There were various gambling methods in the manor house of State Duke Cheng.
Only those who enjoyed betting heavily would wager from the very beginning on the ultimate winner of the chess tournament. Most people bet on the games as they proceeded.
Jing Shang was naturally cautious, so he had followed others in how they gambled. He bet a large amount on the first game. He thought that with Jing Jiu having won first place in the chess tournament of the Four-Seas Banquet, his chess playing prowess should be extraordinary. Even if he couldn't win in the end, it should be easy for him to win a few games in the beginning.
But no-one predicted that Jing Jiu would encounter the unbeatable Tong Yan in the first game.
The caretaker knew what had happened on the Chess Board Mountain. "We don't know the final result yet. So don't worry too much, master," he said to Jing Shang sympathetically.
As Jing Shang realized his wager would surely be lost, he gradually accepted the fact and did not let it trouble him. He cupped his hands and entered the State Duke Cheng's manor house.
The backyard of the State Duke Cheng's manor house was brimming full of people. Almost half of the kings and nobles of Zhaoge City were present there.
Yet they were not standing at the front that day.
Standing at the front were the national chess players, who were pointing to the wall in front and commenting.
Even the owner of the Chunxi Chess House wasn't qualified to speak; he was only standing to the side and smiling.
There was a huge Go board hanging on that wall, with the names of the opposing players and the betting odds written on both sides. Judging by the wet ink, the words must have just been written.
Jing Shang had no mood to look at the board. He stood at the back of the crowd, thinking silently of selling some of his properties after he lost his wager.
Since Jing Jiu would definitely lose, the high odds given for him to win the match were meaningless.
At this point, a discussion taking place in front of him attracted his attention.
"Why is this piece placed here? Does anybody know the answer?"
"Let's start over again. I think that star square is problematic."
"Take two steps back."
"Not enough. Take ten steps back first, and let me think it over."
Grand Scholar Guo got up and walked over to the huge Go board, then took down a dozen chess pieces and put them back up to illustrate a few different strategies. "Now you should understand why they played that way," he said to the crowd as he turned to face them.
Though the kings the nobles involved in gambling knew how to play Go, their Go playing skills were rather ordinary, so they struggled to understand what Grand Scholar Guo meant.
On the other hand, the dozen national Go players of Zhaoge City were studying the board in deep contemplation.
A moment later, an elder said in a trembling voice, "Oh, that's why!"
Gradually, more and more people understood Grand Scholar Guo and his wonderful placement of that particular Go piece. Praise and surprised sighs burst out in unison.
State Duke Cheng remarked, "Grand Scholar is indeed sharp. He has even figured out the purpose of this move."
Grand Scholar Guo smiled bitterly, and said, "I only understood its purpose a few steps ahead of you, so I'm not that sharp. As I told you all earlier, Tong Yan's Go playing skills haven't been seen since the ancient times, and Jing Jiu's level is also far beyond you and me. However, none of you believed me. What about now?"
By now Grand Scholar Guo was certain that Tong Yan hadn't been trying his hardest during the Go game outside the old plum garden the other day.
Under such circumstance, he still had to admit defeat during the middle of the game. The difference in their Go playing levels was indeed huge.
Standing behind the crowd, Jing Shang was stunned.
From what Grand Scholar Guo had just said, Jing Jiu and Tong Yan were actually engaged in a well matched battle. How could this be possible?
Jing Shang took a warm towel from a plate carried by a maid and thoroughly wiped his face, then turned his attention to the huge Go board on the wall.
After studying it for a moment, he began to feel dizzy, since he had no idea what was going on. Eager to learn more, Jing Shang randomly grabbed someone standing nearby and asked them, "What's happening in the game?"
"You ask me, but who should I ask for an answer?" the person responded.
"Wouldn't those national Go players at the front have any idea?" asked Jing Shang.
The man said, "Today they can't even understand the game, just like you and me, let alone figure out who is winning."
Upon hearing this remark, someone sneered, "There is no need to figure out who is winning. Grand Scholar Guo has said that the immortal master Tong Yan is the best Go player since the ancient times. How could he lose?"
Jing Shang was angered by this, and snapped, "It sounds like you're certain about the outcome, but can you even understand this game?"
On the Chess Board Mountain.
As time passed, those wild plums had already been trampled into dust, but no one could understand the game in the pavilion yet.
They had no choice but to look for those who might possibly understand the game.
Queniang bit on her lip while thinking about a recent move. She was so preoccupied with the thought that she did not notice that her lip had started bleeding.
Shang Jiulou was murmuring something, with his eyes closed.
They had given up the desire to win some time ago. The reason they paid such close attention to this game and spent so much energy on thinking about it was simply to understand this game.
But it was no easy task to keep up with Jing Jiu and Tong Yan's thinking.
At this point, a person's Go playing level could be judged accurately.
Gu Yuanyuan was as famous as Queniang and Shang Jiulou, but he was obviously inferior to them. So he was in the worst shape, with a pale face and his whole body soaked in cold sweat.
He thought that the game was terrifying.
The two playing the game were terrifying.
Seeing Gu Yuanyuan's looks, He Zhan shook his head sympathetically. He wanted to have a drink, but the jar of alcohol had been emptied long time ago. He couldn't help but feel depressed.
The chess game in the pavilion had already entered the middle stage. He Zhan could still keep up with their rate of thinking, could still understand their ideas.
It for this reason that he knew clearly that he would have already lost if he played in the pavilion, regardless of whether he had black or white pieces.
Looking at the two players in the pavilion again, a feeling of being crushed rose up within him, as well as a great deal of admiration.
By this time, one hour had passed.
Neither Jing Jiu nor Tong Yan moved their Go pieces very quickly, but they didn't take too long to think over each move; so the game proceeded smoothly.
A gentle breeze rose up, hurling a green leaf into the pavilion to land on the Go board.
Both Jing Jiu and Tong Yan fixed their gazes on the green leaf, then raised their heads.
They identified each others' intentions when their eyes met, and simultaneously put the Go pieces in their hands back into the small jars.
The game was suspended.
Teas were brought to the pavilion.
Both Jing Jiu and Tong Yan held a teacup as they stood by the railing, looking at the distance outside of the mountain, speechless.
Seeing this scene, the crowd remained silent.
The game resumed.
The wind rose again, stronger than before.
Clouds drifted over above Zhaoge City, blocking the sun. It grew colder on the mountain.
The atmosphere became more intense in the arena.
It was quiet throughout.
Nobody dared to make a sound.
The game was at the mid-stage, and the Go pieces grew dense on the Go board. Everyone could tell that there would be a decisive encounter soon.
Tong Yan had the first period of prolonged pondering.
He made his decision after considering it for a full five minutes.
He held a white Go piece with three fingers, and reached out toward the Go board in a slightly awkward manner.
It was either a coincidence or heaven and earth sensing the danger of the move and its infinite lethal opportunity...
The clouds over the Chess Board Mountain suddenly stirred up, and lightning was vaguely visible in the horizon.
The white Go piece landed gently on the Go board.
A loud rumble of thunder bellowed out.
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