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Subject: Advice sought for running a Go tournament in a college class rss

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Craig Duncan
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I'm teaching a college course on rule-based reasoning and I thought it would be fun, as an extra credit project for interested students, to teach the class Go and run a small Go tournament.

This is a bit foolhardy since I am rather new to Go myself (I've probably played around 30 games of 9x9 on my iPhone using the SmartGo app). But it seems worth a shot. I'm writing now to solicit advice.

I've already discovered http://playgo.to/iwtg/en/ as a nice teaching aid for Go; I will use that with my students.

My big need is for advice on playing Go on a computer online, since this is how the students will play one another.

My criteria for choosing a computer site are:

1. Ease of use (easy registration plus user friendly interface)

2. Ability to choose size of boards (e.g. I want to start them on a 9x9 board of course)

3. Ability to choose Chinese scoring (since this will be easier for my student to understand), and ease of understanding the final scoring (e.g. the site should clearly map out the final scoring areas to show how the score was generated).

4. Ease of setting up a game against a computer (including 9x9). Ideally the student should be able to set up a favorable handicap for himself/herself -- either that, or be able to adjust the level of difficulty that the computer plays at.

5. Ease of setting up a game against a particular person. (E.g. student Jane Smith will be assigned to play student John Jones in round x of the tournament. They need to be able to easily find each other and play.)

As I said, I've just been playing Go on my iPhone, so I don't have any experience yet with playing online.

One obvious possibility = KGS

I went to KGS today and registered. That was easy. The user interface seems fine and I expect that I will keep playing there myself.

However, I wonder about how my students will fare. For instance, they will want to play their first few games against robots, I am sure, and finding a robot 9x9 "partner" on KGS involves a number of clicks (e.g. scanning open games for a "bot" in the name along with 9x9 in main room, or going to the "computer go" room in the "social rooms" category and scanning for 9x9 "bots" there; and there can be some waiting if the bots are already busy).

It's not too hard a process, though, and I'm sure my students would be able to learn to do it. However, it is not quite as easy a process as playing against bots on Boardspace.net or igGamecenter, for instance; I find myself wishing that those sites had bots that played 9x9 Go.

So I'm wondering: Is there is a more "casual" site out there, akin to Boardspace.net or igGamecenter, that allows one easily to play Go against both humans and a computer?

And in general, any other advice regarding which computer site I should use for my tournament?

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Steve Sisk
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You can't do better than KGS for flexibility in all the criteria you'd like.

As for playing against computers, if you don't need the bot games to count for tournament play (results stored in player's game lists), you can download a free computer AI and have them play that way. A lot of bots on KGS use the GNU GO AI which should be easy to find and download. It isn't great for advanced study, but for fun learning games in 9x9 (especially if you're allowing handicap for them to get the feel of the game), then it should do fine.
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Craig Duncan
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Thanks, Steve.

After posting I had the same idea, as it happens. You're right that the computer play is just for pre-tournament practice and it will not be a part of the tournament play itself. So it could be completely separate from whatever online venue I choose for the tournament.

I downloaded the Panda glGo game which uses the GNU GO AI. I think the interface is fine but the scoring is set to Japanese and as far as I can see cannot be changed.

Right now I am thinking I would really like to use Chinese scoring. I think it is easy for beginners to wrap their heads around that. It certainly was for me, at least. But maybe I will have to rethink that preference of mine.
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Colin Clay
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I also don't think you'll find a better tool than KGS for what you're looking for. You can set up your own room on the server, and that will probably help facilitate the tourney.

It's easy to change to Chinese scoring, there's a dropdown menu for "Rule Set" when you create a game. I would recommend using Japanese scoring, since it seems to be the standard for western go. Personally, I don't see why Chinese scoring is easier to understand.
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W M Shubert
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Lexington
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Clay wrote:
Personally, I don't see why Chinese scoring is easier to understand.
Chinese scoring has the advantage that you can make "extra" moves to kill dead stones of your opponent without hurting your score. Beginners have trouble seeing which stones are dead, and using Chinese rules lets them experiment with it.
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Craig Duncan
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wmshub wrote:
Clay wrote:
Personally, I don't see why Chinese scoring is easier to understand.
Chinese scoring has the advantage that you can make "extra" moves to kill dead stones of your opponent without hurting your score. Beginners have trouble seeing which stones are dead, and using Chinese rules lets them experiment with it.


Yes that is a big part of the appeal of Chinese scoring for beginners.

As a beginner myself I can attest to another appeal. I found it easier to grasp the goal in Chinese scoring: control the most area. The first games I tried used Japanese scoring and I felt like I was having to weigh two goals against each other: surround empty points and capture enemy pieces That was confusing and also misleading in my case; in my first game I was treating Go like checkers and was prioritizing the captue of enemy pieces. That didn't work out so well.

I think it is also nice at the end that with Chinese scoring you have a very visual display of the resulting score since you can "see" all the points in the form of each player's areas on the board.

That said, if and when I play with a physical set I will use Japanese scoring; it must take a lot less time to total up than in Chinese scoring.
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George Leach
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I would suggest seeking out Igowin for your 9x9 games. It's easily installed and is very quick to respond. It plays well enough for your purposes and I always suggest it for learning Go quickly. I don't believe it uses Chinese scoring though. I think it best to describe both methods of scoring (however confusing it may seem and give a brief explanation as to why), leaving their near equivalence as an exercise for the keen student.

I'm sure you can set up tournaments in KGS but haven't used the client (I will be back, I promise wms!) for a while so it may no longer be supported since KGSPlus came along.

In the interests of keeping everyone engaged and the tournament quick and easy I suggest you maintain sudden death time limits (i.e. no byo-yomi or other overtime).
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Martins Livens
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Chinese rules and scoring isn't only for beginners, they are more concise and make for finite games (superko rule) without list of exceptions in Japanese rules.

And they are also very fast to count, not much longer that in Japanese, if you are used to it.
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Craig Duncan
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Jugular wrote:
I would suggest seeking out Igowin for your 9x9 games. It's easily installed and is very quick to respond. It plays well enough for your purposes and I always suggest it for learning Go quickly. I don't believe it uses Chinese scoring though. I think it best to describe both methods of scoring (however confusing it may seem and give a brief explanation as to why), leaving their near equivalence as an exercise for the keen student.



Good idea, George. One question: does it work for Mac? I'm a PC guy but many of my students are Mac people
 
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