Go Start-Up Kit

Hello world.  I’m here to re-post, with some updates, some information on getting started playing Go.  To get started with playing Go online, you’ll need an account on a server and a Go client (software that serves as the playing environment/board).   You may want to play against a computer for a few games first — I played about fifty like that before logging on to IGS — and it’s also smart to read up on etiquette (e.g. when to resign) and timing rules before launching into a game with a human being.  Okay, here are links and notes:

  • Sensei’s Library (http://senseis.xmp.net/):  General Go info (including this page for beginners) and some great, open-ended discussion on specific aspects of the game, such as joseki and life and death.  There’s a very useful section on timing – to play online you really need to understand the byo-yomi time system.  And, of course, a glossary of game terms.
  • Good online go community (the International Go Servers, IGS).  I think these are mainly Japanese servers, but I have played against many nationalities, and language is rarely an issue — only when there is a problem, such as a player refusing to accept defeat.  I am “gshowman” when I’m online, and I’m 13k or so, at the moment — look for me!   As I’m sure is common everywhere, the IGS servers let you “observe” games; it’s really nice because there are some VERY good players on there (including, occasionally, a professional playing multiple games at once).  Of course if you are a beginner, you should start by observing fairly low-level games.  I suggest watching some games at the 15 kyu level — if you watch much higher, you simply won’t see the deciding moves, so you’ll risk drawing false conclusions.
    • NOTE: There are plenty of other online Go communities, including Yahoo’s servers (which have a reputation for rambunctiousness, apparently — i.e. smack-talk, carpet-bagging, etc.), and KGS — this may be bigger than IGS, I think, or at least equally as big and refined.  Sensei’s Library has a good listing with commentary.  IGS still seems like a great one to commit to.
    • Note: if you are setting up a match on IGS (e.g. you are “seeking” a game, or you are challenging somebody directly to a match), good settings are: your turn: “nigiri”; Handicap: (accept what the computer assigned!); Boardsize: “19×19″ is the typical — only play smaller games (13×13 or 9×9 are the only usual ones) at the very beginning; “Pandanet Style” timing, with 1 min initial time, a ten minute Byoyomi, and 25 stones.
  • glGo is the  internet go client I use (for IGS).  It basically works right out of the box, with a button to log on to IGS — but you need to set up an account on IGS.  All this is free, of course.
  • Good go AI to play against.  This is the “Many Faces of Go”, the program I used to learn basic Joseki (tactics), etc. You can download a 9×9 version for free (and the full version is $40 or something at most). It really helps one’s fluency to play fifty games against the computer, when one is first learning.  In my case I used it to boost my confidence enough to start playing humans on IGS.
  • A place to buy Go gear in NYC: the Village Chess Shop .  Admittedly, the selection is very limited, but I’ve seen no other store in NYC that sells Go stuff.  I bought a decent Korean tournament board here, and some nice large stones in decent bowls.
  • A place to play Go in NYC (I still haven’t found the time or guts to go):   New York Go Center.  There’s also the Brooklyn Go Club, whose door I’m hoping to darken some day.
  • Lastly, I subscribe to a weekly e-zine that sends me two recent IGS games, one high-level (e.g. 3-dan players), one lower level (e.g. 5 kyu players), commented by high-level professionals.  I enjoy these a lot, though I’m not sure how much they’re helping my game.  They definitely give me a fairly fresh perspective on things.  It’s $5 a month.

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