Many Faces of Go, version 10.0: review

In Number 101 of the British Go Journal Journal, I wrote a review of version 9.0 of David Fotland's program "The Many Faces of Go". Since then, I have been recommending it as the best all-round Go program for someone who is willing to pay for the best.

Version 10.0 has just been released. Whereas version 9.0 was a Dos program (and therefore compatible with Windows), version 10.0 is a Windows 95 program. It works with Windows 95 and NT, but not with Windows 3.x. It includes everything that was present in version 9.0, and in the version 9.0 "Deluxe Addon", with many improvements.

It is supplied on a CD, and is very easy to install, though it needs about 16 Mb of disk space.

If you use it with Windows NT, you may find that it runs only in 16-colour mode. This is due to a bug, but there is a free fix for this bug, which you can download.

Many Faces can play on any odd-sized board from 9x9 to 19x19. It can play as Black, White, both, or neither. It can be set to use American, Chinese, Ing or Japanese rules. It can play very fast. I set it to play itself on a full board at its lowest strength level, and the entire game took 14 seconds.

I tried playing against it at the highest of its ten levels of strength, giving it nine stones, and beat it (I am 1-kyu). This is something which I still cannot do against HandTalk. At this level, it was averaging a minute per move on my Pentium Pro 266 Mhz [ in fact it was 200 MHz ].

I also tried playing it directly against HandTalk version 96.09; but having limited time, I set Many Faces to strength level 8, which is very much faster than level 10. This game I must record as a win for both programs. I accidentally set Many Faces to play with 5.5 points of komi, and HandTalk to play without komi; Many Faces claimed to have won by 2.5 points, and HandTalk claimed to have won by three points.

The styles of the two programs are very different. Many Faces makes good shape, and plays proper moves. HandTalk is fond of playing near the edge of the board, and tries to kill things which ought not to be killable.


As well as playing Go, Many Faces includes many features not present in other Go-playing programs. These are described more fully in my review of version 9, though they have been improved in version 10.0. It has an excellent introductory tutorial, a Joseki tutor, three databases of openings, a collection of problems, a problem solver, a collection of commented professional games, and the ability to play via a modem link.

The tutorial is directed at beginners, with clear explanations of such concepts as liberties and connected groups. It is in the form of a Windows help file, so it is easy to find your way around.

The Joseki tutor is the feature which I shall find most useful. It knows a large number of joseki, and can show not only the joseki moves, but some tempting non-joseki moves and their refutations, and some follow-up moves. I find it much easier to use than a joseki book.

The largest of its three databases of openings contains over 36,000 fuseki. The requirement to handle such large data structures is one reason why version 10.0 is only available on the 32-bit versions of Windows. It also allows you to construct your own fuseki databases.

There are over 200 introductory (up to 20-kyu) problems for you to solve. As well as knowing the correct answer to these problems, it is able to show the refutations of the more plausible wrong answers. You can also create your own sets of problems, and these may be distributed freely.

Many Faces includes a problem-solver. You can apply this either to a position which you set up for it, or to a group which you want to analyse in the course of a game. It is not very strong: I believe that I can do better than it does in the same time. But a beginner would find it useful.

It includes almost 400 annotated professional games. You can use it to record your own games, complete with variations and comments. Something which I find particularly impressive is that it can record games in either Ishi or SGF format. As it can read both of these formats as well as writing them, it can be used to convert between them. I know of no other program which can convert from Ishi to SGF format, and Many Faces makes the SGF to Ishi conversion more reliably than the only other program I know which does this.

Many Faces version 10.0 has in one package almost all of the features available in any other Go program. It is suitable as an introduction to Go for complete beginners, and has plenty to offer to experienced players. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who has a Windows 95 or Windows NT system. It is attractively packaged, and would make a suitable present for a games player.

review by Nick Wedd, November 1997

The Many Faces of Go version 10.0 cost £69.99.

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