John Fairbairn

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English Go translator and knowledgeable historian. Co-producer (with the late T. Mark Hall) and vendor of the "Games of Go on Disk" database collection (GoGoD).


Books available as print-on-demand via Kindle Direct Publishing or Amazon:


Volume 1: "Wangyou Qingle Ji" and "Xuanxuan Qijing"

by John Fairbairn

You want a book that makes learning life & death go problems fun, that helps you u7nderstand and remember all those wrinkles, that makes sense of all those knotty themes, that provides comprehensive solutions at pro level? In short, a book that can be considered definitive?

Well, here it is. This is the first volume of a projected series of problems from the Chinese classics. Japan and Korea often rehashed these works - as did the Chinese themselves, of course - but their main sources were the Chinese editions that go back a millennium. 

This definitive volume goes back to the earliest two known collections, the Wangyou Qingle Ji (Carefree & Innocent Pastime Collection) and the truly seminal Xuanxuan Qiqing (Gateway to All Marvels). It thus covers over 500 problems, ranging from superhard to cute. Each one was named. Many are beautiful, difficult, highly practical - or all three - but all are memorable. The names enhance the interest, understanding and memorisation if the problems, while also usually offering a clue to the solutions. The name of every problem is explained here, often in some depth (so giving a unique insight into Chinese history and culture). The fullest possible solutions (over 1,400 solution diagrams) are given on the basis of several centuries of opinions by the most expert players of the time in China, Japan and Korea. Sometimes the professionals differ among themselves! Some problems have over twenty variation diagrams. All known variants of each problem are given. This sometimes means a different solution to each alternative! This, too, promotes deep understanding of the problems.

In addition, all the various themes - around 70 - that occur in the problems (many newly identified here) are listed and explained in the solutions and in an overall thematic index. Not only are problems categorised, but the themes can be seen in order of frequency and thus importance. The combination of names, interesting allusions, and identifiable themes further ensures that reader can truly absorb both the shapes and the dynamic principles inherent in each problem. The large number of variants further allows the reader to understand and remember the wrinkles within each theme.

The modern Chinese characters for each name are given and indexed, and a character-conversion appendix is also provided for those familiar with traditional characters via Japanese or Korean. There is also a very comprehensive general index (10 pages) to the text.

The book is in a large and well illustrated "coffee-table" format of 500 pages, and employs colour. It is the sort of book that graces and justifies that expensive kaya board you invested in.

WYQLJ = 37 problems, 90 solution diagrams XXQJ = 466 problems, 1,313 solution diagrams Total = 503 problems, 1,403 solution diagrams

Available worldwide on demand from Amazon/Kindle Publishing from May 2024.

[Note that, in some respects, this book is a paper representation of the e-book Gateway To All Marvels (GTAM), but has been signficiantly expanded as regards problems, and the Wangyou Qingle Ji section is new. It does, however, exclude the old texts and other GTAM material not relating to the problems.

Volume 2, already approaching the proofreading stage, will present the problems of the Shichi Xianji and Xianji Wuku (both Wood and Leather volumes) in similar exhaustive format. Volume 3 is planned to be the Guanzi Pu.]

  • ''Eminence Grise - the Life & Times of Segoe Kensaku (available on Amazon as ISBN 9798856518459) was published in November 2023.

Callimachus, an Alexandrian Librarian under Ptolemy II, preferred shorter forms of poetry and expressed his disdain for long epic poems with the Greek phrase 'mega biblion, mega kakon' - big book, big bad. But Homer proved him wrong. This book hopes to prove Segoe Kensaku also deserves an epic. A case can be made for saying that Segoe was the most significant player ever in professional go. For a time, he was probably the strongest player in the world. He nurtured three dominant geniuses from the three main go-playing countries, Japan, China and Korea. He was pivotal in founding and then running the Nihon Ki-in. He kept the Honinbo tournament running during the war despite being a victim of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. After the war, his links with politicians enabled go to grow again and reach new heights. In retirement, he laid the foundations for expanding go worldwide, with personal visits and books. All this was done under the burden of an eye disease which, at the end of a long and eventful life, was probably the main factor in his dramatic suicide -- he could no longer play go. Just to describe his own, richly textured, life would take many words. But to understand it needs even more. After all, his long life spanned the three eras of Meiji, Taisho and Showa, in a culture we in the West are not really familiar with, given the rather different times and land he lived in. Considering also Segoe's central role in go's principal organisation, the Nihon Ki-in, a mega book about him seems especially appropriate. Be warned. First, the book is 466 pages long. Apart from a profusion of images, it is solid text. There are no games. However, as the text describes 100 years of the main activities in go, the games which feature at each point are highlighted in the text, and the corresponding games can all be found in the GoGoD database, so you can play your way through the story. Second, the book is about the "life and times" of Segoe. While the main focus is obviously on him and his role in all the big events, the text does wander off to explain those times he lived in, so that you can understand why he acted as he did. The result is that very much will be new to you. The proofreader (who is a 4-dan with several decades experience of the go world) said 80% to 90% of the content was new to him (the index alone is over 20 pages). This ranges from how the live-in pupil system worked to how politicians used go players for PR, from the atom-bomb game to playing go in prison, from how go in China and Korea differed in real practice to how Segoe and other pros were startled at how Japanese go was transmogrified in Hawaii, the USA and Europe (not always to their approval!). A further point is that 2024 is the 100th anniversary of the Nihon Ki-in. Segoe was central to the founding and running of this organisation. Twice, really, because he had to start all over again after the war. And in both cases, apart from finding resources and money, he had to deal with stroppy go players - jealousy, wayward pupils, rebellions, court cases. This book is also a salute to that centenary.

  • ''Go in old Okinawa is a historical survey of go in the Ryukyu Islands, now usually just referred to as Okinawa, were once a major trading post on the "Silk Sea Road" midway between China and Japan. Both countries demanded tribute and so the Ryukyuans had to learn to please two masters at once for much of the time. They were also intermediaries between the two cultures, especially when Japan closed itself off to most of the rest of the world in Edo times. Culture in this case included go, which also had a diplomatic role, a role that involved hairpins.This book recounts what is known about go in old Okinawa itself (and about Ryukyuan chess), but also covers the Ryukyuan missions to Edo where go was a major theme. There are six mission games, all commented. There are also 12 ancient games from within Okinawa itself. Half feature a player who has been considered as of pro level. The ISBN is 979-8395940476 and the book (112 pages, medium format, in colour) is available on the usual Amazon on-demand outlets.
  • ''100 Games of Chen Zixian is Book 5 in the Museum of Go Theory project, which looks at the evolution of go theory, mainly in the period 1600 ~ 1900, and mainly in China, which has by far the greatest amount of source material. The original was published in 1890. Chen was one of the two great guoshous of the 19th century. The other was Zhou Xiaosong. Zhou is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Shuwa (partly because he was born in the same year, 1820). The slightly younger Chen might be considered the Chinese Shusaku in that he too died tragically early. But rather than teacher and pupil, Chen and Zhou were great rivals who respected each other. They beat everyone else down to two stones, and when Chen died, that vacuum took the drive out of Zhou's go. He still made great contributions to late 18th century go, as he lived a rather long life, and the most notable was a great book of longish commentaries. The original book of Chen's games, compiled by an amateur fan, lacks commentaries, but does contain over a dozen games with Zhou, other even games (some very famous) with top players , and more than a sprinkling of handicap games, from two to four stones. But the milieu in which Chen and Zhou plied their trade was very different from that of Edo players in Japan. The opportunity has therefore been taken to add text to this new book by describing this milieu of Chen and Zhou and showing how it evolved. The book has thus become something of a fascinating romp through China’s go history. It goes back a long way at times, and scurries down some rabbit holes, but always with the aim has been to show how and why the 19th century scene evolved. Although the main focus is on anecdotes illustrating the lives of Chen and Zhou, the topics ranged over are the history of go in Yangzhou (the equivalent of Edo in Japan) and the history of Chinese grades, from the time of Mencius to Deng Yuanhui's comprehensive survey of 1895. You will meet the original Mulan, Stinky Toes, a chrysanthemum muncher, Iron Head, a carnivorous monk, a lovesick emperor, and a welshing viceroy, as well as everlasting sorrow, dreams. poetry clocks, broken sandals, 2x2 boards and silversmiths. And more! As a result, the go players of the past really come alive. The ISBN is 979-8393428563.
  • ''In the early days of modern professional go in Japan, there were few players and the traditional handicap system was still in use. There were, therefore, next to no tournaments of the type we are used to: leagues and knockouts. The usual format was a win & continue. Because of the levelling-up implied in using handicaps, it was difficult to win a long sequence of games - no wins over weakies to pad out the sequence. Winning even five games in a row was quite rare, and when it happened it was marked with a special prize. It can be viewed rather like winning five games in a row in a 32-player knockout - except that it was somewhat harder. In a knockout, you can guarantee from its inexorable process that someone will end up with a five-star performance. But in a win & continue, when a player on 4 wins lost a game, the whole process had to start of all over again. But in 1911, Kita Fumiko did achieve the magic five. In effect, she won the equivalent of a tough modern title-match. On top of that, she did it by beating only men, and elite players at that. She was the world's first really strong professional go player. In addition, she played a pivotal role in go history, through easing the formation of the Nihon Ki-in and looking after Go Seigen. She also had a host of pupil, One of those is still playing, Mrs Sugucihi Kazuko. Kita remains the only woman to be inducted into go's Hall of Fame. This book describes her annus mirabilis, with commentaries on five of her games by the top players of the age, including Honinbo Shusai (whom she defeated in the W&C). It is an in-depth, illustrated account of Kita's go life, style and influence, with ample biographical details of her opponents and commentators. There is a special reason for this book. A reason which also explains why it is a small (i.e. very affordable) book. My hope is that it will give easy access to a significant role model for female players in the west. Mind you, she's a great role model for go players in general. It is available on-demand in Amazon. The title is "Five-star Kita Fumiko" and the ISBN is 979-8390858912.
  • ''Brush, Ink, Go is the fourth book in my project entitled the Museum of Go Theory. It is a translation of Ji Xinxue's i?Yi Mo/i? 弈墨 which was published in China in 1662. It was the first truly significant book of go commentaries. 100 games are given, covering all the best players of the age (26 in all). This edition is presented both in the original classical Chinese and in English. Extensive notes on the players and the terminology (including Go Wisdom index) are provided.
  • ''Go Seigen versus Archers of Yue. From November 2021, available on demand from Amazon. Go Seigen (1914 ~ 2014) has a reputation, rightly, of being a go genius. Almost all commentaries on his games, however, relate to the times when he was in the ascendant. Times when he made very few mistakes. This creates a slightly warped view of his long career. He was not so dominant when he began that career. Indeed, he made a plethora of mistakes then. But that is not to diminish him. Seeing the kind of mistakes he made and how he learned to overcome them adds richly to a true appreciation of his enormous talent. Among the very first games arranged for Go when he arrived in Japan at the age of 14 in October 1928 was a series of 13 games in which Go (Wu in Chinese) was likened to Sun Zi, the "Art of War" military genius who helped the kingdom of Wu in their rivalry with the kingdom of Yue. His opponents. a different one in each game but all the rising stars of the Japanese go scene, were the archers of Yue. In all these games, now very rarely seen, Go, as a lowly 3-dan, took Black. In fact, he had Black in nearly all his games until 1933. We therefore get to see how Go mastered the art of having first move in no-komi games. Much of the time he followed Honinbo Shusaku, whose games he studied in depth in China. But we also see surprising new ideas clearly based on his equally avid study of the old Chinese masters. All the games are given with commentaries in Go Wisdom format, based on comments from pros of the time, including the players themselves. Anecdotal biographies are given for each opponent. A full, indexed Go Wisdom appendix is included, so that the reader can study the games to a depth well beyond that of the commentaries themselves, and also use the concept data in conjunction with data in other Go Wisdom books.
  • Wizardry from the Stone Chamber (c. 1590). A translation, with extensive notes, of a Ming dynasty go anthology attributed to Xu Gu. This is the second book in the series, Museum of Go Theory, designed to show how go theory evolved in China, but it can also be considered the foundation volume in that it appeared on the cusp of the main period coveted by the Museum series (1600~1900) and so presents a sort of benchmark of the level from which high-level theory evolved. The contents are old games (some with the first-ever inklings of commentary), old theory texts, an extensive openings (josekis and fusekis) catalogue, and a large life & death section (named problems, the names being explained by the translator),
  • Evergreen Go Records (1682). A translation of the commentaries of 66 master games by Wu Ruizheng, himself a master. Over 20 players are featured, including Huang Longshi. With extensive notes on old Chinese go and the players. The original Chinese is also included. This is the second book in the series, Museum of Go Theory, designed to show how go theory evolved in China.
  • Game Records from Evening Fragrance Pavilion (1754). A translation of the commentaries of 15 games by Cheng Lanru, one of the Four Great Masters of the 18th century in China and much admired by Hayashi Genbi in Japan. With extensive notes on old Chinese go and its players. The first book in a planned series, Museum of Go Theory, designed to show how go theory evolved in China, especially in the period 1600-1900.
  • ''The Incident Room: Transgressions on and off the go board. A collection of historical incidents of rules transgression, rules dispute, rules etiquette, go diplomacy, and sometimes just plain daftness.
  • ''Games of Shuei: with Commentaries: 133 commented games involving the Meijin of Meijins, Honinbo Shuei. In Go Wisdom format, a new colour enhaced format designed to encourage, facilitate and improve private study.
  • ''Meijin of Meijins: The Life and Times of Honinbo Shuei. A full-length biography of perhaps the past player most admired by modern pros. (This book is also available in e-form as part of the trilogy below, The Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei.)
  • ''Genjo-Chitoku: Friends and Rivals at the Pinnacle of the Go World. All the games between two players of Meijin strength during the Rfo Golden Age of Go. Almost all commented, in Go Wisdom format, a new colour enhanced format to encourage, facilitate and improve private study.
  • ''Peerless Pioneer: Games of the Great Senchi, Yasui VII Senkaku – commentaries on six games by the great Edo player hailed as the “Father of Modern Go.” There is also an authorised German edition - see below.
  • ''The First Teenage Meijin: a detailed account of the 2019 Meijin title match in which Shibano Toramaru became the first teenage Meijin. All the games are fully commented, with colour background, and Game 5 is also comprehensively annotated with AI evaluations. The history of the Meijin is also covered in depth.
  • ''Kamakura: There is now an Amazon n-demand version (in Go Wisdom Format) of the now out-of-print Slate & Shell version.
  • ''Ogawa Doteki: Go Prodigy: Doteki, the foremost pupil of Honinbo Dosaku, has the brightest reputation of all go prodigies. This books looks at him and some other prodigies and gives a commented collection of all his known games
  • ''Survivors: Matches between Go Seigen and Iwamoto Kaoru, 1948 ~ 1953.

Books available in e-form via Kindle Direct Publishing or Amazon:

  • ''The Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei (three separate volumes). The original source of the present paper book. As of April 2019, paper versions are being prepared, with almost double the number of games.
  • ''Inoue Genan Inseki. A short biography of one of go’s most fascinating characters.
  • ''Gateway To All Marvels. See the SmartGo interactive version below.

Books available originally published by Slate & Shell. As Slate & Shell have ceased paper publications, these are harder to track down. But several have been converted to digital form by them for SmartGo, and work on conversion or re-printing is continuing.

  • ''The Go Companion (with T Mark Hall). A pot pourri of articles on just about every aspect of go. A sort of bedtime book of go.
  • ''The Go Consultants (with T Mark Hall). Detailed coverage of a famous consultation game featuring the actual thoughts of the players, including Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru.
  • ''Kamakura. Extensive commentaries on the entire ten-game wartime match between Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru, with long biographical sections.
  • ''Final Summit. Similar treatment for matches between Go and Takagawa Kaku.
  • ''9-dan Showdown. Similar treatment for matches between Go and Fujisawa Hosai.
  • ''The Meijin's Retirement Game: Honinbo Shusai versus Kitani Minoru. Includes extensive discussion of the Kawabata novel Master of Go based on this game.
  • ''Old Fuseki versus new Fuseki: Honinbo Shusai plays Go Seigen. Includes extensive discussion of the famous Shin Fuseki-ho book.
  • ''Power/Brilliance. A combined ‘flip-book’ that includes commentaries and historical background on (a) The Insha Game: Honinbo Shusai versus Karigane Junichi, and (b) Jowa’s Three Brilliancies: Honinbo Jowa plays Akaboshi Intetsu.

Available (as of April 2019) for SmartGo ( interactive books on PCs, Apple and Android devices:

  • ''The Life, Games and Commentaries of Honinbo Shuei. This book combines all six books previously published on the Kindle: Life, Games (four volumes), and Commentaries.
  • ''The Go Consultants. A version of the original Slate & Shell paper edition.
  • ''Go Seigen's Ten-Game Matches, Volume 1. Four selected games from the original thirty games in the Slate and Shell paper edition of 9-dan Showdown.
  • ''Gateway To All Marvels. A major treatment of the most influential go book ever produced, the Xuanxuan Qijing. All 466 problems from every known edition of this ancient Chinese classic are given, their names are explained, the various solutions are given and discussed (including many mistakes by pros), and the ancient accompanying texts are translated and annotated, including the Go Classic in Thirteen Chapters. The themes and key techniques of all the problems are also discussed and indexed.
  • ''Unfinished Symphony. Extensive commentaries on the shortened ten-game match between Go Seigen and Karigane Junichi, with comprehensive historical background.
  • ''New Ways in Go. A complete translation, with notes, of Honinbo Shuho's classic Hoen Shinpo.
  • ''Today We Have a Splendid Feast. All the surviving problems from the 17th century graduated tsumego course devised by the Meijin Inseki, Dosetsu. An introduction describing Dosetsu and the story of the book is included.
  • ''Wonders of Life and Death. Honinbo Shusai's 1910 tsumego classic, Shikatsu Myoki, with an introduction by me as the editor. It includes 120 problems (with solutions), most original and many taxing and ingenious.
  • ''Honinbo Tournament – The Early Years. The Honinbo Tournament is go’s oldest annual tournament. This book describes in detail how it came about, and goes carefully through each of the early years in the 1940s and 1950s. The games of each title match up to Term 6 are given with rich commentaries (32 games), showcasing also the most famous players and anecdotes.

Book available in German:

Translated by John Fairbairn

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John Fairbairn last edited by Malcolm on May 23, 2024 - 15:41
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