Keywords: Culture & History

Chumon (Japanese Chuumon 注文) is a Japanese word which in everyday usage means "order", as at a restaurant. In go, it means "letting a player have his way", and is used to describe a sequence or variation with an overly favorable result for one side. Chumon could also be translated as "what Black (or White) wants (or hopes for)". Normally the idea is that the opponent has a better line to follow, one that would bring about a more reasonable result.

Professionals, however, bring a more nuanced interpretation to the term. It would be rare for any sequence in a pro game to greatly favor one side, or for a pro to fail to see a way to prevent such a result. Pros use the word with a psychological flavor. Anything the opponent wants--even if objectively speaking the result would be balanced--is to be avoided or prevented. Failing to do this is the other player's chumon, or "letting him have his way", and is inherently negative. Chumon is a useful word to understand since it casts light on this psychological dynamic of the game.

John F. Is it wise to turn such humdrum words into quasi-technical words, which is what the effect of such pages is?

It is true that chuumon is used in the ordinary language to mean order/commission, but it is also used in the ordinary language to mean request etc, so the go usage - admittedly fairly common - is in no way special. If you translate the usual go usage as "do the opponent's bidding" you get a one-to-one translation with exactly the same register (i.e. ordinary speech) as in Japanese.

It's also true that there may be an interesting psychological nuance about the sequence being discussed, but that's inherent in the context rather than the term. The English reader is just as capable of grasping that from "do one's bidding" as a Japanese reader is from chuumon. I can't see that overloading the word itself with the nuance is really necessary.

Having said that, pros do have a horror of being forced to play something and amateurs perhaps do not always grasp how horrified they are. So maybe a page on that specific aspect might be more rewarding and reach a wider audience than Japanese translators.

BobMyers Hi John. Your erudition is most welcome. If you think "chumon" deserves a page on Sensei's, I'm sure everyone would be glad if you were to go ahead and write it, deleting all the stuff I wrote if you feel that's best.

I wrote this page precisely because my personal view is that chumon is not a humdrum word but does in fact have a "quasi-technical" (or perhaps "go-specific" would be better) meaning. I wrote this page because I was watching a video commentary in which Kataoka Satoshi was commentating a really interesting NHK semifinal game between Yoda Norimoto and Cho U, and used this word to describe a situation in which one of the players wanted something and the other player went out of his way to prevent him from getting what he wanted, basically just out of principle.

You mention that a page on the aspect that professionals are horrified at being forced to play something might be worthwhile. That was sort of my intention, at least partially, in starting this page. What would you name the page you have in mind?

John F. Bob, while I'm not convinced that chuumon is really a candidate for a page on its own, I agree the underlying concept you have identified is important (the horror of being forced), though beyond that I can't think of a good name for it. Partly that's because I think it actually goes further than mere psychology.

In fact, stimulated by your posting I'll take the liberty of going off at a tangent to expand on it.

Like me you've probably noticed quite a lot of stuff about go theory in Japanese that hasn't made it to the west yet - either at all or poorly presented.

Always with the caveat that I'm a mere amateur myself, I'd say four things (for starters) stand out as especially important. In no particular order:

  • Choushi (momentum) -- This is recognised in the West, at least among strong players, but not properly understood, so that it has not yet become part of a player's normal approach to choosing a move.
  • Timing/tempo -- This is understood a fair bit in the opening, but hardly recognised at all in the middle game. There is a good example in an installment of our new "Consultants commentary" (on the GoGoD CD) where one side cuts a group in half - good thing you may assume, but it brings the risk of falling behind a tempo in the game.
  • Kakoi -- (deliberately surrounding territory, as opposed to accumulating it by attacking). I once mentioned this to Charles Matthews and he said Kim Seong-june had told him that grasping this surprising concept was what took him from 5-dan to 6-dan. Beyond that, I've not come across any recognition of the concept in the west, but there are some examples in the Fujisawa tesuji dictionary.
  • Ijime (bullying) -- This seems to be almost unknown as a concept in the west. Stronger players seem to acquire a feel for it without knowing what it is called, but their understanding seems incomplete and execution imperfect. The nearest thing I can recall to a discussion of one aspect of this problem is in the Kageyama book translated by James Davies, the name of which I have forgotten. It's the example where a player peeps at the open skirt of a territory and you wrongly answer by blocking, whereupon the first player peeps at the other side and you block again. You have been bullied - ijime-ed. The right approach is to answer the first peep with peep of your own on the other side. Westerners have turned this into another concept, "mutual damage". Neat, but it misses the bigger underlying concept in my view.

This ijime concept applies many times in every game and could be accessible even to DDKs, so I think it would be worth concentrating on. Since, ultimately, this concept also underlies the "horror of being forced", perhaps the way forward is to start small and grow big. Start a page with some examples of ijime, for all levels of players, and then later add some examples of chuumon for more advaced players.

The other concepts above merit attention, too, of course.

maruseru: The atsumi/atsusa discussion is interesting in the same way as well.

maruseru: In Korean Baduk books, one often finds "주문" (jumun) as in "흑의 주문" alongside a diagram showing what Black's intentions are, or how White would play to follow Black's plan. [ext] naver translates it as "an order; ordering; a request; a demand; a wish".

Bob McGuigan: The "horror of being forced" is included in the pro players' abhorrence of kikasare, of course, and refusal to allow your opponent what he wants is part of kiai, so there is a whole complex of concepts here.

chumon last edited by on May 30, 2007 - 18:52
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