American Go E-Journal

Go Review: Fairbairn’s “Meijin of Meijins: The Life and Times of Honinbo Shuei”

Monday February 20, 2017

Reviewed by Roy Schmidt2017.02.20_meijin-of-meijins

Go translator and historian John Fairbairn draws upon his phenomenal knowledge of go history and his collection of classic works to craft “Meijin of Meijins: The Life and Times of Honinbo Shuei,” an entertaining and educational book covering the life of one of the strongest members of the Honinbo “family,” Honinbo Shuei. Shuei has long been the most admired and emulated player amongst go professionals in Japan. He gave Honinbo Shusai black in every game they played, and won a solid majority of them. It is a marvel that he became so strong, because during his lifetime, the go world in Japan was thrown into turmoil with the abolishment of government support by the new Meiji apparatus. How the Honinbos and other go families coped with their reversal of fortunes makes for a good read.

With a grand total of just three diagrams in the book, this is not the book for those interested in reviewing Shuei’s games. But if you want a taste of the inside workings of the go community during the late 1800s up to 1908, this is an absolute jewel. There are some organizational problems with the narrative, with some repetition of events – perhaps because the book is pulled from a larger e-book (which does contain commented games) with “light editing.” But overall, the writing is excellent and for fans of go history, I highly recommend this book. It’s published using Amazon’s instant-printing process, which offers quality comparable to mainstream paperback go books with an amazingly low price ($9.99).

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