Saturday, July 29, 2006

YMI introduces their slate and shell stones

First off, I wasn't able to make it to the NorCal Open. The ChiyoClan opted for lunch at The Elephant Bar in Emeryville and we didn't drive to Japantown. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to meet-up with some of you.

My small consolation was that The Elephant Bar makes a very nice cheesesteak sandwich.

YMI's Slate and Shell Stones from Ogawa Goishi

wmcguire93 alerted folks on that Yellow Mountain Imports had brought in their slate and shell stones.

Image of their Jitsuyo-grade stones

Image of their Snow-grade stones

An examination of their box photos revealed the name Ogawa Goishi (小川碁石店). This vendor is among those listed in the 2005 Hyuga Go Stone festival and their stones are imported into China by the Yunzi company. They currently do not seem to have a website of their own.

Here's a sampling of prices for Japanese Size 36 (10.1mm) Jitsuyo (utility) grade stones.
Based on this information, it looks like Kuroki Goishi Ten may still be able to offer a better final price if you take their least expensive surface shipping and wait 6-8 weeks for delivery. Air freighting your stones might still be less expensive than YMI's US$390 and Samarkand's US$409.

Still, this means that you have more options open to you when shopping for real slate and shell. Keep an eye on YMI's eBay auction store in case they offer any of these stones there at a reduced starting price.

Fuseki Quiz 15/20

White to play. I chose B immediately. Black looks
too strong at the top and the bottom and B struck me
as an urgent defensive move.

Scoring of last weekend's Fuseki Quiz 14/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 10, If you consider the sequence to 7 in Diagram 1 below, you will see that Black's profit is pretty big. For White to press Black against the left side by playing D4 wouldn't be good because Black could connect-up on the left side.
  • B = 8
  • C = 2
  • D = 4
  • E = 6
Diagram 1

Friday, July 28, 2006

Gnats! There goes my weekend!

I need to work for most of this weekend in preparation of my quarterly review of our corporation's operational performance. Sadly, much of my key data will not be available until Saturday and that has backed-up a lot of analysis.

The ChiyoClan might be in Japantown of San Francisco for lunch this Saturday. Hopefully, I'll at least be able to drop-in and meet some of my online Go friends who will be attending the NorCal Open.

Lucky Buy: Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go

I was able to acquire a copy of Sakata Eio's Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go for US$20 this week. I had set-up a wishlist request on and was notified when a seller put a copy up for sale.

At first glance, this books seems neither inferior nor superior to Davies's Tesuji. However, I seem to be understanding a bit more and there are amusing bits of writing from its author. I just have to share page 43 with all of you. Part of this excerpt reminds me of my old lesson plan.

One Day, All of a Sudden

"I am such a weak player that I am ashamed of myself, and I plan to forsake playing until I become strong."

Naturally, this is only a joke, but the fact is that it cannot be expected that one will get stronger without playing.

As is the case with every art, it never comes to pass that one suddenly becomes strong one day.

The matter is comparable to a novice sumo wrestler trading blows with a junior champion. The less accomplished combatant will fall and immediately get back up, to be defeated and rise once again to challenge, demonstrating to all eyes focused on the battles the indomitable will of a champion, all the while spending more time tasting the dust of the ring than the fruits of victory.

Therefore, it is an error to harbor a noble vision of "becoming strong in secret, while no one is watching."

One should take on all comers, playing everyone and anyone, building up experience at the board. It is not likely that while one suffers the taunts and laughter of the others in the club, one will inexorably become stronger?

In view of this fact, what we want to warn the reader against in regards to methods of Go study, is to avoid meaningless adherence to a theory of perfection. First one masters joseki, next one conquers the opening, then one turns to the middlegame. This order seems to be systematic; but no sensible player would give any credence to such a theory.

Instead, adopt a broader approach, being open to anything, and willing to try whatever is at hand.

Whatever one encounters, whenever the mood strikes, turn your attention in that direction and investigate as one's interest is stimulated. That is a sufficient approach to study.

Go is the sort of game where that kind of attitude keeps it fresh and lively.

- Sakata Eio

I will write more about my impressions of this book after I have read it thoroughly.

Chris Kubika's looking for Go writers

Some of you may have heard of Chris Kubika who is running for the Eastern Director of The American Go Association. He's announced plans to start a new magazine called Go Gazette but needs writers to help out. If you're interested, you can find his contact information and details in his post on

I've been invited to help but I can't add any more activities to my plate these days. I wish him the best of luck with promoting our game.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Keeping a mental note on liberties

I had been re-reading Chapter Seven of The Second Book of Go and trying to keep mental notes of my groups' liberties during matches. I've been mostly successful and attribute my last two wins on Internet Go Server (IGS) partly to regularly comparing the liberties of my groups against those of my opponents.

It's yet another brain-task that's needed for greater success in this game. Small wonder that many of us enjoy Go for the mental challenge.

It had been suggested to me that I should start getting into the practice of roughly estimating my territory as I play; and that this practice is a lot easier than it sounds. I might have to increase my match time settings if I want to try it in my games.

6th Cho Chikun Judan Cup

The 6th Cho Chikun Judan Cup began on the 20th and will continue through August 31st. This is a 43-day online IGS marathon to play as many games as possible while maintaining a 30% winning ratio of their games.

Perhaps by next year my job responsibilities will have changed enough that I might be able to participate in this event.

Fuseki Quiz 14/20

Black to play. I chose A since any White response
still yields
a good amount of corner territory.

Scoring of last weekend's Fuseki Quiz 13/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 6
  • B = 2
  • C = 4
  • D = 8
  • E = 10, White can disrupt Black's plans for making territory in the upper right by playing R15. If Black gets to play P10, then White will have a hard time reducing this area. After White 5 in Diagram 1, if Black plays A, the sequence of White B, Black C and White D will follow.

Diagram 1

In Other News: The long slow battle to restore Hetch Hetchy

An odd name, Hetch Hetchy is; but this place is a rival to Yosemite Valley. The only trouble is that it's been dammed-in and buried under water since 1923. Environmental Defense has been working on a campaign to restore the valley and recently had one minor success.

Hetch Hetchy before the dam

Hetch Hetchy today

Rendition of a restored Hetch Hetchy

A completed study has now shown that restoring the valley is feasible and would not impact the Bay Area's water supply. The cost, however, could range from $3-10 billion and, understandibly, that has not drawn much enthusiasm from even some of the state's most pro-environmental lawmakers.

The tufas of Mono Lake

Still, Californians showed that we had the will to restore Mono Lake (the remains of what was once an inland sea). Reclaiming Hetch Hetchy would restore an even greater natural jewel to the state.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Still wishing for the perfect Go bag

I'll probably be taking the GoBox with me to the NorCal Tournament but I feel that I'm still searching for my perfect Go bag.

In my opinion, there's a multi-dimensional continuity spectrum to designing such a bag. One has to balance protection, size and portability. The GoBox leans towards protection at the expense of size and some portability. I can toss all of my gear into it and take it on a road trip with no anxiety that it'll get scratched or dinged. It's hard however for me to imagine wheeling it into a restaurant in the middle of the day when I take a break from a tournament.

I guess my ideal Go bag is somewhat more like a laptop bag. Being a padded but soft-sided design, there'd be a greater risk of damage to the goban, but I think I'd be willing to accept that for even greater portability and the option of transporting my gear as carry-on luggage on a flight; away from the unpredictable dangers of checked-in luggage.

The bag that I've drawn above is more along the lines of what I'm wishing for with these features:
  • A heavy-duty and water-resistant ballistic nylon surface
  • Padded sides (dense rubber foam) with a felt interior surface
  • A rubber bottom surface for extra protection (because that's be were the bag and the 'ban would most often impact a solid surface)
  • An extra-padded shoulder strap (because it would be as heavy as the old laptops I once used)
  • An over-extended flap cover (to keep the rain out)

  • Ideally, there would be a padded sleeve for a 9x9/13x13 combo board (for indoctrinating newbies).

My stones and bowls would be carried in their original bag. I had modified it slightly with adhesive foam pads to better protect its contents. I think the fundamental design of this bag is right and it would just need better materials and padding to make it perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kyu Review: The GoBox

For playing Go away from home, our most pragmatic options are smaller and lighter traveling sets which often consist of folding or roll-up boards combined with synthetic stones. I still have my Myung-In magnetic set for studying in the car while waiting for ChiyoChan to exit from classes.

But for some occasions, nothing really beats the aesthetics of playing on a full-sized table board with hefty 9mm stones pulled from a wooden bowl. It feels right. It feels traditional. That's why many of us pine for thick wooden table boards and for floor gobans, as large and pricey as these sometimes are.

Of course, the question becomes, how to safely tote your costly 22.2 pounds of gear with you when you want to play with these away from home. Yellow Mountain Imports's answer is the GoBox; an 80cm x 60cm x 18cm foam-padded ABS case with wheels (product link and specifications).

It is currently offered at an introductory retail price of US$98 but I had seen a couple of units auctioned on their eBay site last week at starting bids of about US$50 (probably as promotional auctions).

The GoBox has foam padding that is 4cm thick around the perimeter of the board. The padding on the bottom is 1.5cm thick. The padding on the top is about 4cm of egg-crate shaped foam. This image shows my goban inside the box; sitting just slightly below the top of the foam. As always, you can click on these images to enlarge them.

The GoBox comes with extra foam pads in case you want to add these to the bottom or carry multiple thinner boards (sandwiched between the foam). I think the 1.5cm of base padding in the case is enough since the weight of the board is displaced over a larger surface area. If you want, you can place up to 2cms of extra padding below the board. This raises the goban above the foam edge, as shown in the image above, but it still fits just fine when the case is closed.

My preferred configuration is shown above, with a 0.5cm pad between my regular goban and my 13x13/9x9 combo board. This allows me to take everything. Besides the space for the goban and bowls, there's a 9.5cm(L) x 15.5 (W) x 7.5cm (D) cutout section in the foam. This can probably be used to carry a game timer.

The case is meant to be wheeled about. The Gobox has a handle covered with a ribbed rubbery-plastic for when you may need to carry it.

The egg-crate foam on the top of the case does an excellent job of holding everything in place while providing protection. I tried shaking and jerking the case as violently as I could while it was fully-loaded (right-side up, sideways and upside-down) to see if the bowl lids might come loose and spill the stones. The lids stayed shut and my combo board didn't shift from its position.

As I had mentioned back on January 16th, I had placed felt liners on the insides and tops of my bowls. This is a good idea to adopt when you're transporting your stones in the bowls as it keeps the former from shifting too much and it reduces the stone rattle.

I plan on using my GoBox to transport my gear for matches with friends and, when I can, public exhibition games to help promote Go.

One question that comes to mind is whether the GoBox could be used to transport gear when traveling by air. It's too large to qualify as carry-on luggage and so it would have to be checked-in. I would have some reservations about doing this because of current security regulations and the latches on the case.

In the US, all checked-in luggage must remain unlocked unless they use special locks that are approved by the Transportation Safety Authority. The GoBox uses latches that use what looks like a universal latch-key; but I'm sure there will be TSA inspectors and check-in specialists who won't know that. My fear is that you would be required to submit it to the carrier with the latches unlocked. Checked-in luggage takes a lot of abuse and the only thing that would keep your contents from spilling out might be two unlocked flip-up latches.

I don't expect to take my Go gear by air so this isn't an issue for me. As it is, the GoBox nicely fits my needs for transporting my set to venues where I'd like to share the fun of playing on a full-sized equipment.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Restarting regular play

Coming back from vacation, and a long hiatus from regularly doing problems or reading books, I tried playing on Kiseido Go Server and my rank fell back to 17k.

bitti had counseled me in an email (as many of you have similarly done) to ignore my rank and to avoid any mental blocks that might make one believe that achieving a higher rank isn't possible. One of my last posts expressed a sense of "unworthiness" of my earlier achieved 14k and that mental attitude, he warningly alluded, can affect one's progress.

Sound advice. I'm just going to get myself back on track with regular readings, daily tsumego and, hopefully, a more game reviews. See you all online!

Fuseki Quiz 13/20

White to play. I think Miyamoto would recommend a reduction in the
upper right.
My problem is that I have no idea how D or E would
be applied; so instead I choose C.

Scoring of the previous Fuseki Quiz 12/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 2
  • B = 10, It's time to strike at the vital point of the corner enclosure. This is the biggest move on the board. The exchange of 2 for 3 in Diagram 1 is expected, but it is very important to divide the left side. It would be too big to let White play D12.
  • C = 6
  • D = 4
  • E = 8
Diagram 1

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

YMI brings in the Dragon floor gobans

Peregrine was the first to alert the folks at that Yellow Mountain Imports had brought in their Dragon floor gobans. Pong had mentioned his plans to add these to YMI's inventory when he was traveling in China months ago. These bamboo floor gobans are retail priced at US$950 and weigh over 70 pounds.

I have, however, already seen one at auction on eBay at a starting bid of US$599.

The detail is impressive and you can see some images of how these were manufactured at the Yunnan Weiqi Factory from a previous post.

The feet are shaped as a combinations of lion heads and claws. They make quite an aggressive statement.

Two other products make their debut

YMI has also added Wild Jujube Bowls for US$25. These are smaller than their regular jujube bowls and are best suited for stones that are Size 33 or smaller. I'm thinking that they might be suitable for the traditional single-convex Yunzi stones.

I'm still awaiting the arrival of their Go Seigen (aka Wu Qingyuan) style Rosewood bowls for larger stones. These should be rather impressive and will go well with their Super Yunzi.

They are now also offering a portable magnetic roll-up set for US$35. The description for this product says that the mat will not curl-up (like some vinyl mats do).

Hoping to Attend: The Northern California Open Tournament

The AGA-rated Northern California Open Tournament will be held this month in San Francisco's Japantown in the Union Bank Hospitality Room. I'm hoping to attend this one.

Jacob Brown provided me with these details.
  • Date: July 29-30, 2006
  • Fees: $25 for youth under 18, $30 for adults
  • Registration begins at 9am on Saturday morning.
  • First round begins at 10 am
  • There will be five rounds, three on Saturday and two on SundayThere will be one hour sudden death for each player.
I'm assuming that they will have enough boards for all participants but I'll be happy to bring my set if they need any spares (or for some side-games). I'm hoping to have my GoBox before then so I can transport my gear with ease.

Monday, July 10, 2006

New Summer Poll: Your Current Rank

It's a week late but I'm launching the Summer 2006 Poll which you'll find on the right column. If you scroll down, you'll see the results.

This season, I decided to do a rank/strength poll. Admittedly, there are several ranking systems around the world and on different servers. Feel free to choose a category that you think most accurately reflects where you are. I'll cast the first vote using my Kiseido Go Server rank since it seems to be "comfortably conservative".

This poll will, of course, also help me get a better understanding of the readership of this blog so I can be on the lookout for news that may be relevant to most of you.

Results of the Spring 2006 Poll

Click on graphic to enlarge

The question of the Spring 2006 Poll was:

"When you talk about Go, the other person thinks you mean ... "

Tabulated results

Based on 237 responses, about 48.5% said that the non-Go playing public mistakes our game for Othello (which makes a lot of sense), 18.6% of you had unusual responses, and 7.6% said that folks mistook it for chess.

In Other News: Complete Waste of Time in Congress

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that
there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.
- Mark Twain

While on vacation, it didn't surprise me to hear that the GOP majority in the House was pushing a series of bills which included legislation that would "protect the Pledge of Allegiance from attacks by activist federal judges seeking to rule it unconstitutional" (i.e. take out the phrase "under God" from the pledge) and a ban on same-sex marriages. I was pleased to hear today that moderate members of the GOP in the Senate sided with progressives against these bills.

Admittedly, although these bills had little chance of passage, they were intended as rallying points for their more hard-line constituents; so from some of these congresspersons' perspectives, it probably wasn't "a complete waste of time".

Still, you'd think that they'd try to tackle issues like global climate change, health care, economic competitiveness, or perhaps even the deficit. I suppose that they, and the majority of their constituents, must consider these to be trifling matters.

Few people realize that the pledge of allegiance contained no mention of either "God" or "The United States" in its original form. Here is how it was used since 1892:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

The phrase, "under God" was added on June 14th of 1954 by Congress. The phrase is a modern addition that is only 52 years old.

The original flag salute when reciting the pledge of allegiance.
The salute is now an unfashionable faux pas.

Few people also realize that, along with the pledge, the flag was gestured with the Bellamy Salute up until 1942. The picture above will explain why that salute went out of fashion in the early years of the second world war. It was replaced with the hand-over-heart gesture.

Some traditions we keep, and some we drop. I suppose it's all based on what's vogue.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

GoBox is now available

Oh, bother! There's a lot of blogging to do, Blogspot is having technical difficulties, and I'm a bit short on time. Let's just keep this first post brief and add the rest as the week goes by.

Shortly after I returned from vacation, Pong Yen sent me an email that the GoBox was now available at the Yellow Mountain Imports website at a special introductory price of $98. I should have one hopefully in a couple of weeks.

Image from YMI

In addition to the GoBox, YMI is now also selling goban sleeves for $9 and $8. There are two sizes available to fit either the regular table gobans or the slimmer bamboo table gobans. This is an inexpensive way to protecting your board when it isn't in use ... if that should ever happen.

Fuseki Quiz 12/20

Black to play. Where is the biggest move on the board?
The wariuchi at B looks vital.

Scoring of the previous Fuseki Quiz 11/20
(Jump to the last quiz!)
  • A = 6
  • B = 4
  • C = 8
  • D = 10, Black pushing with Q7 and, afterwards, with Q8 (see Ref.Dia.1) is playing on a grand scale. Especially in handicap Go, the solidity of Black's wall is attractive. White will have great problems trying to find a way to reduce this territorial framework. On the other hand, if White gets to play 1, 3, and 5 in Ref.Dia.2, Black won't get much territory here.
  • E = 2

Reference Diagram 1

Reference Diagram 2

In Other News: Good Reads:
The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing and Our Future

From Publisher's Weekly:
American history, both distant and recent, is troubled with violence and schisms that constantly threaten the foundations of the country. The country has endured a civil war, two world wars, slavery, genocide and now, of course, the raging battle between the red and blue states. Are we on the brink of dissolution? That's the question Enriquez poses in this fact-filled, statistic-laden book. For more than 200 pages, Enriquez, the founding director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, gives readers as many reasons as he can for why America may be headed toward an un-united future.

I picked-up this book at the library just before my trip. It seemed rather interesting.

I recall back in my college History classes how fascinated I was about the Roman Empire, how long it had lasted, and how quickly it came apart. Back then, my professor had mentioned to our class that many of the countries that exist today will come apart and come together. The United States would be no exception. We have fifty stars on our flag today. Tomorrow, we could have more, or less.

The writing style will seem odd to some readers. One would think that it was laid-out like a huge marketing brochure. There are many one-sentence paragraphs and some whole sentences are presented in super-large or small fonts. I suspect that Enriquez was trying to make this book accessible to today's common audience that prefers to digest its information in soundbites. I didn't find the style to be a burden at all.

The first chapter of this book, short as it is, might turn-off readers if they don't have a rudimentary understanding of Economics. It is, however, one of the more important ones in my humble opinion as it outlines the financial pressures that drives the dissolution of nations.

The sixth chapter was particularly interesting to me as it outlined the political and socio-economic divisions within Mexico and how these could affect the United States as well.

One interesting historical snippet that I learned from this book was how the Reagan administration had tried to acquire Baja California from Mexico as part of a debt-restructuring deal. That would certainly have made a very visible change in the western profile of the US.