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 Post subject: New book - "Great Unexpectations"
Post #1 Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2023 1:34 pm 
Oza

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In 1907, a ten-game match between arguably the world's best two go players of the time - Honinbo Shusai and Nakagawa Senji - began. It was of profound significance for professional go. Game 1 was the first game with commentary published by any of the newspapers or general magazines that had sprung up in Japan in the late 19th century, in imitation of the West. Its success led to almost every significant Japanese newspaper hosting a go column, and then sponsoring tournaments. The business model is the one that continues successfully in Japan to this day.

The sponsoring magazine in this case was "Nihon oyobi Nihonjn" (Japan and the Japanese), indicative of the return to traditional attitudes and pursuits prevalent then in Japan, as fascination with western bling wore off. But it was a novel, not a traditional, approach that was taken. A journalist representing a panel of "duffers" watching the game gave the opinions himself and fellow spectators, and --  not unexpectedly, perhaps -- they expressed surprise at many of the masters' moves. But what was unexpected, when the masters' very substantial comments (as a conversation between just themselves) were given at the end of each game, was that the masters were also surprising each other with a vast number of their moves. Even modern readers will be astonished at the thought processes revealed. But the comments do also give a uniquely clear insight into what was going on in each game.

This book of a little over 100 pages gives a translation, from the original classical Japanese, of all the comments on each of the six games played. The format deliberately follows the original format, which means no variation diagrams. But that worked in Japan, and even for us promotes the "effortful study" now so lauded in the West as the way to true mastery.

But, quite apart from the undoubted value of the games in understanding and appreciating the thought processes professional go, the match itself deserves rather more than a mere milestone in go history.

The book also reveals a rather unknown and attractive side of Honinbo Shusai, both in his humble comments on the game and in "reminiscences" of his youth when (and, more interestingly, why) he set out to run a missing persons bureau. His evident desire to emulate Pip in Great Expectations and amass a fortune somehow adds to his charm.

"Great Unexpectations" is available on demand at whichever Amazon you prefer, though some take a wee while to get the data up. It is pocket-money priced.


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