Saturday, April 04, 2009

Extraordinary Book

Yellow Mountain Imports ships this book in the box it arrived in from Taiwan. When you unwrap it, the volume has a dark blue velvet slipcase — a bag, in other words! — and a pungent, new book odor sort of characteristic of Chinese printshoppery. Either that, or it's that antifungal fumigant they use on wood and paper products in Vietnamese warehouses. The pages are thin, the text is (I presume) Mandarin, and the bottom half of each page contains a kifu (棋譜, i.e., a game record printed in the old style used for centuries prior to SGF computer records.) This copy is not autographed. The book lies flat (and stays flat) when opened.

The first game is numbered #1 and dated November 9, 1839 with 191 moves spanning two pages; the last is numbered #471 and dated May 22, 1862 containing a mere 38 moves. I cannot read the opponent's names, and Shusaku's name is not always Shusaku. When games produce ko during play, stones played into the same position are listed by sequence and identified by the first move played or by "equals (the move marked) Triangle," for example. I was wondering how they did that.

In the deep scale of universal mysteries, I suppose this book is precious in entirely the wrong sense of that word — i.e., an elaborately enshrined example of sheer genius applied to the utterly trivial — but... The fact remains that human minds capable of the kind of concentration required to produce these games (on both sides of the board!) are rare indeed. The awe that attends study of these games has been lavished on the book itself, from boards to binding, from page to page from endpaper to endpaper. If you buy a copy, enjoy.

Download the companion Chinese language sgf files. The Big 5 font (or just mojibake?) may cause problems for some game readers, such as Many Faces of Go v12 or CGoban3. On the other hand, PANDA-glGo works well.

So, what is the point of buying an obsolete book for $47.97 (includes shipping) when you can download the same 471 games in excellently up-to-date sgf format scot free, you ask? Well, what about cultural preservation in a post-apocalyptic world? If you survive the [ meteor impact | PRK nuke | North American electrical grid blackout riots | other unpredictable Rumsfeldian event ] that destroys all post-microprocessor civilization as we know it, then you, my friend, have a Go board, Go stones, Go bowls and 471 of the great classical kifus to while away the deadly winter nights, and speaking of a boy and his dog, will you save A) your girlfriend, or B) your Thursday night Go-playing beer buddies? It's a trick question, numskull. Think fourth dimensionally.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home