With these five Go apps for your Android phone you can play go and hone your skills. Soon you’ll be able to challenge Google’s AlphaGo. Well, maybe not, but they are fun to play and you'll learn a lot.
You can’t fail to have heard about the Google DeepMind challenge recently and the search company’s AlphaGo software took on the world champion Go player Lee Sedol and beat him four games to one.
Go is an ancient board game and it has been around for thousands of years, originating in the far east. On the surface it looks so simple that you might wonder what all the fuss has been about. Despite its seemingly simple appearance, it is fiendishly difficult to play well and for many years it was thought that a computer version could never be made that could beat a human player.
That turned out to be wrong and AlphaGo is clearly the better player.
Go is actually more complex than chess and it is almost impossible to use a brute force method for playing. In chess you can simply work out every possible move that can be made and then pick the best one. Chess programs can analyse thousands of moves and just pick the best of them to play.
This does not work with Go because there are so many possible moves. The number of possible games of chess is 10 to the power 120, but for Go there are 10 to the power 170 games, which doesn’t sound like many more, but the number has an extra 50 zeroes. It is huge. It’s more than the number of atoms in the universe!
To learn more about AlphaGo and the DeepMind challenge, go to deepmind.com. To play Go on your Android phone or tablet, read on…
This is a really nice app that is very popular on the Google Play Store and is rated highly. The graphics are great and there is good attention to detail in the rest of the app, such as the menus and settings.
There are single player and two player games and when choosing to play against the app there is a wide range of options to suit a rage of abilities. The board can be 9x9, 13x13 or 19x19 and you can play as black or white.
There are 10 difficulty levels from 10 kyu to 5 dan, and handicapping from 0 to 9. This means that you should be able to find a level that suits your ability. A record of games is stored and you can see your wins, draws and losses at each of the 10 levels and each of the board sizes.
It is one of the best Go games here and is recommended.
GOdroid is graphically simpler than Go Free. The board is fine though and there are the usual 9x9, 13x13 or 19x19 sizes.
You can play as black, white, both (a two player game), or none. This last option shows the app playing itself, which could be useful as a learning tool. At the end of a game GOdroid shows each player’s territory and score.
The new game screen where you can select the settings is graphically dull, but functional. The handicap can be set from none to 9 and also Komi from none to 6.5. The game strength is selectable from 1 to 10, with 1 being fairly easy to beat even for a novice.
GOdroid is a reasonably good Go app to add to your game collection and it works on old versions of Android, which is useful to know if you have an old phone.
Hactar Go Lite
Hactar Go Lite is more than a game of Go and it contains a collection of problems. These are organised into Beginner, Easy, Intermediate and Advanced categories. I haven’t counted them, but according to the developer there are 310.
There are life and death problems, endgame problems, best move problems and tactical problems. This is excellent and you can learn a lot and become a better player by working through them. This makes it good for beginners and intermediate players.
The game itself has a limited number of levels and to get them all requires a subscription. However, this is less than £1 a year to upgrade to Go Expert, which is so cheap you won’t notice it. You can then play the usual range of board sizes and select the difficulty level from 15kyu to 21 dan.
Stick with the free version and you have a choice of Capture Go or Go Beginner on a 9x9 board. Capture Go is a variation that requires you to capture one or all your opponent’s stones. There are 16 levels to work through.
Go Beginner uses the standard rules and there are six levels on a 9x9 board. Hactar Go offers something different, but you do need the subscription to play a full size board and the full levels.
Go GridMaster stands out from the other Go apps because of the enormous number of configuration options. There is nothing like it and it is a bit overwhelming at first. Getting into the settings it’s obvious, but tapping the number in the bottom left corner does it.
It would be impossible to list all the configuration options and many of them are concerned not with the game, but with the display. For example, you can select from four different graphics for the stones, the font and text size can be set, button heights can be adjusted, the aspect ratio configured, and many other options can be set.
The board size ranges from 1x1 to 52x52, which is way outside the normal range. The handicap is 0 to 9, and the Komi value can be typed in. The Go game engine is Steenvreter Lite and there is an option use other engines. The level can be manually typed in too.
This app may be a bit too complicated for some people, but if you want lots of configuration options then this is the app to go for.
This is not a Go game that you can play and instead it is a collection of puzzles. There are daily problems in the News section, and there are Easy, Medium and Hard levels. In the Problems section are 50 basic problems, 50 easy problems and 50 intermediate problems.
The idea is that you work through these problems and improve your Go playing skills. Your progress in the problems is tracked and you can see how you are doing.
In addition to the 150 Go problems to solve in the free app, there are hundreds more that can be purchased. There are packs like Beginner Problems, Intermediate Problems, Advanced Problems packs 1 and 2, and so on. You get 200 to 300 problems in a pack and each one costs just over £1. It’s cheap and there are lots of problems to work through.
This app is great for improving your game skills.
All of these apps are good in one way or another. The problems in Hactar Go Lite and Tsumego Pro are excellent for improving your Go playing, and Go Free, GOdroid and Go GridMaster offer challenging opponents for all but the best players. Get them all!
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Created: 16 March 2016