The Empire Reborn
Sample Tournament Result
On the afternoon of the third day of the Emerald Championship, after a day of rumors regarding secret courtly meetings and the sudden departure of the Lion Champion, the court gathers in the Empress’s Garden for the Test of Strategy. The garden is large and spacious, and the early summer breezes are pleasant, but there are no flowers blooming. The court murmurs about the tragic death of the Emperess and her son that winter to the Black Collar. There is already talk of another, different kind of tournament to be held on the first day of fall, one open only to women, were the victor may find herself married to the most powerful man in the land. But that is in the future. Attention turns to the entertainment at hand.
Otomo Wampei walks out through the crowd, which quiets as he passes. The contestants are waiting for him by a series of small tables, each of which has a square of silk covering it matching the clan color of one contestant. He nods to them, and they bow back.
“Greetings noble contestants. It seems that we are officially one contestant down, as Matsu Genai has not reappeared. Therefore, only one will fall today, allowing us to have the four duelists needed for tomorrow.
“The rules to this test are simple. Each of you will go to your table. Under the cloth is a Go board in the midst of a complicated and tenuous position for Black. You must solve the move in a way that results in no loss for your side. The champion who takes the longest will not move forward.
“These positions have been personally created by The Emperor. Take your places. I wish you luck.”
The Champions move to their tables. Most of the contestants sit, but Toyotomi looms over his and grips the sides of the table like the stern of a rocking ship.
Each champion removes their cloth and studies the board before them. Eyes flash rapidly back and forth, up and down. The crowd erupts into murmurs as those among them familiar with the game comment on the complexity of the setup.
Suddenly, Ken’ichi gets up from his place behind black and moves to the other side of the board. From there, he squints at his opponent’s placement, the rear lines of white. With a faint smile, he reaches over and moves six black pieces in rapid succession. Otomo, watching, nods once in approval. The court applauds as Ken’ichi makes a polite bow.
Ide Morimoto is struggling. He frowns and scowls at the board, makes tentative movements with his hand to pick up a piece, stops, and pulls back. He wipes a bead of sweat from his brow, and flicks it away. It flies and lands on a square, glimmering like a miniature white piece. With a sudden smile he makes 3 moves, then pauses again, uncertain.
Yokuni is not looking at the board. His eyes are closed, and have remained closed since the cloth was first removed. His breathing is slow and shallow. Suddenly, he opens his eyes, and the audience gasps as he makes 6 moves one after another. He is not looking when Otomo nods, he is already standing, his fist in the air, as the court applauds loudly.
The Crab Champion rolls his eyes.
Toyotomi is pacing in front of his board, back and forth, his eyes not leaving it. He is muttering to himself under his breath, a deep rumbling which sounds like far away thunder. He pauses, and makes 2 moves, then stops and resumes his pacing.
Morimoto, still struggling to finish his position, reaches for a black piece and accidentally knocks a white stone one square over. He quickly replaces it, but a flash of insight occurs in his eyes. He makes 3 more moves, and looks to Wampei. Wampei nods, and Morimoto sits back in satisfaction to his applause.
Tanaka has been staring at his own board, initially with serene contemplation, but now, as three others have finished their boards, with some noticeable tension. He reaches forward, and delicately moves one, two, three…four pieces, then has to stop.
Toyotomi stops, and with a loud “HA!” moves one, two…three more pieces. He can tell, only one element remains missing. What? “WHAT?!” he bellows, to gasps from the court.
Tanaka is not distracted. He is focused on the board. A fifth piece moves. The precision, the foresight, all of these are required in dueling. He must simply apply those skills here. A position of weakness can be come a position of strength with one simple move. In a flash he has it. All he has to do is move-
“HERE!” bellows the Mantis Champion. Tanaka looks up, the black piece in his hand, as Wampei nods at Toyotomi. As the applause rings across the garden, he slows places the black stone on the tabletop.