Making a Go board. aka Goban (碁盤)

I have been interested in the game of Go off an on for over 20 years. Despite not being very good at it.

You need a really good memory to be really good player. I’ve read that some top players can recall from memory, and replace the stones onto the board, in the correct sequence, for an entire game. That may have 180 or more stones placed on the Go board.

But something about a game that may have been played since the time of Abraham, and is still being played today, with mostly the same rules is intriguing to me.

Mostly in the west the game is called “Go”, in China “weiqi”, and in Korea “baduk”. And in Japan called Igo (囲碁). From where we imported the name Go, and most of the terms used for phases of the game.

From wikipedia - " Although the game is believed to have originated in China, the establishment of the [Four Go houses] by [Tokugawa Ieyasu] at the start of the 17th century shifted the focus of the Go world to Japan. State sponsorship, allowing players to dedicate themselves full-time to study of the game, and fierce competition between individual houses resulted in a significant increase in the level of play. During this period, the best player of his generation was given the prestigious title Meijin (master) and the post of [Godokoro] (minister of Go)."

The very high end Go boards, called Goban (碁盤), are made, using as one of the steps a process called, Tachimori [ 太刀盛り(たちもり] - I think is pretty interesting. Maybe you will find this information and videos interesting, too.

However, you would need a large bank account to purchase one of them. Typical prices for the ones with legs, can be $68k. And tabletop versions can be priced around $1.7k. :open_mouth:
Fairly nice ones can be purchased for $60 ~ $300. Or low cost ones printed on paper.

Of course much lower priced boards are available. Wood is preferred because in games played between two people face to face (not over the internet), the sound of the stones clicking onto the board is considering one of important features. In China, Japan, and Korea professional Go players have the celebrity and incomes of professional athletes here, with similar incomes. They can afford these expensive Goban with their superior sound. :upside_down_face:

Most information is from the 黒木碁石店 [ Kuroki goishi-ten , Black Wood Go Stone Shop, I think]

Boards made by Mr. Keiji MIWA Boards made by Mr. Keiji MIWA

These two videos were uploaded to YouTube Jan., 2020.

Boards made by Mr. Yoshida Torayoshi made by Mr. Yoshida Torayoshi

These two videos were uploaded to YouTube July, 2019.

More about Go and Tachimori - if interested :太刀盛り

digital translation


The 2 things about the game of Go that primarily peaked my interest when I first discovered the game were:

  1. It is believed to be the oldest game in human history that is still played today - by some estimates 4,000 years.
  2. No computer Go program had ever before in history defeated a human Go player above the skill level of an experienced & talented amateur level. vs for decades computer programs had been able to defeat master chess players. Computers we pretty good at individual phases or the game, but could not grasp whole board play.

Why so?
Mathematicians have calculated that to completely calculate the next eight moves ahead, on an full sized 19 x 19 Goban, would require computing 512 quintillion (5.12×1020) possible combinations. But different methods are used to calculate possible moves, another method comes up with about 250^150, or 10^360 possible moves. Options beyond thought, requiring intuition and imagination to be a great player. :astonished:

While Go has simpler rules than chess, Go’s simplicity permits much higher flexibility, more options, higher complexity. [ in a similar way I see tenkara as a system with simple basic principles, that allows maximum options of styles and methods of tenkara fishing]

I haven’t spent much time on Go for several years. Close to two decades. Looking about my house trying to find the many Go books or equipment I purchased during my peak activity. I discovered my last purchases were about 2002. I also discovered on-line websites, where one can play computer Go, no longer recognized my userid (Crossroads).

Probably the thing that drove, edged out, my fading interest was by the early 2000s my son had become old enough to begin wanting to explore the wider world beyond home, and that took priority. Though I did teach him how to play Go, and the games we played were competitive and fun, because both of us were equally matched poor players. :wink:

Anyway, I just discovered item #2 changed dramatically about 4 years ago.

The people at DeepMind created AlphaGo. The first version used the input from human game records going back hundreds of years. And for the first time a computer defeated a human Go Master. Then several of them. A later version was only programmed with the rules of Go, and some information about basic principles of how the game is played. Then was allowed to improve it’s level of play by playing games against itself.

It used tabular rasa learning - blank slate learning. Allowing the program to be highly creative in how it played games of Go. AlphaGo was quickly able to defeat every human Go master it played. Complete shutouts in some cases, and also revealing some styles of play no human had yet discovered. You can watch several of the matches on youtube, but you would have to be a dedicated Go addict. The games are of 5 ~ 6 hour duration.

My two takeaways from these events are:

AI is going to have a huge effect on human society, the types of employment available in the near future. Will AI soon have better intuition than humans?
And secondly, there are some advantages to learning how to do things on your own. Humans can also be more creative learning how to do things on their own.
[Developing unique styles, examples can be seen in the skill of self taught guitar players or the different fishing methods of master tenkara anglers whose styles direct different preferences in rod, line, kebari characteristics developed by these master tenkara anglers. ]

AlphaGo Zero: Discovering new knowledge

From the video description:
"Previous versions of AlphaGo initially trained on thousands of human amateur and professional games to learn how to play Go. AlphaGo Zero skips this step and learns to play simply by playing games against itself, starting from completely random play. In doing so, it quickly surpassed human level of play and defeated the previously published champion-defeating version of AlphaGo by 100 games to 0.

If similar techniques can be applied to other structured problems, such as protein folding, reducing energy consumption or searching for revolutionary new materials, the resulting breakthroughs have the potential to positively impact society. "
[ or maybe negatively impacting society] :pensive:

AlphaGo Zero: Starting from scratch

How the Computer Beat the Go Master

[there is a most interesting and informative 7 minute video on the below linked SA article. I could not find a way to embed the video. Worth watching even if you don’t read the article]

DeepMind was a London based AI pioneering company, acquired by Google in 2014.
On one hand AI and it’s impact to change society is something to be concerned about.
But, otoh, since Google started using AI for it’s digital translation of languages, Japanese to English. It now, in my view, does not function as well as it did four years ago, and worked much better before AI. AI’s potential for better or worse may depend on where it is used.

The point is - today a lot of attention is focused on the thought processes that goes on - on the 19 x 19 playing field of this ancient game played by people on these beautifully made, and (in these examples) expensive Gobans (Go boards) that may affect our future in unpredictable ways. The key for machine or man seems to be developing - imagination.


An example of the more complete process of making a Go-ban, Go board. Only in this case, it’s actually making a Shogi-ban, Shogi board, but the process and type of preferred wood is the same. Only the size and the inked on grid is different size.

THE MAKING (154)将棋盤ができるまで

碁石製造工程 Go stone manufacturing process.
[Well, it’s how the premium stones made from clam shell or slate are made. Us of lesser means buy stones made of glass or plastic.]

Hikaru no GO - Boom in Japan [ヒカルの碁, Hikaru no Go}

Hikaru no Go - Episode 1 (of 75) English Sub FULL SERIES

The amine (manga) are aimed at children, but the series, while taking every opportunity to be overly melodramatic, are still kind of fun to watch.
What if - there were the spirit of an ancient tenkara master to guide us toward learning greater tenkara skills? :wink:

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The Interactive Way To Go

Tel’s Go Notes

Go terms glossaries

囲碁 川柳 - Go mystery / riddle haiku

[senryū, kawayanagi, lit. river willow]

Try playing Go on-line !

[play against software, select board size from 5 x 5 ~ 19 x 19.
Select level; level 0 easiest to level 5 more challenging. ] :smile: