Hikaru's Life Lessons Number Three: The Definition of Insanity is Repeating the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting a Different Result


The internet was an amazing invention, Mr. Amano from Go Weekly thought. Why, at one time just traveling to a Go tournament within your own country might take weeks. Today, an equal amount of time had allowed him to assemble an assortment of 20 players from 12 different countries all ranked seven dan or higher, into one video web conference.

Amazingly, finding Sai had taken even less time. This was also thanks to the Internet, where about a hundred people had posted analyses of Sai's online hours, and seventy of them agreed that Sai was most likely to be found online on weekends mid-afternoon. And an offer of a game with twenty professional players at once must have piqued Sai's interest, because he/she had accepted immediately.

The set-up was so that all twenty players would debate before each move, and then would vote on what move to play.

Mr. Amano wondered if anyone would even consider Sai defeated if he lost under such circumstances—a tag team of world players. But anyone who could crack Sai's mask even a millimeter would make headlines these days, and generating headlines was Mr. Amano's business.

Mr. Amano had failed to consider only one factor.

When twenty different people played a game as a team, every single move took much longer. Each player had to weigh in, debate, and then vote, and there was always one slow person per move. Not a problem, right? He'd known in advance about that disadvantage. The game wasn't timed.

Except with that much time lag between moves, even the ever-patient Sai might begin to get bored.

Sai was actually a very kind player. Some who'd experience defeat at his hands would snort at the notion, but the truth was that Sai made an effort to coax weaker players to new heights of skill and usually tried not to win by too large of a margin. Sai wanted to enjoy his games, not crush his opponents—unless of course you made him angry. Or, apparently, bored. Around the third move of the game, Sai became bored.


The sound of some razzy theme music jerked Hikaru back to awareness. He had become so caught up in watching the game that he'd forgotten about the anime episode playing in another window. It had been a while since that had last happened. "They almost had you there for a minute, didn't they, Sai?"

Sai covered a smirk with his fan. "Perhaps if they had elected one person to play in the end-game they would have stood a chance. The difficulties of fighting several playing styles at once delayed my victory. However, deciding by democracy brings out not the best moves of any player, but rather a skill level that is an average of the group assembled."

Hikaru exclaimed, "You call that average?"

Sai said, "From a group of the top world professionals, yes. Perhaps a little below average compared to the people I played as Honinbo Shusaku."

"Sai, when it comes to Go, you can be a bit of a bastard."

"I but desire to show my humble skills to their maximum capacity. And, of course, achieve the Hand of God. Raising the players around me to new levels of talent is a necessary step in this goal, and one that requires not gentleness but the ruthless scissors of a bonsai tree master."

"Someday you could actually let someone last more than an hour against you."

"Maybe some day when they are not standing between me and watching the next episode of Yugioh Abridged."

Hikaru sighed, ruing the day he had introduced Sai to Yugioh. He had created a monster.


Attempt Number 207:

"Hikaru, are you certain that this is a wise plan?"

"Of course I am! You want to play Touya Meijin, don't you? Especially after you had nothing but disappointing games yesterday."

"It is only that although I do not know much about computers, this plan of yours bears a strong resemblance to your last plan."

"It's completely different."

That was also what Hikaru had said last time. However, it occurred to Sai that he really wanted to play Touya Meijin, so it was not in his best interests to be discouraging. Sure, Hikaru's new plan might be nothing but a leaf in a thunderstorm, but Sai had nothing to lose.

Hikaru called, "Mr. Touya? Could I ask you for a favor?"

Koyo Touya calmly looked up from his tea and Go book.

"Akira asked me to watch over his laptop. He's expecting an important message from someone. But I have to go to the—bathroom—so I need you to watch this for me."

Akira would express deep unhappiness, possibly in the form of lack of kisses and cutting off access to Mrs. Touya's baking, if he ever found out that Hikaru had let his father use his laptop without supervision. However, Hikaru knew this was for a deep and vitally important purpose.

Hikaru still remembered the day he had drawn Touya Meijin for his first professional game, and Sai had sat sadly in front of the board where Hikaru was supposed to sit, desperately wanting to play. For a second, Hikaru had considered letting Sai play the game, under a ridiculous handicap or something. But Hikaru had already played Akira's father multiple times while hanging out at Akira's house. (It was hard for anyone to be under Koyo Touya's roof for long without playing a Go game with him. Even people who didn't know how to play Go were forced to play him.)

Touya Meijin knew Hikaru's style to well to be fooled, no matter what tricks Sai used, so Hikaru had been forced to nix the idea. He'd had to play with Sai sobbing in his ear the whole time, and afterwards Akira's father had asked him if he was feeling well and suggested he see a doctor about the hearing problem.

After the game Hikaru had sworn a solemn oath to someday, somehow let Sai play Touya Meijin. This was no longer a favor, it was an obligation, for all the suffering Sai went through watching Hikaru play Akira's father repeatedly without ever letting him on the board.

And despite Koyo Touya's disinterest in Net Go, Hikaru was certain he would never be able to not play a game that was in front of him. He was kind of like Sai that way. If only Hikaru could get past Akira's father's notorious technophobia long enough to present him with a game.

Hikaru pulled up the Net Go webpage. "Here's what it will look like when someone sends the message. After that, you have to click on this message, okay? It's the one that says 'accept.' Oh, and if a Go board pops up then you just have to click on the place where you want to put down stones." Hikaru smiled encouragingly. "Just sit there and wait for someone to send you an invitation—I mean message! I'll be right back!"

Koyo said, "You're opening the front door. The bathroom is on your right."

"Oh, but I have to go to a public restroom. I have girl problems." Hikaru waved as he skipped out the door. ("Girl problems" was the excuse that always got Akari out of the classroom no questions asked, and Hikaru was under the delusion that if it worked for her, it should work for him.)

Koyo sat alone in front of the computer. The screen had a picture of a Go board on the top, which drew his attention. However, there was incoherent text and odd words like 'HeartGo12" and "SaiFan1091" all over the place. Also, the sides kept flashing bright obnoxious pictures.

Some curiosity prompted Koyo to attempt to click on the picture of the Go board. He accidentally clicked on one of the other pictures instead.

A message popped up with a picture of a woman in a swimsuit. There was some other text and a box that said "accept." Was this Akira's important message? Very odd, he was going to have to talk to his son about this later.

Still, Koyo didn't want to be rude to this young lady he didn't even know, so he clicked on "accept."

The computer asked for an email address. Koyo typed in Akira's address. It disappeared, so he assumed his task was complete.

More boxes began to pop up on the screen. Some of them were accompanied by loud music. There was a picture of a TV, a dollar sign, and five more scantily clad women.

Koyo considered himself to be a modern father, so he tried not to judge his son too much. However, the music was very annoying. He started clicking on "accept" or roughly the equivalent, because that was what had made the last box go away. Sometimes the boxes wanted information so he gave it Akira's email; he was not sure what number his credit card was so he made numbers up.

Another message popped up, this one from something called McAfee Security Center. Koyo clicked on the pop-up to make it go away.

Several more messages from McAfee kept popping up, so Koyo kept clicking "allow" until they went away. Allow was similar to accept, wasn't it? This McAfee person was very persistent. He might be Scottish—Koyo had once been given a bear hug by an overly enthusiastic Scottish Go player. Some cultures did not understand the concept of personal space.

However, new screens continued to pop up faster than Koyo could accept them, and they were still noisy. How did one turn off the sound? Akira had showed him a button that looked like a triangle called mute but he couldn't remember where it was.

Koyo spotted a button that looked the same on the side of the laptop. He pressed it, but nothing happened.

He tried pulling instead. The button came off, along with a larger piece with lots of little holes in it, with a sharp "CRACK." The noise stopped.

This gave Koyo a chance to examine the boxes on the screen in more detail. He was no longer sure what message had been Akira's (on second thought, it had probably not been one of the undressed women) and he wished Hikaru had been more clear. Also, he'd forgotten how to close boxes. Was it the X, the square, or the minus sign?

Then one box caught his eye. It said "Free Go Boards." Koyo was not interested in computers, but this concerned Go. He clicked on it.

Koyo didn't have an email address, so he entered his son's. Akira wouldn't mind some free Go boards.

There was another box. This one was from someone in Nigeria who had a sick child. Koyo's heart ached with sympathy for this poor suffering woman. She needed some money, and surely he could spare some.

How did one put money in the computer? Koyo began to attempt to force a thousand-yen bill through one of the slots in the side. This didn't work, so he tried another slot. He must not have found the right one—modern vending machines were so confusing.

McAfee was sending him messages about having a virus. Koyo supposed that this McAfee person wanted money too. Except messages kept popping up—how many illness could the man have, and did he have to keep shouting about them?

The computer screen went black. Koyo frowned. He had a nagging suspicion that he had done something that was going to make his son upset again.

In an internet café one block away, Hikaru pounded at the table in frustration. He should have just taken the laptop upstairs, instead of deciding it was too risky to play in the same house.

He had a nagging suspicion that he might have done something that was going to make Akira angry at him again.


Author's Note: Most Go games last longer than an hour, so Sai keeping all his games to that length is actually manga-style unrealistically awesome. But exactly the kind of thing that Sai would do.