snakeeater on Go

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Go Set Arrives

I finally got the courage to plunk down some good money to buy a Go set online. After some research, the biggest bang for the buck appeared to be the Shin-Kaya set from Yellow Mountain Imports on ebay. They offered a 2''-thick, one-piece-wood shin-kaya board, wooden go bowls, Yunzi stones, all at starting bid of $99! A similar set from Japan would cost around $250! What a deal! This was around end of November, they may have changed the price since then.

Anyhow, after a couple nights of unsuccessful bids, I was finally able to snatch one at $107 + shipping and taxes = $130. I was stoked. A sweet looking set for at $130? NOICE.

Well, not so fast.

A week after payment and the board arrives. Damaged... (The bowl and stones arrived in another package) A badly chipped bottom corner due to poor packaging and rough handling. Now the chip revealed something very interesting about the board.
First, it really is made of one-piece wood with beautiful grains! But it is unfortunately covered with a thick layer of clear laminate that is much darker than the actual wood underneath. Also the playing grid appear to be drawn or silk-screened on top of this laminate surface! Note in a truly quality Go board, the wood is only thinly brushed with a wood stain and the grid lines are either drawn by hand directly on the wood or cut using a Katana. Well, doing that is labor intensive and costly. I am pretty sure it's extremely hard to draw or cut clean, straight parallel lines on wood. Your eyes are pretty picky if any line do not neatly lineup. So it's much cheaper to use a machine to 'stamp' on the grid, which explains why these guys are selling the sets starting at $99.

Anyways, eventually the Yellow Mountain Import guys were nice enough to send me a replacement board at no cost. It arrived better packaged with no chipping. Only problem: it does not place completely flat on the table, the wood appears slightly warped. I was actually half-expecting this as again, the reason a good Go board made of one-piece wood is so expensive is that it usually requires 10+ years of drying to avoid warping. Okay, enough bitching. The warping is slight and it's hardly noticeable. The Go bowl and Yunzi stones look beautiful. At $100, I wasn't expecting the best. I got what I paid for.

Nice bowl and stones huh? I'd paid $50 for just these guys.

Here's the replacement board:

The game on the board is replay of a professional game between Gu Li of China and Lee Sil Do of Korea in a title match. More on this later as I will discuss various Chinese and Korean Go titles. The West usually focuses more on the Japanese Go world but the best Go players today are Koreans and Chinese who hold most if not all of the international titles. Japanese Go is in decline at the moment. This was one of the motivation for Hikaru No Go, to inspire Japanese youth to learn the game and regain Japan's dominance of the game in the 1970 and 80s.)

Notice the awesome grain from Masame cut:

Okay, the bottom line. I am happy with what I got. I doubt the Yellow Mountain Import guys actually made any money on me considering the shipping for the replacement. I would recommend buying from them if you just want something that's pretty good but not top of the line. If you want real quality, either visit China or Japan and bring back a good set. Or go here. The shipping cost is considerable but again, you get what you pay for.


  • At Wed Dec 14, 03:27:00 PM PST, Blogger ChiyoDad said…

    Hello snakeeater,

    I would have to agree that the quality control for the boards sold by YMI is rather poor. They seem to have made improvements in their packaging but it's still not protective enough.

    They're not that selective of their woods. frankiii's floor goban has some drying cracks that were filled-in. A Japanese manufacturer would have chucked these cuts of woods as rejects.

    Interestingly, the side profile of the grain on your board runs at a more acute angle than mine. I wonder if that also contributed to the slight warp.

    Anyway, they're not bad for the price. Enjoy the set!

  • At Sun Dec 18, 03:20:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually, the gobans are never "cut" with a katana. A sword is dipped in lacquer and used to draw lines. The surface of the board is never hurt. I have an old japanese kaya goban, so I know what the lines drawn with swords are like, first hand. The chinese manufacturers seems to have a misconception, so they have always advertised on their magazines how their kaya boards are hand carved by master craftsmen. I've actually seen pictures of carved ones, where they dig out these huge, ugly holes at star points.

  • At Sun Dec 18, 06:17:00 PM PST, Blogger snakeeater said…

    Hum. That's surprising. I have a Japanese friend who told me the idea of cutting the board with Katana. I am guessing he was telling me about inlaid boards?

  • At Sun May 07, 05:46:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    heh i guess am really lucky i bought a board from YM, a kaya board with the same stones and mines came out perfect.. except being made from a few more cuts of wood then i would prefer.. but at least the more pieces means less warping with time :)


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