Rant about the quality of Go equipment

About a year ago, when I was living in Europe, I bought a set of Go equipment from a European distributor – Yunzi stones, a shin-kaya board and bowls. After a while, I realized I’m not satisfied with the quality I got, and I’d like to know the opinion of the OGS community (I won’t name the distributor because the point here is not to shame them, and I also think that not everything is their fault).

The first thing I noticed is that the board and stones are not matched in size. The board has Chinese spacing (22 x 24 mm) while the stones are sized for the smaller Japanese spacing (21 x 23 mm), so I get this ugly gap between stones that looks like butt crack:

The website did not mention spacing, but I bought the board and stones as a set, so I expected them to be matched.

The second thing I noticed is that the white stones look smaller. I used calipers to measure a random sample of 10 stones of each color (what can I do, I’m an engineer) and it turns out that the white stones are both smaller and thinner than the black ones by a significant margin. The sizes are also not vey uniform, there is a lot of variation from stone to stone.

At first I thought I might have received mismatched stones (black and white of different sizes), so I looked up the Chinese markings on the package, and I think they are not mismatched, as far as I can tell with my very limited knowledge of Chinese. It seems they just came that way from the factory.

The third thing is the board itself. I had to take my board as luggage on a plane trip and it took some hard bumps. On some places where it was bumped, the varnish started to crack and flake off, and a different color showed underneath (also visible on the bottom right of the picture). Being who I am, I took a pocket knife, made a deep cut on the underside of the board and voilà! The yellow color is just varnish. The wood underneath is a completely different color:

As I understand it, shin-kaya is supposed to be a kind of wood that looks and feels like kaya, but is not the real thing. It’s not supposed to be “random softwood of a totally different color, painted over with cheap yellow varnish that flakes off”.

Now for questions:

Is this the actual quality I can expect when spending about 150 Euros on a Go set? Am I being too picky? Is it possible that the store dumped bad inventory on me because I have a foreign-sounding name? Or did I simply have bad luck?


For the record, I am not an expert.

But, seems to me that you got what you paid for. Its always a bit of a risky game buying go boards. The cost of getting a genuinly good quality board is honestly very high. Especially for a board that appears to be what… a good inch or so thick?

In the grand scheme of boards and their quality verses price. You got a fairly atractive board with fiunctioning, if somewhat small stones. The stones you can replace cheaply enough. The board however is a different matter entierly.

I personally would have refrained from gouging at it with a knife… but…another thing you have to also realose is that the total cost of the board would have been around 120 Euro. And isnt intended to take any hard knocks at all. It isnt a travle board, and you took it traveling, it was almost certain that the board was going to get a few nicks and bumps. especially if you didn’t wrap it up well enoguhg when traveling.

All that being said… i feel for you to be honest. 150 Euro isnt exactly a small amount of money to speng on a game objectivly… but in the go world that is super inexpensive.

I would suggest contacting the manufacteros or whatever, and seeing what can be done about it. And i hope you get the resolution to this issue that you want my friend.

Again though, i will say… im not an expert, and everything i just said could be wrong. There are some wonderful people on here with a lot more knowladge on such things.

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According to the Go equipment wikipedia page: “Black stones are slightly larger in diameter to compensate for optical illusion of the white stones appearing larger when placed with black stones of the same diameter.”


Below are some Threads that have more information on boards, buying, making and more. Most of them have more experience buying stuff than I do. And many of them offer some great insights. Check them out my dudce, and i hope they help.

What is you experience of buying from Japan into US

What is your experience buying from Japan into United States

Building a go board

Building a Go Board

Which board

Which Board?

Reccomend a set

Recommend a set!

Looking to buy ing stones/bowls

Looking to buy Ing stones/bowls


I didnt know that… thats handy to know.

Thanks for your kind message.

Of course it’s my fault that the board got dented (although I was moving, not traveling).

The thing is, it allowed me to see the color of the wood underneath, and I was disappointed with the shin-kaya board, because shin-kaya is supposed to be the second-best material next to true kaya, which is outrageously expensive, but I realized then that shin-kaya is literally just “softwood painted yellow” (the one I got, at least). It seems to be some kind of pine or spruce, which is pretty inexpensive wood.

Well, not really an option at this point. First of all because I literally cut the board with a knife. Also because I’m living in a different part of the world, so the two-way shipping alone would probably cost as much as a new board.

If that is the reason, then they overdid it, because the white stones look definitely smaller (it’s maybe not so clear in the picture, but definitely in real life). I suspect it’s just poor quality control, though.

Interesting anecdote: While flying with a Go set, I was called to the security room and had to open my suitcase. Apparently, Go stones are super dense and appear completely opaque on the airport X-ray. The security people wanted to know what it was.

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No worries my dude, I’m just sorry I’m not able to help you more.

I do hope that you get the board and stones that you want though.

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Of course the wood underneath has another colour. The same will be true for actual kaya wood. Or for any polished wood.

Furthermore, it’s not kaya, it’s shinkaya, which is probably just some kind of fast growing spruce. You know, the kind they also use in construction and for cheapish furniture and such. They polish it, like you would do with any wood you don’t want to rot away, after which it has a nice yellow hue. So it is indeed literally “painted softwood”.

Shinkaya furthermore is not the name of a specific species of tree. It’s used for any kind of spruce wood
that is a suitable cheaper alternative to kaya wood. Shinkaya is by no means the second best quality.

Sorry if I sound a little aggressive, but that cut you made triggers me…


According to the Shin Kaya page in Sensei’s library, spruce is a wood used. A quick search found that Yellow Mountain Imports sell Shin Kaya boards made from tibetan spruce.


Some people like the extra space, it’s unfortunate that you don’t like it, but it looks like a new set of yunzi stones (without board) seems to come at around $40 (~37 euros), but you can also get melamine (to go cheaper) or whatever material you prefer (although I suppose if you’re really picky, slate and shell is really nice material). I’m sure you’ll know to check sizing this time.

As for the board, personally I really like the board I got from YMI made from pressed layers of bamboo. It’s not quite as expensive as shin-kaya, but it can take a bit more of a beating as far as I can tell.


Well, that settles it then. Shin-kaya is a marketing ploy to sell boards made of cheap wood for high prices. :disappointed::disappointed:

SHIN-KAYA is a lie!!!

Unfortunately it’s marketed as such (as shown by the fact that shin-kaya is often the most expensive material at online stores – apart from true kaya & other luxury stuff, obviously).

Don’t worry, you don’t sound aggressive. About the cut, I made it because I had to know what was underneath.

Maybe it needs a trigger warning?

:warning: Warning – Graphic Content: Contains explicit depictions of Go equipment being mutilated.

I wouldn’t buy Yunzi again. The random variations in stone size annoy me too much.

Making each stone the same size can’t be that hard, can it? The cheap plastic sets manage it somehow. :thinking:

I don’t care for luxury stuff – I just wanted nice looking stones that all look the same size…

well, spruce is certainly cheaper than kaya, but that doesnt mean its bad quality. im sure there are beautiful boards made of spruce or other cheaper woods.

understandable. ive heard complaints about inconsistend stoneshapes and sizes before, so that seems to be a thing…
my experiences with glass stones are actually ok. theyre cheaper than yunzi and probably dont feel as nice, but theyre heavy enough and you can get them in all sorts of different widths and girths. mine at least are all the same size, shape, and color :man_shrugging:. their real downside is that they chip when dropped on stonefloors.

too late :joy:

As I recall, hiba (a variety of cedarwood) is considered second only to kaya for quality. Katsura is also highly prized, but I don’t know what exactly that is. Shinkaya is said to have qualities reminiscent of kaya, but that’s different from saying that it’s the second best wood for boards.

My own shinkaya board is made from Sitka sprucewood. I bought it from Janice Kim’s old company Samarkand back in 2004 and have never regretted it. There’s been some slight warping, but you have to look closely to see it. The board has held it’s shape for some years now.

The stones are 8mm glass stones of Korean make, and oddly enough, it’s the white stones that are noticeably larger. But again, the difference is too slight to become a distraction.

The manufacturer arbitrarily tossed in a few 10mm white stones as well. I’ve come to think of them as senior officers in the white army. Highly distinguished soldiers who are as likely to lead an invasion as to accept a sinecure in some already living group. My kind of soldier!

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You know… if they were my white stones, i would have to seperate those larger white stones before we played a game… not because i would not use them, i would use them for moves that i thought of the upmost importance. Or perhaps in a kill that im proud of. Soemthing like that. I would absolutelly think of them as something like generals, or super stones, with extra abilities or something, because I’m nerdy, and a child at heart.


Once people got used to me using the stones, i would then throw one in randomly on a not important move to throw my opponant. Games are won in the head before they are won on the board.


You might be onto something there. I guess the only thing I would caution against is using those stones too liberally, especially in situations that are rather dicey. You don’t want to do anything to damage the mystique or mojo that surrounds them. They have to pull their weight sooner or later, but later is probably best.


Oh you are quite right! We dont want to give away our intnentions all the time, lest a wall is seen through, and then crumbles.

Though, one could just as easily say that we should all be careful in how we employ the stones on the board!!! XD


Here’s my take on what you’re seeing:

Thin, brittle topcoat that cracks when the wood underneath gets stressed.

The different color underneath is just raw wood. Wood varnish and polyurethanes have a slight amber tint that intensifies the natural wood color, like dialing up the warmth and saturation on a photoshopped picture.

Probably nothing wrong with your wood. Just a cheap finish. Spruce and pine, while inexpensive, are superb for a goban.

Any other questions, ask away. My day job is working with wood.


By the way, the reason go boards are quite expensive is because you need a pretty massive tree to have enough wood to make a proper single piece goban out of.

The better ones don’t use the wood in the core of the tree, and have the rings of the tree perpendicular to the playing surface. This means you need to be able to fit about 2.5 gobans side to side in the tree, i.e. a diameter of about 1m. Even if you ignore the rings being perpendicular to the surface, it will probably need to have a diameter of above 60 or 70cm.

See: https://senseis.xmp.net/?Masame for a nice diagram


Yunzi stones are handmade, every single one, contrary to those cheap plastic stones.

About white stones being slightly smaller than black stones: I remember reading somewhere that this is intentional, to compensate for the fact that white stones shine so brightly, so that black stones now mostly look the same size on the board.

About the difference between the space between grid lines and width of the stones … I personally wouldn’t mind and I definitely don’t find that gap “ugly”, but that’s personal taste, of course. I’d assume that if the board is frequently used it wouldn’t matter as one gets used to it.


Yunzi stones are not, like plastic stones, made by a machine but made one by one by hand by a human. Imagine you have to cook 361 cakes of same size… The regularity varies with different factories (and prizes).

I m satisfied with the regularity of all my own sets (5?) which i bought in different shops for reasonable prizes (15 to 25$ here in China) so maybe it’s something to check with your provider.

Most of your complains seems to be linked to a lack of communication or information before buying a set (regularity for cheapest, difference of sizes by country or by color, kind of wood, …) so you could have a chat with your provider.