The history and evolution of kyu rank in Go game

One reason is probably related to the ease of read for the records and printing consideration (if I am correct, printing at the time would require making physical mold plates for each page). Also, I think if all groups are already settled and no end-game ko fights that swap existing territories, there would be no particular interest in showing end game moves (records would show moves to the last major ko fights and mark who won that ko).

And the estimated scores from the OGS AI reviews of these games also showed the recorded scores are very close as AI predicted (no more than 1 or 2 points difference), which indicate even Shodan players in the 1880s were fairly good with their end-games.


Wow, so records of end games would be deliberately omitted??

At first, I had thought that you just meant that most records didn’t have an end game since one had not been played (i.e., the game ended by resignation earlier)

Yes, games with scoring results like B+4, W+5 wouldn’t shown to the last finishing moves. And out of these 17 games, 5 of them have clear counting score.


Do you know what these little circles mean?


Wild guess, maybe last move or sth?

It’s related to the comments above, I’ll make a zoom in screenshot

It basically said black 23 should be played at the printed circled spot.

The rest comments are black 27 should be played at move 46 spot; white 42 should be played at move 44 spot; black 69 could be played at the print triangle spot; and black 85 allows white to cut off black group and push through is the big mistake that cost the game.


I think I read in “Invincible” (a wonderful English book about life and games of Shusaku), that less important/official games were often recorded by the players themselves, perhaps a day or more after the game.

Perhaps they wouldn’t remember the exact order of the late endgame, days after the game, so they recorded only the moves where they were 100% sure to remember the order of moves correctly?


I’m actually under the impression that this is some kind of tradition to omit the endgame. I remember seeing recently (I looked it up again) someone commenting on how the sgf record ends early in

45th Meijin Title between SHIBANO Toramaru - IYAMA Yuta (2020/8/26)

Here’s the game on go4go (thanks to them)

and on OGS for convenience

The thing is they do play it out and score it in person (jump to 9:24:21 or thereabouts)

but apparently in the official records the last bit of endgame isn’t recorded.


This feels right to me. I’ve not looked into it but I recall I once tried to find a game to memorize and looked at some which ended with a score but the records I found seemed unfinished. Totally unscientific though


Not even all modern pro games have scribes. And most scribes are insei or low dan pros as their “duties”. And since the early insei system was also established by Hoensha, so I am not sure when did games utilizing scribes become common.

And a lot of the ancient games would be played for more than one day (the one-day “fast” games were also first introduced by Hoensha around the 1880s), so when a game was sealed there would be recorded to that point. The reason for games to not include small yose seem to be a conscious choice.

I think it indeed has more to do with following traditions.


Again I’m reposting things I’ve read on facebook, which are awful to link to and find again but I read about this example of some controversy in endgame.

26th Japanese Kisei, title match #5
Ryu Shikun 7p (Black) vs. O Rissei 9p (White) W+R (5.5 komi)

The go4go link

and on OGS.

There’s discussion of the game here but I’ll highlight the main section in the link in case it dies or you don’t want to follow it: History of Topics 2002 | Nihon kiin

I think the TLDR is that things like filling dame are very vague in practice comparing to the official rules. Ryu lost 6 stones when not paying attention and that caused the dispute.

Disagreement mars conclusion of 5th Kisei game
Until the last two moves, the fifth game of the 26th Kisei title match, played at the Manseikaku Hotel by the side of Lake Toya in the town of Abuta, Hokkaido, on 20 and 21 February, was another relatively peaceful affair, without any large fighting. O Rissei won the game by resignation after 300 moves, but actually the result of the game was reversed during the playing of the final dame points.

What happened was that at around 7:10 pm while the players were filling in the final dame points, O Rissei put a group of six stones into atari with move 298, but Ryu did not connect, playing 299 elsewhere. Ryu was clearly not paying close attention to the dame-filling moves because he thought that the game was over. On move 293 he had said: “It’s finished, isn’t it?”. However, O did not respond, so from his point of view the game was still in progress. After playing 299, Ryu realized that his stones were in atari and he made as if to replay his move, but at this point O said to him: “I haven’t said anything [i.e. that the game was over].” Ryu reacted with incomprehension. O repeated his comment and asked the game recorder to confirm that he hadn’t said anything. The game recorder was unable to confirm or deny this, so O asked for the referee to be called.

According to the rules and conditions of the Kisei tournament, any dispute during a title-match game is to be resolved by the game referee in consultation with representatives of the sponsor, the Yomiuri Newspaper, and the Nihon Ki-in. The referee was Ishida Yoshio, who with the Yomiuri Newspaper and Nihon Ki-in representatives, conferred for about an hour and also reviewed the videotape of the game.

When the game resumed, Ishida gave their ruling: according to the Nihon Ki-in official rules of go, a game continues until both players agree that it is over. The videotape gave no evidence that O had agreed the game was over, so his claim was accepted. O sought confirmation that it could therefore play; when this was given by Ishida, he captured the six stones. If the game had finished without incident, Ryu would have won by 3.5 points.

Ryu did not resignaiton immediately. After breathing out loudly three times, he asked Ishida a question [as soon as something like this happens, the game is considered suspended and the timekeeper stops the clock – Ryu was, as usual, in his final minute of byo-yomi]. His question concerned the question of whether he had replayed a move. When the game was first suspended, after Black 299, O commented that Ryu had already committed an infringement, replaying move 285. He said he hadn’t objected at the time, but his clear implication was that for that reason he was not going to permit a second infringement. Before he resigned, Ryu wanted Ishida to confirm whether or not he had replayed his move. Ishida said that he was unable to comment, as the camera angle on the video, from directly above the board, made it impossible to see. O then pointed out that he only referred to it while the game was suspended, that is, that he was not officially objecting. Actually, in both cases – the question of replaying a move and whether O agreed that the game was over – Ryu did not seem to be actually disputing O’s assertions. Rather, it seemed that he had been so caught up in the game that he was completely oblivious. O firmly maintained that Ryu had let go of his stone before replaying it.

If O had agreed with Ryu that the game was over, does that mean that he would not have had the right to capture the six stones? According to the rules, a game ends when the players pass in succession. However, according to the official commentary on the rules (see “The Go Player’s Almanac”, pages 178, 183 and 184), it seems that dame-filling moves and necessary reinforcements inside groups can be played either before or after the end of the game. In the latter case, the moves are not part of the game, i.e. “these are not moves as defined by the rules, and need not be played according to the rules”. This would seem to indicate that O wouldn’t have been allowed to capture the stones if he had agreed the game was over. In practice, players often agree that the game is over, then proceed to fill in the dame without anyone passing a move, so there is a gap between the Japanese rules and what actually happens in practice.

One can certainly say that under the traditional etiquette of go no one would capture stones in the dame-filling stage if both players had agreed the game was over. On the other hand, no one questioned O’s argument that if he had not stated the game was over then it was still in progress. (Just for the record, Ishida couldn’t even confirm from the videotape that Ryu himself had said that the game was over. O didn’t purposely ignore him: he says he didn’t hear him, which is reasonable if Ryu’s words were not audible on the video – quite apart from the fact that O has suffered from ringing in the ears and consequent hearing problems since 1998.

This problem arises from the stubborn Japanese resistance to counting dame-filling moves as part of the game. Although this is the first time that a problem has occurred in a title match, it’s long been one of the well-known hazards of Japanese go. One player announces the game is over; this puts the other player on the spot: he can still do something, but if he disagrees, that will be a poweerful hint to the first player to have another look at the board. The relevant World Amateur Go Championship rule states: “The players continue to play alternately until all the neutral points have been filled and all necessary defensive moves have been made.” If professionals adopted a rule like this, problems like this would never arise.

This makes an enormous difference to the title match. Ryu loses a game in which he had played well and instead of needing just one more win to take the Kisei title he is faced with a kadoban. There is a two-week break before the sixth game, scheduled to be played in the town of Oyama in Shizuoka Prefecture on 6 and 7 June. Will the break be long enough for Ryu to recover from the shock? One good sign is that Ryu himself has accepted responsibility for his slip, saying he regretted his carelessness and that he had already switched over to thinking about the sixth game.


If they had played with Chinese rules or even u must finnish Dame this would not have happened. Oh how uninteresting it would be for our thread!


There are game records shown most of the small yose except dame points, especially those with just 1 point score difference or jigo


I’ve been feeling terrible for the past week, didn’t have much progress, but the investigation of the kyu ranking would still continue, just take a bit longer.

Here is the oldest known game I found that definitively involved a player that has a weaker rank than a Hoensha 9k (1d). The 9k player 佐藤民之助 gave 2 handicaps to an unknown player and still won. And this put the black player at a strength of Hoensha 11k according to their ranking system.

transcribed record below:

What do you all think about the black player’s strength? On par with a modern high SDK player?


When was the game played?

Also, it’s interesting to see that Waltheri has no hits for B2 [woops, C2]. That move struck me as unusual.

Usually Black would play D2 (attachment from the corner) or F4 (the table-shape attachment on top).

According to the record, Sep 23, 1885. And the shodan player was from the House of Inoue, and specifically in the description said he had been tested by Shuho, the head of the Hoensha (to be given the Hoensha 9 kyu rank).

Do you mean black move 18 at C2? I think black was just afraid for white to take the corner from him if played at D2 (where white can definitely play at C2 to uproot the black group). With handicaps, favor solid territory isn’t a bad choice, although passive.

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Definitely dan strength today, I’d say from looking over it without any AI input.

The AI analysis finds a lot of errors, but no obvious blunders. I’m 2 dan, and I think that I’d maybe make different mistakes, but be more accurate in some places. I’d put black at about 1 or 2 dan, white about 3 or 4 dan.


I’ve put up for this for long enough, and time to continue our journey.

This is the list of the Hoensha member list in 1894, right after they revert back from pure kyu ranking to the traditional dan ranking on Apr. 1893

Compare this with the 1891 member list, we can find they are mostly the same, except they renamed and group the old 10, 11, and 12 kyu rank into “3 kyu of Shodan” (三級初段), “2 kyu of Shodan”(二級初段), and “1 kyu of Shodan” (初級初段). Effectively make all the 9 kyu to 12 kyu players “Shodan”. And instead of increasing order of “kyu”, it reverted to decreasing order of kyu within the “Shodan”.

The reason behind the decision of reverting back to the old dan system in 1893 is not well documented, but from most sources I can find they pointed to an agreement almost a decade ago at 1886 between the original head of Hoensha Murase Shuho (村瀨秀甫) and Honinbo Shuei (本因坊秀榮 the head of Honinbo house at the time). After the 9th game on Nov 15, 1885, of their ten-game matches to determine who would dominate the Go community (Murase Shuho already won 5 of the 9 games in josen 定先, always played white), Honinbo Shuei proposed to give up his Honinbo house title to Shuho, recognized the rank and diploma issued by Hoensha, and granted the title of 準名人(Jun Meijin, effectively 8d) in the name of Honinbo house to Shuho. However, Shuho also had to recognize and gave Shuei 7d diploma in the name of Honinbo house (Shuei was only 5d at the time of the match), and all the future diploma issued had to be signed by both parties (and split the fee gathered), and Hoensha had to return to the old dan ranking system (they have to sync their rank somehow).

Murase Shuho finally agreed to the term on July 30, 1886, and became the 18th head of Honinbo house - Honinbo Shuho (本因坊秀甫), and he wanted the head of Hoensha to also be the head of Honinbo house in the future, tried to cover everyone into one banner (the first attempt to a nation-wide association). But Shuho died very suddenly on Oct 14, 1886, just 2 and half months after (the shortest term as the head of Honinbo), without leaving any clear instructions as to who will be the next in line for the Honinbo house and the Hoensha.

Since it was so sudden, Shuei was again tried to push for his return as the head of the Honinbo house. But the 2nd hand of the Hoensha 中川亀三郎 (Nakagawa Kamesaburo, the first, not to be confused with his adopted son Ishii Senji 石井千治, who later on also called himself Nakagawa Kamesaburo) disagreed, and already assumed to be the head of Hoensha on Nov 1, 1886. Everything seemed to revert back to the way before the agreement (except Shuei still got his 7d recognition), and Shuei became the de facto head of the Honinbo house again. Although when Shuei issued an open challenge to everyone for his Honinbo title, Nakagawa Kamesaburo didn’t accept and just kept expanding Hoensha for more branches all over Japan and start recruiting more players from other houses and more young players through their development programs (their Insei system). The Osaka branch of the Hoensha was established in 1887, and 青年研究会 (young study group) of the Hoensha was established in 1889 (the sort of official Insei system for Hoensha).

On Mar 26, 1893, the headquarter of the Hoensha moved to a brand new building, and a ceremonial game was played between Iwasaki Kenzo (巖崎健造 the vice president and the 2nd hand of the Hoensha) and Shuei (at the time, he proclaimed to be Honinbo Shuei, but not everyone recognized it). Iwasaki Kenzo was famous for being a “thoughtful” player (he played very slow), and the ceremonial game only went for 21 moves and suspended. When the Hoensha wanted to print this game in their newspaper/magazine for the next month, they wanted to list Shuei as a Hoensha 3 kyu, but Shuei wanted to use Honinbo house ranking, and made a big deal about his old agreement with Shohu a decade earlier in 1886, and demanded they honor it.

At this point, for some reason, perhaps related to the deteriorated health of the executive Kobayashi Tetsujiro (小林鉄次郎 who was one actually running the day-to-day task), or perhaps the year earlier in 1892, Shuei started 囲碁奨励会 - the Go promoting group (became 四象会 later on), and it acted like a monthly tournament with prize money (which Yasuhisa Tamura 田村保寿 the later famous Honinbo Shusai won the 1st round, and this is like proto pro games with sponsors), and Honinbo house started to regain their fame where many strong players didn’t just play games within Hoensha, but between the Hoensha and the Honinbo house members. In any case, Hoensha seemed to finally agree on this term, and on Apr 1, 1893, the next issue of the Hoensha newspaper started to list games using the old dan ranking, with a reverted dan ranking member list shown above the next year.

I personally believe that the death of Kobayashi Tetsujir (小林鉄次郎) on Nov 7, 1893, played a major role in this. The concurrent ranking system worked fine for more than a decade, and Hoensha seemed to be at its height at this point. But the original member of Hoensha started to age and died, and Nakagawa Kamesaburo was more of a diplomat. With Kobayashi Tetsujir gone, Nakagawa Kamesaburo seemed to want to lead the Hoensha more like a traditional house.


Interesting! I never knew about this tension between Shuei and Nakagawa.

Or that “Nakagawa Kamesaburo II” was adopted.

Since you’re on the topic, could you clarify the initial relationship between Shuei and Shuho, please? Sensei’s Library uses a strange phrase, saying that Shuei was Shuho’s “semi-younger brother”.

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