John Fairbairn and Mark Hall have been doing a series of books on single go games or a small series of games, and they’re really good: a great combination of historical context paired with detailed commentary on the moves of the games themselves. The one I just finished reading was The Go Consultants, devoted to a single game that I’d never heard of before: a pair game with Suzuki Tamejiro and Segoe Kensaku (both 7 dan) versus Kitani Minoru and Go Seigen (both 6 dan). It took place in 1934–1935, a transitional time in the go world: it was four years before Honinbo Shusai’s retirement game, so the old world was starting to crumble, without any clear view of what was going to happen next. The players involved in this game had a huge impact on the up-and-coming world: Kitani and Go are two of the twentieth century’s most famous go players, but they were the junior pair in this match, and Segoe had a lot to do with helping the go community navigate this transition. (He’d brought Go to Japan, and was instrumental in arranging the match that included the Atomic Bomb Game.)
So: lots of experimentation; I hadn’t been aware that that experimentation had included such a pair go match, however. The format meant that the considerations involved were expressed through discussion instead of being locked in the players’ heads or only emerging after the fact, and the newspaper sponsoring it arranged for observers to report on those discussions. This meant a lot more real-time reporting of thoughts than I’m used to.
Which, I’m sure, helped in generating material for a book length single-game commentary; and I enjoyed reading the give-and-take within each pair, seeing where they agreed, where they disagreed, how they resolved those differences. But what was more striking was seeing the situations where the two pairs disagreed: where one pair would work out a series of variations, play their move, and then the other pair would respond with something that the first pair hadn’t considered at all!
This, of course, happens to me all the time; I wasn’t sure whether to be reassured or disturbed to see it happen to top professionals. But after seeing several such instances, I realized just how different their missteps are from mine: they’re working from such a solid feel for the general weight of each move that, even when their opponents responded in a different area of the board than one of the pairs expected, that didn’t turn what I would consider a good move into what I would consider a bad move, it made a difference of a point or two, or maybe even (once they’d gotten over their shock) no points at all. Which doesn’t mean that their surprise at the move wasn’t deserved or important, just that they’re playing a game with a much subtler texture than I can see.
Sigh. I don’t regret turning away from go, but I’ve given up something by doing so.
- 12 January, 2013 @ 19:35 [Current Revision] by David Carlton
- 26 March, 2012 @ 21:28 by David Carlton