveniently play against opponents all around the world. I've met and befriended many of you through KGS and IGS. Some of you even became my mentors for which I remain very thankful for.

But just like all social spheres on the internet, not everyone you encounter will be sociable, affable or good-natured. It's that anonymity of the internet which seems to foster the problem. GoNinja and I were once discussing this matter and lamenting the decline of courtesy.

I think it's a good time to bring up safety concerns, even for Go servers. I've seen more young players joining KGS and I can only hope that they will always exercise a degree of caution. One online site that can be helpful for kids and teens is NetSmartz.

Rude players are really just the smallest of our annoyances on Go servers and many of us have learned to just shrug them off . Just about everyone I know has had at least one encounter with a sandbagger (a player who deliberately sets his rank low) or an escaper (a player who leaves the game when losing).

And then, sometimes, there are more unsavory characters.

I encountered one such by the handle of kasaku on IGS (aka PandaNet). He resigned after I eliminated the second eye of one of his groups. He then proceeded to throw insults at me.

This fellow was having a really bad day. His record showed that he lost an earlier game by 472.5 moku. Given that there are only 361 intersections on a goban, that's quite a staggering loss. As I was told, he was also verbally abusive in that game.

If he was that unhappy, he could have just resigned or even escaped. Since I managed to corroborate two offences, I reported him to IGS administration. We'll see what becomes of it.

I have noticed that KGS administration actively clamps down on unacceptable language on their server.

In other news

Mingjiu (White) took quite a while to analyze the position at the bottom.

Mingjiu Jiang (7P) won the Fujitsu qualifier and will be representing the United States. In the game (SGF link), aussiemate (13k) correctly anticipated that there would be an exchange of territories (furikawari).

It was an exciting match. Early on, we felt that Mingjiu (White) was too far behind and should resign but he he abruptly turned the game around.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Score estimation

Here's one reason not to be quick to resign a game:

Your score estimation may be notably off.

In the game illustrated above, I assumed that I had lost badly when I looked at White's large areas to the top, the lower left, and to the right. White also had a nice dragon snaking through my positions. My opponent was one rank ahead of me so there was a 0.5 komi.

As the game progressed, I thought that I might as well resign. It even began to feel painful when White started some desperate territorial-reduction attempts.

As it turned out, after the scores were tallied, I was 9.5 moku ahead.

My understanding is that professionals, and some higher-ranking players, will often estimate the score several times during a game. After the middle game begins, they will keep track on a point-by-point basis.

That's a skill for me to develop at a much later date.

For those who are already interested in this subject, Kiseido has a book by Cho Chikun which is entitled Positional Judgement: High-Speed Game Analysis. In it, he describes his methods for quickly calculating real and potential territory.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Komoku of the Chinese Opening

While browsing the first chapter of The Chinese Opening, written by the late Kato Masao, I finally understood the proper use of the komoku (3-4) stone in the Low Chinese Opening.

Black actually wants White to approach this stone, and preferrably with a low keima. It's a trap. White can and, most likely, will live. Black, however, will make living a painful affair and will build both points and a huge moyo while chasing White.

Coincidentally, on the evening of that same day, I had a game on IGS where my opponent made exactly that approach and I applied Masao's guidance of immediately attaching to the approaching stone.

If you've ever used Hiroki Mori's interactive Go tutorial, then the interactive diagram with the full opening sequence will be visible to you below. It's the GoodShape Applet and one of his creations. The buttons will allow you to navigate through the moves. The board is also clickable in case you would like to experiment with some variations of your own.

(And, of course, if it doesn't work, please let me know about it and inform me which browser/OS combination you're using.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Berkeley Beginners' Tournament & Drago 2.0

The Berkeley Go Club, in conjunction with Games of Berkeley, is hosting a free beginners' tournament on February 25th. Players up to 10k of rank are allowed and my understanding is that AGA membership is not needed. This seems to be a promotional event.

The tournament will be held at Games of Berkeley (map link). Registration begins at 10:00am and the tournament starts at 11:00am.

I'd like to participate but ChiyoChan has a basketball game that morning.

Even though I probably won't be at this tournament, it's made me wonder how to translate my KGS rank to the AGA's standards.

Many of us who play on KGS already know that we're underranked relative to the AGA scale by anywhere from two to five stones. On the day that I decide to make a debut in a person-to-person tournament, the last thing that I want is to be labeled as a sandbagger.

That also makes me wonder how often people enter tournaments as underranked versus overranked. I haven't yet played in a tournament so I have no experience in this matter.

Gilles Launches Drago 2.0

Gilles Arcas has officially released version 2.0 of Drago. You can download it from the Drago site. The image above shows Drago after I personalized it with one of the tatami textures that I had created for IGS's glGo client software.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Nice site illustrating the artisanship behind the goban

Image courtesy of Heron Mountain (鷺山)

I had come across this site which is all in Japanese. The company's name translates to Heron Mountain (鷺山). Google's translation tools doesn't do the best job of rendering it in English.

The site, however, gives you an opportunity to see the artisanship that goes into making a high-quality goban. Four of the most interesting pages illustrate:

In other news

Work is slowing down, but not by much. My company is still dealing with many material shortages. That's good news (since it means that customer demand is strong) but it's demanding a lot of micro-management. Needless to say, it also makes it hard for me to study or play Go.

ChiyoChan was upset when she got the details for the next round of the spelling bee. It fell on the same date as one of her basketball games. Even though these elementary-level leagues are for fun and development, she still didn't want to be absent and let her team down.

Her coach, Angela, and her teammates came to ChiyoChan's rescue. They signed a WNBA basketball with their wishes of support and presented to her in a mini-ceremony during practice. It is enshrined on her nightstand and she's now feeling amped. That wasn't just a thoughtful gesture; it was an empowering one. Way to go, girls!!

Blessed be the ball. Perhaps it shall bring thee great fortune.

As we've learned, ChiyoChan's next round of competition isn't distict-wide; it's regional. That means she's competing against champions from all of the elementary and middle schools of Northern California.

This is one of those interesting instances where, as a parent, I prefer to let her call the shots and see where her ambition leads her. I've already told her that she has nothing to lose if she doesn't make it into the next round because it's usually an 8th grader that represents Northern California to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. She still wants to take it seriously and we'll be doing drills together.