To run Go Professional, you will need a PC running Windows 95, with a CDrom drive and a graphics card that supports a 256-colour mode (or better).Go Professional is a Go-playing program. It is the commercial version of Mick Reiss's "Go4++" program, which did very well in the FOST World Computer Go Championship last September. It took second place, having lost only the eventual winner, HandTalk.
To run Go Professional, you will need a PC running Windows 95, with a CDrom drive and a graphics card that supports a 256-colour mode (or better).
Installing it is easy, but you must run it directly from the CD. It is not possible to copy it to your hard disk. It has options for English or French settings.
Considerable care has been taken to make it pleasant to use. The view of the board is attractive, and has a background of a blue sky with a few clouds. If you like, you can swap the standard overhead view of the board for a "3d" view, of the board seen from the angle at which one normally sees a Go ban. This is well done, but probably more of a distraction than a help. There is an option to have music playing as you play against it, with seven classical composers to choose from. You need a midi interface installed to hear this.
It has options of 19-by-19, 13-by-13, and 9-by-9 boards; all four combinations of human and program playing Black and White; up to nine handicap stones; twelve skill levels; Chinese or Japanese scoring (though the handicap stones are always placed in the Japanese way); and of having it show the move that it is currently thinking about, together with the best one that it has considered so far. It allows you to take back moves. It can record partly-played games for re-loading later, but it does this in a format of its own, incompatible with other Go programs.
Assessing the strengths of computer programs by playing against them is not easy. The more you play against a particular program, the more you learn its weaknesses; and it never realises that it is being repeatedly swindled by the same sequence. Different programs have different weaknesses and different styles. When I installed Go Professional, I set it to its maximum strength of 12, gave it nine handicap stones, and beat it comfortably (I am 1-kyu). However, I have never yet beaten HandTalk on eight stones, whereas Go4++ can beat HandTalk.
This is partly because HandTalk places its handicap stones where it likes, in the Chinese manner. It may also be because of the different styles of the two programs, and my own style. But it is probably significant that Go4++ did much of its "pre-match training" by playing against HandTalk.
I did not notice any particular weakness when I played it, apart from a strong tendency to chicken out of ko-fights (which is not unusual for players of around 10-kyu). However, when it concludes that it is losing, and a better-mannered program might resign, it starts to play rubbish. Eventually, it passes, and after three consecutive passes it reckons up the score. If the scoring is set to "Japanese" it does this correctly (I did not test it with sekis, bent-fours, etc.), and if to "Chinese" it seems to do it wrongly, failing to assign the corners of the board to their owners. If you do not like its assessment of the score, you just have to count it yourself: there is no way of telling the program the status of things and then having it count, as there is with some programs.
It includes a clock, showing the time used so far by each player. It plays fast at its lower skill levels. At its maximum level, it averaged over 40 seconds per move on my 66MHz 486, taking over eighty minutes of its time to finish a full game.
review by Nick Wedd, October 1996