The 1999 FOST Cup World Open Computer Go Championship

The FOST cup was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo, Japan, on September 3 and 4. The format was very different this year. The first four FOST cups were open tournaments, attracting about 40 programs. This year they decided to limit the final tournament to 16 programs. The top 8 finishers from last year were seeded, and there was a preliminary tournament in July to select the other 8. The final tournament is an 8 round swiss, played over two days, with accelerated pairings.

The tournament rules had some changes as well. We arrived in Japan to find that FOST had decided not to allow use of the serial protocol. Instead, the operators had to enter moves by hand, with a 3rd person at each game running a clock. If the operator made an error entering a move and didn't detect it before entering his/her next move, that program loses. Time limits are 50 minutes for 125 moves each. There was only one game lost due to a data entry error, by Haruka against KCC Igo. No games were lost on time, and only one game was adjudicated by the Professional, when 50 minutes expired after move 125.

The competition went very smoothly. NEC provided very small, slim tower computers that were very easy to move between rounds.

Ken Chen did another major rewrite of Go Intellect last year and changed the name of the program to Go Intellect II.

Kim HyunSoo works on FunGo full time, but the program is not commercialized. It has become very strong in the last year. It only lost to Wulu by 0.5 points, it was the only program to beat KCC Igo, and it was ahead most of the game against Many Faces. Since the author is working on it full time, I expect it will have a good chance to take first place next year.

Go4++ and Go Intellect II used 600 Mhz Pentium II machines. Most other programs ran on the 333 Mhz NEC machines provided by FOST and NEC.

Goemate was not any stronger than the old Handtalk, so Prof Chen used the older Handtalk engine. In tests before the tournament, the old Handtalk beat the new Goemate 8 out of 12 games. Handtalk won first place in seven consecutive tournaments, but could only finish seventh this time. This demonatrates how quickly computer go is progressing.

Explorer did not participate because Martin Mueller was not informed of the qualification tournament in time.

KCC Igo is written by the KCC Igo team in North Korea. This team includes people who worked on Silver Igo, and uses the Silver Igo interface, but we were assured that there was no plagiarism involved. Last year Silver Igo was accused of plagiarizing Handtalk, but FOST did not make a determination, since they did not have the executable. Prof. Chen later got a copy of the commercial version of Silver Igo, and believed it to be plagiarized. This year there was an accusation of plagiarism against this program by Michael Reiss. FOST required all participants to give a copy of their executable in case there was an accusation of plagiarism, so they should be able to resolve this plagiarism issue.

10 people at KCC work on strategy games, chess, shogi, etc. They have one full time go programmer, Jong Song Hwa, who has been working on this engine for 3 years. They test against AI Igo, which has the Many Faces of Go engine, and other commercial Japanese programs. It plays a similar style to last year's Silver Igo, and seems much stronger than the program of the same name that was entered in the CGF computer go championship. But the KCC team traded programs with several others after the championship, and vigorously denied that the new program has any relationship to Silver Igo when I asked them (through two interpreters, English to Japanese to Korean).

There were several new programs:

Masayan, by Masatsune Koshida, from Japan.

Don, by Syoji Hiasa, from Japan.

Haruka, by Ryuichi Kawa, from Japan. This program came in second place in a world computer go contest in July, and is expected to do very well. The author has been working on the program about 5 years full time, but didn't enter this competition until he thought he had a chance to win. It has been commercialized for a couple of years.

Prizes were (in Yen):

1) 1,000,000, certificate, trophy, plaque, and vase.
2)   400,000, certificate
3)   300,000, certificate
4)   250,000
5)   200,000
6)   150,000
7)   100,000
8)    80,000

The final result was:

1) KCC Igo                    Silver Star Lab            D.P.R. Korea
2) Go4++                      Michael Reiss              England
3) Many Faces of Go           David Fotland              USA
4) Haruka                     Ryuichi Kawa               Japan
5) FunGo                      Kim Hyun Soo               Korea
6) Wulu                       Lei Xiuyu
                              Chen Guobao
                              Lu Jinqiang
                              Li Zhihua                  China
7) Goemate (Handtalk)         Chen Zhixing               China
8) Go Intellect II            Ken Chen                   USA
9) Go Master                  Jee Wonho                  Korea
10) Goro                      Yashuo Oishi               Japan
11) Wakaba                    Tei Meikou                 Japan
12) Jimmy                     Shi-Jim Yan                Taiwan
13) Masayan                   Masatsune Koshida          Japan
14) Biwako                    Masahiro Tanaka            Japan
15) Don                       Syoji Hiasa                Japan
16) Mutsuki                   Yoshida Takahisa           Japan
KCC Igo was given a 2 Kyu diploma by the Nihon Kiin, signed by Otake.

The top seven programs seem to be very similar strength. Many of their games were very close, and the order among these programs was very different in the CGF tournament in July:

From CGF:
1) Go4++
2) Haruka
3) Goemate
4) Fun GO
5) Wulu
6) Many Faces
7) KCC Igo
Go4++ has more consistent results, since it plays for territory and avoids taking any risks by fighting, so perhaps it is slightly stronger than the rest.

The tournament grid, in seed order.

            round:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   Win SOS Place

1) KCC Igo          +9  +5  +6  +3  +2  +10 -12 +16  7   38   1
2) Goemate          +10 +6  -5  +4  -1  +9  -16 -3   4   41   7
3) Go4++            +11 +7  +16 -1  +4  +5  +9  +2   7   37   2
4) Wulu             +12 +8  -7  -2  -3  +13 +11 +10  5   32   6
5) Many Faces       +13 -1  +2  +16 +9  -3  +10 +12  6   38   3
6) Jimmy            +14 -2  -1  -9  -10 -16 +15 +13  3   28  12
7) Go Intellect II  +15 -3  +4  -10 -16 -12 +8  +11  4   33   8
8) Wakaba           -16 -4  -12 +11 +13 +15 -7  +14  4   25  11
9) Goro             -1  +13 +14 +6  -5  -2  -3  +15  4   31  10
10) Go Master       -2  +14 +15 +7  +6  -1  -5  -4   4   31   9
11) Masayan         -3  +15 -13 -8  -12 +14 -4  -7   2   29  13
12) FunGo           -4  -16 +8  +14 +11 +7  +1  -5   5   34   5
13) Biwako          -5  -9  +11 +15 -8  -4  -14 -6   2   26  14
14) Don             -6  -10 -9  -12 -15 -11 +13 -8   1   25  15
15) Mutsuki         -7  -11 -10 -13 +14 -8  -6  -9   1   24  16
16) Haruka          +8  +12 -3  -5  +7  +6  +2  -1   5   40   4
All game records will be available from the FOST web site.

Since there was no cable connection, I was busy during each round operating Many Faces, but here are some of the interesting details I noticed:

Round 1:

Many Faces beat Biwako by 90.5
Wulu beat Fungo by only 0.5 point
G04++ beat Masayan by 103
Goemate beat Go Master by 2.5


Ken Chen thought Go4++ couldn't fight well, so he played Go Intellect at a low level to avoid time problems. But Go4++ is much better at fighting now, and it killed a group and won.

Round 3: Many Faces beat Goemate after a big fight where both sides made big mistakes. The Go4++ and Haruka game went back and forth, but Go4++ won after killing a big group. Go intellect beat Wulu.

Round 4:

Many Faces scored a big upset against Haruka. Haruka was way ahead, and Many Faces almost ran out of time, but Haruka let Many Faces start a ko for the life of a big group, and lost it. Many Faces played the last 100 moves at level 3, in less than 2 minutes, including the game-winning ko. Go intellect lost to Go Master by 3.5 in time trouble.

Round 5:

KCC Igo beat Goemate by 5.5. Go4++ beat Wulu by 8.5 The game between Haruka and Go Intellect turned into a huge semeai, worth over 100 points. Go Intellect had several chances to win it, but in the end Haruka had a big win.

Round 6:

Go4++ beat Many Faces by 7.5. Go4++ sacrificed two large groups in the opening to get a big center. Many Faces was quite a bit ahead, but failed to reduce the center effectively. FunGo and Go Intellect both use almost all their time, so they were the last game finished. It was very close, with Go Intellect leading by about 1 or 2 points until the late endgame. But Go Intellect started throwing stones into enemy territory and gave up points, losing by 9.5. The game between Don and Masayan had to be adjudicated by the pro since Don used all its time after move 250.

Round 7

The game between FunGo and KCC Igo was close going into the endgame, but KCC captured some stones and was ahead by over 50, then FunGo captured something and won by the komi. This upset meant that if KCC lost to Haruka in the last round, there would be several programs tied for first place, so tiebreakers would determine the winner. Many Faces beat GoMaster by 99.5, killing 4 big groups.

Round 8:

Haruka made a move entry mistake and didn't catch it for several moves, so he lost to KCC Igo, giving KCC Igo an uncontested win. Many Faces was behind against FunGo, but caught up in the endgame and won by 7.5.

After the tournament, Kojima Takaho 9 Dan, gave commentary on the games between Many Faces and Haruka, and beween Go4++ and KCC Igo. He said computers are getting close to Dan level, at about 4 kyu.

-David Fotland