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.
Over the years, I have tried many Go software and apps both to help me study Go as well as to write Go books. I still remember those days of MoyoGo which made some waves but is now no longer active. I have used SmartGo for a very long time too for game study and editing. At the very beginning for game database, I purchased a copy of GoGod for the library of games and subscribed to Go4Go.net for up to date game records and then used Kombilo as an engine to work on that database. In my earlier days, I also used the Hibiscus Go game editor.
Just by hearing me say these names you would have guessed how long I have played Go.
In this blog post, I would like to recommend some of the software that I use now on a regular basis and I hope through this recommendation, you will find something that suits you and can help you to study Go. Here you Go.
SmartGo for the desktop has two versions, one for Windows and one for Mac. I started with the Windows version and since I have switched to a Mac for many years now, I have been waiting for a Mac version which they finally released a beta version this year.
I use SmartGo on my Mac mostly to search the database for patterns and then see how professionals play in the pattern. For example, if I wanted to study more on the Mini Chinese Fuseki, I simply turn on the Fuseki matching mode and put in the pattern and I will get a list of all the professional games matching this pattern.
If I wanted to search for a Joseki pattern, for instance the Large Avalanche, I can turn on the Joseki matching mode and I will get a list of all the games where this Joseki is played and then I can scroll on the games and study the various patterns in real, actual professional game.
The user interface is very good and easy to navigate, with separate windows so that you can put the windows side by side and study the patterns.
Besides SmartGo for the desktop, they also have a version for the iPad and iPhone called the SmartGo Kifu. On the iPad and iPhone, the functions are similar and you can also study recent professional games or perform pattern search.
If this is not enough to help you study, they have another product called the SmartGo Books which is available on the iPad, iPhone and also on the Mac. It is an app which contains more than 100 Go books, from classical books to modern classics and the books are not just merely pdf copies but with interactive diagrams and very well formatted. You can purchase the books in the app and you then have a good library of books and if combined with SmartGo Kifu, a good library of games that you carry with you everywhere you go.
The app is created by Huafang Liu and they are very reasonably priced. It has a free version with quite a big collection of problems as well.
There is a HUGE collection of problems in there, including very popular sets such as the Lee Changho Life and Death and Tesuji sets. Very worth it and highly recommended.
Of course you can play Go online if you are connected to the internet. Many of these sites have apps for the smart phone, tablets and desktops. Some of the best places to play Go online are as follows:
The above are online real-time Go servers where you can find many opponents. If you would like to play turn-based Go, i.e. not real time but just on a turn based basis, you can check out the following two sites.