Interview With a GO Player | Pt. Three

        Continuing where we left off last week, this is the third part (first & second) of our interview article series with Bob Song, a 23 year old 5 Dan GO player from ChangChun City, Jilin Province, China; he is currently studying computer science at the University of Auburn. In part three we discuss some of Bob’s experiences with GO online communities, how Chinese GO apps compare, some miscellaneous, and end with tips on GO strategy for beginners. Read on and find out more.

The GO Interview

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GOjiBroccoli: Hello again Bob. We’d like to hear more about your personal experience playing GO. What are Bob’s GO experiences?

I know few Americans play GO. How has GO been for you in the USA? Have you taught any Americans how to play since you’ve been here?

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Bob: Well, there's a lot to say about that.

GO experience for me, I have had more chances to play with people in China than in the USA. I don't play with people here very often, not as frequently as I did in China.

In the USA, since less people play GO, it is difficult to find people who I can play with in real life. I have been to New Orleans to play with people there and I really like it.

I have not formally taught people here. I did however review some games and share a lot of experience and discuss things in GO with people online. Though since English speaking communities are less active in GO than Chinese communities, I usually prefer to talk about GO stuff in the latter.

There are major differences with the USA GO community. First, there are less people in the USA that play GO than in China, so it is difficult to see these communities being active like in the Chinese GO community.

I have had more online experience with GO communities in China. Even though we don't have Discord, the online GO community in China uses QQ, WeChat, and usually most Chinese online GO communities are active. In contrast, the English community in the USA, or other English speaking GO communities, are hardly ever seen to be active 24/7.

I had a culture shock in English online GO community. But Discord is the major platform that they use for a community. And for me… staying in an active GO community is good for myself.

In Chinese GO community, people usually like to talk about GO, even if it is easy to go off topic, but it is easy to switch back as well. The USA online GO communities are difficult to see. In my experience playing with people in real life is better than just chatting with them online.

English speakers talk about how to use AIs very often, instead of using AIs to improve their own skills in GO. Typically I like to talk about AI games and the game of GO itself. Techniques behind AIs are about computer science knowledge, and you need years of experience to be able to talk about it very well.

It appears to be weird to me, since if you use AIs, but don’t use it to improve your own GO skills, then why use it?

Even if having fun is great, if you can become better in GO with the help of AIs then you will be more happy.

However, many English speakers like to talk about coding algorithm in GO AI community, but GO AI developers never learn how to create a GO AI in likes of QQ or WeChat.

They learn in school and by doing work which gained real life experience from their projects.

For me a GO AI should have service to people who need help in GO. As for learning other stuff, it depends on what they can learn and how much they can learn.

I have seen people saying to me, "what can we learn from Golaxy?" "Learn" should not mean "learn the computing knowledge" of Golaxy.

For many it is “learn the computer science knowledge.” For me is “learn the way to play GO.” For most Chinese people, they use AIs to play GO with others and improve their game.

For me, if you use AIs, then playing with people is important. Regardless, use AIs to improve skills to play with others; learn from AIs to improve yourself. Having fun while learning or learning while having fun.

In Chinese community, even in the AI community, people stay competitive and eager to win their GO games. They even train AIs unofficially. They put a lot of effort into it and try their best to win.

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GOjiBroccoli: That’s interesting. So, how would you say you've enjoyed the Game of

GO community so far? We are still new. And fighting an uphill battle to build the American GO community. Still a long way to go. What are your thoughts on the GoG app? And would you recommend it to your friends and other Americans to use?

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Bob: Since I joined these communities, I can find good developers and "not so good" Developers. I would say the GameofGo aap is an excellent example of good development. Chris himself use his coding knowledge to establish the GameofGo app, and he is competitive. I can see he is eager to improve the GameofGo app! As long as you are competitive, you are on the road to success!! The GameofGo app is improving.

It is obvious that user experience has been improving a lot. And Chris is adding more features in the future. I even suggested he could ask Golaxy developers for help, and Chris did. He sent Emails to Golaxy, wanted Golaxy to help the GameofGo app on its bot playing feature. I have not seen anybody do that before. Chris is competitive, he wants his app to be "actually better." Other developers, not so much.

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GOjiBroccoli: This is especially important in business. Having a go-get-em attitude is necessary for success. And always looking for ways to improve! As it should also be in improving one’s own GO playing skillz.

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Bob: Yes! I like this type of attitude. Rather than faking free stuff all the time and hardly ever improve actually. Speaking of, this is why I recommend GameofGo app to friends.

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GOjiBroccoli: So you recommend avid GO enthusiasts to use the GoG app?

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Bob: I think it will be like this...

When the GameofGo app reaches that certain level, and users can smoothly play games and easily use it all the time, then I don't have to recommend it myself. People will come to it.

Like Golaxy did, they are strong, that's why a lot of people use Golaxy now. And Chris is doing similar stuff as Golaxy and Yike APP. Yike is the best GO APP In China.

And I can see Chris will learn things from Yike and improve it on the GameofGo app. These are examples on using science to make money, nothing wrong with it.

As long as the GameofGo app stays competitive like it is, it will be there one day.

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GOjiBroccoli: You use GoG app personally, what is your profile username? (in case anyone wants to challenge you at GO)

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Bob: Haha, I have multiple accounts!

One username I had is called CandyCici. I have another one called wzs0028.

Improvements? Well, the game setting up process is still slower than some apps in China. Should be way too easy to set up games. In China, the GO games setup is very easy. Chinese Go apps are very easy to set up games.

I know Chris wants to compete with the best Chinese GO apps. I am very surprised about it. Because the best GO APP in China has Millions of users. And Chris is eager to learn their features and improve upon them in the GameofGo app.

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GOjiBroccoli: GoG has a simple quick play option.

For open games. When was the last time you looked over GoG? It’s game setup is very simple.

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Bob: Chinese app doesn't have many options to set up games. On the GameofGo app you can set up game time and features yourself. On Chinese app you don't have that to do.

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GOjiBroccoli: Many people like to choose timed options. Do Chinese apps not have any option for timed games?

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Bob: On Chinese apps, if you want to play quick games, it has it as default settings. On the GameofGo app each game is a Custom game. You need set everything yourself.

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GOjiBroccoli: So you’re suggesting that GoG needs a default quick game button with preset options?

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Bob: Yes. a lot of buttons are tedious. Since you have to set up everything yourself.

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GOjiBroccoli: What are the default settings for a quick game on a Chinese app?

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Bob: They use Chinese game rules alone. So people don't have to set anything else up. And they have default time settings for different types of games too.

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GOjiBroccoli: Are Chinese GO apps as popular in Japan or Korea?

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Bob: Language barrier. It is the best in China.

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GOjiBroccoli: Are there any popular dominating GO apps in Japan or Korea?

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Bob: Not like the Chinese apps. China’s GO app is on another level. They are the best GO APP in China for some reason.

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GOjiBroccoli: How come the Chinese GO app does not make an English version?

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Bob: Well they do have some English language versions, But not very many people use it.

Imagine, they have millions of users using it. Why worry about English speakers? haha

Reasons China app is successful:

1. The community

The developer is from Shanghai. Shanghai is the most expensive city in China, everything there is not only good and expensive

The developer want to live there so he has to have a great APP. And a lot of people play GO in Shanghai. So the GO community there is intensely strong

2. They don't decline anything if they can make money on GO. seems like greedy But what they do is, creating a lot of fun activities all the time And attract people to enjoy it. You paid and you enjoy it

That's simple, and they also work with a lot of other people, in terms of having a platform to teach people how to play GO

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GOjiBroccoli: So Chinese GO apps don't have a free option?

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Bob: Aim to kids. A lot of options are free. For example you receive 3 credits everyday. They call it Gobeans.

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GOjiBroccoli: GO beans. Haha, good name.

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Bob: It is free if you don't want to become a vip.

Plus they are clever in another way. Chinese GO app accepts every single GO, or even off topic, articles. All types of news on GO are acceptable. And all types of GO articles accepted. They don't even care who writes it, or how good it is, if you notice.

A lot of people will use it to gather information on GO. For me, I seek GO news by using this. Haha They mentioned NieweiPing here and more.

Basically you can search for and have all the information about GO. Including Go novels… Plus they have organized a lot of activities for years like AI matches.

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GOjiBroccoli: So there is no Komi on this Chinese GO app?

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Bob: They use Chinese GO rules, so no need to do other komis.

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GOjiBroccoli: I see

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Bob: They may not need it since too many users use it. Even if they received a lot of criticism. Even though I don't play Chinese app very often now, I read news via them.

So the GameofGo app can have some features like Chinese apps.

Default settings on Chinese rules, Japanese rules and Korean rules. So people don't have to set it themselves. For general players, It may also have a time default setting.

If people want to play quick games. For now the GameofGo app should reduce tedious options. On Chinese app you click it, you play it.

Unless you want to create your own game. Creating your own game may take many steps. But Chinese GO app using Chinese GO rules with Chinese user base, they don't have to create their own games very often.

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GOjiBroccoli: Pretty easy if everyone wants to play the same game every time. Are default games timed?

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Bob: You can play timed default games or create your own.

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GOjiBroccoli: Do you like the mission of the Game of GO app?

To bring GO to America and the West, and all others who have never had access to it before. To bring all GO players together in a giant GO playing online community.

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Bob: Yes I like it!

Did you hear that Bill Gates wants to replace all meat with synthetic meat to fight climate change? I don't eat meat, so I agree with it.

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GOjiBroccoli: Bill Gates doesn’t have solutions. He has cheddar$$$. I only eat Broccoli anyway.

Have you ever played western Chess♟?

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Bob: Well, I haven't played chess very often. I didn't learn it precisely.

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GOjiBroccoli: Curious as to how you would compare chess ♟ with GO🕳? How do these games differ in your opinion?

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Bob: GO is more complicated than chess. And GO represents particular philosophical theories.

Chess is less abstract than GO, but has more tactics to remember in a small board space. And Chess has been explored more by AIs than GO.

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GOjiBroccoli: AI is definitely more familiar with chess than GO. What are some good basic and advanced GO strategies you’d recommend?

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Bob: Well, I think basic things in a beginner's mind should be basic josekis.

Basic skills on capturing stones, and basic opening skills. Sticking to simple openings. Nothing too complicated.

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GOjiBroccoli: What is josekis?

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Bob: A term for a particular sequence

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GOjiBroccoli: Could you give some examples of each basic strategy?

For example:

I have heard that it is wise to focus the opening game on the corners of the board and slowly make your way around and into the center of the board over time.

Is that a good basic strategy?

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Bob: It is difficult to talk about "basic strategy" since there is no such thing as a standard agreed-upon basic particular strategy.

Every plan you have in your mind ultimately execute to moves.

However if you or your opponent couldn't see something, or your opponent caught your "blind spots" then there is nothing to save your game.

In terms of how to play, I can address some tips. In general, you may need to know basic concepts in openings. Openings that take corners first, then sides, then the middle.

In mid game, you need to make sure your groups are completely alive. Then you can do everything you want to your opponent. Making sure your groups are alive is the most important principle in GO. Even if professional players may express it differently; but when they play they execute the principle very well.

Even with artificial intelligence, AI can attack AI easily if another AI has dangerous vulnerable groups.

In opening, some principles you need to know is:

Play openings you are comfortable with.

And don't let your opponent disturb your rhythm.

Conversely, you need to disturb your opponent’s rhythm.

The next point is Stick with your game plan!

Don't try to change your tactics in the game very often, because it can be inconsistent, and your opponent can take a lot of advantage from this.

For example, say you want to go to Los Angeles for travel.

And when you're driving to LA, you suddenly change your mind, you want to go to Las Vegas now. And on your way to LV you change your mind again, you want to go to Houston now. So all you're doing is driving, not going to the place you want to go.

Traveling may take longer time, but in GO, changing game plans requires a lot of mid game strength. Which people always come up short with.

More importantly though, choosing the suitable game plan is more vital than a typical game plan. Since sticking to the game plan is very important.

However if you don't have enough mid game strength to handle it, no matter how good your plan is, it will fail you.

All in all, lead your opponent to the way you're comfortable with, this is the most important thing. In a general sense, establishing your rhythm and disturbing your opponent's rhythm is the key.

It is very difficult.

Even if I know all these things, I don't always have ways to execute it, so I couldn't win all the games. Go is about "executing your plan with proper moves."

That's why there is tsumego (Life-death problems), and study from books, and learning from teachers.

End pt 3

This is the end of the Third part of our interview series on the Game of GO. There will be one more continuation of this informative and intriguing interview with Bob.

Tune in next week for the fourth part!

Thanks for reading!

You can discuss our interview in our Discord, and even give Bob a shout out. He is always happy to talk anything GO, with anyone!

Thanks Bob!