Riff Raff/ Go Software Reviews

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As part of my collecting mania, I have over the years acquired a significant amount of Go Software. Some of it I use constantly while some hasn't even been installed onto my "new" (as of three years ago!) computer yet. Reviews of each title will be gradually added here, as well as some general comments and recommendations.

General Comments

Modern Go Software will include one or more of the following elements:

The Go playing program aspect tends to be emphasized in much software, but in the long run that is likely to be the LEAST used element. As while you may start off playing many games against the computer, you will eventually learn its (significant) weaknesses and desire to play humans instead.

Recommended Software

I personally use the following software on a regular basis. Each has found a useful niche, works well, and in the case of commercial software is something I do not regret purchasing:


Many Faces of Go

Having been sold commercially since 1988 by David Fotland, Many Faces of Go has by far the greatest longevity of current Go software packages. Its development has slowed in recent years though, with Many Faces of Go 11.0 released in June 2002. Version 10 was released almost five years prior to that. Regardless, it is a very complete package that offers:

  • A strong Go playing program that was 2002 World Computer Go Champion, 1998 World Computer Go Champion, and ten time US Computer Go Champion. Its strength can be tuned from level 1 to level 10. All board sizes from 7x7 to 19x19 are supported. Many Faces plays fairly quickly, even at the level 10 maximum, so that you are almost never waiting on it. In simple tactical positions it will often respond almost instantly.
  • IGS client support
  • Excellent SGF editing functionality, with easy commenting, annotation, and addition of variations. Going through commented games is similarly easy, as you can press shift down arrow to skip ahead to the next comment or variation. Both .sgf and .go file formats are supported.
  • No game database per se, but a large number of games are included: 391 commented pro games, another 1369 uncommented pro games, and 1218 commented games from the Go Teaching Ladder.
  • Two Fuseki libraries: one collected from about 5700 pro games and another that additionally includes opening moves from around 29,000 strong amateur games. At each stage of the Fuseki it will display the overall winning percentage for those who played that move, and the rank of the strongest player to use it.
  • A hand-crafted Joseki database with around 45,000 moves (I'm unsure if this includes duplicates for different orientations). The fact that it is hand-crafted distinguishes it from Joseki study in other packages, which is both good and bad. Certain moves in the database are categorized as "bad move" or "trick play", when appropriate.
  • Over 2000 Go problems at all difficulty levels from 30 kyu on up, including all problems from Graded Go Problems For Beginners Vol. 1. While solving problems, it will automatically keep track of how often you're missing problems and adjust the difficulty accordingly when selecting the next problem to solve. The problems are also shown in random orientations. There's an option to check for and download new problems from the Internet, but... I've never seen any new problems posted in the past three years and am not really expecting to see any in the future.
  • A life and death problem solving mode ("Computer Solves Problem"), where you can specify a group of stones in a position and have it solve for their life or death. Variations are added to the game record for each position analyzed, along with the chances of success in that variation.

Many Faces of Go was my primary SGF editor for a long time as it is very capable in that respect, but I have lately preferred the freeware MultiGo software. One area Many Faces of Go beats out all other packages I've tried though is in game scoring, where it shows remarkable ability for correctly marking live and dead groups without user input. Only rarely do I have to correct mistakes in its life and death evaluation for game scoring, which is very convenient. I also use the problem solving mode quite often. The only weakness I've noticed with this is that there is no way to go through all problems at a given difficulty level, sequentially or otherwise, if for example you'd like to start at the bottom and work your way up rather than letting it select problems for you from different difficulty levels. The "Computer Solves Problem" mode has also been highly useful for analyzing positions from games where I feel like there's a possibility that a group can be forcefully killed (or made to live), but I'm having difficulty finding the sequence to do it.

Many Faces of Go is a well crafted, mature software package that I have never had a single problem with, have used for many years, and can recommend to anyone. The price is $90 currently, and can be purchased directly from [ext] Smart Games or any of its distributors. Igowin, a 9x9 only version of Many Faces of Go, is also available as a free download (and demo of the full package).

The only thing holding me back from a full recommendation is the fact that other software, notably SmartGo, has been developed in the interim and now surpasses Many Faces in many ways. It is similarly priced at $89, but features much more advanced pattern search and database features as well as a large database of professional games.

Riff Raff/ Go Software Reviews last edited by ArnoHollosi on December 23, 2006 - 11:21
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