More Useful Hints

Tap on the Hint icon, wait a few seconds, and a dot on the board shows you where KataGo thinks you should play. This minimalist version of Hint is now a thing of the past.

The newest version of SmartGo One makes Hint much more useful:

(1) It can show you multiple top moves that KataGo is considering. It uses the familiar color scheme from Lizzie: teal for the top move, green for other good moves, brown for moves that were considered but are not as good.

Smartgo hint top moves

(2) It can show you the principal expected move sequence.

Smartgo hint sequence

(3) If you like more information density, you can see top move choices and move sequence at the same time.

Smartgo hint both

(4) You can easily switch between these display modes with a long press on the Hint icon.

Smartgo hint menu

(5) You can give KataGo more time: Settings > Computer Play > Time for Hint. If you set it to ‘Unlimited’, tap on the Hint icon again to stop computing.

Smartgo hint time for hint

(6) If you only see part of the board and the best move is off-screen, SmartGo pans the board to bring the best hint move into view.

Smartgo hint pan visible

(7) There’s now a keyboard shortcut for Hint: Cmd-K (think KataGo).

(8) Hint is now available on the toolbar in Replay mode, not just Play.

Enjoy!

Tournament Mode

I just added a new feature to SmartGo One: Tournament Mode. Basically, it turns off all smarts while you’re recording a game, and makes it clearly visible that you’ve turned them off.

Using an iPad or iPhone for game recording is a lot easier than pen and paper: no move number to remember, just tap the screen after each move. But with AI now much stronger than almost all players, even on mobile devices, those features can’t be accessible while recording.

Here’s how Tournament Mode works in SmartGo One:

Start recording: The only way to turn it on is to start recording a new game (in My Files, tap on + at top, then New Game). Enable the Tournament Mode switch, and the top right action changes from an orange ‘Play’ to a green ‘Record’.

Tournament mode new game

During the game: While recording that game, all AI functions as well as joseki matching are disabled. A clearly visible green bar at the top indicates that you’re in recording-only mode.

Tournament mode recording

End recording: When you’re done recording, tap on the popup menu in the lower left of the board, and tap on End Recording. This immediately removes the green bar at the top, and re-enables AI features.

Tournament mode end

If you switch to another game at any time, you’re also taken out of Tournament Mode. Once you’re out of tournament mode, the only way to get back in would be to start a fresh recording with an empty board.

Note that all the features that make SmartGo One so great for game recording are still available. For example, if you missed a pair of moves, you can go back and insert those; if you misplaced a move, tap and hold on that stone, and choose Replace Move.

I hope that Tournament Mode will allow both opponents and tournament organizers to feel confident that SmartGo One is being used for recording only. From the rules of the Dutch Open:

“Recording your game is permitted on a digital device, as long as the screen remains visible for your opponent at all times. And your opponent has to agree with recording the game digitally. If you want to record your game digitally, this will only be allowed on applications vetted in advance by the organization of the tournament, to make sure it does not have AI functionality. Recording your game with a paper kifu is of course permitted.”

These seem like good rules, especially making sure that the screen is visible to the opponent at all times. If that green bar ever disappears, tell your opponent to put the phone away.

Please let me know how this feature works for you, either as a player or a tournament organizer. Any tweaks that would make it better?

Guess Moves and Joseki

Guess Moves and Joseki

TL;DR SmartGo One now includes a powerful Guess Moves feature for pro games. You can also combine guessing with pattern matching to train yourself on joseki variations.

Guess moves

Pick a pro game, turn on Guess Moves, then at each turn think about where you would play. As you then play each move, SmartGo will tell you whether the move was:

(a) exactly where the pro played, or
(b) at least in the right area, or
(c) at the right spot, but your timing is off, or
(d) whether you’re in the wrong area entirely.

This is a great way to study pro games and learn about your blind spots. This SmartGo Kifu feature didn’t make it into version 1.0 of SmartGo One, but now it’s back, significantly better.Guess move example with menu

If you’re lost, tap on Hint, and it will reduce the remaining possible area by about 50%. Still lost? Tap Hint again to narrow the search further.

New in SmartGo One is the ability to guess moves of only one player – just choose whether you’re guessing both colors, only black, or only white. Another new feature is the ability to change the size of the area considered ‘near’. It defaults to a Manhattan distance of 5, but you can now set that anywhere from 2 (more difficult) to 7 (easier).

Joseki training

New in SmartGo One, you can combine guessing with joseki or fuseki matching. In this case, SmartGo will just give you a right or wrong answer – getting close in joseki is not good enough. Of course, this feature also works for guessing both colors or just one.

When guessing a joseki move, one of your choices is to tenuki (play elsewhere), and SmartGo will let you know whether that is indeed a position where it’s okay to tenuki.

At any point, you can turn on Hint to see the full joseki information for the current position. Note that obscure variations that have rarely been played are counted as wrong.

Restrict games for matching

You can now choose to use only recent games for pattern matching, instead of always matching in all games. Joseki change over time, and some drastic changes have happened in the last years since AlphaGo. (See e.g. the just released ‘Joseki Revolution’ book by Shibano Toramaru.) For example, comparing the attach-and-pull-back joseki in games since 2016 with games since 2020, the solid connection has gone from 48% to 91%, and tenuki from 18% to 2%.

Match games 2016
Match games 2020

When you train joseki, it uses the subset of games you’ve specified in Settings > Games > Games to Match.

Future

SmartGo Kifu kept track of your percentage of exact and near guesses. As yet, SmartGo One doesn’t keep track of any statistics, as the feature is mainly designed to help you learn. But trying to beat your previous percentage might add some motivation, so I will likely add this in a future version. Please let me know what statistics you would find helpful.

Enjoy! Let me know how you use this feature, and if there are any tweaks that would make it more useful to you.

SmartGo One: Features and User Interface

TL;DR SmartGo One is an all-new version of SmartGo for iPhone and iPad with improved user interface, more features, better integration, and stronger computer play. It’s your one app for learning, playing, and studying the game of go.

I just released SmartGo One, the all-new version of SmartGo. It’s a free app replacing both SmartGo Kifu and SmartGo Player, with the books from Go Books fully integrated – one app for all your go needs. Currently for iPhone and iPad; a Mac version of SmartGo One is in the works.

I’ve written a separate blog post on the business aspects of replacing two apps with a new app and a different business model. In this post, I will focus on user interface and features, highlighting the changes from SmartGo Kifu. For details and a full list of features, see the user manual in the app (Books > Tutorial & Help > SmartGo One User Manual).

Overall user interface

SmartGo One features a more modern visual look (thanks to designer Scott Jensen), including dark mode (swipe two fingers down/up on the board to turn on/off). Navigation is more standard, using a tab bar on iPhone and the familiar three-pane layout on iPad.

SmartGo One on iPad in dark mode

Other improvements:

  • Ability to use whole screen on iPad
  • Multiple windows on iPad
  • Continue where you left off on another device
  • Much smoother scrolling

Strong computer play

The old SmartGo apps used my own playing algorithm based on Monte Carlo Tree Search. This was fine pre-AlphaGo, but AlphaGo raised expectations. SmartGo One integrates KataGo, a very strong go engine. However, the current implementation only uses the CPU (no GPU or neural net), so it’s not yet as strong as e.g. ‘Master of Go’.

Playing against SmartGo

The current score and winning percentage can be shown while playing against the computer. End-of-game handling has been refined significantly.

File management

SmartGo One lets you manage SGF files locally on your device as well as sync between devices using iCloud Drive. Huge improvements in this area:

  • Organize files using folders
  • Create and manage SGF collections (one file containing multiple games)
  • Work with zipped collections (one zipped file containing multiple games): e.g. if you get a zipped game collection from the Go4Go game subscription service, you can directly open that whole collection
Game imported from Go4Go zipped collection
  • Convert between folders and collections
  • Reorder games in collections
  • Drag and drop games into folders, onto collections, or onto books
  • Handle files with go problems (PRB) and go books (GOBOOK)

Cloud syncing

iCloud is used to sync your state across devices, between your iPhone and iPad (and Mac in the future). Here’s what’s synced:

  • Preferences (the ones that make sense)
  • Games stored in iCloud Drive
  • Your progress in solving problems
  • Games, problems, and books marked as favorites
  • Game annotations of pro games
  • Current reading position in your books

Gobook files

The gobook format (smartgo.com/pdf/gobookformat.pdf) is used for the books in the Go Books app. In SmartGo One, you can convert annotated games into your own book.

Pro game collection

SmartGo One offers more games than ever before (currently 114,000). The pro game collection can now be updated without updating the app, so expect more frequent game collection updates (whenever GoGoD releases a new version).

Player names

The names dictionary (by John Fairbairn) is now a separate tab with more than 4,400 entries:

  • Better presentation of player info
  • Links between different players, making it easy to explore and navigate between players
  • Search in players finds that player as well as related players such as teacher, or mentions in go style or bio
Explore links between different players

Problem solving

The go problems (from goproblems.com) are better organized, and there are more problems available.

  • Improved flow to work through problems
  • Improved display of statistics
  • Your problem stats sync between devices
  • Additional problem collections available
  • Better mechanism for updating problems, allowing issues to be fixed more quickly

Game play and recording

SmartGo has always excelled at replaying, recording, and editing game records, but SmartGo One improves on it in several ways:

  • Improved New Game screen
  • Edit game info directly inline, not in separate popups
  • Easier to go to a particular move
  • Easier to correct a particular move
  • Improved feedback while inserting a move or move pair
  • Quick access to frequently used board display settings
Easy access to board display settings
  • More discoverable and reliable board rotation, with a panel adding related functions
Rotating the board is a snap

Books

All 150 books from the Go Books app are directly integrated into SmartGo One. (If you bought books in Go Books, you can read those in SmartGo One.) Compared to Go Books, there are a number of improvements:

  • Better organization of books, including currently reading, recent additions, most popular
  • Keeps track of up to three books you’re reading right now
  • Search in book list
  • All book purchases can be shared with Family Sharing

Pattern matching

Finding games that match a given joseki or fuseki works as before, but has been improved:

  • Faster matching
  • Clearer display
  • Easier to get to and return from the list of matching games

Still missing

A few features didn’t make it into the 1.0 release of SmartGo One:

  • Guess Move: This will be added in an upcoming version.
  • File formats: Reading go game files other than SGF is not supported yet.
  • Localizations: SmartGo One is English-only right now.

SmartGo Kifu and SmartGo One can happily coexist on your device, so just keep SmartGo Kifu around for these tasks.

Future

SmartGo One builds on decades of experience with computer go, and creates a new foundation for the next decade. By bringing games, problems, and books into a single app, it opens up lots of possibilities for the future – stay tuned.

SmartGo One: Business Model

TL;DR I’ve replaced SmartGo Kifu and SmartGo Player, two paid-up-front apps, by SmartGo One, a free app with extra features available through in-app purchases and subscription.

I’ve just released SmartGo One, which completely changes the business model for my apps. This all-new iOS app replaces both SmartGo Player ($3) and SmartGo Kifu ($20) with a free app.

Some history: I released SmartGo Pro for iPhone in September 2008 (first $10, then $13), followed by SmartGo Kifu for iPad ($20) in April 2010. The two were merged into a universal app in 2012. SmartGo Kifu has always been a premium paid-up-front app – if you bought it a decade ago, you have not paid a cent for it since. This is clearly not sustainable, especially for an app that appeals to a niche audience of dedicated go players.

In December 2015, I announced that I was moving my apps to Swift – with SmartGo One, that effort is finally bearing fruit. (Did it take longer than hoped for? Yes, it most certainly did.) I’ve written a separate blog post on user interface and feature changes, and plan to write one on the technical changes under the hood; in this post, I will focus on the business model.

Old apps

This is how the old apps were positioned:

  • SmartGo Player ($3) was aimed at people who wanted to learn the game and play against the computer.
  • SmartGo Kifu ($20) was aimed at existing go players who wanted to study the game, solve problems, and record their own games.
  • Go Books (free with in-app purchases) is aimed at anybody who wants to learn more about go, from beginner to expert. The books range in price from $3 to $20.

Over the last years, as most of my time has gone into the new app, sales of Player and Kifu have been slowly declining, while sales of books have remained stable. In terms of gross revenue, the three apps have been roughly even, but Kifu and Player account for more income due to Go Books having higher upfront costs (converting books to digital) as well as higher royalty payments.

New app

The new app is free to download, and is aimed at anybody who wants to do anything with the game of go, from beginner to expert. The free features include most of the features of SmartGo Player (except that computer play is limited to the smaller 9×9 and 13×13 boards), as well as the game-recording features of SmartGo Kifu.

There are three ways to pay in SmartGo One:

  • Subscription: For $12 per year, you get access to the full GoGoD collection of 114,000+ pro games as well as advanced features like joseki matching. You can also play the computer on the full 19×19 board.
  • Problem collections: SmartGo Kifu included 2,000 problems; SmartGo One gives you 200 problems for free, and then you can buy additional problem packs ($4 each) to get more problems at your level (up to currently 4,700 problems).
  • Books: All 150 books from Go Books are integrated in SmartGo One, and can be bought using in-app purchase. (The stand-alone Go Books app is still available, and books bought there can be read in SmartGo One.)

Will it work out?

With such a radical change in business model, it’s hard to predict how it will turn out. Here’s my (possibly wishful) thinking:

  • Many of the go players who were willing to pay $20 up-front for an app they couldn’t even try should be willing to pay $12 per year (after a 14-day free trial). These are the old Kifu customers.
  • As a free app, SmartGo One should see many more downloads than SmartGo Player did. Some of these downloads will lead to people buying a book to learn more about the game, or maybe they get into solving go problems and buy a problem collection. A few might even subscribe, but I think subscriptions are going to be mostly dedicated long-term go players.
  • The free Go Books app was not getting enough downloads. Anecdotally, there are many users of Kifu and Player who still don’t know about Go Books. Having the books directly integrated into the app should help people discover them.

Also, SmartGo One is better in pretty much every way than the old apps (in my humble, unbiased opinion). That should count for something.

So maybe it will work out? Interesting times ahead as I build up a whole new user base for this app. But regardless of the finances, SmartGo One is a win for users, as I discuss in this other blog post on user interface and features, and a win for me, putting future development on a much better path.