BGJ 135 Summer 2004
Reviewer: Andrew Morris
In the old days mighty tomes would arrive on a reviewer’s desk with a ‘thwump’. GoGoD, a massive database of over thirty thousand professional games, plus additional material and go utility programs, comes on one CD. It registers scarcely a clatter.
GoGoD, which is the result of T Mark Hall and John Fairbairn’s teamwork, is more than just a collection of game files. In addition to the game database, which takes up roughly half of the disk, the package includes: some commented 19x19 and small board games; a joseki database and a selection of classic puzzles; written materials in web-based format, notably a selection of articles on the history of Go, and on important players; and finally a good selection of third party products, many of them available elsewhere, but all definitely worth a look.
The files are all in sgf format, with annotation (of source, players, event etc.) but no commentary. Most are from the last 150 years, with roughly half from the last twenty years. The majority of the games are professional tournament matches, with a few historical matches and some pro-pro friendlies. The standard is typically at least 5-dan professional, usually much higher. I spotted one pro-amateur vanity match that crept in. All of the major Go playing nations are fairly represented, though Japan naturally dominates the earlier records.
The authors are clearly aware of the value of this collection as a research tool, and have taken due care with annotation. One cannot help being impressed by a collection like this.
The main go record interface is GoGoD95. It is quite an old sgf editor and does not handle variations. A nice feature is the pot by each of the player’s names, which fills up with captured stones. You can easily count these by holding your mouse pointer over the tub. There is also Go Scorer, which allows you to play through a game, guessing the next move. This is helpful to people like me, who can find themselves clicking through a game without taking anything in. It may also be useful if you like to memorize games.
There are two other programs accessible from within GoGoD95. A tool for converting between Western and Japanese dates, and Onomasticon, which accesses a database of professional players. This references names in Chinese, Korean and both Japanese alphabets as well as the Latin equivalent. The biographies give dates of birth promotions and death and up to a couple of paragraphs of additional material. Some players also merit a photograph. There is also a glossary of go terms, and a gazetteer of relevant places.
Each extra feature on the disk seems to need a separate program, which for me is a major niggle. I cannot help feeling that it would not have taken much more effort to bring these all under one roof. This is particularly frustrating when one program makes a poor job of replicating the features of another.
The Go Library is the main database used for adding and accessing records. It has a database separate from the main directory, including game records in a condensed format. With it you can find records by player or event. In addition you can do pattern searches, for example to examine a particular joseki or fuseki pattern. Searching can take a little while, on my old machine enough time to make a cup of tea.
Joseki Library has a selection of more interesting joseki. It makes a list (from a database) of games which contain particular lines.
There are 750 classic problems, 100 professional (high standard) 9 by 9 games and 100 commented games. All of these are worth a look. The problems are fairly difficult (1-dan and up) and interesting. The commented games vary from one line (the teacher could not see the point of white 178), to a maze of alternate lines of play covering joseki, fuseki and biographical details. Most are equivalent to BGJ game commentary.
After the collection of games, the next most impressive feature is a wide selection of articles. They come in the form of a web site (HTML), which is straightforward to navigate. This has clearly been put together by someone who has spent a lot of time in Asia, and has taken a keen interest in the developments and controversies in go over there. The writing is often lively, and always interesting and informative.
The list of tournaments is extensive, and in parts quite detailed. I am glad of the overview sections, because otherwise I would be quite lost. This feeds into many of recent histories and biographies, especially to do with Japan. There are also a number of interviews, which can be delightfully personal and opinionated.
The less recent historic material is, necessarily, more dry and scholarly. This is the section I went to first and I was not disappointed. The piece on Tibet ‘tongue jousting’ was particularly evocative. There is so much here, that I can only skim over the surface. The material here is not exhaustive, but fairly well referenced. There is also an index to the magazine ‘Go World’.
A few items have been included from other sources, much of which has been reviewed elsewhere. Arnoud van der Loeff’s Screen Saver plays through games as a screen saver. Some people have found this helpful in getting people in their office interested in the game. Kogo’s Joseki Dictionary is a comprehensive database of joseki, in SmartGo format. SmartGo Viewer is a rather good sgf viewer. I am particularly glad to see Ulrich Goert’s Kombilo, a game record search engine, in this package. This really is quite powerful, and complements the GoGoD collection very nicely.
There is no denying that this is an impressive and important collection. Just taking the games on their own this is value for money. It works out at 1,000 games a pound. Some of the software is a little dated, but it is not essential for accessing the collection. Virtually all of the material is in a standard format, so it can be accessed through a range of freeware and commercial software. The encyclopedia has a lot of very interesting material, and is invaluable in its own right. Finally, this collection is part of an ongoing project, by genuine Go enthusiasts, and deserves support. This ranks alongside Ishida’s Joseki Dictionary, and Go World as essential English language go resource.
The software programs (game and problem readers, databases, GoScorer, etc) provided on the GoGoD CD are designed for Windows PCs, but the sgf files and html pages can be used on Macs.
January 2014 update
This is now only available by download. For the latest information and purchase details visit http://gogodonline.co.uk.