Forgery recalls link to Korea's first world go champion

Today is not the first time Koreans have dominated world go. An imperial go tutor who followed Wang Jixin as the top player in Tang China was a Korean, Bak Gu.

What brought that to mind was an intriguing article in the latest Gekkan Go World. Fukui Masaaki 9-dan published a partial game record from the collection of papers of Hayashi Genbi (1778~1861) in Narita Library. It was in Genbi's own handwriting and supposedly represented a game between Kibi no Makibi, as Japan's ambassador to China, and a Chinese go expert in the 8th century.

Pure bunkum, of course, and Fukui naturally scoured old Chinese books to see if he could find a match. He was unable to, but thanks to the GoGoD database we were able to find a match at once. It turned out to be a game between Huang Longshi and Zhou Donghou from the mid 17th century.

There were many interesting aspects to this discovery. One is that Fukui had high praise for the game, even though he had no idea who the players were (we have now told him, of course) - perhaps some confirmation of Go Seigen's claim that Huang was at least of the level of Honinbo Dosaku.

More important was that it was a case of Genbi being caught red-handed. He had already been suspected of forging the alleged oldest games in Japan, such as the game featuring Nichiren in 1253. This was on grounds such as the fact that he was the one who first published them, and that he had rare access to Chinese records through his father-in-law, a Chinese scholar. Nothing had ever been proved, though. Go Seigen was adamant that the Nichiren game was a copy of a Huang Longshi game, but there was no such record in Huang's collected games.

The newly discovered record, which was sent as a photocopy to Fukui by a reader of his popular series, is at last hard proof that Genbi was capable of mischief. It even offers a good explanation for Go Seigen's comment: he was a friend of Prof. Aoki Naomi who had collected the Genbi papers (they are now in the Aoki Naomi Room in Narita Senbutsu Library), and it needs little imagination to believe that Go had one seen this very record and dismissed it as copy from Huang Longshi (further leading Araki not to publish it). The attribution as the Nichiren game would be an erroneous conflation, but far from inconceivable as either could be described as "Japan's oldest game".

None of this speculation is in Fukui's article, we hasten to add. But the record he published had other new information for us, and that is what prompted the thoughts about Bak Gu.

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