Kaname Ishi

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Note: This page focuses on the term kaname-ishi and possible translations into English. See pivotal stones for information on the concept of kaname-ishi as applied to go.

The Japanese Go term KanameIshi, corresponding to the Korean term Yo-Soek? has the non-go meaning of keystone, the stone at the top of an arch which prevents the arch from collapsing.

In the go context, kaname-ishi was presumably adopted to refer to stones the absence (capture) of which would cause something (the player's position) to come tumbling down. A rendering in English is pivotal stones. Another, more truthful rendering is key stones, but this term is often (mis-)understood as the more general important stones.

As with all Asian terminology, the term KanameIshi exists for a reason. In this case, the reason is to succinctly convey a basic principle of regional fighting, which is that stones whose capture allows the opponent to join up his forces are like keystones in an arch. To make up a word like this if all it meant was Important Stones, or Cutting stones, would be overzealous imagery. Moreover, these two terms are so general concepts that they are not really useful.

The English rendering term "pivotal stones" appears to be an artifact of someone who did not understand that "kaname-ishi" meant "keystone", and instead de-constructed the word into "kaname" and "ishi", where "kaname" by itself does mean "pivot". This word has not gained much popularity in English, although it is seen issues of Go World, and probably should not.

Of course, the "kaname" character can also be read "you", meaning "need", "demand", "require", which may have been what led some to the meaning of "important stones", but here it is clearly part of the "kaname-ishi" compound with the predetermined meaning "keystone".

Yes, the proverb says kaname-ishi ha suteru-bekarazu, but that proverb is instructing us how to handle KanameIshi, rather than declaring in general that any stones that should not be sacrificed are Kaname Ishi.

''this article was drawn from Bob Myers' explanation and opinion on Key Stones/Discussion


Kaname Ishi last edited by Dieter on July 25, 2008 - 13:16
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