Company Review: Slate and Shell

Review:

Slate and Shell is one of the most well known publishers and distributors of Go books in English. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I arrived at their home page.

Their Go books contain a nice variety that cover most of the major topics you’d hope to see at a site that exclusively sells Go books. As one of Kiseido’s competitors, they pretty much have everything you might expect from Kiseido and probably a little more. This is not to be much of a surprise since their market is the English literate population.

I ordered three books: How Not to Play Go, Understanding How to Play Go, and Understanding Dan Level Play by Zhou Yuan. The shipping was only $5.00 and they did not disappoint since I received my order within a week (ordered on the 21st of August, and it arrived around the 25th).

In comparison to Kiseido, I’d have to say that their e-mail confirmation was far more professional and comforting.

Here’s a screenshot of Slate and Shell’s….

Here’s a screenshot of Kisedo’s…

As you can see, DRASTIC difference. (Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Kiseido’s books. It’s just they could do a better job on not making me worry that I’ve just handed my information over to a Grade C hacker.)

Conclusion:

Slate and Shell has a great selection of books at great prices. In addition to the typical Go books that you will expect to pay around $25.00 for (e.g. dictionaries of tesuji), Slate and Shell offers a nice selection of books in the lower price range (e.g. How Not to Play Go by Yuan Zhou $10.00) that still contain quality information.

It's About to Go Crazy

Starting tomorrow, my life shall be a whirlwind: graduate school is starting, job hunting will become intensified, and my Go training will persevere! In conjunction with what my life will be, the posts from this point on will most likely not follow any chronological order. If I find any time to finish and polish any reviews, they will be flying up on the go. I’ll also be starting up weekly and monthly progress reports so that you can see how I’m doing as a player as well. So look out world cause here we go!

Don't Go Broke

I was in the middle of typing up “Guide to Go Equipment for Beginners,” when I realized it’s probably more important that I first clarify the issue of your Go budget. You don’t want to go broke (or worse… into debt) buying up all the Go books and equipment you think you might need.

In other words, unless your bathroom is equipped with the following…

Source: California Literary Review

Make sure you read this before buying anything else.

Read More

Company Review: Kiseido

If you order straight from the publisher Kiseido, you’ll find that the price for a lot of books (that aren’t available on Amazon) are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper for a BRAND NEW copy. For all those who are skeptical about ordering from Kiseido, I went ahead and ordered the first two volumes to test it out. Here are my observations:

  1. The ordering and payment process does seem kind of sketchy.

  2. The e-mail confirmation looks terrible (like one giant text blob).

  3. There was no tracking number that was given.

  4. Shipping was $3.50 for me.

Was I worried? Absolutely. Except I had to find out how reliable this would be, and here are my findings:

  1. Ordered on August 12th, and it came in the mail on August 21st! It may be a little over a week, but it was fast to me considering the fact that it was coming all the way from Japan and shipping was only $3.50.

  2. Books were protected well and were in great condition when they arrived.

  3. Verdict: Although I had my skepticism and it didn’t have a tracking number, 100% TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Website Review: The Interactive Way to Go

Interactive Go Website Screenshot

Rating: 5 / 5 Ponnuki

Synopsis:

  • Presents information in a simple and easy to understand method for brand new players.
  • Utilizes interactive diagrams to help reinforce what you’re learning.
  • Available in 30+ languages.
  • It’s FREE!!!!
  • The best online tutorial available online for players!

Detailed Review:

Prior to discovering The Interactive Way to Go by Hiroki Mori, I had attempted to read various articles on the rules of go here and there; but none of them ever really made sense to me and this inevitably delayed my discovery of how incredible this game is. Fortunately for me, I eventually stumbled upon this treasure trove that allowed me to finally jump head first into the world of go.

To start, the website’s strength is in its simplicity. The technological requirements are minimal and do not require any fancy computer hardware in order to use it. As a result, one should not expect an extremely flashy website with fancy animations everywhere. In addition, it has a simple user interface that makes it easily accessible to practically any user.

In regards to its content, this is the best aspect of this site because it takes you to the ABSOLUTE basics. It takes a step-by-step approach to teach you the concepts and does a fantastic job simplifying a majority of go terminology into concise sentences that are easy to understand. In case you are not aware, the lowest go rank is considered to be 30 kyu. This rank assumes that you already have an idea of basic concepts like atari, ladders, and so forth. With this tutorial, you start out as a mere 50 kyu, so one can deduce that this tutorial spares no effort in catching you up to speed! Another aspect that I really appreciate about this website is its step-by-step approach.

Like any other good tutorial, this site does not hesitate to utilize diagrams to further illustrate its concepts. However, what makes this tutorial truly shine are the interactive problems. As if the explanations and diagrams were not already sufficient, these interactive problems are embedded into the lesson so that to further illustrate his point and reinforce what you are learning.

Interactive Go Problem Screenshot

While it may be frustrating at times since the answers are not given, I assure you that the solutions actually exist. Whenever you get stuck, I would recommend going over the written explanation and diagrams again before using trial and error to figure out the solution.

Bottom line: The Interactive Way to Go is a top notch tutorial that every player who even has a remote interest in learning go should check out!

Last updated December 6th, 2012 (Rank: 6 kyu)

My First Steps

As someone who had no background of the game (and I mean NO background since none of my family members even knew how to play the game), the first step I would have to take was to figure out the best way to learn the game.

For those who are also starting out, here are the pros and cons for your main options:

#1. Tutors/Online Go Schools

  • Pros: One of the fastest ways to learn since it’s interactive and since tutors are generally high level you will (hopefully) rise in level quickly due to their insight and guidance.
  • Cons: Tutors are expensive for trying to just learn the rules and basics.
    #2. Friends and/or Go Clubs

  • Pros: Like the tutor, one of the faster and funner ways to learn as well due to it being interactive.

  • Cons: There have to be clubs you are able to go to in your area that also match with your schedule. And well… you have to have friends that play Go in order to learn from friends.
    #3. Books, Websites, and Software

  • Pros: You can move at your own pace without scheduling conflicts.

  • Cons: It can be difficult and confusing to decide what books to buy and the best way to maximize your efforts. Also, it costs money for books and software (for the most part).
    So, if you are anything like I was (with no friends who played Go or money to hire a tutor), you are most likely looking at curtain number 3! First off, I did a lot of research and bought a couple of books in hopes of learning tons of information. After my initial venture, I’m going to start by telling you NOT to buy any books just yet. Over the next few posts, I’ll be reviewing and clarifying a lot of the books, websites and software out there that might lure brand new Go players.

For now, head to The Interactive Way to Go (English) to get started on how to learn Go for FREE!

Prologue

To begin, I think every story deserves an introduction as to how it all began.

As a child, I have always been fascinated with the yin-yang symbol and the concepts it embodied. As one may predict, any pattern that even slightly resembled the yin-yang would peak my interest (even the basic color combination of black and white). Anyhow, one day (like many others), I came across the widely acclaimed Go manga known as Hikaru no Go.

The funny thing is that the main thing that caught my eye about this series was the fact that the protagonist seemed to have a black and white hair combination (aka yin-yang reminder). Anyone who has watched the actual anime (or looked at the image above) will know that Hikaru (the protagonist) actually has blonde and black hair (and that I’m an idiot because all manga’s are drawn in black and white….).

Regardless, the manga definitely sparked my interest in Go. Even though my brother (who coincidentally at this time started taking the Go culture class at Chinese School) and I attempted to start learning the game at this time, it wouldn’t be until after I entered and graduated college to begin taking another look into it.

It wasn’t until just a month ago when I was watching Criminal Minds (Season 1: Episode - Extreme Aggressor) and saw the linked clip:

For those unaware of my background, anything to do with psychology or philosophy will definitely enter the realm of my intellectual interests. After watching this scene, I decided to look back into one of the few games which has held its original nature for all the years it has been in existence. From that point on, my quest begins.

Introduction

Welcome to BenGoZen! As you might’ve read in the description, this blog is for anyone looking for some personalized Go experience and advice. In case some of you haven’t had the pleasure of reading ChiyoDad’s blog, he has about three years of blogging logged in. Even though he has some great information, I thought I’d take to a blog with a more personal touch and hopefully more guidance for those who are new to the game or are looking to improve.

So in case you are wondering how the blog got its name, it’s quite simple.

Ben - My name

Go - The name of the game and a pun on the verb as well.

  • Zen - The calming state I get when playing the game.

= BenGoZen!

In addition, it’s also three mono-syllabic words strung together with a rhyme which I thought would be catchy. (Hopefully I won’t be the only one)

As the blog posts fill up, be sure to use the search box if you are searching for something specific. I’ll keep the titles simple so that you’ll hopefully find what you’re looking for without much difficulty. (e.g. If you want book reviews, type “book reviews”)

In addition, any links that I post up on the sidebars are sites that I personally have verified and believe to be useful or reliable. This is particularly directed at the “Places to Buy Go Stuff” list since I wouldn’t want you purchasing from anywhere that I had no experience with. Also, the links and blogs will be exclusively English for now since I assume a number of players reading my blog won’t know Japanese of Chinese. If there is a demand for it, let me know and I’ll start posting those blogs too.

Sorry for the long introduction, but I hope it gets you a better idea of what BenGoZen is all about and how to best use it for your Go needs.