Go-playing Programs

One way to improve your Go may be to play against a computer program. If you are a beginner, almost any program will do for this. However, as you improve, you will find that playing a program of around your own strength does not necessarily improve your Go - it may make it worse: instead of learning good style, you just learn to play the particular moves which that program is unable to handle. The best program available in 2000 had a Nihon Ki-in 2-kyu certificate, but British 1-dans could give it nine stones and beat it.

The best programs are commercial, meaning that you have to pay for them. If you can afford it, buy Many Faces of Go with its considerable tutorial material. A few years ago, if you are stronger than 8-kyu, you should have been able to beat any program, so playing strength was not an issue. If you are around 10-12 kyu, you might think it important to buy the program that is best at beating you. Then you should consider Go++ and HandTalk. Go++ has a much nicer-looking user interface, and HandTalk is harder to beat. But neither of them has any of the tutorial material that is part of Many Faces of Go.

Since 2007 programs using the Monte Carlo method are becoming available and these are certainly at dan level on small boards at least. Leela and the latest version of Many Faces of Go feature this method.

Current strengths of the development versions of commercial and private programs can be seen at the Computer Go Ladder.

Some freeware and shareware Go-playing programs are available from the BGA's Software Catalogue. The best of them are Igowin which is a free version of Many Faces of Go, and EZ-Go which is a free version of EGO. A recent strong program is Leela with its free version LeelaLite. Peter's Go is a good one for improvers as it has different board sizes.

Also worth a mention are GnuGo, Minimago, SW1 and TurboGo.

Some commercial programs have shareware or free versions. HandTalk has a 9-by-9 version which may be freely downloaded from Yutopian.

Here are some commercial programs (check current prices before ordering, postage normally extra):

Program Author Description Requires Price Suggested Source (UK if possible)
Ego Bruce Wilcox Has a range of nine "personalities" with distinct playing styles.
Free cut-down version EZ-Go If paying in Sterling, make out a cheque to Sue Wilcox.
Dos £18 or $25 Bruce and Sue Wilcox
FunGo 2000 Yong-Goo Park English version developed from Korean version. Many features. Free cut-down version. Windows $36 Yutopian
Goemate Chinese Program from China. 32-bit Windows
and a CD drive
$55 Yutopian
Go++ Michael Reiss Renamed version of Go4++.

One of the strongest programs available.

32-bit Windows
and a CD drive
$39.95 goplusplus.com
Go Intellect Ken Chen   Mac n/a Yutopian
GOddess PC version of "Go Intellect" 32-bit Windows
and a CD drive
Goliath Mark Boon Excellent user interface. Almost as good as HandTalk; plays more conservatively. Free cut-down versions. Mac £49.95 n/a
Goliath 3.5 32-bit Windows
and a CD drive
HandTalk Chen Zhixing The world computer Go champion from 1995 to 1997. User interface much improved. Dos n/a Yutopian
Windows $49.00
Many Faces of Go, version 9 David Fotland Possibly the best program for playing Go on a PC. Close behind the leaders in playing strength, and well ahead of all rivals, except perhaps Nemesis, in tutorial value. Free cut-down version Igowin. Version 12 includes Monte Carlo method. Dos n/a Chess & Bridge
Smart Games
Schaak en Gowinkel het Paard
Many Faces of Go, version 11 Windows £69.95
95 euro
Nemesis Bruce Wilcox; but he is no longer connected with it Good user interface, with training modes that explain liberties, groups, influence, and "pattern" moves. Also shows Wilcox's idea of sector lines. Dos, Windows or Macintosh $39 Nemesis Enterprises
Nemesis Deluxe As above plus: a Joseki Tutor, a Tactical Wizard for life-and-death analysis, and Scribbler, for producing annotated board diagrams. $89
SmartGo by Anders Kierulf Windows/Vista now iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and Mac OS $69, but free 15 day trial, then becomes Viewer only. Smart Go, Inc.
Wulu A team led by Miss Lei Xiuyu Wulu finished 2nd place in the 1998 Ing Cup. Windows $69.00 Yutopian

This site has reviews of many of the above programs.

Last updated Mon Feb 23 2015. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.