Forum for Magic Sword

Wikipedia is incorrect [#1441]

Back to forum     Back to page

New reply

DaveSigaty: Wikipedia is incorrect (2008-07-02 22:48) [#4805]

In version 60 of this page, the content was substantially changed to conform to that of the Japanese version of Wikipedia. However, the Wikipedia article is clearly wrong. The Magic Sword does not refer to the 2-space high pincer in general, but only to the specific variation. This is clear in the Igo Daijiten, Gendai Joseki Jiten (Yamabe), and Ishida. Wikipedia is not an authority on Go.

Bill: Re: Wikipedia is incorrect (2008-07-03 05:05) [#4808]

Maybe Wikipedia is not an authority on go, but Sakata and Go Seigen are.

It is not uncommon for words to have more than one usage, particularly when the different meanings differ in generality. It appears that that is the case here. In such cases, lexicographers recognize the multiple meanings. Both usages appear in the go literature. We should present both meanings.

(A while later): I found numerous references on the web, but by amateurs. However, I also found a reference on the Yomiuri Online site, in a commentary on one of the Kisei games. I added a footnote for it. Re: Wikipedia is incorrect (2008-07-03 06:50) [#4809]

Dave: Since I do not have the books referenced, I can't comment on what was written there. However, with names like "Joseki and Tricks" and "Watch Out for These Plays", I do not expect they are talking about the 2-space high pincer in general. Look again at your Yomiuri example. It is a different usage again. It says that the large-scale joseki arising from the large knight play at 10 is called the magic sword. To me this is just a mistake.

Furthermore, in your editing of this page you do not talk about multiple uses. You state "The Magic sword of Muramasa is a common name for the two space high pincer of the 3-4 point one-space high approach... It got that name because it has many difficult variations." This is simply not correct - at least in Japan. The common usage and the derivation of the name apply to the specific variation.

Bill: Re: Wikipedia is incorrect (2008-07-03 16:05) [#4810]

As for my editing, I thought that I indicated two different usages. The first time I thought that the usage for the specific variation was an English usage, but you have corrected that impression, and I changed the language. If it is still not clear, then we can make it clearer. :)

As for the go literature, I have never seen the name restricted to the one variation, except by amateurs using English. It seems that the literature that you have seen never uses the name more generally for the pincer joseki. That discrepancy is curious, but neither of us has read everything. ;)

(Later edit): What about Hasegawa's book about the Magic Sword joseki, one of the Go Super Book series (Nihon Kiin, 1972)? Out of print, surely, but somebody has it. :)

The Go Seigen book is quite clear. In Kono Te Goyoushin, the komoku volume, p. 129, Go Seigen shows the following diagram (reversed) with the caption: Muramasa's Magic Sword and the outside attachment.


He goes on to say plainly that the two space high pincer is called Muramasa's Magic Sword.

On the next page he shows both of these variations:

Variation 1  

He identifies the second diagram as joseki, but does not say, this one is called the Magic Sword.

(Later): Actually, I see that Go Seigen refers to the pincer as the Magic Sword in several places.


For instance, on p. 135 he shows this diagram, with the statement: "To the Magic Sword of Muramasa by Black, the taisha of W1 is a way of responding (手段) first played by Fujisawa Hosai."

DaveSigaty: ((no subject)) (2008-07-07 16:49) [#4867]

No content

reply Murky origins (2008-07-03 20:48) [#4813]

John F. There does seem to be a lot of muddle here, but I certainly would not call on Go Seigen, Sakata or Wikipaedia to unravel it. Would you accept Einstein as an authority on scientific English?

It seems dangerous to quote Igo Daijiten as an authority, too, as the 1935 edition makes no mention of the term rendered as Magic Sword. This bungo edition would never pass up the chance to quote an esoteric term, and it does indeed wax lyrical about the one joseki line of this opening: it refers to the strings of stones jumping out as like the Rhine and Danube rivers. But it gives only two and a bit pages, and most of the diagrams are labelled "reference" or are extracts from games. The opening is clearly a new work in progress.

Takagawa may or may not be a good authority. He claimed the first occurrence was in 1928 and credited Kubomatsu Katsukiyo. But he obviously hadn't read Igo Daijiten as that gives the 1927 Hashimoto-Fukuda game that I think is the first occurrence. However, he was certainly well acquainted with Kubomatsu, who in turn is a good candidate for this kind of innovation.Be that as it may, Takagawa has claimed that the term originated in the early 1940s. If so, this was probably (my speculation) in a newspaper commentary, but no-one has been able to pinpoint it. Given the paper and circulation restrictions, and then the fire-bombings, that is no surprise. He also says it referred to a specific line (not necessarily to a joseki - the josekis then hardly existed). If we accept the surmise that a literary coinage was much more likely to come from a literary person rather than a hack go magazine writer (and recall that ordinary go players have come up with next to no names for openings over the centuries), we can see a very clear path by which it might have first appeared. Newspapers were then in the habit of employing famous writers to comment on games. Their commentaries are full of this sort of artistic stuff. Absent the actual article, this remains speculation, of course, but if it is true then it almost must, by definition, have referred to a single line.

Now all neologisms have a tough time surviving. Darwinian evolution applies even here and no-one is quite sure why one term sticks and another fades away. There has, however, been some work in modern linguistics that suggest factors that help the fittest prevail. Nadare (avalanche) has survived. This is a native Japanese term; it is a graphic image; it is a popular opening. Youtou is an endangered species. It is a Chinese term; it is a fuzzy image; the opening has been less popular than the nadare. Even a book devoted to the opening has the stilted name "The joseki known by the name of the Bewitched Sword" (Youtou to iu na no jouseki, by Hasegawa; which makes no comment on the name or the date of origin), even though the book on the Avalanche in the very same Super Book series is called just Nadare Jouseki.

But there is a little twist here. The term Magic Sword has become popular in the west, and has even spawned a Magic Dirk. Causation is the magic concept in modern linguistics, and the metaphor of a sword that enables you to perform magic is clearly potent. In Japanese, in stark contrast, a bewitched sword (the proper meaning) where the causation is enabling not you but the sword, and malevolently at that, is a much less appealing image. Indeed, so unpopular is the term in Japanese, I have never even seen it listed in a go terms dictionary (unlike nadare and tochka). The term seems almost to die out only for it then to be periodically re-introduced back into the wild from the zoo of obscure terms whenever the opening becomes fashionable again, as at present.

Furthermore, it is my impression that Magic Sword in English refers to the pincer itself, or rather the sword-like shape of the first three stones. But in Japanese there is a sense it refers either to a specific line or to the the bewitching mass of complicated lines.

These two points (different meaning - magic/bewitched - and different reference) seem to make a plausible case for treating the English term now as an independent creation.

The Japanese belief (in some quarters) that the Bewitched Sword refers to a specific line seems rooted in the likely scenario mentioned above. There has been a suggestion that the opening (I mean the 2-space high pincer) had a phase of popularity from 1940 to 1943, and this was when the name was first attached, but the records of many of these games were lost, and from those that survive it is hard to get a sense of how popular it really was. The opening appeared in Game 6 of the 1st Honinbo Final between Kato Shin and Sekiyama Riichi in 1941, and if a fancy name existed it would surely have appeared there. But the line there was a simplistic one, and not the tricky line that supposedly inspired the name. There seems to be disagreement about which line was meant, but all suggestions are based on post facto reasoning (i.e. this line is very complicated so it must have been the one meant).

Given that an early usage is youtou Muramasa (Muramasa of the bewitched swords) it may even have been the case that the first reference was not so much to an opening but to the person who played it.

It is hardly surprising that, with such murky origins, the term is fuzzy in the minds of modern Japanese. My sense is that it nowadays refers not to a specific line, but nor does it refer to the whole corpus of 2-space pincer lines (as I think it does with us). It seems rather to refer to the sub-set of lines in this opening that are predisposed to lead to complications.

Bill: Re: Murky origins (2008-07-04 01:43) [#4815]

There does seem to be a lot of muddle here, but I certainly would not call on Go Seigen, Sakata or Wikipaedia to unravel it. Would you accept Einstein as an authority on scientific English?

To me it is not a question of authority, but of usage. I think that the Oxford English Dictionary has pretty much got the right approach. If a usage is in the literature, it belongs in the dictionary. Earlier versions of the Magic Sword page said that the use of the term to refer to the pincer was a mistake. Yet Go Seigen clearly uses it with that meaning. That is good enough to justify that usage, without making Go Seigen an authority. Similarly for Einstein. An article in English by Einstein, published in an English language scientific journal would certainly qualify as an example of scientific English. It is not just Einstein who would have decided on the language, but also the journal editor, and possibly others as well. Re: Murky origins (2008-07-04 11:04) [#4816]

This seems to increase the muddle, Bill. It seems it was you who said: "Maybe Wikipedia is not an authority on go, but Sakata and Go Seigen are" and in this context by go you clearly meant go terminology.

Furthermore, I can't see that we are disagreeing. Not only do I believe in recording usage, I am even suggesting we should record English usage as different from Japanese. What am I missing?

However, usages can be classified in various ways, as in the OED, e.g. as slang, literary, or obsolescent. "Incorrect" is certainly a contentious category, but a case can be made for "deviant" or "in careful usage" or the like. I am not attempting any classification myself. I'm rather more interested in the history of the term. Plus I haven't seen the Go Seigen book you mention.

Bill: Re: Murky origins (2008-07-04 16:56) [#4817]

This seems to increase the muddle, Bill. It seems it was you who said: "Maybe Wikipedia is not an authority on go, but Sakata and Go Seigen are" and in this context by go you clearly meant go terminology.

Not exactly. What I had in mind was that their writing was go literature. The Wikipedia article I would not classify as go literature.

Furthermore, I can't see that we are disagreeing. Not only do I believe in recording usage, I am even suggesting we should record English usage as different from Japanese. What am I missing?

I don't know that we are disagreeing, either. I just wanted to make clear that I was not saying that authorities on go are ipso facto authorities on go terminology. However, they are its prime users, and the authors of go literature (whether ghosted or not). As such, their usage is acceptable.

As for recording English usage, I am all for it, if we stick to the literature, which has grown quite a bit over the years. One problem (from my point of view) that I see on SL is that people make claims for their own usage. In terms of descriptive linguistics, that's fine, but I think that there is properly a prescriptive aspect to go terminology, and that is another reason to rely upon the literature.

For instance, Japanese go literature distinguishes joseki from baai no te, while English-speaking amateurs tend to call both joseki. Descriptively, I have no problem with that, but I think that it is an important distinction, and prescriptively, I do not want to say, well, including both is just the English meaning of the term. As far as I know, English go literature has not adopted the broader usage. But if that usage appeared in the BGA Journal or the AGA Journal, for instance, I would say OK.

And what about Magic Dirk? I like it, myself, but I have not been able to locate any reference to it except SL (which, like Wikipedia, I do not regard as go literature). As far as I know, it is a term that Pasky coined, and presented as a "sometimes called" term. I think that it is fine to coin terms, but you should say so. Do you know if it appears in the English go literature? Magic Dirk (2008-07-04 18:00) [#4818]

Bill, Magic Dirk was coined, I believe, by David Mitchell in the days of the London Go Centre (30+ years ago). If it was not him, it was a collective effort involving him and Stuart Dowsey. This was in the days of the Super Books (which included Nadare and Magic Sword) and we would all look forward to the next delivery, But as David worked there, he got his hands on the books first. The coinage was meant as a joke, and as far as I know it has remained a joke, but one in constant currency here. David is now in Australia but still plays go.

I recognise the difference you are highlighting between jouseki and baai no te, but for the benefit of others I think we should make it plain that the latter is not really very common and is not a specific technical term.

Bill: Re: Magic Dirk (2008-07-04 18:52) [#4819]

Thanks for the info about Magic Dirk. :) That might make a good footnote on that page.

DaveSigaty: I stand corrected (2008-07-07 16:48) [#4868]

Over the weekend I had time to go to Kanda and spend about an hour and a half browsing through the used book stores. I found that Bill was correct and that I was wrong in terms of the early use of the term. The earliest reference that I found was in a 1965 book by Sakata titled "Gendai Joseki" (Modern Josek). It referred to the magic sword as the 2-space high pincer in general. Several other books from about that period, e.g. another "Gendai Joseki" by Takagawa published in 1964 did not use the term at all. I found another book, "Taisha, Muramasa, Ohnadare" by Kobayashi Koichi published in 1981, that also referred to the 2-space high pincer in general.

Meanwhile among my own books I found that Go Seigen's "Gendai Joseki Katsuyou Jiten" (Modern Joseki Application Dictionary) published in 1976 had the statement shown...

Simultaneously the third edition of Igo Daijiten was published in 1976 linking the term to the specific edition (for the first time?). This is the diagram from Yamabe's dictionary published in 1985, but the text is taken verbatim from Igo Daijiten (Yamabe has nicer fonts and clearer printing :-)

The latest version of Igo Daijiten continues the practice of associating the term with this specific variation. However, I would have to say that based on my experience the term is not widely used in Japanese these days. I do not think that I have ever heard it used in speech to refer to either the general or the specific line.

Bill: Good research! (2008-07-07 19:20) [#4869]

Wow, Dave! That's some good research. :)

So the dual usage has been around for some time, both in Japanese and English. Is the wording on the main page OK? Pause for reflection (2008-07-07 23:18) [#4870]

Dave, I agree this new info is a big step forward but I'd hesitate in coming so promptly to the conclusion that it clarifies two usages. There are after all three usages to consider: (1) a specific (though now apparently forgotten) single line; (2) the two-space pincer and all that flows from it; (3) only the scary lines that flow from that.

The Go Seigen extracts seems to admit of the possibility that he thought this was the first specific instance, though I'm very doubtful that he is really saying that, and your other research may preclude it anyway. More to the point, the ogeima press is one of the scary lines.

The Yamabe version seems to hint strongly at the scary lines, too, since the example he chooses to highlight starts with a vulgar move.

In other words, both these examples could fall under category 3. Could your other examples do likewise? Obviously, in terms of the real meaning of the name, such a category would be a best fit, no? Especially if we accept "bewitched swords", plural, is a better rendering (and if my memory of Muramasa is correct - was it not all his swords that were hexed?).

DaveSigaty: Re: Pause for reflection (2008-07-08 13:24) [#4871]

One other thing that struck me while I was looking for references was that as late as the early 60's the 2-space pincer was not a main-stream reply to the high approach move. In joseki books (as opposed to dictionaries) the only pincer really discussed was the 1-space low pincer. So I think it is reasonable to believe that the terminology surrounding the 2-space high pincer was in a state of flux. Also the understanding of the joseki itself was not clearly formed at that time. GoGoD has only around 20 examples of the 2-space high pincer prior to 1965. The implications of the name "magic sword" may have seemed more appropriate at that time than they do today, when most middle-ranked amateurs can reel off the normal lines for the large knight play automatically (needless to say without really understanding all the meanings :-). In the period since 2002 (the era of 6.5 point komi), the 2-space high pincer is the second most frequently played reply to the high approach in GoGoD. I doubt that many players today feel that the 2-space high pincer ranks with the taisha or onadare in complexity. Horrors tamed = goox point (2008-07-08 18:24) [#4873]

We now have 33 pre-1965 examples in GoGoD, Dave, but your feeling about the practical absence of the opening certainly tallies with the name not appearing in terminology dictionaries. Your last point about the alleged horrors of the opening having been tamed through familiarity is a very interesting one. There was a series on this opening earlier this year in Weiqi Tiandi and the lines looked pretty long and complex to me, but it was a superficial impression as I didn't actually read it. Maybe a lot of the lines are forced one-way streets (because of the dominance of the ladder theme??), unlike the nadare and taisha. The nadare is still widely discussed, but I can't recall anything on taisha for a long time. Anybody?

reply Small input (2011-08-30 05:44) [#8693]

I think this research is fantastic and it is good for clarification. As far as I know, I have had several professional coaches from China who refer to all the various complex variations of the two space high pincer as the magic sword. Having played go for 20 years in three continents, I have encountered the broad usage of the magic sword in English, Japanese and Chinese literature. I think it is reasonably safe to adopt the broader definition, although I have only seen it used to talk about the ogeima and contact variations, and not necessarily all two space high variations. There is a sense in the community that eponymous joseki must be complex to merit the name.

Back to forum     Back to page

New reply

[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library