The continuity of Japanese traditional culture and its adaptability to changing times and technologies can be readily understood when examining the ancient game of Shogi, or Japanese chess.
Two recent developments revolving around the game clearly illustrate this point, a story from the Asahi News Service says.The Nara Prefectural Kashirwara Institute of Archaeology announced the unearthing of seven Shogi pieces dating back to the late Heian Era (749-1192) from a Nara temple. The specimens are the oldest found so far in Japan.
Nara is an ancient Japanese capital, located 31 miles northeast of Osaka.
Meanwhile, back in the future, Shogi is played on computers with the full blessing of the nation's highest arbiter of the game, the Japan Shogi Federation.
The pieces were discovered in the former precincts of Kofukuji Temple, where experts presume the temple's monks played the game.
The pieces dug up are a king, two gold generals, a silver general, a pawn and two other unidentifiable pieces.
The Chinese characters written on the legible pieces are the same as those used on the modern ones. The pieces are about the same size as modern ones, with the older being somewhat thinner.
A wooden tablet inscribed "Sixth Year of Tengi" (1058) found with the pieces helped experts date them to around that period in history.
The game is thought to have been introduced there sometime during the Nara period (710-794) from China, while its prototype is believed to have originated in India.
Computer Shogi was developed in an attempt to keep younger people, raised on a variety of other types of computer and video games, interested in one of Japan's major traditional pastimes.
Computers have become such a natural part of the game that enthusiasts can now attain third-level ranking by taking on a machine equipped with specially developed Shogi software and beating it three times in a row.
- QUALIFIER - The road to a match for the world championship with Gary Kasparov of Russia is a long, hard one.
It runs through a round of zonal tournaments all over the globe to the interzonals, from which candidates are selected for the elimination matches that eventually produce a championship challenger.
And Judit Polgar, not yet 17 years old, is on the way.
In fact, she is the first woman ever to make it to the interzonal stage, to be held this summer in Biel, Switzerland.
Polgar, who lives in Budapest with her two extraordinary chess-playing sisters, Zsuzsa, 24, and Zsofia, 18, got through narrowly by achieving a tie for second place behind the Bulgarian grandmaster Kiril Georgiev in the Budapest zonal competition.
Polgar then won a double-round elimination tie-break tournament in Budapest against the three players deadlocked with her.
The third qualifier for the interzonal was Lubomir Ftacnik of Slovakia, who played even with the Polish champion Alexander Wojtkiewicz in the tie-breaks but beat him out in their games against each other by a score of 11/2-1/2.
Polgar incisively disposed of the Polish international master Jacek Gdanski's French Defense in Round 2 with a powerful mating attack.
- LONG MATCH! - In the days before official title bouts, a marathon match was held in London from June to October 1834 between the world's two best players: France's Louis Charles de La Bourdonnais versus Ireland's Alexander McDonnell.
All 85 games were written down, move by move, and widely published.
La Bourdonnais won handily by 511/2-331/2, consisting of 45 wins, 27 losses and 13 draws.
Yet McDonnell kept improving and actually won the last three games to lead the sixth set 5-4 when the series ended. He died a year later at the age of 37.