Nemesis Software: review

The following information was correct as of 1996, however as of February 2013 it's unclear whether it's still available.

It is primarily a Go-playing program, but has a number of features which add to its value for Go teaching. Installation is easy.

This review describes four software products: Nemesis Go Master, Nemesis Go Master Deluxe (a superior version of Nemesis Go Master, with extra features), Nemesis News, and Test Your Go Strength. They were written by Bruce Wilcox, but he is no longer associated with them. They are now supplied by Nemesis Enterprises, a company controlled by his ex-wife, Leslie Bianchi.

Nemesis Go Master

This (and Go Master Deluxe) has separate versions for Dos, Macintosh, and Windows. I have tested only the Windows version, but I have no reason to think that the other versions are much different.

It is primarily a Go-playing program, but has a number of features which add to its value for Go teaching. Installation is easy.

It has options of 19-by-19, 13-by-13, and 9-by-9 boards; all four combinations of human and program playing Black and White; up to nine handicap stones; three skill levels; and "wisdom" - the random generation of irrelevant remarks. It can record partly-played games for re-loading later, but it does this in a format of its own, incompatible with other Go programs. It uses Japanese scoring and handicap stone placements.

I found is easy to beat. It is very optimistic about the status of its groups, which means that you can carry on attacking its groups after they are dead, building up strength for your next attack, while it makes "defensive" moves inside the dead groups. Once it knows it has lost, it offers to resign. If you play on to the end of the game, it calculates the score. When I did this, it calculated correctly; but if it mis-judges the status of a group, you can alter the group's status manually, and ask it to count again.

Perhaps more valuable than its playing strength are the evaluations of the position which you can ask it to make. There are seven of these. It will show the number of liberties of each string of stones; who controls, as territory or as influence, each area of the board; the score; any "shape" moves that are available; the "aliveness" of each group, on a scale from 0 to 10, with the sector lines that enclose them; what it thinks are good moves, with its explanations of what they might achieve; and which strings of stones it thinks can be killed.

It is a fairly old program, and therefore plays fast on a modern PC. It has a clock which it uses to show the time used by each side. On my 66MHz 486, it completed a game using less then five minutes of its time.

Nemesis Go Master Deluxe

This is the same program as Nemesis Go Master, with three extra features: Tactical Wizard, Joseki Genius and Scribbler. Any of these can be used during the course of a game, as well as for positions which you set up.

Tactical Wizard investigates the life-and-death status of the group that you specify. It shows the sequence which establishes this status. It is fast, but not particularly reliable. It does not distinguish between "alive because it is your move and you can play here" and "alive even if you pass". This is unfortunate, because the difference between "unsettled" and "unconditionally alive" is one which needs to be emphasised to players who might benefit from this feature.

Joseki Genius is the feature of Nemesis which I find much the most useful. You ask it to show the joseki continuation in a specified corner; and (unless the position is already outside its joseki book) it shows all the possible next moves. You can then step back and forth through the various lines of the joseki. It seems to know a very large number of lines: if a 3-4 stone is approached on the 5-3 point, it knows of nine continuations, one of them on the 8-8 point. It even knows six follow-ups to this surprising move. But unlike Many Faces of Go, it does not know how to answer the non-joseki moves which tempt kyu-players.

Scribbler is a tool for producing annotated Go diagrams. You can add extra stones, put smily and sad faces on stones, add lettering, draw points, lines and arrows on the board, and shade areas of it. You can select any rectangular region of the board as your diagram. You can output the result to your printer (I was testing the Windows version, and it used the printer-driver installed by Windows), or create a PostScript output file.

Nemesis News

This is a data disk, and needs Nemesis Go Master (either version) to run it. There is only one version, which is suitable for dos, Windows and Macintosh. It is misleadingly titled: it has nothing to do with news, but is a computer version of Bruce Wilcox's book "Instant Go Volume 1". That book (which is not volume 1 of anything; "Volume 1" is part of its title) is also available from Nemesis Enterprises.

The book and the "News" disk both teach various principles of Go that are rather different from those usually taught. In particular they explain Wilcox's idea of "sector lines", which many players have found instructive. The book and disk complement each other, explaining the same things but using different examples.

Test Your Go Strength

This is also a data disk which needs Nemesis Go Master (either version) to run it. It is a selection of fifty problems. In each problem, you are given a position to study, and when you think you have found the best move, you click on that point. If you get the right answer, it explains why the move is good. If you get it wrong, but choose what it thinks is a plausible guess, it explains what is wrong with it, and shows you the selection of other moves which you might try. If you make an implausible guess, it helps you by showing you what it thinks are plausible moves.

The evaluations of the moves are full and clear, in both respects better than most problem books. The handling of the wrong answers is much fuller than is usual in problem books. Sequences of play are given that follow from the various moves, and you can step back and forth along these. The explanations sometimes use the concept of sector lines.

review by Nick Wedd, October 1996

Nemesis Go Master cost $39 and Nemesis Go Master Deluxe $89

Last updated Thu Nov 19 2015.
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