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Chapter 1

Page history last edited by Shota Yakushiji 11 years, 4 months ago

Chapter 1 Yoshiharu Habu and the Changing Modern Shogi

 

An unparalleled songwriter Yu Aku, whose lyrics were influenced by a turbulent time in history, once wrote,

"In a mature culture, decadent men are heroes. In an emerging culture, stoic men are heroes.  Before a culture is born, trying to live in an empty world where nobody is out there, men may have to be gods." (Yu Aku Poem of a Life)

With the appearance of Yoshiharu Habu, the mature times of pre-modern shogi had ended and the emergence of modern shogi began. In the shogi world, the time comes when "stoic men" become "heroes." Though, Habu attempts to "live in a world where nobody is out there." 

(The author's words to Permanent-Meijin Yoshiharu Habu; The Shogi World, August 2008 Issue.)

 
 

Changing Modern Shogi

 
The future manifests itself through close observation.
 
This is my belief.
 

In every era, without exception, there are people who envision the future invisible to the ordinary, and embark on a journey towards it. They do not merely sit back and ponder about their futuristic visions; they actually act on them in order to realize their visions. And during the process, they express something which provides us with essential hints about the future.

Those people are called "visionaries."
 
Carefully heeding the words generated by those visionaries and envisioning the future based on them: this is how I have worked for over two decades.
 
As if digging for gold dust in a desert filled with a massive amount of words generated and accumulated by human beings, I lead my life searching for subtly sparkling signs of the future.
 
The greatest visionary in the shogi world is Yoshiharu Habu.
 
As I briefly explained in the preface, I have kept myself away from shogi for quite a long time even though I was enthusiastic about it in my teens.
I was pulled back to the world of shogi by some irresistible force when I encountered Habu’s long-running series of writings. It greatly impressed me by providing insights into the essence of the future of shogi. This was Habu's great unfinished book: Changing Modern Shogi.
 
The instant I read the book I was overwhelmed by Habu's drastic ideas and their impact.
Changing Modern Shogi was a continuing series Habu wrote consecutively in the magazine The Shogi World for three and half years, starting from the July issue in 1997. Under the title of "The First Chapter - Yagura Opening," Habu expressed his ideas on shogi, with more than ten pages each month, until it suddenly ended in the December 2000 issue after three and a half years. The second chapter was never to be written. In this regard this book is currently unfinished, and, of course, yet to be published. Therefore, to my regret, it is yet to become a legendary book.
At the end of the twentieth century, when this series was still ongoing, I used to ask my friends working for a publishing company and publishers of a magazine if they were aware of Habu's incredible series whenever I came back to Japan from Silicon Valley. And regardless of whether they liked shogi or not, I would enthusiastically talk about this series.
"A shogi game with the Yagura Opening usually begins with Sente's (first mover's) P-7f, Gote's (second mover's) P-8d, Sente's S-6h and Gote's P-8d, and then another 20 moves or so follow along with mutual agreement on playing Yagura. The true battle starts after the fixed moves.  In this series, however, Habu has been pondering whether even only the 5th move should be S-7g or P-6f after the opening movement of P-7f P-8d S-6h P-3d. I would say from this that he has entered the realm of ideology and philosophy."
I used to talk like this although I am only an amateur.
Board: second move P-8dand its Japanese version
The board status after the Sente (▲ symbol) made the first move of Pawn to 7f, and the Gote (△ symbol) moved his Pawn to 8d.
In the past, most people believed that the essence of a shogi match lied in the middle and final phases as long as the two players tacitly agreed to go with Yagura. Some Yagura Opening variations were established, covering the game until the beginning of the middle game, and even matches between professional shogi players quickly proceeded according to such predetermined steps. In addition to Yagura, other fixed opening procedures were invented and they are collectively called "Joseki" or standard sequences. Joseki were created as a result of shogi's long history and it was commonly agreed to follow Joseki up to the middle game several decades ago.
In the beginning of Changing Modern Shogi, however, Habu wrote:
It may be thought that I should start explaining from the Basic Diagram ..., but there is one problem we need to solve beforehand:  that is how should we arrive at the Basic Diagram.
We have three options.
  1.P-7f   P-8d     2.S-6h   P-3d     3.S-7g   
  1.P-7f   P-8d     2.S-6h   P-3d     3.P-6f   
  1.P-7f   P-8d     2.G-7h   G-3b     3.S-6h   
 
If Gote makes his formation without thinking, whichever of the three sequences are chosen will go to the position in the basic diagram. But if Gote thinks he is at a disadvantage or lacks confidence, this can cause a genuine Ibisha (Static Rook) party to run to choose Shikenbisha [Fourth file Rook] and be determined to aim for a rapid attack. Therefore the choice of which of the three is critical in a game.
 
Board: basic position of Yaguraand its Japanese version
The Basic Diagram of Modern Yagura
The basic position of "one of the major strategy," Yagura, appeared in the first serial publication of the Changing modern shogi.
It somewhat resembles a Leibnizian harmony for Gote to follow the implicit joseki of Yagura, as if it were predetermined to do so. But what if Gote doesn't like this predetermined harmony and decides not to follow the tacit agreement of the Yagura? What if he is "determined to aim at a rapid attack," and "attempts to punish Sente's routine moves with great concentration?" Habu writes: "Were the Gote to have this level of concentration from the beginning, the players would already be standing at a major crossroad of the match even at the earliest stage of the story."
In Changing Modern Shogi, Habu attempted to thoroughly investigate every possible change emerging after one, two or three moves to study especially rapid changes almost to the point of mate, and to lay out all the results of his study. In so doing, he attempted to clarify whether it is possible for there to exist a move which deviates from the tacit agreement of the Yagura.
In other words, he tried to see whether the early predetermined harmony to "form the Yagura" in past shogi was really relevant. By examining each move, he not only to assumed the attitude of doubting common sense but also revealed vast possibilities hidden in the early game.
 
 

Tension of destroying the predetermined harmony

In the very beginning of the series, he asserted: "Whether it is the position in the Basic Diagram of the Yagura opening or one of the standard sequences of other strategies, it is very probable that a supposed position after 20 or 30 moves from the beginning reaches that position by Sente and Gote cooperating under the guise of harmony. Therefore, is there another conclusion? If Gote thinks the supposed position is disadvantageous or lacks confidence and is determined to aim for a rapid attack several moves before reaching the supposed position without escaping to other strategies such as Shikenbisha (Fourth File Rook)? Will it open the door to Modern Shogi if Sente keeps tension from the first move on the assumption that Gote is determined to aim for a rapid attack?"
Habu defined modern shogi like this in this work.
As long as Gote was not passive by blindly following Sente to reach presupposed positions, the future of shogi would be expanding. Yes, Habu proposed this concept.
After this stimulating series kicked off like this and continued for one year and nine months, Habu wrote in the March 1999 issue that
I myself am becoming less and less sure as to when I will be able to end the chapter of S-7g as the fifth move.
Further research was also as thorough, and in fact it took him a half year more to finish the chapter of S-7g as the fifth move.
Throughout the whole three and half years, he depicted the endless expansion of "the world from the 6th move in the cases of both P-6f and S-7g as the fifth move after P-7f P-8d S-6h and P-3d." He searched for a vein in that expansion and found a point where balance collapses and kept on pondering about which move should be chosen as the fifth move, P-6f or S-7g.
 
The subtitle of this series was "Habu's brain challenges shogi's truth!!." As I carefully read through this book, I was able to feel as if I was beginning to discover "what shogi is all about (shogi's truth)." Although it may seem very puzzling with the enormous amount of information in the limited number of pages and the tremendous amount of time it takes to read just one page,  this experience gave me a refreshing feeling as if I were reading a mathematics book. This was a book which gave me the feeling that if everything about shogi was explained in this way, then it is also how "shogi's truth" would have to be explained.
 
 

Revolutionize the World of Shogi

Regarding Changing Modern Shogi, I once asked Habu why he had left it unfinished with just "The 1st Chapter Yagura Opening" written.
"I was only intending to write just the 1st chapter from the beginning. There was some discussion concerning the publication of the book after the serialization was finished, but the plan somehow disappeared. Sure, that book was not unfinished."
Habu answered.
 
The reason Habu titled it Changing Modern Shogi The 1st Chapter Yagura Opening, instead of just Changing Modern Shogi Yagura Opening with no intention to write the remaining chapters, would be that he attempted to encourage the whole shogi world to embark on a colossal amount of research on every single strategy, as Habu did for the Yagura Opening in this book, and to trace back the past standard sequences to see if they were actually rational moves. By so doing, he must have wanted to express that they could find a gold mine in this process and even the future of shogi.
 
And what is actually happening in the present shogi world is exactly what he expected from the remaining chapters of Changing Modern Shogi. If both Sente and Gote had a high level of intensity to play a game from the first move, then no traditional positions would arise and the new shogi world would be filled with never before seen positions. He foresaw this future of shogi in his work Changing Modern Shogi: Chapter One - Yagura Opening. As twelve years are about to have passed after he wrote this work, the modern shogi world is shifting in the direction he predicted.
9-dan Koji Tanigawa describes Habu as follows;
When Habu-san first achieved the Grand Slam (septuple crown, author's note: 1996), the number of strategies was limited within the shogi world, and every strategy often ended up reaching all too common positions in the middle game. Professionals could not demonstrate their strength and uniqueness in the opening at the time.
In the midst of this era, Habu-san also played shogi which prioritized the end game rather than the opening. I would assume he strongly felt that he "must definitely win" on his road to the Grand Slam.
His current shogi is not emitting the scent of  this style of play. (The Shogi World, January 2009 Issue)
After having achieved a Grand Slam in an era when "the number of strategies was limited in the shogi world" and when "every strategy often ended up reaching all-too-common positions," he shifted his theme to construct a style of modern shogi where professionals can demonstrate their strength and uniqueness in the opening, and started to write Changing Modern Shogi. Moreover, he not only predicted this style through his books as a third party, but was actually the leader to create it through his own shogi.
 
This is the true value of Yoshiharu Habu the Visionary.
 
In an opening interview of The Shogi World, September 2008 Issue, he talked about modern shogi.
There are an increasing number of occasions where I work out strategies at an early stage. Putting much effort into planning, I play the 2nd and the 3rd move. Since I can't see what kind of start it's going to be, I feel nervous from the beginning. As far as the current shogi is concerned, this might be the one thing most distinctively different from the shogi of when I became a professional.
I don't believe that the number of moves per game has increased. But considering that positions where you need to seriously ponder emerge at an earlier stage, I could say that we need to think more than before. For example, there is a game which proceeds automatically to the 30th move or so with a standard Furibisha (Ranging Rook) opening strategy, and the other 70 moves of it are actual a battle. On the other hand, there is a game where we need to think seriously after the first 10 moves and it ends in 90 moves. If we compare these two cases, the latter is shorter but actually requires more thinking.
The modern shogi world, where the passivity to "automatically proceed 30 moves" was completely eliminated, is the very future Habu envisaged in Changing Modern Shogi.
Yoshiharu Habu, although consciously exuding a calm and lively persona knowing he is "the face of the shogi world" from an early age, has actually an extremely intense personality within. What he has been doing so far is nothing but revolutionize the shogi world. And the outcome of his revolution manifests itself before our eyes in the form of modern shogi.
 
 

Freedom on the Board

When one asks Habu about the essence of  modern shogi, he always says that there has been "no freedom on the board." When I first heard this from him, I did not grasp what he meant. For as long as we play within the rules, we are allowed to play any moves on the board. "Freedom on the board" should naturally be the premise of shogi.
 
However, what Habu was considering as problematic was that "Freedom on the board" had been prevented by traditions to respect the seniority system and tacit agreements, which were not only prevalent in the shogi world but also common in the Japanese village society.
"As a promising shogi player, you need to be an orthodox Ibisha (Static Rook) player at least at a younger age. Every successive Meijin was so." "On a special stage like the Meijin title match, you need to play the Yagura Opening, which is the pure literature of shogi." And, "How dare you choose Furibisha (Ranging Rook) against a great senior." are some examples of things that were said.
 
Habu thought that this was one of the reasons why "the number of strategies was limited throughout the shogi world."
 
It was in 1994, when Habu was 23 years old, when he challenged for the title of Meijin for the first time. The Meijin was Kunio Yonenaga at the time. This was just three years after he started writing Changing Modern Shogi. Habu, in search of "Freedom on the board" which had not existed in the shogi world, attempted to venture forth on his revolution on the special stage of the Meijin title match.
I declared that I wouldn't play usual positions of standard sequences in an interview before the Meijin title match. I did so intending to try a variety of strategies which have few similar patterns for that special occasion. Having said that, it was not like I was trying just to be different from others, but I had already studied and practiced each strategy on my own. I might call it "Cherishing old knowledge, acquiring new" (Analects of Confucius).
I was trying again to find something useful from the strategies I had used since I was still an amateur. (Meijin Yoshiharu Habu, a special issue of World of Shogi, Aug 94)
Habu reflects in this manner in a self-commentary article about the Meijin title match first round in 1994, but no one except him has ever so boldly declared not to play usual positions of standard sequences in his first challenge to the seat of Meijin. He threw away his image as a good student and took a huge risk by advocating "Freedom on the board," which was the most important principle for him.
And according to his self-commentary article about the second round, he, as Gote, predicted P-7f as the first move from Yonenaga and had prepared G-3b as the second move.
I came up with a strategy for the second round and was exclusively studying it. The strategy is G-3b as the second move against P-7f as the first move. ... Some say it is a bad move, but I think it is a legitimate strategy. ... "Let's say that G-3b a bad move." Those who think this way would want to go with Furibisha (Ranging Rook). But even in that case, it is not so easy to make a piece formation. It is difficult for Gote, but also for Sente. I love to think about those less frequently seen strategies. If I were to choose a style of play, the more tension from an early stage, the better would it be. (Ibid.)
In reality, Yonenaga's first move was P-2f so Habu's plan did not materialize. But supposing the second round of Meijin title match in 1994 had kicked off with "P-7f G-3b," he would have been labelled "evil" as he himself reflects. That which used to be "evil" only 15 years ago, is one of the most natural patterns now that "Freedom on the board" has become prevalent. The word "evil," which is vague and based on uncertain values, has completely disappeared from the vocabulary of the shogi world. And every professional shogi player is now playing shogi with "intensive tension from the beginning" as Habu quietly uttered.
 
 

A closed-knit society oriented opinions to refrain from innovation

 

Let me give you one more example.
 
There is an article which critiques the shogi of 8-dan Hiroyuki Miura (6 dan at the time it was written) in The Shogi World (October issue, 1998) which also has the 16th serialization of Changing Modern Shogi in it. The author is 7-dan Toshihiko Kawaguchi, who, as a mouth of the shogi world, published many great books.
The diagram shows the position after the seventh move where Sente played P-1e. I often get disappointed by such moves.
I can understand that this is one of his ideas. I could even say he is taking advantage of being Sente.
So, I would praise him if he were a C-class player. But 6-dan Miura has big potential. Though he's now playing at class C-1, his peers admit he is not less able than the A-class players. I'd like to expect from him more dignified shogi. If he keeps playing like this merely for a small advantage, the scale of his shogi will decrease.
It is still no more than 10 years since this review was written, but no one would criticize this innovation of P-1e at the seventh move in such a strict manner anymore. Similar to what happened to the word "evil," the number of senior professional shogi players, who strictly criticize other shogi based on vague concepts such as "caliber" "potential" "dignified" "a small advantage" "the scale of his shogi," has clearly declined.
In 2002, I had an opportunity to talk with Habu about the manner in which adults should speak to young people (a three party dialogue also including President Oki Matsumoto of the corporation Manex). There Habu talked as follows, which struck me as very impressive:

Now I'm 31 and I've had many opportunities to play with younger people. It's important for me to remember to observe their Shogi. For example, sometimes I don't understand the moves played by 4-dans, 5-dans, and those who have not yet become professionals. I don't understand what is going through their mind. When pondering the moves after the match, their intentions finally occur to me.

Although I try to study the latest playing styles as much as possible, this still happens. I suppose my ideas are also becoming subconsciously inflexible to some extent. There are more than 100 professionals in the shogi world, but I only play frequently with around 10 of them. As I continue to play with the same group of people, implied agreements inevitably begin to arise within. If this continues, we will not be able to adapt. I carefully watch younger peoples' Shogi so I can continue to learn.

 
The attitudes assumed by the leading figures create the atmosphere of the field.
This refreshing attitude of Habu's is at the opposite end from the suffocating closed minds unique to the Japanese village society.
 
 

Creating the Future of Shogi

If adults, including the leading figures of a field, maintain the attitude to learn from young people, the world starts to take on a lively atmosphere. "The manners of adults," which Habu had acquired as early as the age of 31, have much in common with Silicon Valley, where innovations come along one after another.
 
I do not intend to vainly rush to a conclusion with this book, but I believe that if we meaningfully understand what is being done in the shogi world in the quest to create modern shogi by leading professionals including Habu, then we will be able to gain many important insights in order to pioneer Japanese society and to find hope for the future. Adding to this, although one of the main themes of this book is to prove that "we can enjoy shogi not only by actually playing but also by watching," I think that it is the existence of Yoshiharu Habu which adds to and expands the enjoyment of watching shogi and opens the general public to the possibilities beyond merely watching shogi.
By the way, he wrote as follows at the beginning of his series Changing Modern Shogi,
Time surely flies like an arrow and 5 years have passed since I published the first volume of Habu's Brain. During this 5 years, modern shogi has steadily, though slowly, changed into a complicated style. ...
Shogi is difficult. It is tremendously profound even focusing only on the opening part of the game. I will not believe there is a bottom to it no matter how organized it becomes. Nevertheless, I still believe that it is a professional shogi players' responsibility to always try to progress no matter how small a step it might be.
What I will embark on writing is the fruit of efforts made by every shogi player (including amateurs, of course) who shares such common desires.
I would call "what I will embark on writing as the fruit of efforts made by every shogi player who shares such common desires" "the Declaration of Modern Shogi." Only a "professional shogi player who has such a common desire" to progress with ''tremendously profound" shogi "no matter how small a step it might be" could survive in modern shogi as a tournament-professional and become the center of the modern shogi world.
In February 1996, approximately one and half years before he started to write Changing Modern Shogi, he had occupied all the shogi titles and achieved an unprecedented Grand Slam. However, only after 167 days since the Grand Slam, he was defeated by Hiroyuki Miura in the 67th Kisei title match, and again in 1996, lost his title to Koji Tanigawa in the ninth Ryuoh title match.
Kazushi Hosaka, an author who had just published a book Habu, expressed his concern.
In the midst of when everyone is speaking of Habu as being in a slump, he has started a series called Changing Modern Shogi. A normal person would think "I will write something after I have defended the Meijin and after taking back the Ryuoh title is within reach ..." He is doing a series in such a pinch. (The Shogi World, September issue, 1997)
He was also defeated by Koji Tanigawa in the 55th Meijin title Match in 1997 thus retaining only four titles. It was at such a time when he started writing Changing Modern Shogi. For the 26-year old Habu, who had reached the summit with all seven titles in his hands, immediate title matches were without a doubt important, but writing Changing Modern Shogi for the creation of shogi's future was also as important.
 
 

The Idea of Being An All-round Player

In the last issue of Changing Modern Shogi, after pondering about what would be the best out of three choices of (1) S-6h P-3d S-7g, (2) S-6h P-3d P-6f and (3) G-7h after P-7f P-8d for three and half years, after remarking "It might have been puzzling for those who started to read in the middle of this series," he ended the series by saying that,
Choice (3) is not recommendable to a Yagura player since it goes to Kakugawari Koshikakegin (Bishop Exchange with Reclining Silver) and then whether to choose (1) of (2) is not determined and is a matter of personal preference. But (1) should take care of a rapid attack by trading pawns on the central file and Yagura Nakabisha (Yagura Central Rook) and (2) should pay attention to Yodo Furibisha (Faint Ranging Rook) and Migi Shikenbisha (Right Fourth File Rook).
 
As you can see from his remarks about (2), Changing Modern Shogi, although named "The First Chapter the Yagura Opening," proceeds to explain Shikenbisha for months which seems strange. However, this was the most natural thing in the world for Habu.
A person does not play the Yagura Opening or Furibisha (Ranging Rook), but plays shogi.
Ideal professional shogi players are not those who have strategies they particularly excel at, but are those who are familiar with every single strategy and earnestly seek the best move in every position. Habu's thoughts towards such shogi manifest themselves here. He himself is aiming to become an all-around player who is familiar with every strategy, as Kiyokazu Katsumata 6-dan mentions in his book as follows:
Habu's philosophy that "it is better not to have strategies one particularly excels at" and "good strategies should be used regardless of their shogi style" gradually is spreading to the shogi world and top professional shogi players are starting to change their mindset towards strategies.  (Saishin Senpo no Hanashi: The Stories about the Newest Strategies)
As he explains, Habu's "All-around player theory" has strongly influenced even the present top players and come to define the characteristics of modern shogi.
9-dan Koji Tanigawa also talked about "Habu's All-around theory" as follows:
Habu's current shogi applies the most interesting strategy in each position and naturally adapts to the opponent. I reckon he is consciously trying to be natural. ...
While observing the opponent's moves, he chooses what he thinks is going to be the best direction. This results in the difference between Ibisha (Static Rook) and Furibisha (Ranging Rook) without choosing one of them consciously.
This strategy is only applicable to those who are familiar with every strategy. If one had even the smallest weaknesses then he would not be able to take this strategy and not every professional can do this. On the contrary, most professionals have some patterns they are reluctant to take even though they are the best moves, but Habu does not have any. He can give his best in every style of play. That is why he can always be natural. (The Shogi World, January issue, 2009)
 

Compatibility Between Freeing Knowledge and Winning

There is this expression that "the initial work manifests everything."
 
As Habu said at the beginning of his series of Changing Modern Shogi that "five years have passed since I published the first volume of Habu's Brain," the initial work for Habu is the ten volumes of Habu's Brain.
 
The first volume of Habu's Brain was published on April 1, 1992.
 
After this publication, the rest of Habu's Brain continued being published for two and half years.
 
In the midst of this, he became a 5-title holder at the youngest age of any player ever, in August 1993, and won Meijin in June 1994. At the same time as the ending of Habu's Brain, he won the Ryuoh title and became the first 6-title holder ever in the history of shogi. He completed this great book while still making steady progress to the great achievement of the Grand Slam. He started writing Habu's Brain at the age of 21 and finished it at 24. This book is another great achievement for him in his early 20's.
I was asked by the publishing department of The Shogi Association to publish my first proper book of a standard sequences series. It covers every strategy, including Furibisha (Ranging Rook) and Ibisha (Static Rook), and therefore is a gigantic series with 10 volumes. In order to express my gratitude for this massive amount of publishing, I would like to try to make a useful book by pouring my every knowledge about the current
standard sequences. (Preface of the first volume)
When he published the first volume, he declared his determination as such.
 
That "it covers every strategy and therefore is a gigantic series with ten volumes" already showed the true values of the all-around-player-oriented Habu. But what was more essential in this attempt was his drastic ideology to make all of the knowledge he had at that time to be open. For instance,
Upon writing this book, I re-examined the standard moves of rapid attacks of Sankenbisha (Third File Rook) and Nakabisha (Central Rook). I came to realize again the difficulty of shogi and how various the possibilities of changes are. ... Although I titled it "Defeating Furibisha (Ranging Rook)," many of the lines have ended up failing to defeat Furibisha (Ranging Rook). This is my honest, up-to-date understanding about rapid attacks, and my apologies for not accomplishing my intention. (Preface of volume 3)
As can be seen from this, Habu actually "poured his every idea" and wrote according to his "sincere understanding." Without sparing anything, he demonstrated the results of his latest studies and his judgement towards difficult positions. As a result, Habu's Brain turned out to be the first systematic shogi textbook seriously read by professionals.
 
Furthermore, he accomplished the Grand Slam soon after he completed Habu's Brain as "a Declaration of Open Knowledge," thus succeeding in perfectly accomplishing both "winning" and "open knowledge," which had been believed to be incompatible. Consequently, Habu's Brain came to exert strong influence in the shogi world, and since the late 90's, many young professionals published high quality systematic shogi books one after another.
 
How can we simultaneously accomplish "open knowledge" and "winning"? This question is one of the most essential ideologies in the internet era. Even before the internet era came along, Habu embodied the ideologies of that era by accomplishing "opening Habu's Brain" and the Grand Slam. In 1992, when he started to write Habu's Brain, the internet era had not come along yet, nor had "the IT Revolution." Before we saw the arrival of "the IT Revolution," Habu had already expressed in Habu's Brain his "Information Revolution" ideology as to what the essence of "IT Revolution" could be.
 
Normally, an "Information revolution" follows the birth of an "IT Revolution." However, only in the shogi world, thanks to Habu's pioneering accomplishments, an "Information revolution" preceded an "IT revolution."
 
 

Learning Highways and a Traffic Jam at the End of Them

After the three-way discussion in Nikkei Business in 2002, Habu and I started to sometimes meet up under a promise to talk about shogi for half of the time and then talk about my speciality in Silicon Valley, the web revolution and information revolution using the other half. Shortly thereafter, he taught me that it is important to carefully observe what is happening in the modern shogi world in order to study what is happening and is going to happen in the information revolution.
 
"The most significant change which occurred in the shogi world because of the progress of the IT and the internet is that the highways to improving shogi were established all at once. But there is a traffic jam at the end of the highways."
 
Habu's "Highway Theory" was also born in one of those conversations.
 
The information necessary to improve one's shogi (publication of systematic shogi books, open shogi game databases and substantial patternization and calculations) is being clearly arranged, and everyone can share this information with little, if any, cost. Furthermore, the information gets updated on a daily basis. The environment where any person can play with strong opponents was also born. Anyone can participate in shogi club 24, a shogi dojo which is open 24/7 on the web, and there, not only strong amateurs but also professionals are always playing shogi. Anyone, after having become strong enough, can now be trained by top shogi players. Combining all of these new phenomena together, Habu remarked "the highways to improving shogi were established all at once."
 
"The highways to learning" on the web eliminated handicaps which arise from the physical "distance" in the real world. Were it not for the internet, all the latest information and opportunities to play shogi would be concentrated in large cities, where professional players and strong amateurs cluster. Nowadays, however, a very simple principle of competition, where "how much one loves it" and "how much one can devote him/herself to it" decides who is strong, has been established. Be one in a rural area or even in a foreign country, if he/she is enthusiastic enough, he/she can become stronger with the sky being the limit.
 
And Habu added to this by saying that "there is a traffic jam at the end of the highways." There is actually a limit to how strong one can get even with the most efficient and similar ways to study, and in a competition between the people who have reached this stage, it is often hard to tell which wins or loses and difficult for one to get ahead. Furthermore, more and more people will also reach this stage, hence the traffic jam. In order to drive out of the traffic jam, it is necessary to use methods different from those that took them to this stage.
 
All of these, including the parts about "traffic jams," consist of Habu's "Highway Theory."
 
No sooner had I introduced this theory in my blog and "The Web Evolution," people from many different fields started sympathizing with this theory, saying "this is exactly what is happening in my field." Many universities and graduate schools cited Habu's "Highway Theory" from my book and used it in their entrance examinations.
 

The World of Shogi, as a Laboratory of Social Phenomena

Come to think about it, even before the internet era arrived, Yoshiharu Habu the Visionary had attempted to accomplish both "open knowledge" and "winning." Leading the revolutionary changes in the shogi world and opening the door to modern shogi, he was also paying attention to the progress of  the "IT revolution."
Because of this, Habu could point out the latest ideologies of the information revolution even without knowing them. One of such essences was his "Highway Theory."
Concerning other themes, for example, Habu talked about the relationship between the intellectual property rights and the world as follows,
I feel that everyone is becoming stronger hand in hand. I believe that it is a very significant question whether or not they acknowledge that "sharing knowledge is the best strategy." If someone says "I won't reveal my secret strategy," then that will contradict the presumption that everyone becomes strong together by making information open. ... It might be possible to say that shogi is evolving at such a rapid pace because there are no property rights. I do not believe that it is a good idea to strictly regulate everything. So, I would like you to observe shogi as a model case regarding the question "What would happen in a world if there were no intellectual property rights?" "What is going to emerge from a world where there is no point in hiding something from others?"
In the shogi world, even though one created a new move, it is impossible to protect it with patents or copyrights. Once a move is played by someone, it will immediately get passed on and studied. However, even in a turbulent era with the information revolution fiercely going on, we can think of it as an era when everyone can evolve and get better together. It is because we are living in this era that the quest for shogi's truth is rapidly progressing. This is how Habu understands the current world.
Speaking of The Highway Theory, it is also possible to say that the shogi world is "a laboratory of what is going to happen in society as a whole" in that the highways to learning in the shogi world are being established much more rapidly than those in other fields.
Habu emphasizes that creativity is more important than anything in such an era.
Being creative will not pay if it is easy to imitate, considering the effort and time it takes to be creative. I often try new strategies, resulting in nothing in most cases. Even when I sometimes succeed, it is still difficult because others can now easily adapt to it. If one was only concerned about efficiency, no one would want to be creative. ... To the contrary, we could say that anything except creativity is now easily attainable. That is why I reckon that the most important thing is to be creative, which might seem to be in vain at first glance. We might not be able to be better than others and I believe it would be creativity which decides who wins.

"Anything except creativity is now easily attainable" is exactly the same argument used in the industrial world that says "how we can survive in an era where everything is being turned into a commodity."

As strict as it might seem, the world without intellectual rights evolves much faster. Therefore, sharing information is inevitable if one prioritizes evolution. In such a world, it might seem right to just imitate others and seek a steady life because "if one was only concerned about efficiency, no one would want to be creative." It might look rational to survive with "adaptability to situations." However, there is no way to survive in the long run other than to continue to be creative even though doing so might seem useless. Ultimately, "it would be creativity which decides who wins," so believes Habu.
 
 

Yoshiharu Habu the Visionary

And Habu also deepened his thoughts after formulating the Highway Theory.
His hypothesis is that what is the key to being creative and innovative might be the value generated when "quantity turns into quality."
I am now at the stage of snowballing new knowledge. The snowball is rapidly expanding by accumulating and analyzing new information. It keeps growing bigger and bigger. But I do not have the slightest idea as to how much it might grow. When that database covers a tremendous amount of information, it might be possible for it to have a multiplier effect. There might come along innovations no one would expect.
Everyone would agree with me if I said that this text was the plain Japanese translation of what the founders of Google have said. Google's "latest ideology towards information" was also deducted by Habu on his own.
Google in Silicon Valley is trying to make deductive innovations possible by "organizing the world's information" and turning its vast quantity into quality. They both hold the same hypothesis that "there must be a point where quantity turns into quality," Habu about the information in the shogi world and Google about all the information in the world. And Habu is attempting to prove his hypothesis not by using computers but within his own brain.
Habu believes that driving past the traffic jam at the end of the highway and "quantity turning into quality" are going to be deeply related. And I am absolutely certain that he will keep expressing some new phenomena pertaining to his hypothesis in a pure form in the shogi world preceding the changes in the real world. What is about to happen in the shogi world is filled with futuristic hints and thus one of the models to help us understand what is going to occur to society and human beings when confronting colossal amount of information.
It is usual for humans to try to catch up to the rapid pace at which technologies advance. In the shogi world, however, a professional shogi player as a human himself is an entity which embodies technology and everything depends on human's driving force and evolving force. Considering this, I could not be more surprised or impressed by their tremendous intellectuality and uniqueness.
The characteristics of the leaders in a certain era reflect the characteristics of that era. It is not an overstatement to say that Yoshiharu Habu, an unusual Japanese who is gifted with the quality of an extraordinary scientist and of a futuristic visionary, represents the current information society.
 
 

In 2008, "I Will Do My Best"

The shogi world has completely changed since 15 years ago, when Habu challenged Yonenaga for the seat of Meijin.
 
Freedom on the board, which Habu was so eager to achieve, is now prevalent. Habu's All-around player ideology has also taken root in the shogi world. At the same time, however, "open knowledge" and the progress of the information revolution, which accelerates information distribution, have brought a side effect of severe competition (This is also a piece of evidence that the shogi world is a laboratory which precedes other social phenomena).
 
And these drastic changes were anything but easy even for Habu, who was leading the shogi world as he matured. The modern shogi revolution he was leading also placed massive stress upon him. It is shown in the following remarks he made which reflect back the past 10 years.
 
The past decade has seen the most drastic changes in shogi history. In the midst of this, I could not be more bold to say that I was never the front runner. I was always overwhelmed to try to catch up with others and acquire new skills and senses.
 
Towards the end of 2007, Habu declared to me that his goal of 2008 was to "do his best."
 
Following his own declaration, he appeared in all seven title matches, Osho title match in January, Kio title match in February, Meijin title match
in April, Kisei title match in June, Oui title match in July, Oza title match in September and Ryuoh title match in October. He defended Osho and Oza, seized Meijin and Kisei, accomplished becoming a four title holder and also achieved the entitlement of Permanent Meijin, all of which were tremendous achievements.
 
At the end of 2007, I also had an opportunity to talk with Yasumitsu Sato Kisei in the spring dialog for Sankei Shimbun. On that occasion I was invited by Sato to the Kisei title match, and encouraged to write web commentaries.
 
 
Since I published The Web Evolution in February 2006, I published 6 other books in rapid succession and poured out everything I had accumulated so far, leaving myself half empty. Sato made that suggestion to me when I was thinking that I would need to stay away from writing for a while. But I thought "if my friend Habu were to challenge Sato, then I might be able to work on web commentaries using completely different parts of my brain," and was gradually tilted in that direction. Come to think about it, I have been enthusiastic about watching shogi since I was a child. That blood started to boil once again.
 
I would like to write down about how "I did my very best" in the coming chapters.
 
After all, I ended up visiting three title matches, Kisei title match, Oui title match, and Ryuoh title match, and writing two web commentaries based on the four titles matches Habu played in 2008. Lured by encounters with several professional shogi players and the consequences of some matches, I spent a tremendous amount of time in the shogi world, making the year 2008 the best year of my life. Even though I had experienced many twists and turns, I finally succeeded in making sure what I really love.
 
In the coming chapters, I would like to depict what I have learned, felt and thought by putting myself in the three locations of the title matches Habu was in, and through the process of interaction with his opponents as well.
 
But there is one thing I would like you to know before going there.
 
Yasumitsu Sato Kisei with the Kisei title match, Koichi Fukaura Oi with the Oui title match and Akira Watanabe Ryuoh with the Ryuoh title match right before their eyes, all of the three title holders, without exception, were hoping for Habu to become the challenger as the deciding match was drawing near. Each could not feel more pleasure than to play with Habu on the board.
 
The symbolic leader who defines an era is a person from whom we can remember how we have lived that era. Yoshiharu Habu, in the present shogi world, is without doubt one of them.
 

Comments (6)

leona.uk.jp said

at 4:07 am on May 9, 2009

読んでみました!後手→Gote (Second mover)とするのは最初だけでよくて、次からはGoteだけでもよいと思うのですが、どうですか?

leona.uk.jp said

at 4:11 am on May 9, 2009

鉱脈は、a vein, a vein for goldなどと辞書にありますが、難しい訳ですね。

leona.uk.jp said

at 4:34 am on May 9, 2009

サブタイトルがつけれるところにはつけておきました(あまり自信がないです)。ご確認ください。

katsu8 said

at 4:44 pm on May 9, 2009

>leona.uk.jpさん
1. Goteは統一の方向で検討 2. そのニュアンスが海外の人に伝わるかどうかですね。 3.ありがとーございます!

長岩 said

at 4:58 am on May 12, 2009

余り直訳にしすぎずとも、意味を正確に伝え、克つ読んでいて面白い英文を目指すべきではないかと思いますよー
最初の「変わりゆく現代将棋」を直してみましたので検討お願いします。

Jun Koda said

at 8:17 pm on May 12, 2009

ありがとうございます! わかりやすく、読みやすい英文になるようがんばりましょう。そして面白い英文が書ける人にはどんどん書いていただきましょう(私はこのレベルには...)。

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