picture

Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
We have millions of friends around the world... and they all play go!

“Thoughts” About the Game

[犬も歩けば = Inu mo arukeba = Dog even goes walking; this is actually short for: 犬も歩けば棒に当たる = Inu mo arukeba bo ni ataru = Dog even goes walking bar into contact; the meaning is: If a dog goes walking, it will find a bone; however, “bo ni ataru” literally means “come in contact with a bar”; when I was learning Japanese, this proverb struck me as strange, since the meaning seems to be that if a dog goes sniffing around, someone will conk it on the head with a bar, i.e., “curiosity killed the cat.” Nevertheless, the expression is used here to indicate that there will be a grab bag of ideas offered in this essay.]

[感想 = kanso = “thought,” although “impression” is many times closer to the meaning of the Japanese word. The reason the word is put in parentheses in the title is because it is the sole word in the Japanese title, but simply translating it like that would probably just confuse English-speaking readers.]

By Murakami Akira [村上明]

From Kido February 1975

In go, the term “thoughts” indicates the analytic session after a game has been played, but is it only this writer who feels that using the word, “thoughts,” in this way is a bit strange?

In speaking of “thoughts” in the usual manner:

“Defeating the yokozuna, what are your thoughts?”

“No, just luck, just luck.”

[The original Japanese: 「横綱を倒したご感想は?」「いや、まぐれ、まぐれ」= “Yokozuna wo taoshita gokanso wa?” “Iya, magure, magure” = “Grand Champion (in sumo wrestling); objective particle; knocked down; honorific; thoughts; topic particle?” “No, a fluke, a fluke” Note: “Iya” is translated as “no,” but it means “false” more. The point is that the Japanese language gives speakers a lot of leeway to express emotions, which make it hard to render accurate translations.]

This is a typical usage of the word and nothing could be simpler.

In go as well, after a big game is over a writer for a newspaper might ask, “Could I get a thought or two from you?” [感想をひとことお願いしたいのですが…… = Kanso wo hitokoto onegai shitai no desu ga] There is nothing particularly notable about this.

On the other hand, after a game is over, the analysis session can extend over the course of any number of hours. “If this way was played, how would it be?” “That way is not possible, this way is also not possible,” and the exchange of opinions continues. Calling this “thoughts” is obnoxious. It should always and everywhere be referred to as “analysis.”

In the old days, as Iwamoto 9 dan and Hashimoto Utaro 9 dan used to say,

“This move was bad, you know. Playing over this way would have given my side the better of it.”

“That’s right. If I had to deal with that, I would have lost, you know.”

ハイ [= Hai = Yes; I am sorry to keep inserting the original Japanese into this translation, but I want to convey as much of the delightful flavor of this essay to the reader as possible. Here is a classic case of how Japanese is difficult for non-speakers to understand, and as a result the cultural nuances are frequently misinterpreted. “Hai” is understood to mean “yes,” but actually means “the words are understood,” and also quite frequently, “this concludes things.” Here this is a perfect illustration of the latter meaning. To make things abundantly clear, the writer uses katakana to emphasize the concentration on the words that were quoted. There is no agreement or disagreement implied.] With that, they would stand up from their seats to leave, and that is a true example of “thoughts.”

In situations such as title matches, one thing that causes newspaper writers tremendous perplexity is the gathering of “thoughts” to use as material placed in news releases.

Games generally finish in the middle of the night, so there is no way to cut corners in regards to the filing time for stories. The articles have to be written down quickly as the facts are related by everyone involved. On the other hand, just as the game is over, the analysis session begins. The opponents energetically assert their points of view, and the chance to take part and toss in a remark or two can be lost.

Reporters with limited experience can think that the analysis session will be over quickly and sit on the side of the board waiting for that to happen, but when it doesn’t and things drag on, they can become irritated. Veterans are more likely to brazenly cut the analysis session short by piping up with questions, but that rarely gets them to be answered satisfactorily. The opponents in the game are engrossed in the analysis, so when reporters pose questions, most of the time they will look with an air of distraction, “Huh?” and then ignore the disruption to immediately go back to their analysis.

In response to the reporters’ questions, supposing that the players do answer directly, that does not end the dissatisfaction. That is because generally speaking the replies are low in meaningful content. So there will not be enough material to write a good article.

One of the reasons for that is that as might be expected the players of the game are still pumped up with adrenalin. It is as if they are displaying the symptoms of a fever, and answer under that kind of physical condition. One factor is the sympathy felt for the loser of the game, so blunt language about what one really thinks is avoided. Therefore,

“In the middle of the game, I thought that the outlook was not good. If this move had been played this way, it would have been difficult.”

These kind of thoughts do not get very close to the kernel of the matter, and frequently sound all too vague.

The professional players who respond cooperatively, at least in the experience of this writer, are Takagawa Kaku, Honorary Honinbo and Ishida Yoshio Meijin-Honinbo.

Those who are troubled when the analysis reaches a fever pitch are not only the attending reporters looking for material. It is everyone connected with the event. In the case of title matches, when the game is over it is customary for everyone to gather for a banquet to show gratitude for services performed. However, even though the preparations for the dinner have all been complete, if the principal personages, the players, are not present, the proceedings cannot start. The people concerned have no choice but to wait until the analysis is over. This waste of time is painful and difficult.

Regardless of all this, it is not my intention at all to criticize the analysis session after games. So now I want to examine the matter from the players’ perspective, and speak of why the analysis is indispensable.

When both players have 10 hours on the clock each (although this year that has been trimmed to 9 hours) in big title, two day matches, what is the psychological condition of the players after a game is over? Of course, this writer does not have direct experience in regards to this, but I can imagine the amount of thought expended during those periods.

In one board position, there are a number of playing methods that one would like to try, and they produce one variation after another. However, in reality there is only one move that can be made.

From many playing methods that are considered, only one move is selected, with the rest having to be discarded. What is more is that among the discarded playing methods it is to be expected that there are many that have such attractions that they are difficult to just throw away.

Confusion, troubled feelings and regrets follow one after another, constantly flowing through the head. “Supposing I played in this way, how will the opponent answer?” If it was possible, one would like to put this into words and ask the opponent. At times, one becomes aware of playing a bad move, and inside one’s heart a scream of pain is raised.

In this way, the build-up of self-questioning and self-answering continues interminably. After the game is over, it comes gushing out, which should be considered as a biological phenomenon. If the analysis session after games was not permitted, professional players would likely go crazy.

There are professional players who are “strong at giving their thoughts during analysis.” This does not refer to professional players who can continue analyzing for a very long time, but professional players who can reduce their opponents to silence during analysis sessions.

There are even people who confess, “I lost the game, and then I lost the analysis session. It was like I lost the equivalent of two games, so it was difficult and painful, I must say.”

Those people who have kind personalities may think, “I won the game, so in the analysis session I think it would be good for the ideas to flow freely…” However, true tournament wolves do not have that kind of weak-kneed aspect of their characters.

In terms of the real instincts of professional players, they absolutely never want to think, “I won by being saved by my opponent’s mistake.” Without giving an inch, they want to think, “Concerning all aspects of the game, I played better.” Therefore, when the opponent says, “If I had played this way, I would have won, you know,” the reply will come back right away, “No. If that was played, I would have answered this way. That way, my game would still have been better, I think.” That is the kind of atmosphere at those times.

Naturally, this kind of psychology is also common with amateurs. In fact, amateurs particularly enjoy battles of words. Professionals concentrate on actually winning over the board. In order to avoid losing to an opponent in a battle of words, playing methods are brought out one after another until the outlook improves. Consequently, as might be expected, professional players who can draw out the analysis session in a lengthy manner are strong at analysis sessions.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

Tagged as: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Books

book cover

Go on the Go Collection: Volume I

Three booklets have been assembled into the collection here.

Buy this Book at Amazon

Go For Everyone

Go For Everyone

A New Method for Learning to Play the Game of Go

Buy this book

Book Cover

Journey to the West

This is a semi-autobiographical novel that depicts a unique American success story; a rags to riches tale of a man escaping his humble origins to make millions of dollars, but then he throws it all away due to the ancient character flaw of hubris.

Buy this Book at Amazon