I’ve been playing Go (also known as weiqi or baduk) on and off for almost 10 years. In case you don’t know, Go is a board game with very old roots, that can be traced back to at least 3500 years ago, probably a lot more. Very popular in Japan (known as Go or Igo), Korea (baduk) and China (weiqi), it has been slowly spreading among the west during the last 30 years.
It is a very hard game for a computer: harder than chess. In chess, the top computer program is close to beating the world champion, but the top computer program in Go is easily defeated by amateurs. And it’s not for lack of encouragement: there used to be a 1.400.000$ prize for a Go program that can beat a professional player with ease.
Champion Go Crazy Stone is one of the latest games to come to iPad and iPhone, and sports one of the strongest AIs in town. Featuring the latest in boardgame AI research (Montecarlo tree search), it’s a tough contender trapped inside a computer.
How well does it fare in an iPad? Very well. It’s fast and responsive, and easily trashes me in most difficulty levels. Of course, you can choose board size (predefined at 9×9, 13×13 and 19×19), komi, handicap and player byo-yomi time. Let me remark one thing: it is very fast (on an iPad 1). This is a must for mobile board games, where you play in your commute or in just a few moments here and there. It is also decently fast in my iPod Touch 2nd gen (take advantage of its special sale for this month!!), and I bet it is perfect in a more recent version of iPhone or iPod Touch.
One of the most fun things I’ve seen is the “medal mode”, where you have to beat the AI in increasingly harder levels. You have a table, where the difficulty increases from left to right and top to bottom, your goal is to “win” in all situations. It is a fun way of having achievements and improving the quality of your play. And it is fun! In addition to this, you can play against a person sitting in front of you, using Crazy Stone as a board with “automatic counting”. As with all other playing programs in the App Store, you can not play in online servers (at least in the current version).
Having one of the best mobile go playing AI is just an App Store purchase away. Why are you waiting?