Ancient Chinese Rules with Suicide?

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Robert Jasiek

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Dec 19, 2007, 10:18:42 AM12/19/07
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There is said to be a novel book Tian Long Ba Bu by Jin Yong that
suggests usage of rules with suicide ca. 1000 years ago. Someone set
up a problem position and a prize for finding a winning solution.
After 30 years, a non-player closed his eyes, played a move randomly,
and thereby solved the problem; this move was suicide.

Can somebody please confirm the correctness of this reference or cite
further sources that suggest allowed suicide?

Joss Wright

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Dec 19, 2007, 2:35:06 PM12/19/07
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Hi Robert,

The novel that you reference is very famous in China. Jin Yong is a very
popular author of "wuxia" novels -- historical fiction based around
martial arts themes. They're not exactly historically accurate, so I
wouldn't hold out any great hopes for the accuracy of reference to rules.
I'm sure that any positions would be mainly for the purposes of drama
without much concern as to how feasible they are.

Tian Long Ba Bu was made into a very popular television series a few
years ago. The game that you mention fell in episodes 22 and 23. The idea
is that the game was left by a master of the "Carefree Sect" of martial
arts, and whoever could "resolve" the game would become master of that
sect (and gain all its martial arts).

Lots of powerful martial artists try their luck, but all get lost in the
game and have to be dragged away from it. In the end, a rather bumbling
Shaolin monk called "Xu Zhu" grabs a white stone and places it randomly
on the board to ruin it and stop everyone from fighting over the game.
His move results in the white pieces losing, which is considered one way
of "resolving" the game. By doing so, he inherits all the martial arts of
the old master and becomes a very powerful martial artist. (Xu Zhu is one
of the three main heroes in the novel).

I've got an electronic copy of the book in Chinese, but it doesn't
include a game diagram. The television series did have a board set up,
but I think that it was probably made up for the television and wasn't in
the actual book. At the start of the episode, black has the lower left
corner. Over the course of the episode, as people play into that corner
to try and win, it fills up with white stones. It looks like the move
that Xu Zhu plays was white playing into a snapback and losing a large
group of stones.

I've uploaded some screenshots of the episode for you, but I doubt if
they'll really be of much interest. In the television version, it seems
that the board magically plays the response moves. The move that Xu Zhu
plays is definitely a snapback, and not suicide. The images are here:
http://www.pseudonymity.net/~joss/games/tianlongweiqi.html

Probably not that helpful to you, but someone might find it interesting!

Joss

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