BGJ 135 Autumn 2004
Reviewer: Mike Harvey
My first impression of SmartGo was of a bewildering range of options, so that I didn’t know where to start. I discovered later that there were even more toolbars that are initially hidden. Most of them relate to diagramming, annotation, editing and maintaining a library of game records, and these are SmartGo’s strengths. Simply playing Go against it is to ignore its best capabilities. The facilities to annotate games, create diagrams, compose problems and to make a library of games are extensive.
With the optional library of 27,000 professional games you have the opportunity to study fuseki and joseki, including the interesting statistics of how frequently a particular move has led to victory or defeat. Rather than describe the tools in detail I suggest you download the SmartGo:Viewer from www.smartgo.com and see for yourself. A 9x9 player and the user manual are also freely available.
As for playing strength, I gave SmartGo nine stones on a 2 gigahertz laptop with plenty of memory and a time limit of 45 minutes. I deliberately played non-joseki moves and I quickly led it into a couple of fights where the status of my groups was uncertain. Twice it let me capture cutting stones when I wasn’t expecting to, and once it filled in a liberty of its own 20 stone group, only to let me capture it 2 moves later. I won by 93. I then tried giving SmartGo 4 stones on a 9x9 board. Again I won. It’s not that SmartGo played bad moves. It is more that it occasionally lost the thread and let bad things happen.
There are some comments by the author, Anders Keirulf, on the web site about how SmartGo plays, in particular about SmartGo examining the whole board without particular regard to the last move. This is both a strength and a weakness. It is bad to follow your opponent around the board, but it is dangerous to pay too little attention to the moves of your opponent.
If you are looking for a tool to maintain a library of game records, annotate games or draw diagrams SmartGo:Player could be the tool for you. If you would also like to study professional games, joseki and fuseki, consider SmartGo:Combo which includes the library of 27,000 professional games both ancient and modern.