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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!

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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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 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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