American Go E-Journal

SHOTWELL’S UPDATES ON GO HISTORY & STATS

Monday August 23, 2010

Peter Shotwell, author of Go! More Than a Game, has published two articles based on subjects in the upcoming update of his book to the AGA’s Bob High library. The first [PDF] is a look at his re-dating and re-interpretation of early Confucian thoughts on go, and the second article [PDF] covers some research done on the statistical properties of go games by Dr. John Tromp.  Traditionally, the Confucian ideas about go have been thought to be quite negative, but Shotwell took account of the fact they were actually written in a small area in northeastern China over a period of only about 50 years in the late 3rd to early 2nd centuries B.C.E, (instead of the usually-thought “hundreds of years”). When the full contexts were looked at, he found that the writers were clearly using go only to aid their comments on their evolving attitudes about filial piety, and that the only aspect of the game they disapproved of was fanatical play to the detriment of moral duties.  The last Confucian go writing appeared c. 260 B.C.E. and it was only 120 years later, after the Warring States period had ended and peace was restored, that writings with high praise for go (indicating a great increase in skill) appeared and the earliest game board was found. The second article, which includes an interview of Dr. Tromp, notes his incredible figures for the longest possible go game (longer than the universe might last), compares the vast numbers of possible positions for chess and go (like comparing the nucleus of an atom to the size of the universe), and the total number of possible games (for example, there are 386+ billion for 2×2 boards).  Shotwell gave a presentation at the recent U.S. Go Congress looking at both of these topics and some others that will appear in the update to his book.
- Jake Edge

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