HandTalk version 96.09

The advertisement says that the program has a 4 kyu diploma from Japan, this seems optimistic, the first game I played against it I gave it 9 stones and won by 241 (But I am a mean handicap player, I can normally give a real 4 kyu about 100 komi in a 9 stone game). However Handtalk is the first computer program I have seen trying a genuine premeditated swindle, and for much of the time it feels like playing someone who knows what is going on, and possesses a reasonable degree of native cunning. It does not feel stupid the way most programs do.

I had no difficulty loading it into Windows, running version 3.11 on a 60 MHz Pentium. The speed is satisfactory, the machine uses less that 15 minutes for a game playing on its highest level. Probably it would be a bit slow on a 386.

The advertisement says that the program has a 4 kyu diploma from Japan, this seems optimistic, the first game I played against it I gave it 9 stones and won by 241 (But I am a mean handicap player, I can normally give a real 4 kyu about 100 komi in a 9 stone game). However Handtalk is the first computer program I have seen trying a genuine premeditated swindle, and for much of the time it feels like playing someone who knows what is going on, and possesses a reasonable degree of native cunning. It does not feel stupid the way most programs do.

A good selection of editing features includes hints, suggested joseki moves, a choice of whose rules to play under, and various ways of changing the display. It would be nice to have a toggle which turns off the irritating tune permanently, so you don't have to hit the space bar to shut it up every time you end a game.

One very obscure bug (and it does't happen on all machines): When I switched to a monochrome screen the program seized up and stopped accepting moves. Possibly there is some problem with the way it assumes the screen drivers are set up.

In brief, Handtalk is the best program you can buy for playing go, but the interface is still a little unrefined.

review by Matthew Macfadyen, January 1997



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