Page:Smith - The game of go.djvu/37

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13
HISTORY OF THE GAME

Players of high rank who are challenged by the improving players of the lower grades will instinctively desire to make it more difficult for the new players to attain the higher degree, because their own fame, which is their highest possession, depends upon the result of the game; and assuming that all trial games could be conducted in an impartial and judicial spirit, nevertheless, all the players would become more expert from the hard practice, even if their skill in relation to each other remained the same.

Thus a seventh degree player of to-day would be better in a year although he still remained in the seventh degree, and this constant raising of the standard must lead us to suppose that a player of the seventh degree now is quite equal or perhaps superior to an eighth or ninth degree player of a hundred or two hundred years ago. As an illustration of this increase in skill, we only have to compare the standard set in the Ryukyu Islands. They also established the classification in degrees soon after the foundation of the Academy in Japan, and then the two institutions seem to have lost touch. Korschelt relates that for the first time about the year 1880 a Go player of the second degree from the Satsuma province visited those Islands and tried his skill with their best players, and found that he could easily defeat the players there classified as of the fifth degree.

The position as head of the Academy was much coveted by Go players, but it was generally held by the Honinbo family. One of the last incidents in relation to the Academy tells of an attempt on the part of Inouye Inseki, the eleventh of that line, to obtain the headship of the Academy when Honinbo Jowa, who was the twelfth Honinbo, retired. Inseki was afraid he could not obtain