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 Post subject: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber here!
Post #1 Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2021 10:09 am 
Oza

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The third book in my series on the evolution of go theory as a 'medieval tour' through a museum is now available. It is "Wizardry from the Stone Chamber" 石室仙机, available on Amazon.

The core period being covered is 1600 to 1900, and this book, dated to circa 1590, can be regarded as the foundation book in the series, providing the benchmark from which the evolution of theory shown in other books can be considered to have begun. Given that, it might seem that it ought to have been the first book, but I preferred to make more of a splash with one of the true classics, Evening Fragrance Pavilion of 1754, which I followed up with a gem of the commentator's art, Evergreen Go Records of 1682. Compared to those, I considered Wizardy interesting, but likely to be an acquired taste. I felt I had to publish it, as an essential cornerstone for the museum, but the classical portico was what people would welcome most.

However, I may have misjudged things somewhat. The proof-reader found this latest book utterly fascinating. It seems there is so much that was new to him (even though he is well acquainted with old Chinese go) that he declared he would be re-reading his final copy several times.

Make of that what you will. This book is from the late Ming. If you can't quite afford a Ming vase for your house, you can at least have a Ming book on the coffee table. As is typical of most go books of that period, it was an anthology made up largely of older material, which I suppose in itself makes it fascinating. This includes the oldest known games, old texts, and a huge treasure house of openings (useful for studying the game commentaries in other books. There are novelties such as the very old games that suggest very strongly that sunjang baduk came from China. There is also a large selection of exquisite life & death problems that will delight the antiquarian. But there is clearly also much of what was then contemporary material, including the first glimmerings of the commentator's art, making this an ideal book (a relatively large one of over 220 pages) to understand how go theory took off soon after in the Qing period.

Part of the length is explained by my addition of extensive notes, ranging from the genesis of the book and details of the author to explanations of the problem names.


This post by John Fairbairn was liked by 5 people: CDavis7M, Ferran, gowan, sorin, Theo van Ees
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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #2 Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2021 2:27 pm 
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Great job!

I just started reading the first volume, having replayed two of the games once so far. Absolutely fascinating.

Just ordered the next volumes (being afraid that my reading speed will never match your publishing speed).

Gunnar

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #3 Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2021 3:24 pm 
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I've been eyeing various classic Chinese go books but had not figured out where to start. I recently read the "classics" section in the GoGoD Encyclopedia and that confirmed my interest. What made me choose this book over the other was that it is regarding as the "foundation." You might say I'm interested in roots and beginnings.

So, what is in the book? Turns out it was exactly what the author said:
Quote:
it was an anthology made up largely of older material... This includes the oldest known games, old texts, and a huge treasure house of openings (useful for studying the game commentaries in other books. There are novelties such as the very old games that suggest very strongly that sunjang baduk came from China. There is also a large selection of exquisite life & death problems that will delight the antiquarian


Ok, so what is really in the book?
There's an introduction describing Xu Gu and historical Chinese go books and theory. I basically ended up stopping here and buying Gateway to All Marvels so that I could read the introductory material in that book before returning. It's not necessary but I sort of feel that Gateway is the true foundation, while Stone Chamber (WFTSC) is the "first course" (GO 101 as stated in WFTSC) because here you can actually learn something. Gateway has some "tutorial" text but it is very philosophical and you could read it and yet have no idea what Go is or how to play. But with Wizardry from the Stone Chamber you could actually play Go in the ancient Chinese style.

Then you get a few "center point games" which, are maybe just historical (when originally published). These are explained in the intro.

10 FAMOUS GAMES. This is cool stuff. You get The Shangqing Game, The Youshen Game, Meeting an Immortal Game, and more. These were all well known at the time. They each have a historical description and the moves. Luckily (for me) the recorded games are relatively short so you can easily play without any guilt for not plodding through an end game. However, no commentary.

Game commentaries, for even and handicap games. These are rudimentary as explained but it's interesting to see how the games are described. Some games comment on the moves. Others are more of a battle description.

Example positions. These are mostly ~80-120 moves. So basically a full opening and middle game.

"Good openings". Maybe just "historical" (at the time).

And then something really interesting, "Corner Openings." These are apparently "state of the art." They come with a bunch of variations, and usually lots of moves (30-80) in every variation. This is the section I'd like to play around with. Some of the ideas are similar to modern Go. A lot is different. As noted in the intro, these opening positions obviously account for group tax (no points received for the 2 eyes of each group). There are so many 4-4 openings I think it would be fun to play around with these ideas.

Then you get the 150 problems. Which all have fun names and explanations. And the solutions are even on the reverse side. I'm not sure how these compare to Gateway. Apparently there are a few duplicates. Presumably the ones here are more "instructive."

And finally a description of ancient go terms.

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One of the 10 ancient games. It's wild. But then it's marked that Black wins!? Must have somehow gotten even wilder after the record!

Image
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Amazon doesn't care to package books and my copy arrived with a bent cover. I'd be upset if this wasn't my expectation from numerous experiences. Please don't expect to receive a pristine copy when you open an unsupported bubble mailer.

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My recent search history:
"What is daoist"
"define milieu"
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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #4 Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2021 10:26 pm 
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Going through Stone Chamber is like watching "ancient" videos of the Olympics, but for Go.

It's all sort of familiar, but very quaint and sometimes just super wonky. You'll see what I mean: https://youtu.be/3IqE2KEqZJI?t=182

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #5 Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2021 4:38 pm 
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This current series of yours is looking very interesting! Great stuff, as always.

Just the other day there was a discussion on /r/baduk on Reddit about the lack of a decent Western book on Huang Longshi. Will he be covered in a future installment of Museum of Go Theory, or will you keep it to "theory" and broad movements (rather than players/biographies)?

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #6 Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2021 2:27 pm 
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What can I say? Mr. Fairbairn is simply a treasure. I recently purchased all of these excellent volumes and I am completely enchanted.

Reaching from this distant past, the information touched me directly in a fascinating way.

I am ashamed to admit that I had never really contemplated the group tax rule and the impact it has on play - much very logical - but unthought upon by me.

Coincidentally, I play an online weekly series of ten game matches with a great friend, adjusting the handicap if a four game lead can be achieved in any given (just to irritate John) jubango. Through the years, I hade managed somewhat recently to get the handicap to 3-3-3. Victory at this level stymied me, and in an effort to avoid corner joseki and keep the 3-3 points open I began opening with my first move on the side, third line, and one off the star point. Although admittedly through luck, not only did I push the handicap to 3-4-3, but I have won the first two 4 stones games with this move.

I hope John can treasure my surprise when I read that, in a world with 4 star points required, that this "9-3" move became a popular opening move. I know the situation is different, but I still can enjoy this connection to the distant past - a past that only Mr. Fairbairn can bring so spectacularly alive for me.

Thank you John, not for the first time, and I am sure not the last.

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #7 Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2021 4:49 pm 
Oza

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Quote:
Just the other day there was a discussion on /r/baduk on Reddit about the lack of a decent Western book on Huang Longshi. Will he be covered in a future installment of Museum of Go Theory, or will you keep it to "theory" and broad movements (rather than players/biographies)?


My plan is to publish a doorstep book in Go Wisdom (GW) format (like Genjo-Chitoku or Games of Shuei) with all Huang's games (over 130), a very large proportion commented. In fact this book is close to finished, but Huang is such a genius he deserves a grand entrance, and old Chinese (OC) go is so poorly known I need to pave the way with books that explain the rules, the style and the terminology of OC go. Hence the Museum of Go Theory.

I have another volume ready, which has lots of games but virtually no commentaries. However, that volume contains lots of background on the OC scene, with lots of stories about famous players, including Stinky Toes and the female go player who was the inspiration for Mulan. Huang will follow that.

But before either of those books, I decided (for my own sanity) to change pace a little and so I have produced a new Go Seigen book, "Go Seigen versus Archers of Yue." I'm preparing the GW index at present, then it will be proof-read by a friend, so it should be ready well before Christmas. I am also finishing off a new edition of the GoGoD database.

Whether I will stay sane is, however, a matter of debate, especially with the rules farrago on this forum.

I've just had my Covid booster jab at the former home, just up the road from me, of W S Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan fame. Keith, who made some very kind remarks in the other thread, brought WSG back to mind again just now as his daughter stayed at that home (Grim's Dyke) in pre-Covid days. Tell her there's another ceilidh soon if she wants to come, Keith! Once travel becomes feasible again I plan to go to Vancouver with my grandsons for Scottish country dancing, so maybe a brief stopover on the east coast would be a good way to meet up again.

Also in my mind at the moment, along with W S Gilbert, is T Mark Hall (see another recent thread on the London Go Centre), my fellow grumpy old man. Which in turns brings to mind Gilbert's delightful ditty: "Oh, don't the days seem lank and long When all goes right and nothing goes wrong, And isn't your life extremely flat With nothing whatever to grumble at!"

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #8 Posted: Wed Oct 06, 2021 2:00 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
My plan is to publish a doorstep book in Go Wisdom (GW) format (like Genjo-Chitoku or Games of Shuei) with all Huang's games (over 130), a very large proportion commented. In fact this book is close to finished[…]


Oh my, thank you, that does sound like everything I could have hoped for! Looking forward to it! Such a book will surely go down in go history.

While I have you talking about future projects, and Huang Longshi, I also learned (from the aforementioned Reddit discussion) that Huang composed a work called the Yi Kuo (弈括) the second part of which is a tsumego collection of 361 puzzles. The first part seems to be model games, or fuseki theory, according to Sensei’s Library? From some googling, this work seems to be the hardest to find of all the classical tsumego collections. Do you plan to publish this as well? Either in that same book, or stand-alone as you did with the "Splendid Feast" Yoshin Teiki (great volume by the way), for instance?

Thank you again for your reply, best wishes!

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #9 Posted: Thu Oct 07, 2021 2:14 am 
Oza

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Martin: I wouldn't worry about Yi Kuo for various reasons. One is grave doubts whether Huang ever had anything to do with this book (likewise the Huang Longshi Quantu), but even if he did, current historians pour scorn on it. As a couple of example comments, one is that the book is so bland that if it didn't have Huang's name on it, no-one would pay any attention to it. A similar one is that it is a case of the Emperor's new clothes.

Piracy and forgery were common problems with old Chinese books, and a common practice was to stick a famous player's name on a made-up text. The texts we have now are thanks to reprints by a 19th century collector, Bao Ding, who had doubts even then.

Without looking it up I can't remember which is the relevant text, but there was a bit of a literary spat over a preface in one, in which the publisher was accused of hyping Huang and doing down Fan and Shi. In other words, he was doing what Ishigaya Kosaku did for fellow Hiroshima player Honinbo Shusaku. Ishigaya got away with it. The Chinese chap was accused of being offensive. But even he may have got away with it, as Huang's reputation continues to soar and, nowadays, seems to rank above Fan and Shi - in older times it was rather the other way round. My own view is that Huang was a genius, but so were Fan and Shi. In other words it's a Mozart/Beethoven kind of debate.

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 Post subject: Re: Museum of Go Theory - Wizardry from the Stone Chamber he
Post #10 Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2021 9:08 am 
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Good to know. It’s fun to hear about all the skulduggery and gossip behind the scenes, but it’s of course very human.

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