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    Part 7

    Pressing on the Divine Head

    Guo Shiyan of the Tang Dynasty was famous for his play which rescued two of his groups trapped by ladders. This game has been passed on for hundreds of years and was first mentioned in Du Yang Za Pian written by Su E of Tang Dynasty.

    Guo, the best Weiqi player in China, was the Weiqi Administrator in Emperor Tang Xuan Zong's palace. During the eighth year of Xuan Zong's reign, a Japanese prince traveled to Changan and paid tribute to China, bringing precious gifts and musical instruments. The Japanese prince was also an exceptional Weiqi player. Emperor Xuan Zong asked Guo to entertain the Japanese prince by playing a game of Weiqi with him. This might very well be the first international Weiqi game. As one can imagine, the pressure was on Guo. In representing China against the prince of Japan, Guo could very well lose his life if he lost. Guo played the game cautiously, like walking on thin ice. He was sweating furiously and made every play after careful considerations. When the prince played move number 42, Guo was in a terrible position, with two of his groups trapped by ladders. If he makes a wrong play, he could lose the game. Staring at the board, Guo discovered an exquisite play which could break two ladders. This was the play known as Pressing on the Divine Head. The Japanese prince was stunned and soon resigned. The prince asked the translator how did Guo rank among Chinese Weiqi players. The translator boasted that Guo was only ranked number three. The Japanese prince thus requested that he would like to meet the best player in China. The translator replied, "One must beat the third best to meet the second best, and beat the second best before meeting the best." The prince sighed, "The best in a small kingdom (Japan) is no match for the third best in a big kingdom (China). I truly believe now "

    According to the research of Japanese scholar Watanabe Yoshimichi, this international match did take place. Watanabe wrote in Kodai igo no Sekai, which was published in the Kido Magazine, "The thirteenth ambassador mission to Tang (Tang Dynasty of China) was accompanied by the prince (of Japan) in 835 A.D., who stayed in China for a total of 45 years. Therefore, the prince was indeed in China during Xuan Zong's reign." However, Watanabe did not mention the Pressing the Divine Head play.

    The sequence in this game record was a popular opening in ancient Chinese games, with one side approaching the corner at 3-6, and the opponent replying at 5-6. This was also seen in the game record of Ranka (see Go Stories in Go Winds 4:1), and was very popular during the Ming Dynasty. Therefore some believe that this game was played in the Ming Dynasty instead. Others believe that this game was created by Wang Jixin between 713 and 756 A.D., who accredited this game record to Guo Shiyan in the book Yi Zheng Regardless of whose creation it is, the sequence is quite exquisite

    Copyright Yutopian Enterprises 1999.

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