What is the best Android Go game

Human versus smartphone: apps for the strategy game Go

Test & purchase advice | Market overview

  • Jo Bager, Harald Bögeholz
  • AlphaGo, Apps, Champion Go, Crazy Stone, Go, Go Board Game, Go Game, Igowin, Artificial Intelligence

The world of Go is looking forward to March 9th, when Google challenges top player Lee Sedol with artificial intelligence. No matter whether you are new to Go or you already know it: With an app for your smartphone or tablet, you can warm up to play.

The most powerful computer program for the Asian board game Go was called Crazy Stone - until Google surprised in January with the news that their artificial intelligence AlphaGo had beaten a human professional in Go. But AlphaGo is a monster that so far has only been bred behind closed doors somewhere in the Google cluster and is not available to the public. You can find background information on how it works in the c’t article "Mysterious Depth - How Google AI wants to beat people in Go". To bridge the gap until March 9th, when AlphaGo competes against top player Lee Sedol, you can warm up on your smartphone or tablet.

The Crazy Stone Engine is available in the form of three apps: Champion Go for iPhone (4.99 euros), Champion Go HD for iPad (7.99 euros) and Champion Go for Android (3.80 euros). The playing strength of the Android and iPhone versions is around 1k to 2k, that of the iPad version around 1d. That is far more than enough for beginners - the skill levels are counted in Go as in martial arts. With the master's degree "Dan", abbreviated "d", higher numbers are better, with the student degree "Kyu" (k) higher numbers are worse. A beginner who has just learned the rules may play 25k, so the Champion Go apps are probably still too good even in the weakest setting.

But the apps also have something to offer strong Go players: For a fee, starting at 3 euros for 30 days, you can play in the apps against an instance of Crazy Stone running on a server, which, according to the manufacturer, plays 6d. But we didn't try that: The author of these lines only plays 4k himself and gets so thoroughly on his hat from his iPad that he didn't feel like an even stronger opponent. In any case, the strength of the Champion Go apps lies clearly in the game of Go and not in the user interface design: The surface is - let's say brittle.

With automatic playing strength

The Igowin Pro iPhone app is nicer, simpler and faster (4.99 euros; simpler, free versions also available). The author David Fotland took the name from his 9x9 Go program for Windows of the same name, which was apparently quite popular. This is where the simple concept of the automatic level adjustment comes from: Igowin tries to adjust to the strength of its opponent as precisely as possible - by choosing a suitable level for the program and, if necessary, handicap stones or points (Komi). If it loses it will play a little stronger next, if it wins it will play a little weaker. So you can play one game after the other in an entertaining way and have a sense of achievement every now and then. The skill level can also be selected manually and then goes up to 3k; that could get about there. For fun, we let Igowin play a couple of 9x9 games on the iPhone against Champion Go HD on the iPad - it didn't stand a chance.

Problems to practice

Learning to go doesn't necessarily mean playing complete games. Exercising typical problems also strengthens the Go muscles. It doesn't take as long as complete games; so every free minute can be used for go training. Tsumego Pro is a good help here. The free app available for Android and iOS presents two mild, moderate and severe problems each day. If that's not enough, you can buy packages with 200 to 300 other problems for around 1.50 euros. GoGrinder is also a good trainer for problems. The app for 2.99 (iOS) or 1.11 euros (Android) gives you almost 500 problems; others can be imported as SGF files. (bo)