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Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
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The Hinoki Press

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In 2005, out of the blue I was contacted by Chris Greene of Chicago. Over the next five years we published the following books together:

Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki (Yoda Norimoto 9 dan) 2005

Takao’s Astute Use of Brute Force (Takao Shinji 9 dan) 2005

Perceiving the Direction of Play (Kobayashi Satoru 9 dan) 2006

Catching Scent of Victory (O Rissei 9 dan) 2006

Otake’s Secrets of Strategy (Otake Hideo 9 dan) 2007

Changing One’s Conceptions: Awaji’s Aphorisms (Awaji Shuzo 9 dan) 2007

The Way of Creating a Thick and Strong Game (Hane Naoki 9 dan) 2007

Zone Press Park (O Meien 9 dan) 2007

Breakthrough Attacking Power Yamashita Style (Yamashita Keigo 9 dan) 2008

This is Go the Natural Way! (Takemiya Masaki 9 dan) 2008

Shuko: The Only Move, Joseki/Fuseki Collection (Fujisawa Shuko 9 dan) 2009

Shuko: The Only Move, Fighting Middlegame Collection (Fujisawa Shuko 9 dan) 2009

The Art of Positional Analysis (Kobayashi Koichi 9 dan, Takemiya Masaki 9 dan & Otake Hideo 9 dan) 2010

The Ins & Outs of Life & Death (Nihon Ki-in) 2010

This was a very productive partnership. It is interesting how this all came about. I placed an ad online offering to sell go books and magazines and Chris responded. He did not want to buy the publications, but he wondered if I was interested in publishing new go books with him. As a matter of fact, I was.

For years I had loved the book, “Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki,” which was written by Yoda Norimoto 9 dan, a former Meijin. One of the all time classics of go literature is “Vital Points of Go,” by Takagawa Kaku, Honorary Honinbo. It was one of the first go books that I ever read, and Takagawa himself was a legend: the first of the honorary Honinbos.

So I jumped at the chance to translate and publish a similar book, this one written by one of the giants of my own generation. Actually, Takagawa’s “Vital Points of Go,” while advanced for its time, only covered simple concepts. It was fine for beginners, but players looking for advanced instruction would find nothing of interest. To progress to the next level, more sophisticated material is required. Yoda’s book fit the bill. But how could Chris and I obtain the English language rights to the book?

Once again, John Power came to the rescue. As a habitué of the Nihon Ki-in (Japanese Go Association), he observed many matches at close hand. Yoda was very active on the tournament scene, and his wife would often come to stand by to lend her support. John got to know her in a casual way during those occasions.

Chris drew up a contract for the book and I sent it to John. He then passed it along to Yoda’s wife, and she had her husband sign it. (One of the things that helped greatly was that the contract stipulated that upon signing, Yoda would be given an advance on royalties of $2,000. That is generous in the go world. Chris told me that he wanted to ensure that there were no complications as to the rights, and he thought that the cash advance would simplify everything. I have often wondered if he had intimations of mortality and wanted to make sure that he could pass along the publications rights without trouble in the future.)

Naturally, translation was no problem for me, but there were other matters to work out as well. First, what was the imprint of the enterprise to be? Chris asked for my advice.

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In the go world in Japan, writers often remark that players are making their appearance on the hinoki butai (Japanese cypress wooden stage). Hinoki is a fine hardwood upon which performances of Noh plays, etc., are given. So it has a connection to great Japanese traditions. But the phrase, hinoki butai, is also used in a metaphorical context, too. It often means, “world stage,” as in the sense of a performer appearing in the most important place before the entire culture.

Chris was delighted with the idea, and asked me to find the kanji (Chinese character) for hinoki so that he could use it as the brand name for Hinoki Press. That kanji is shown above.

Now, what about a cover? At that time I was working as a translator for Sushi & Sake magazine. That entailed interactions with the graphics art department, so I had access to software like Photoshop and Illustrator. I used those programs to create the cover of “Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki.” That cover is shown at the top.

Once again, Chris was delighted. (Although interestingly, he duplicated the cover I had made for himself. I am not sure why he did that. He claimed incompatibility with his own computer system, but I wonder.)

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What was next? I told Chris that Takao Shinji, Honinbo was one of the finest of the new generation of professional go players and he had just published a wonderful book. Intrigued, Chris asked me to explain more about it.

Explaining the book is slightly difficult. The title is actually, “Takao’s Riki-Gaku (力学)” Now, the kanji力学can be interpreted in several ways. In a direct reading, it means “power study.” (I once met a girl at a museum opening and noticed that she had the kanji[chikara, the kun-yomi, or native Japanese reading] tattooed on her shoulder. “Does that mean you are chikara-mochi, I asked.” [Chikara-mochi is a strongman, like in the circus. I was being ironic. Mochi means “owner,” so I was saying that she owned the chikara tattoo.] “No, I just like the kanji.”)

But力学 also means “Quantum Mechanics!” So there is an untranslatable pun in the title. In that case, how should the title be rendered in English? I decided on “Takao’s Astute Use of Brute Force.” I like the alliteration as a way to convey the playful connotations of the original.

One other thing should be noted: The covers of “Vital Points” and “Astute” come from the same photograph! I am not much of a graphics designer, so I just took a photograph sent to me by my friend, Doug Cable, and manipulated them in Photoshop (with additional tweaks using Illustrator) to create the two covers. Doug had photographed a carp in the extraordinary Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, as it was diving. I cropped it for “Vital Points,” but I thought the original photograph was interesting enough to showcase in its entirety for “Astute.”

Once again, Chris had paid an advance on royalties to the author. Plus, printing expenses were not trivial. Chris remarked to me that he wanted to slow down the publication schedule. I replied that the Nihon Ki-in was coming out with an extraordinary series, The Heart of Go, Discovery Series, and it would be a landmark in the history of go publishing.

Chris was hooked, and authorized me to negotiate for the rights. He again agreed to pay the royalties in advance, which was significant for the seven volumes. I helped by using the Sushi & Sake computers to do the covers. I used Doug Cable’s photographs from the Japanese Gardens once again.

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Finally, I heard that Fujisawa Shuko was publishing new works based on his training lessons with students who were studying to become professionals at the Nihon Ki-in (insei). I obtained the rights and got a professional graphics artist to do the covers. Shortly afterward, Shuko died. I find solace in the thought that he had copies of the books presented to him as a tribute from his fans while laying in the hospital. And passed on the $4,000 in cash to his daughter.

After that, Chris and I published a few more books together, but the illness that was to take his life made him irascible and querulous. While working with the graphics artist on the Shuko books, he brought her to tears. She called me on the point of a breakdown to ask what she had done wrong.

That was Chris. He did much good work, but he could be insulting to the point of cruelty. I suppose that there is not a human being who has ever lived who has not committed indelicate acts. We must all accept the good with the bad.

I am grateful to have been a part of the great work that Hinoki Press did. It will certainly take an honored place in the history of go publishing.

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

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