Pentobi SGF Files

Author: Markus Enzenberger
Last modified: 2017-03-03

This document describes the file format for Blokus game records as used by the program Pentobi. The most recent version of this document can be found in the source code distribution of Pentobi in the folder pentobi/doc/blksgf.


The file format is a derivative of the Smart Game Format (SGF). The current SGF version 4 does not define standard properties for Blokus. Therefore, a number of game-specific properties and value types had to be defined. The definitions follow the recommendations of SGF 4 and the proposals for multi-player games from the discussions about the future SGF version 5.

File Extension and MIME Type

The file extension .blksgf and the MIME type application/x-blokus-sgf are used for Blokus SGF files.

Since this is a non-standard MIME type, links to Blokus SGF files on web servers will not automatically open the file with Pentobi even if Pentobi is installed locally and registered as a handler for Blokus SGF files. To make this work, you can put a file named .htaccess on the web server in the same directory that contains the .blksgf files or in one of its parent directories. This file needs to contain the line:

AddType application/x-blokus-sgf blksgf

Character Set

Although not specific to Blokus, it is recommended to use UTF-8 as the character set. Pentobi always writes files in UTF-8 and indicates that with the CA property. Pentobi versions before 13.0 can only read SGF files encoded in UTF-8 or ISO-8859-1 (Latin1). As specified by the SGF standard, ISO-8859-1 is assumed for files without CA property.

Game Property

Since there is no number for Blokus defined in SGF 4, a string instead of a number is used as the value for the GM property. Currently, the following strings are used: Blokus, Blokus Two-Player, Blokus Three-Player, Blokus Duo, Blokus Trigon, Blokus Trigon Two-Player, Blokus Trigon Three-Player, Blokus Junior, Nexos, Nexos Two-Player, Callisto, Callisto Two-Player, Callisto Two-Player Four-Color, Callisto Three-Player, GembloQ, GembloQ Two-Player, GembloQ Three-Player, GembloQ Two-Player Four-Color.

The strings are case-sensitive, words are separated by exactly one space and no additional whitespace at the beginning or end of the string is allowed.

Color and Player Properties

In game variants with two players and two colors, B denotes the first player or color, W the second player or color. In game variants with three or four players and one color per player, 1, 2, 3, 4 denote the first, second, third, and fourth player or color. In game variants with two players and four colors, B denotes the first player, W the second player, and 1, 2, 3, 4 denote the first, second, third, and fourth color. This applies to move properties and properties related to a player or a color.

Example 1: in the game variant Blokus Two-Player PW is the name of the first player, and 1 is a move of the first color.

Example 2: in the game variant Blokus Two-Player, one could either use the BL, WL properties to indicate the time left for a player, if the game is played with a time limit for each player, or one could use the 1L, 2L, 3L, 4L properties to indicate the time left for a color, if the game is played with a time limit for each color. (This is only an example how the properties should be interpreted. Pentobi currently has no support for game clocks.)

Pentobi versions before 0.2 used the properties BLUE, YELLOW, RED, GREEN in the four-color game variants, which did not reflect the current state of discussion for SGF 5. Pentobi 12.0 erroneously used multi-player properties for two-player Callisto. Current versions of Pentobi can still read games written by older versions and will convert old properties.

Coordinate System

Fields on the board (called points in SGF) are identified by a case-insensitive string with a letter for the column followed by a number for the row. The letters start with 'a', the numbers start with '1'. The lower left corner of the board is 'a1'. The strings are not allowed to contain whitespaces. Note that, unlike the common convention in the game of Go, the letter 'i' is used.

If there are more than 26 columns, the columns continue with 'aa', 'ab', ..., 'ba', 'bb', ... More than 26 columns are presently required for Trigon and GembloQ.

For Trigon, hexagonal boards are mapped to rectangular coordinates as in the following example of a hexagon with edge size 3:

       6     / \ / \ / \ / \
       5   / \ / \ / \ / \ / \
       4 / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \
       3 \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /
       2   \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /
       1     \ / \ / \ / \ /
          a b c d e f g h i j k

In Nexos, the 13×13 line grid is mapped to a 25×25 coordinate system, in which rows with horizontal line segments and intersections alternate with rows with vertical line segments and holes:

       6 |   |   |
       5 + - + - + -
       4 |   |   |
       3 + - + - + -
       2 |   |   |
       1 + - + - + -
         a b c d e f

In GembloQ, each square field is divided into four triangles with their own coordinates, like in this example:

       4 | / | \ | / | \ | /
       3 | \ | / | \ | / | \
       2 | / | \ | / | \ | /
       1 | \ | / | \ | / | \
          a b c d e f g h i

Move Properties

The value of a move property is a string with the coordinates of the played piece on the board separated by commas. No whitespace characters are allowed before, after, or in-between the coordinates.

Pentobi currently does not require a certain order of the coordinates of a move. However, move properties should be written with an ordered list of coordinates (using the order a1, b1, …, a2, b2, …) such that each move has a unique string representation.

Example: B[f9,e10,f10,g10,f11]

In Nexos, moves contain only the coordinates of line segments occupied by the piece, no coordinates of junctions.

Old versions of Pentobi (before version 0.3) used to represent moves by a list of points, which did not follow the convention used by other games in SGF to use single-value properties for moves. Current versions of Pentobi can still read games containing the old move property values but they are deprecated and should no longer be used.

Setup Properties

The setup properties AB, AW, A1, A2, A3, A4 can be used to place several pieces simultaneously on the board. The setup property AE can be used to remove pieces from the board. All these properties can have multiple values, each value represents a piece by its coordinates as in the move properties. The PL can be used to set the color to play in a setup position.


Older versions of Pentobi (before version 2.0) did not support setup properties, you need a newer version of Pentobi to read such files. Currently, Pentobi is able to read files with setup properties in any node, but can create only files with setup in the root node.