Life In 19x19

Blue Label Stones
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Author:  InsideLiberty [ Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Blue Label Stones

I have YMI Yunzi stones and I want to buy shell and slate from Kurokigoishiten. I’ve done a good amount of research online and it seems that they are the best quality and the best price for getting nice Go equipment if you live in the US. That being said, I’ve only been looking into high end Go equipment for about half a year, and mostly through anecdotal accounts of purchases by people on LifeIn19x19 and reddit, so if anyone has a more experienced opinion on the best way to get stones, please share.

Continuing forward with KGT though, I am considering either Blue Label or Blossom Grade stones. This is kind of an expensive purchase for me, so I would love to get Blue Label and save some money. However, if the defects in those stones are significant, I would rather go over budget for Blossom than save money with a product off-spec enough to defeat the point of purchasing higher quality equipment. I am aware that the grain on the Blue Label stones is more irregular and that doesn’t bother me. By defects, I am referring to the fact that KGT basically says on their website that the Blue Label stones are more affordable because the quality control on them is lower.

There are two things I would like to get out of investing in an upgrade from Yunzi to shell and slate stones.

1. The nice sound and feel of shell and slate hitting the board when the stones are placed.
2. The stones being of high consistency in their size and shape.

My Yunzi stones are great for how much they cost, but they do have some irregularities in size and shape. The irregularities are small relative to the defects you see in cheap Korean glass stones, but still have become noticeable to me after using them so extensively, and if I am going to invest in better stones, I would like those irregularities to be absent. If I line up my Yunzi stones on my goban and look from the side, I can see they aren’t all quite the same size. I can also see and feel in my hand that some stones have a very nice symmetric biconvex curvature, while others are more rounded and like blobs. Lastly, some of the stones are asymmetric, so when I place them on the board, they rattle around even when I use very good stone placement technique, and settle at a slant. Again, I want to say that I am not disparaging YMI or anyone who enjoys their stones, they are the stones I learned to play Go on and I appreciate them very much. The inconsistencies I mentioned are relatively slight in degree, they are just apparent to me because I spend time feeling and looking at the stones every day. All I’m saying is that I don’t want to buy stones costing hundreds of dollars if they still have these defects.

So that brings me to why I am writing this post; I cannot tell much about the consistency in size and shape of Blue Label stones from the pictures of them online. Most of the photos are taken with the intent of giving a general sense of the aesthetic of the stones, not to rigorously compare size and shape. I have also not seen many conversations about the feel of the stones; most people just ask about the grain. Can anyone who has frequently used Blue Label stones give me their thorough opinion on them in this regard? I might also get some sample packs of Blossom and Blue Label to compare, but I don’t know that 10 stones from each type would be an adequate sample size to come to conclusions about size and shape consistency across a full set.

Finally, from looking online and talking with friends, it seems like the issue of choosing between Blue Label and Blossom is a fairly common one. Most people outside of Asia choose KGT to buy high end Go equipment. And of those people, most are looking to spend hundreds, not thousands of dollars. This leaves them with the choice of Blossom or Blue Label, but KGT is rather ambiguous about the exact difference between the quality control of the two lines of stones. As far as I can tell, no one online has tried to rigorously quantify the difference (other than in grain consistency) between Blossom and Blue Label. Furthermore, no one has analyzed to what extent the recent creation of the Blue Label Snow line of stones has affected the quality of original Blue Label. I think it would end up helping lots of people looking to purchase stones from KGT in the future if people who own these types of stones worked together to answer these questions.

Author:  EdLee [ Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:43 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi InsideLiberty,

All very legitimate and reasonable questions.

I have zero experience with their new Blue Label and Blue Label Snow, but my anecdotal experience with their (previous) Regular and Snow grades is that their quality control, consistency, grain patterns, and Mr. Kuroki's email responses were all excellent. ( I found out for my purposes that their Regular grade Size 38, 10.7mm, gives the most bang for the buck and remains my favorite after years of usage. )

Maybe you can email him -- but considerably edit down the letter because he is not a native English speaker and probably relies on human or machine translations to communicate with their customer inquiries in English.

Author:  Vio [ Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Blue Label Stones

I own a set of shell/slate which was offered so I can't help you. But I live not very far from the yunze factory which I did visit and I own a few sets of these too.

Before you spend a lot of money, I just wanted to tell you that yunze come in different sizes and shapes so you could still maybe find some more at your taste.
One of my set is a more "modern" Chinese shape, I like these one when I want to play that kind of stones. I have also very thick Japanese shape which are awesome and very regular.

When I visited the company, I was surprised to see the stones still being cooked one by one in a spoon!

OK just my 0.02 cents, happy shopping!

Author:  sybob [ Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Blue Label Stones

Hello InsideLiberty,
I think I understand your question.
To complicate things for you, I want to give you an additional consideration.

While I do not have Kurogoishi stones, I do have some sets of slate and shell stones, with which I am very pleased.
To my experience, the beauty and joy also depend on the board you are using.
I'd like to suggest you consider stones and board as a combination, together.
Beautiful stones may be compromised if you don't have a matching board.
To be more specific: I don't like either of my slate and shell stones on a bamboo board, a veneer board or rosewood board. I also have a nice yunzi set of stones. I use those on a YMI shin kaya board (also very much valued and played). This board is also very nice, but it doesn't match nicely with the slate and shell stones I have. That may be personal preference, but still, you may want to consider the combination.
Good luck.

Author:  swannod [ Fri Jan 18, 2019 5:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Blue Label Stones

InsideLiberty wrote:
1. The nice sound and feel of shell and slate hitting the board when the stones are placed.
2. The stones being of high consistency in their size and shape.

I own a set of size 40 Blue Label Slate/Shell stones from KGT. They far, far surpassed my expectations. They are the most consistent with respect to size and shape that I have ever personally handled or likely ever will handle, unless I start making friends with all those people with Snow grade stones.

As far as I can tell Blue Label isn't about consistency with respect to size and shape. It's entirely about the grain and the lack of any imperfections. On all my stones, these appear as barely visible surface imperfections or minute discolorations. In fact the only thing I ever actually notice when I play with them is that 2 or 3 white stones out of 183 don't have a visible grain.

As far as sound, really that's going to come from the board. But for feel, and visual splendor I don't see how they can be surpassed without doubling the price.

I wrote about my KGT set here ... oishi.html, you can right click on the images to get the full sized image.

I also own nice sets of size 33 double convex Yunzi as well as single-convex Yunzi. I love these stones too, but their irregularities are pretty apparent.

Hope this helps!

Author:  InsideLiberty [ Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Blue Label Stones

Thank you for the feedback everyone, especially you swannod; I saw the article on your KGT set(its very beautiful) some time ago and it was one of the factors in me deciding KGT was a worthwhile investment when I was doing research on where to buy Go equipment. I couldn't ask for better input than from someone who has owned both YMI Yunzi and Blue Label.

I had a stroke of luck and found a Go club that primarily uses Blue Label stones. I spent two days playing there and totally agree with swannod; Blue Label stones are extremely high quality.

After two days of playing, I could not see or feel any kind of shape or size inconsistencies. The stones look better and feel better than anything I have ever played with. Regarding the grain, color, or scratches on the stones, I can't emphasize how trivial and infrequent the defects were, they in no way affect the experience of using the stones and are not even visibly noticeable unless you hold the stones up to your eyes and search for them. And even then, the defects were so irrelevant, that they didn't affect the beauty of the stones, its just something that a serious Go equipment collector might notice when appraising the rarity of the stones.

The best analogy I could make regarding the Blue Label stones would be to compare them to dogs. They are like a purebred dog that is beautiful, healthy, and has everything you could be looking for in a dog, but because of some trivial cosmetic standard that the breeders association has set for its breed, it technically doesn't meet dog show standards and is sold at a huge discount.

I will post a follow up once I order and receive the stones, letting everyone know how they are. As it stands from my two day experience though, I feel that the Blue Label stones are extremely high quality in all the tactile ways that actually matter for improving the feel of the game.

Finally, one thing I noticed with KGT stones, is that for sizes 32 and below, it was much harder to get the nice "click" or "snap" sound from good stone placement, it just sounded a lot more hollow. Also, around size 32 the stones become light enough that a bump to the table or a slightly misplaced stone that bumps into other already placed stones can cause them to wobble or move much easier. I know everyone has their own size preference based on subjective opinions regarding the ease of use of different sizes. And the last thing I would ever want to do would be to instigate a caged death match between EdLee and people who like thin stones :D But that being said, I do feel like my observations of size 32 and below having hollow sound and being too light on the board were somewhat objective, and unless you really value ease of use over everything else, I would recommend size 34 or larger to anyone else looking to buy shell & slate for the first time, because otherwise I think you are missing some of the tactile benefits of the material.

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