Go at Ease

BGJ 119 Autumn 2000

Reviewer: Mogens Jakobsen, June 2000, with help from Lene & Lasse

Go at Ease, from Yutopian Enterprises, is a multimedia introduction to Go from Yutopian Enterprises, aimed towards children and beginners. The game is taught through animations and small cartoons. As reviewers of this program, we have been playing Go for around 4 months our son who is nine and a half years old didn't have any Go knowledge at all before he was introduced to Go at Ease.

Installation & Requirements

To run the program you need a PC running Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, with a CDROM drive, a graphics adaptor supporting 256 colours and a sound card. The minimum requirements for the CPU are a 486 MHz with 8MB of RAM, which most PCs fulfil these days. We tested the program on a 450 MHz Pentium machine running Windows 95. Installation is straightforward. If you are using Windows 95 the program should initiate automatically, otherwise you have to run a 'Set-up' command, which is only installing some shortcuts therefore you have to run the program directly from the CDROM or alternatively copy the contents of the CDROM to the hard disk.

The program

Go at Ease contains no documentation, apart from what is required for installing the program I guess this is okay since most children (and adults too) don't want to spend a lot of time reading documentation but want to start right away and then use intuition to navigate. When intuition fails, which it does now and then for adults, the built in help function offers basic, but in most cases sufficient, assistance. The content of the program is a book comprising ten lessons:
  • The origin and function of Go
  • The basics of Go
  • The concept of Territory
  • The concept of Liberties
  • Illegal moves
  • Connecting and cutting
  • Eyes
  • Basic capturing techniques
  • More basic plays
  • Figuring out who's won
The first lesson is a set of video sequences telling us about the origin of Go, and the benefits of learning to play the game. The next nine chapters gently teach you about the game with lots of pictures, video sequences and small funny cartoons without having the cartoons stealing the show. All of us had a very good time going through the lessons. The screens alternate between 'the teacher' talking to you and examples showing what to do.

The voice used is appealing and after each subject there are some very good examples. Although we found a few of these too difficult to grasp before moving on to the next screen, this was not a big problem because you always have the opportunity to re-run the screen.

In connection with lessons 4 to 9 are some interactive exercises. These exercises are carefully chosen and provide a good opportunity to practise the subject you've just been studying. We found this way of studying Go superior to the traditional way of using a textbook.

The program also includes 1000 problems on various topics. Some of these problems are a bit difficult to solve and the program doesn't offer any real help you just get a 'beep' and have to try again. It would have been very helpful to have some explanation as a beginner it can be very hard to figure out why a particular move is wrong or what happens a few moves ahead.

To practice and test your strength the programs includes a 9 x 9 version of HandTalk, which is a Dos program with the ability to use a mouse. You can set the handicap, choose whether to play as Black or White, and adjust the playing strength. You can also ask the program to give you a 'hint' and to show you surrounded territory very useful features for beginners.

The Screen layout of HandTalk, which is a separate program, is different from the layout used throughout the rest of Go at Ease and we found that a bit confusing. It's a typical DOS program with lots of information and options around the playing board. It's not that hard to learn and our son who isn't at all used to DOS programs didn't have any problems with the navigation. So the Screen layout is not a real problem it just breaks the entirety.

The playing strength of the program is more than sufficient for beginners and the playing speed is very satisfactory.

Our conclusion is that Go at Ease was a pleasant surprise it is very appealing and manages to keep our attention for hours. The explanations are concise and simple without being childish and the presentations are suitable for both children and adults. The only thing we were really missing was some commented 9 x 9 games.

We all feel that we have learned a great deal and can warmly recommend this program for beginners who would like to learn to play Go but don't have access to someone who can teach them the basic concepts of the game.

Last updated Fri Feb 18 2011. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.