GO REVIEW: SmartGo 2.1
Reviewed by Philip Waldron 6d
Of the many commercial go-related software programs, SmartGo has one of the longest lineages. First begun as a doctoral thesis project by Anders Kierulf in 1984, it has since evolved into a comprehensive go package.
Users of the previous SmartGo versions will be relieved that its core features remain as good as ever in 2.1. A graceful and intuitive SGF editor allows game records to be reviewed, commented and printed. The computer go player is still present and has slightly improved in strength. Finally, a tsume-go module, capable of solving many dan-level problems in only a few seconds, is a hidden gem for players of all strengths, and I found it extremely useful when trying to determine why my solution to a tsume-go problem was incorrect.
Of the new features in SmartGo, two stand out in particular. An automated problems module has been added to make studying easier, and comes complete with over 2000 problems for a range of player strengths. The most exciting addition, however, is the improved game database, which has been completely integrated into both the game editor and computer go player. Users can check out patterns of interest, and the computer player's access to the database has noticeably enhanced its openings.
Software that attempts to be a jack-of-all-trades often ends up being master-of-none, and at times SmartGo falls victim to this. Both the tsume-go module and the new IGS client feel as if they were bolted on as an afterthought rather than being a truly integrated component of SmartGo. Data presentation within the database module also felt lacking compared to dedicated databases. Alternate game variations were presented well, but additional information such as frequency of play and winning percentages were not.
Regardless of its rough spots, I found SmartGo to be a well designed and extremely useful package. While individual features are sometimes better implemented by other dedicated programs, as a complete suite SmartGo is tough to beat.