In the discussion of the new OGS ranking adjustment, I dove into the history of how modern kyu rank was perceived in the past, and at the time this was the oldest documents I found in 1931
From this content with its relatively complete description, I was convinced the birth of modern kyu ranking must have an earlier origin. And then I looked into the Japanese wiki for Go ranking
There are some descriptions about the dan rank and kyu rank history but without any sources. It basically says the dan ranking has been established since the Edo period, but no kyu ranking existed at the time, and points the origin of the “kyu ranking” toward the Hoensha (方円社), established at 1879 (明治12年). It is generally considered the first modern Go association, and the precursor of the Nihonkiin.
The wiki description of the Hoensha has these two sentences about its “kyu ranking”
And these create more confusion as to the origin of the modern kyu ranking. The first one says the Hoensha abolished the dan ranking in favor of the kyu ranking system in 1883, and the second one says it reverted back to the dan ranking in 1893, which doesn’t help us understand how kyu ranking was later returned, and they don’t have sources to back them.
So I went on to dig deeper into the history of Hoensha, and this is the first document I found.
It listed all of the members of the Hoensha in 1883 when they switch from dan ranking to a kyu-ranking only system. They mapped the ranks of 9d~1d to 1k~9k (9d to 1k, 8d to 2k, … 1d to 9k), and added the 10k to 12k ranks (which consist of about half of the total 91 members).
|rank||number of members|
At the time, the 4 old Go houses still existed, but at much-reduced capacity because of Meiji Restoration. The next year 1884, the house of Hayashi was merged into the Honinbo House, and we have an updated member list of the Hoensha:
The total members increased to 188 and still used the 1k to 12k system, with some players from the defunct house of Hayashi who didn’t join the House of Honinbo.
|rank||number of members|
And interestingly one of the 11k members was annotated as being 10k, and the locations listed where these players resided had spread across Japan (instead of mostly around Tokyo in the 1883 member list).
The next member list I dug up is in 1891 (right before the returning to dan ranking system in 1893). And the total number of members increased to 285
It still used the 1k to 12k ranking system, and a lot of these members are promoted within the Hoensha, through the precursor of the Insei system - 塾生制度 for young kids, including some famous Go players like Tamura Yasuhisa (later became Honinbo Shusai, 8k on this list) and Hayashi Fumiko (Kita Fumiko, 9k on this list, before she was married, the mother of woman Go players and the teacher of Sugiuchi Kazuko who is still alive and active today).
Next, I will look into what happened after the reversion back to the dan system after 1893
part 2 - the rank strength handicap in the Hoensha
part 3 - dan rank prior to the Hoensha at 1880, and transcribed Hoensha monthly games
part 4 - selected transcribed Hoesha monthly games continue
part 5 - selected 17 Hoesha monthly games from a shodan (Hoensha 9k) player during the 1880s
part 6 - one early known recorded game with a player weaker than shodan (Hoensha 9 kyu) in the 1880s - Hoensha 11 kyu (2k)
part 7 - Hoensha reverted back to the old dan ranking system in 1893 with three kyu levels of Shodan, and the revival of Honinbo house
part 8 - relationship graph of key persons involved in the creation of Hoensha
part 9 - connection to the late 19th century to early 20th century influential historic figures and upper class
part 10 - the growing popularity of Go to common people and the exponential increase of listed players in the 1900s
part 11 - what’s it like to live in Japan as a Go player in the late 19th century to early 20th century
part ?? - The inverse of kyu strength order
part ?? - The establishment of Nihonkiin and the originally intended kyu ranking
To be continued…