Kami No Itte

    Keywords: Theory, Go term

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What is Kami no Itte

Literally it means 'The Hand of God' or 'The Move(s) of God' in Japanese; a more natural English translation in a Go context might be 'perfect play' or 'divine move'. In Kanji it reads 神の一手

Hikaru no Go fans will probably be more familiar with the phrase 'Divine Move' (translated as 'The Hand of God' in some unofficial translations), which Fujiwara-no-Sai is striving to achieve - as should all Go players!

James Kerwin's article Getting Beyond Shodan in the American Go Assocation eJournal? AGEJ of 6 May 2005, states that there is one question a player must ask before every move: Is this move the best move, even if the best move is only a little bit better than this move? This attitude is what leads one to kami no itte and is exemplified by Fujiwara no Sai in Hikaru no Go.

The linguistics of Kami no Itte

The word itte has te (hand) as its root, it literally means 'one hand' and can be directly translated into English as 'move', as in a 'move in a game'. Shougi as well as go uses the term. The word 'kami' which is often translated as 'god' is more complicated. It literally means 'superior', and by extension, 'upper,' 'above', 'very good', 'sacred', etc. In other words, the Japanese kami are the 'superior ones', not exactly 'gods' like the word means in English, but things that inspire awe in humans.[1]

The term 'kami no itte' could be directly translated into English as 'the superior move'. Or, as we usually say in English, 'the best move.' But the connotations of the word 'kami' give it a different taste, which results in it being translated as 'the hand of God'. Perhaps the most correct translation would be 'the move whose sheer perfection inspires an almost religious awe in those who witness it', but this is way too cumbersome for easy use.

The most exact translation of kami is numen, and so kami no = numinous. To a Japanese kami no itte in a go context refers to divine moves (plural) so "perfect play" is probably as good as we'll ever get in English. But kami no itte is also used outside go for the protecting hand of the gods, so the Hand of God is not so far off. Since we don't know the eventual denouement of Hikaru no Go, we can't say that this meaning will not become explicit. But without that, it seems to me pretty obvious that Sai is providing the the protective hand of the gods/spirits (he is one himself after all) for Shindo-kun. The admittedly rather awkward phrase Hand of God seems the best solution in the circumstances.

It is better in this case to think of a singular move, rather than perfect play. "Kami no itte" refers to a move that is so unexpected, so brilliant and so creative that it seems like it would be a move only god can make, changing the flow of the game completely with a single move. In this sense, this move doesn't have to be (part of) perfect play. It doesn't even have to actually exist. It's something that all players should strive towards - like how humans strive towards finding all the answers to the universe, even though it's impossible. But by striving towards it, it makes us appreciate go (and the world) just that much more.

See further /Discussion

Professionals vs Kami no Itte

A quote from Bruce Wilcox's book EZ-GO: "People have asked how much stronger than a professional player is God? While the match has yet to be played, most estimates place God three ranks above top professionals. One pro is reported to have said he wouldn't bet his life against God without a four-stone handicap."

In [ext] Rob van Zeijst's column, Otake Hideo is quoted as saying that he would need to take three or four stones from God.

Maradona's hand of God

In football (soccer), there is the famous hand ball by Maradona in 1986, scoring one of the two goals against England, the other being remembered as the best goal in history. When prompted on his cheating, Maradona said God must have interfered "it was the hand of God" (la mano de dios).

Maradona's use of the term "Hand of God" was also quoted by chess World Champion Garry Kasparov in a press conference following game 3 of a six-game "man vs. machine" chess rematch in May 1997 against IBM's Deep Blue computer. He compared the previous day's game #2 (in which Kasparov resigned in what was later proven to be a drawn position) to the quarter-final soccer match, suggesting that there had been some human interference in the computer's decisive win and therefore accusing the IBM team of cheating. "Maradona called it the hand of God," Kasparov said. He never quite recovered from the shock of the loss, tying games 3-5 and resigning game 6, losing the match to Deep Blue.


See also


Kami No Itte last edited by Dieter on December 5, 2011 - 10:25
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