Mirror, mirror, we've got walls, who's is biggest of them all?

Yamabe Toshiro (<i>Nihon Ki-in</i>) Fujisawa Hosai (<i>Nihon Ki-in</i>) This is the tale of two of the big beasts of tournament go in Japan in the first two or three decades after the second world war.

They never met in a title match, and after both had reached 9-dan they played each other only a dozen times or so, splitting the honours evenly.

But two of their games in this period have won a special place in go history because, in them, Yamabe Toshiro, left, finally convinced Fujisawa Hosai, right, that mirror go was a flawed strategy. Fujisawa had taken it up regularly as White when he first became 9-dan. It was originally his way of coping with the fact that there was no komi, but he also became intrigued by the strategic ideas it threw up. However, many pros had tried to convince him that mirror go was anti-social, by complaining about him or refusing to play him. Yamabe, however, made his points in the best possible way, on the board.

The full story of Fujisawa's obduracy, his own comments on why he played mirror go and what he really thought of it, and what others thought of him is given in a chapter in the forthcoming book 9-dan Showdown in the "From the GoGoD Archives" series published by Slate & Shell. This will be the third book of detailed commentaries and histories of the ten-game matches played by Go Seigen. Fujisawa met Go in three of these matches, and with 30 games to be presented, there was no room in an already very big book for the games with Yamabe. Mirror go was not a big feature in the matches with Go, though it was always there in a will-he-or-won't-he way, but there was in fact one mirror-go game in the 1952 match.

In the first mirror-go encounter between Fujisawa and Yamabe, in November 1972, Yamabe won so convincingly, even giving komi, that Fujisawa laid off from the strategy for over a year, before trying it again, against the same opponent, in March 1974. He lasted a bit longer this time but still lost, and that was essentially the end of his love affair with mirror go, although he did express some pangs of nostalgia later.

What we are presenting here is a commentary on the first of these games, though on a much abridged scale compared to the commentaries in the books. We will be presenting the second game in a later instalment.

The game starts on the next page, but to be sure that everyone is actually on the same page, as it were, by mirror go here we mean specifically the case where White copies all of Black's moves,in mirror fashion, for a variable but quite long time - maybe up to 70 moves or more. Black can play mirror go by making his first move on the centre point and then imitating White, but that is rather rare. Fujisawa, for example, played mirror go around 50 times as White but never once as Black. In case you use other terms, mirror go is the same as mimic go and mane-go.

Next >>