Telepathy in Japanese Chess

In the Japanese form of chess called Shogi, some of the masters do practise special forms of concentration which are almost unknown in the West. One of the great champions of Shogi (which is considerably more complicated than Western chess, played as it is on a larger board with more pieces) was the late Yasuharu Oyama.

When in a championship game Oyama had the first move, he often did not make it at once, but sat confronting his opponent across the board. Then after a few minutes he would make one of his usual opening moves. In these games there is a time limit, and it seemed curious to use up those precious minutes doing nothing.

The present writer knew Oyama and asked him why he did it. He replied: “Many players when they have the first move make it at once, eager to bring about one of their favourite opening lines. But when I sit down, I throw away all thoughts of winning or losing, of tricks and traps, in fact all the things I know about Shogi. I empty my mind and sit in the resulting calm. Then when I am not thinking any thoughts of my own, I begin to sense how he is feeling: whether he is confident or nervous, energetic or dull that day. There is a sort of current across the board (he used the Japanese word ‘nagare’ which is the ordinary word for a current of water), I come to know his state, and then my strategy adapts accordingly.”

What Oyama describes is a fractional application of a general principle of yoga meditation. The application in a limited field, such as Shogi, can show a definite result, whereas in the great world it is more difficult to see, because the result may be masked by other circumstances.

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