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Selecting Go Equipment
Yutopian Enterprises bring you the best quality Chinese and Korean equipment, while our sister company Kiseido USA (under the same management) brings you exquisite Japanese equipment.
Go boards are usually made from the Kaya (Torreya Nucifera), Katsura (Japanese Judas Tree), or Spruce. Kaya boards are superior in their color, brightness and hardness. Aesthetically, Kaya boards are ideally suited to the clam-shell and slate stones. After being cut into blocks from trees which are over 500 years old, the boards are classified into two main types: itame (bent or irregular grain) and masame (grain running straight across the top of the board). Masame boards are further classified into tenmasa-grain running from the bottom to the top. In addition to these characteristics, the natural grain of the wood, existence of defects in the wood, seasoning of the wood and length of time elapsed since the wood was cut into a board are all taken into account in setting the price.
Katsura boards are the most widely used for go boards in Japan, because they are abundantly available and the wood is strong and hard.
In recent years, boards made of Spruce have become popular in Japan. Their main attraction is that they are all cut into boards with tenmasa grain, and that along with their color gives the impression of an expensive Kaya board, superficially at least. The wood, however, is much softer than Kaya.
Agathis is a common wood used for go boards in Korea. Agathis boards are easily distinguished, because they have a darker color on the sides than the top of the board.
In deciding which board to buy, it is helpful to know how much room you have in your house or apartment. Folding boards are portable and can be put away easily. Table boards are meant to sit on tables and they do take up more storage space. The most bulky style is the traditional table with detachable carved legs. They are meant to be played on while sitting on the floor or cushions. Although bulky, traditional boards are beautiful and they make a nice addition to the rest of your furniture.
Go stones come in a variety of materials and thickness. The material of which the stone is made and its thickness determine the stones appearance and feel, as well as its weight. All Japanese white stones are 21.2 mm in diameter while the black stones are 21.8 mm in diameter and slightly thicker than equivalent white stones. This is done so that they appear to be the same size.
The best Japanese stones are made of clam-shell and slate. Their weight, color and grain, the pleasantness of their feel, their responsiveness when placed on the go board make them the preferred choice for international tournaments.
The black stones are made from nachiguro slate mined in Wakayama prefecture, Japan. Other than thickness, there is no other differentiation in quality. The white stones are made from a clam called hamaguri. These clams used to be harvested in Hyuga on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, and processed into go stones there. But clams from Hyuga are scarce because of over-fishing, so today almost all shell stones made in Japan are from clams harvested in Mexico.
Shell and slate stones are manufactured in thickness ranging from 6 to 12 mm. However, most players agree that a thickness of about 9.2 mm is ideal. Stones more than 10 mm thick are too fat and it becomes awkward to place them on the board. But this is a matter of personal preference.
Besides thickness, the white stones are classified into three grades: yuki, tsuki, and jitsuyo. Yuki: pure white shell with the grain running in straight parallel lines across the top of the stone. Tsuki: pure white shell with curved grain lines. Jitsuyo: white shell with indistinct or irregular grain lines.
Glass is a very common material used for go stones. Although reasonable in price, they do chip, so please be careful not to drop them.
The most popular stones in Taiwan are the Ing stones. Needless to say, these stones have been used in the International Ing Cup Tournaments. They are made of a high quality plastic filled with lead inside to increase the weight of the stones.
On the other hand, Yunnan Weiqi Stones are the most popular stones in China. There stones have been used in all major local or international tournaments. Stones made of semi-precious stones, like jade and quartz are also available in China.
The following Japanese bowls are quite common, Mulberry bowls, Quince bowls, Keyaki bowls, Cherrywood bowls, Rose Keyaki bowls, and Chestnut bowls. More and more Chinese and Korean suppliers are offering these traditional Japanese bowls. If you are not getting a substantial bargain, you might as well purchase the authentic Japanese equipment for better quality. Kiseido offers authentic Japanese equipment shipped directly from Japan.
Ash, and Mahogany are two popular Korean wood used for bowls, among other new type of wood that have been introduced for bowls and boards.
Yutopian also carry a variety of inexpensive bowls made from the fine lumber of South America, e.g., Angelin bowls (like Cherrywood), Jatoba bowls (like Quince), Acupa bowls (like Chestnut), and Purple Heart bowls (our favorite!).
There are usually four sizes of bowls, although not all sizes are available here in the West: Small for stones up to 7 mm, medium for stones up to 8 mm, large for stones up to 10 mm, and extra-large for stones above 10 mm.
Choosing a Set of Board, Stones, and Bowls
In choosing a go set, the most important consideration is the balance among the quality of the board, stones and bowls. If you own a fine tenmasa kaya board, you should purchase the finest set of yuki stones to go with it. You would also want to store them in a pair of fine bowls made of Mulberry or Sandal wood. Ebony bowls are also suitable. Glass stones on kaya boards or yuki stones on folding boards will certainly look out of place. Chestnut or plastic bowls are perfect for glass stones. However if you decide to purchase a set of shell and slate stones to be used on a katsura table with legs, you might want to consider a pair of cherrywood bowls or keyaki bowls instead. Another important consideration in choosing a go set is harmony of color between the board and the bowls. Quince, Rose Keyaki and chestnut bowls are darker in color and they offer a nice contrast of color to the lighter boards. Keyaki and cherrywood bowls are light in color. Of course, if you prefer, you can combine Chinese equipment with that of Japanese or Korean. With the beautiful color of jade and quartz stones, your imagination is the limit in selecting a beautiful go set!
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