Page:Smith - The game of go.djvu/35

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11
HISTORY OF THE GAME

est degree in the series was “Kudan,” or the ninth degree. In order to attain the first degree, or “Shodan,” the candidate must be an excellent player, so good in fact that he could follow the game as a profession. In other games such a graduated system of classifying players would be scarcely possible, but among good Go players it is feasible, because the better player almost invariably wins, even if he be but slightly superior. If the difference in skill could not be equalized in some way the game would become tiresome, as the weaker player would almost always be able to foresee his defeat. The stronger player, therefore, allows his adversary to place enough stones on the board as a handicap to make the adversaries approximately equal.

According to the rules of the Academy, if the difference between the skill of the players was only one degree, the weaker player would be allowed the first move. If the difference was two degrees, the weaker player would be allowed to place a stone on the board, and the stronger player would have the first move, and so on; in other words, the difference between each degree might be called half a stone. Thus, a player of the fourth degree would allow a player of the first degree to place two stones on the board as a handicap, but would have the first move. A player of the seventh degree would allow a player of the first degree three stones, and a player of the ninth degree would allow a player of the first degree four stones. Four was the highest handicap allowed among the players holding degrees, but, as we shall see later, among players of less skill greater handicaps are frequently given.

A player of the seventh degree also received the honorary title “Jo zu,” or the higher hand. Those of the eighth