Go Dojo: Contact Fights

BGJ 133 Spring 2004

Reviewer: Nick Wedd

Go Dojo is Go training, It runs only on Windows (or Linux/Wine). Its author is Bruce Wilcox, the author of the Go-playing program EZ-Go, and originator of the concept of "sector lines".

The structure of the program

It is easy to install and run. It does not use the Windows registry (something which I am very thankful for - my registry is now a hopeless mess and I don't know how to disentangle it). When you run it, you can customise the size of the window it runs in, and the size of font it uses. It remembers these settings and applies them next time you run, which is very convenient. It also remembers where you got to last time you ran it, and automatically resumes from there.

It uses hypertext to link its many pages and sections together, which helps to make it much more usable than a straight sequence of text and diagrams like a printed book. However, it does not implement hypertext in the way that most computer users will be familiar with, from browsers. Instead it uses a home-brewed implementation of hypertext. I found it quite difficult to get used to this. It's not that it's worse than the familiar way of doing hypertext, just different.

One feature that I missed is the ability to place a bookmark. Apart from the automatic way it remembers where you left off, there seems to be no way you can get it to go automatically to some position that you found interesting. However it does have page number (1398 of them), so you can always write down the page number and find your way back there.

The content of the program

The program teaches how to manage contact fights. It is divided into four sections - elementary, novice intermediate and advanced. In each section, explanations alternate with examples and tests. You can skip the tests if you like, but I don't recommend it, because this is where you will learn about the things you habitually get wrong.

I was impressed by the lessons, and have learned from them/ There is nothing difficult (at least in the first 3 sections, I have not worked through the fourth yet). The principles which are presented are simple pragmatic ones about where to play and where not to play in contact fights, and in the earlier lessons, no reading is required, only counting of liberties and the ability to look one move ahead. Yet I believe my own play has improved but what I have learned (or rather, by what I already knew but was not applying).

Bruce Wilcox claims "One sees dan players making mistakes with rules a 20 kyu could master. Obviously there is a need for a thorough training on the subject and this is it!" Having looked at some of the mistakes I made in the tests, I am forced to agree with him. I think bruce Wilcox is good at explaining Go concepts thoroughl;y because of his experience in Go programming. To get a program to do something, you have to start by getting it perfectly clear in your own mind what it is you are trying to get across, and then explain it properly, without taking any short cuts.

This contrasts with some Go books, which explain things rather sloppily, tempting the reader to think "I've grasped that" and go on to the next page, when really he has learned nothing. However he does not patronise the user, or treat him like an automaton - he comes across as a thorough, but human and tolerant, tutor.

There is certainly a lot of teaching material in this program. A typical page repays a couple of minutes' consideration, and there are almost 1400 pages, so I reckon it would take 48 hours to give it the attention it deserves. This compares well with most Go books, making it well worth the price.

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