Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Learning from our Go colleagues

Trying to figure out the way to increase popularity of Shogi I also look for already proved solutions.

I took a close look at Go world. The game, much like Shogi, is of Asian origin. And it is quite popular all around the world.

It quickly turned out that there are quite a few thinks to be envy about. Few things and activities in the Go community.

I'll try to describe them shortly here as an entry point to the discussion if the ideas would work in Shogi world.


SGF is the abbreviation of 'Smart Game Format'.

It is the least important of the things I bring up here, but still. Go guys have worked out a standard for storage and presentation of their games. (Of course, as our world is not perfect, there are few flavours of the standard.) The format allows them to discuss comment and discuss games on the net and off-line.
SGF provides many features such that strongly suppor this:
  • board markup,
  • comments,
  • game information,
  • setup positions,
  • variations etc.
You can, for example, draw arrows indicating lines of attack, markup some pieces that play a special role in a given position, etc.

Like I said, the standard itself may not be a big thing, but it let's them to communicate more easily and it also "gave birth" to many game viewer and editor programs.

The Go Teaching Ladder

Now, here is a thing I personally admire a lot. As the site states itself, after several high dan players have recommended getting your own games reviewed by stronger players as a good way to make progress, some guys came up with idea to do it over the net.
Volunteers in the ladder comment games made by weaker players. Anyone may submit a game for commenting by a stronger player.
The service is totally free and community based. This is possible, because many advanced Go players are eager to teach weaker players.
This way weak players benefit from their advice and advanced player benefits from teaching as well.

Isn't it something?

Sensei's Library

Sensei's Library is meant to be a place where Go players can meet to find information, contribute information and discuss any items related to the game. This is a Wiki which everybody is welcome to edit. There are problems with it but I think the idea is great.

There is wealth of information there, whether you are looking introduction to the game, some player's bio, problems to solve -- it's here. is a base with problems to solve on-line (currently 5467 problems).
The problems are divided by genre and difficulty. The system measures two types of difficulty and it's "coolness". The difficulty is expressed as: x/y where x is the percentage of people who've gotten this problem wrong and y is the average number of seconds it took people to solve the problem correctly. Coolness is a way for people to judge the problem subjectively.

While you solve the problems your rating is recalculated. You have also access to statistics of your progress.

Another cool thing is that the system let's its users to dynamically shape the database itself. You can do it by adding new problems.
Problems submitted by users wait in the sandbox. Other people play with the problems there and you, as an author, can read people's comments to see if there are any issues with your problem. Also, an examination of the attempt paths will show you where some areas may need to be improved (if a common attempt path has not been accounted for in the problem).

Would it work for Shogi?

Here are my thoughts.

Having standard for game storage and annotation would be useful but is not essential.

Teaching Ladder is a great idea. Unfortunately I think it won't work for us. The community is too small.

Site like Sensei's Library would be great. There is often a situation with "normal" sites that the author looses interest in maintaining it (or doesn't have time, etc. etc.). With Wiki this would be not a problem as anybody (or at least "more people") can make the site live.

As for, people claim to gain much play strength by solving the problems systematically. I think the same is true for Shogi.
I'd love to have this kind of server for Shogi. In fact, I'd want it so badly that I think I could write one myself ;-)

What do You think?


SGF definition --
Go Teaching Ladder --
Sensei's Library --
Go Problems --


  1. Great post!

    I know that you're doing a lot of work towards a shogi standard and the go one sounds pretty impressive, with comments and marking important pieces. Here’s a suggestion for shogi: in a lot of comments I read, there are suggestions for alternate plays. I think it'd be great for beginners who have trouble visualizing plays if they could click a button and see those plays visually. So if somebody writes, “Here fbc-san could have done N*6d, resulting in K6c S*7b…” a person could click on that and see it visually. Does this make sense?

    The Go Teaching Ladder sounds great but yes we need more Shogi players first!

    Regarding Sensei’s Library, I’m working on setting up a wiki at I will have time to work on it Friday, hopefully having it ready by Friday night. I’m working on trying to get it to pull authentication info from the CMS database, but I’m not the best programmer, so it might have to use its own separate authentication.

    I was excited to read about In fact today I was thinking about setting up a section of the wiki to deal with tsumeshogi, presenting it in a systematic way that would help tutor people. I was thinking about how we could provide some feedback to users as they try to solve tsumeshogi. This could be as simple as immediately telling a user why a particular move might be wrong, or writing a more elaborate program in Java (which I honestly don’t have the knowledge to do). The ranking system on goproblems is also a great idea. I see how we could make a pretty elaborate tsumeshogi site…

    Thanks again for your insightful post.

  2. Oops, I just scrolled down and saw your earlier post on a tsumeshogi parser, which I will be reading with much interest. :)

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    > So if somebody writes, “Here fbc-san
    > could have done N*6d, resulting in K6c
    > S*7b…” a person could click on that and
    > see it visually. Does this make sense?
    It makes a perfect sense :-) It think it would be of great help to beginners, but also much more fun to read a game score if you could just click on the move and see it on the board. Given enough time, I think I'll produce this kind of tool in my Shogi Tools project.

    See You!