To err is human...

... but computers make it worse. We were led to this thought by some recent experiences which were reinforced by an article by Fukui Susumu in the latest Gekkan Go World (which, incidentally, also has a nice but poignant feature by Nakayama Noriyuki on the end of his 25 years of visiting overseas tournaments - his treasure chest is now in the Nihon Ki-in Hall of Fame!).

What Fukui was concerned with was big mistakes perpetrated in handing down game records. He mentions first of all, as a matter of consuming shame for all professionals, the now well-known story that it was an amateur who only recently pointed out that the traditionally accepted final score in the Ear-Reddening Game between Honinbo Shusaku and Genan Inseki was wrong. Instead of B+3 it should be B+2.

But there have been other egregious examples. Fukui specialises in collecting old games and is the editor of the latest and highly recommended complete set of games by Honinbo Dosaku. He mentions the game below. Dosaku is White against Yasui Chitetsu. This is the traditional version. When White played 44, everyone thought that, because it was by Dosaku, it was a deep and mysterious move. In fact it is garbage as a Black push at A will show. But what Fukui has found is that White 38 is a misprint. It should be at A. Then 44 is fine, if unspectacular.

Fukui's next example is similar. There were writers who gushed about the inventiveness of the young Honinbo Dochi playing White 16. In fact, as Fukui discovered, White 16 was actually 116 and 16 should have been at A.

Fukui gives another more complex example in some detail - a game between Genan Inseki and Hattori Yusetsu - but we have seen enough to confirm our own experience, which is that errors in game records are depressingly common. It is bad enough when the errors are perpetuated through the printed medium, as in the above cases, but in the database age it is cause for great concern.

This is a message that does not get repeated enough, in our opinion, and so we will beg your indulgence to state it here. It applies not just to databases but to wikis (and of course to books - but the tempting facility and low cost of digital media make the problem greater on the internet).

The danger comes when unscrupulous people copy someone else's data without checking (or even having!) original sources. It is not just a question of misappropriation of someone else's work - we all try to build on the shoulders of giants - but of what remains in the permanent record. Our plea is simply for some pretty basic scholarship. That should be a solemn duty. Of course, if a source can also be checked against other sources, so much the better.

Although our strictures apply to any kind of data, we might perhaps be considered to have unrivalled experience in doing the hard graft of producing a massive set of sgf records, so the problems we have encountered may best illustrate our concerns and so be of wider interest. Among those we have found are the following:

There are countless more ways in which a game record can go wrong. But, whether the original source is digital or printed, once a digital version exists, the scope for transmission of errors is then enormous. We don't profess to have perfect data, but at least we do buy the printed sources and try very hard to check them and conform to them, and of course we are always updating. Having a full-time, cross-checking team of two people plus a host of occasional but eagle-eyed contributors helps quality control enormously. Isn't go important enough to deserve that?

Sorry for the plug, but we do care. Hopefully Mr Fukui will not find too much fault with us. It would be a shame if, sometime in the future someone was misled by faulty records spawned by a wilful refusal to check the sources.

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