Appreciating Tenuki

Dear Tenuki:

I’ve been reflecting on our relationship, which for a long time could best be described as a nodding acquaintance and little more. Not once did I ever ask you to dance, nor did I talk much to you. I wouldn’t have you think I was blind to your considerable charms. For all that, you appeared to lack the assuredness of girls like Shimari or Keima, and I remember that made quite an impression on me. In my superficial view of things I had you pegged as the girl I could call on when nobody else was around, which is surely an injustice to you. From what I’ve observed it’s an all too widely held view. Not that I’m offering that as an excuse.

I wanted everything cut and dried and locked down you understand. Preoccupied as I was with security, I could never bring myself to trust in your talents, that way you have of bringing clarity to a neurotic and muddled situation. Naturally there’s much to be said for security. However, as with all good things, it can be taken to extremes. When that happens it has a ruinous effect on whatever creative impulses might be lurching around inside one’s cranium.

Recently, of course, I’ve become more receptive to what you have to offer, and you’ve responded most generously. Don’t get me wrong here, I think we both know that neither of us is any go genius. It’s just that in the right circumstances special things can happen when we work together. And I know you’re no tramp Tenuki, you don’t bestow your favours on the first go playing troglodyte who comes along with a hard luck story. All successful collaborations with you require a level of discernment and good taste that I was missing before, and which I now like to think I possess in some measure, at least on my better days. Hopefully I can bring more of that better judgement to the fore in the days and years ahead so that we might continue to prosper together.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry I neglected you for so long, and I’m grateful you would continue to associate with me. Please understand that it was much more about my own limitations than any of yours.

Sincerely and affectionately,


ps: Oh blast this confounded formality! Tell me dearest, am I still your fiddlypoo? Say yes my darling! Do say yes!


Okay, the fiddlypoo part is a bit much, I admit. Nothing to do now but wait patiently for a reply and hope I haven’t blown it, which I probably have. What can I say? In moments of passion strange things can come out the old piehole. So to speak.

Coincidentally, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the proper use of tenuki, spurred by this video in particular, Also, several commentators have observed that AI tends to tenuki more than human players.


Dear fiddlehead:

I was pleased to receive your letter, which I read with great interest. I must say, you took me by surprise with the forcefulness of your declarations. I’ll respond to these in order.

You expressed a concern that I am too often seen as a person of last resort. On that account you did considerable handwringing for my sake. I appreciate the thought, but honestly I think you need to get out a bit more. There is truth to what you say, but I would have you know that I’ve attracted my share of groupies and supplicants. Some of them carry themselves well, at least by amateur standards. Others have a veneer of sophistication that’s rather easily damaged. And many, of course, are outright bumpkins with a great deal to learn about go basics. Here I’ll confess to a certain fondness for this latter group. I find their childlike enthusiasm captivating, even when I see them pursuing strategies that are questionable at best, if not an outright fantasy. In any case, my goodness, the way they cluster around me you would think that I’m Athena or the blessed virgin herself. Decidedly difficult shoes to fill, you’ll agree.

You stated that I bring clarity to a muddled situation. I certainly hope that’s true. I tend to think of myself as being more about possibilities. About the spirit of adventure if you will, or at least the spirit of investigation. Often enough it works out well. But you’ve said yourself that I’m no go genius, and I would therefore caution you against deferring to me in a kneejerk way.

As for your being my fiddlypoo, I’m afraid you have misconstrued the depth of my feelings for you. I enjoyed our times together at the Tsuke-Hiki Lounge, but that was simply two associates talking shop. If I led you to believe it was more than that, I do apologize. Really, you shouldn’t worry your head about it. All the same, please bear in mind that although I may have got a bit carried away, I’m really not in the habit of uttering endearments to go players, especially those incorporating the word poo.

But I see this letter is becoming unseemly, so I’ll end it here. In closing, I would say that I’ve enjoyed working with you and see no reason I wouldn’t enjoy it again. Until then, thank you for your words of support, and all the best to you in your go endeavours.

Warmest regards,


ps: Keima’s bark is worse than her bite if you ask me. Her sister Ogeima is an even bigger fraud.


Will the affair turn into something more? Tenuki seems to be a little distant, but judging from the PS, there is a glimmer of mutual affection. Fingers crossed, I’m looking forward to see how this relationship evolves!


She did appear to leave the door open, ever so slightly. I feel I need to tread very carefully here, because I just don’t know. In hindsight I didn’t do myself any favours in choosing the Tsuke-Hiki for a rendezvous. It’s a disreputable joint. I really don’t know what I was thinking there.
There’s a place just up the street called Flower Viewing, and I guess if I had it to do again I would take her there. Unfortunately in affairs of the heart an undo is hard to come by.


I find it helps to clarify up front whether you’re the type of chap who asks for undoes or not - saves embarassment and consternation later… :wink:


Yes, I see you’ve been delving into that thorny issue. It has disturbing implications for relationships, but the upside is tremendous. You do stick to your principles, it must be said.


Here’s an update, then I must put this away. For the greater good.

The correspondence with Tenuki includes several more letters. What happened was, I published the first of her responses without permission, and that’s when things got really frosty. Our relationship has improved since then, but the eventual publication of those letters is a subject I dare not raise with her. Not now, and probably never. And I suppose that’s for the best.

What I can tell you (although at some risk) is that the remaining letters follow this trajectory:

---- Full of indignation, Tenuki chastises fiddlehead for violating her privacy. This gets very ugly.

---- Fiddlehead replies that Tenuki isn’t a real person and should therefore get off her high horse. Not a real horse either.

---- Tenuki threatens fiddlehead with a restraining order, although it’s never remotely clear how that’s supposed to work. Calls him a smartass.

---- Fiddlehead scoffs at the proposed restraining order. What’s she going to do, send an IGF goon squad to his door? Declares himself ready for all out mudslinging.

---- A blubbering fiddlehead apologizes for his atrocious behaviour. Says he’ll do whatever grovelling is required to win back her favour.

---- Moved by his show of contrition, Tenuki accepts fiddlehead’s apology, acknowledges her part in the fiasco that is mercifully coming to an end. Says she’ll even call him fiddlypoo if he likes, but only one time. Quite a concession on her part.

There you have it then. Someday maybe we’ll glide across the goban like Astaire and Rogers. For the time being, we’re mostly stepping on each other’s toes. Ain’t love grand?

Pass the tissues around if need be. Thanks for stopping by.