Go boards are generally divided into table boards and floor boards. As the name indicates, table boards are played on the table whilst floor boards are played on the floor with players sitting on the floor. Floor go boards are traditionally used especially in Japan but they are also used in classical China and Korea.
In this blog post, I shall discuss about the table go boards and the thicker version of it, i.e. the 2.4 inch version. In coming posts, I will discuss some thinner options.
The pictures above shows the grains on the sides of the board. You can see clearly that the Agathis has a very dark color and that's why the top is painted on. The Kaya grains are actually very nice but for this board that I have, it is made out of 4 different pieces because a single piece Kaya is very expensive. Because it is assembled from 4 different pieces, you can see clearly the joints at the side but from the top, it is barely noticeable as the craftsman made sure that the grains line up as best as possible if seen from the top. The grains on the Shin Kaya is really nice as well and because this is a one-piece board, the grains are very nice and consistent. If the Kaya board is made of one-piece wood, it will be as nice as this too.
Below is the picture taken from the top.
As you can see above, the painted top of the Agathis gives a consistent look although some part of the paint may be a bit inconsistent. However, some people prefers the Agathis painted top to the Shin Kaya or even Kaya because they may find the grain distracting.
The Shin Kaya's grain is very nice and the Kaya's one is a bit finer. The grid lines on the Kaya is finer than the Shin Kaya. I bought the Kaya board from Kuroki Goishi Ten and apparently they use a samurai sword to draw the lines.
so which one is right for you?
The Kaya wood is the softest of the three and has a very nice fragrance. Every time I play with the board, I enjoy its fragrance very much. The other two boards does not have any fragrance emitting from it. Because the wood is soft, the feedback to the finger is not as sharp which is a good thing because if the wood is harder, in this case the Agathis is the hardest of them, the feedback to the finger is a bit too hard.
In terms of the sound when the stone is placed on the board, the Agathis produces the sharpest sound. The Shin Kaya and Kaya boards produces a more mellowed sound which I like and between the two, the sound on the Kaya board has this bright snapping sound which I prefer. The Shin Kaya's sound is a bit dull in comparison.
Kaya wood is now very scarce and costs quite a lot. A 4-piece composite board like the one above will cost about USD400.00 while a one-piece Kaya board will cost almost USD1,000.00. Shin Kaya is a good alternative to Kaya. It has good grain patterns and although the color and the sound is not as bright as the Kaya, it costs a lot less and at the same time, it is still very beautiful to look at and play with. A one-piece Shin Kaya board costs about USD300.00, which is about one third the cost of a one-piece Kaya board.
If you do not mind the painted surface and if you find the grains distracting. the Agathis board is a very good option. In fact, my first go board is an Agathis board which I bought in Beijing. It is hardy and you do not have to worry about denting it too much. The Agathis board above costs about USD170.00 but will last for many, many years.
If cost is no object, I will definitely go with a one-piece Kaya board. The color is very beautiful and the grains are very fine and nice. It also has a very nice fragrance which can help calm the mind and when stones are played on it, it produces a very bright snapping sound. However, if you purchase a kaya board, I suggest you match it with a set of slate and shell stones because they will give you great aesthetics.
For normal use, Shin Kaya or Agathis are both good. You can match these boards with normal glass/ceramic stones which are not expensive. If you really like to see grains on the board, go with a Shin Kaya board but if you feel the grains are distracting, then the Agathis is a good choice. They both look great on the table and will give you many years of enjoyment. The sound of the Agathis board is sharper and the sound of the Shin Kaya board is a bit mellow, leaning towards the sound of a Kaya board. You won't go wrong either way. You just have to decide whether grains are important to you or not. For me personally, I love grains but after playing on the Agathis board, the painted surface is really actually less distracting.
In the coming installments, I will talk about some other boards, especially table boards that are not so thick because not everyone wants a thick go board. Some thinner go boards are also very nice, like the one you can see in our store.
I will also discuss about Go stones too, comparing some slate and shell stones to glass/ceramic stones and the yunzi stones.