The Ballad of Julian Faraway

Julian Faraway reached the rank of nidan whilst still at school. He then went to Cambridge to study mathematics, and disappeared from the go world. Some say that he is now Professor of Mathematics at Bath University. This ballad is a more colourful guess as to the reasons for his disppearance from a university renowned for spy recruitment. It was written during the Cold War.

I'll tell you a story, both weighty and long,
So still be your voices, and hushed be your song.
O hang up the harp now, and put the guitar away.
Hear the sad story of Julian Faraway.
When Julian knew it was time to leave school
He was anxious to show he was nobody's fool.
When they said, "You try maths,"
Though there's nothing he's worse at, 'e
Found himself reading it at university.
Up to some college with places to fill
He set off to acquire mathematical skill.
One morning, when walking down Trumpington Street,
A plainly dressed man trod on one of his feet.
"So sorry," he said, "but perhaps this is fortunate.
Don't, Mr. Faraway, think me importunate.
This introduction perhaps lacks some tact,
But I wanted to talk, as a matter of fact,
Of a matter which interests you very greatly.
Come in this café; we'll talk more sedately."
"It's clear that he purposely trod on my toes,"
Thought our hero, "and anyway, how come he knows
What my name is? Perhaps he's not right in the bonce!
But he seems fairly harmless; let's see what he wants."
Once seated at coffee, the stranger began,
"We know you play go; you're at least a shodan.
We've a special assignment for you if you will,
One that only a player of go can fulfil."
"That suggestion's as crazy as any I've heard,"
Cried out Julian, "Preposterous! Plainly absurd!"
Said the stranger, " I'll make it all clear as the day,
But you really must listen to what I've to say.
We want you to play in the Leningrad tournament.
Take it from me, you won't just be an ornament.
You must try hard to give them the impression
You're there for a serious go-playing session.
We'll pay all expenses, fix travel as well,
And you'll stay every night in a five star hotel."
"The sum that you'll spend on this trip will be large.
What then is the duty that I must discharge
In return?" questioned Julian, and thus spoke the stranger:
"It's one that will leave you in minimal danger,
And yet serve your country and queen very greatly.
If you have kept up with the newspapers lately,
You've already heard of the great Russian physicist
Ripov; of all the Red boffins the busiest.
Little of his daily life do we know,
But one thing we're sure of; he's mad keen on go.
At the Leningrad tournament you're sure to meet him.
It matters but little if you can defeat him,
But what we do want you to do is your best
To persuade this great man to defect to the West."
To strike such a blow at that regime despotic
In Russia struck Julian as most patriotic.
And so it falls out, when ten weeks have gone by
In a great hall in Leningrad, ready to try
To fulfil his assignment, our hero we find.
But go á la russe nearly bends his young mind,
For each game lasts a week, and byo-yomi's an hour,
And at any time during the game, you've the power
To require your opponent at once to have took off
Each fifteen-stone group that you don't like the look of.1
But after two months of this congress have passed
Comes the moment our hero's awaited at last,
For "Ripov plays Faraway: Board 98"
Reads the draw for round 9, and, not one minute late
Julian presses his calendar, makes his first play,
And waits to see when Ripov's looking his way.
At last comes the moment: this chance he'll not miss,
As he says, in an almost inaudible hiss;
" I've come here to make you an offer exploratory.
Please come and work in an English laboratory.
England's well known for what scientists can earn.
O please come to England and help us to learn
All your nuclear secrets." Then Ripov replies,
"You must realise this offer is quite a surprise.
In two or three days my decision I'll tell."
"All right," whispers Julian, and thinks he's done well.
But he didn't know that, though hushed were his tones,
An electronic bug was in one of his stones.
The consequence was, at the end of that day,
As towards his hotel he was making his way,
By two big policemen his way he finds blocked,
And his arm in a half-Nelson soon they have locked.
To a black car they march him, and, through a back door,
Kick him unceremoniously onto the floor.
The very next day he is standing in court.
The trial is in Russian; the speeches are short.
When judgment and sentence are ready, there's hush in
The court, and the president, speaking in Russian,
Confirms with his words our young hero's worst fears,
Saying "Guilty! Siberia, for ninety-nine years!"
Then the clanking is heard of the prisoners' chains
As they march to the waiting Siberia trains.
But that's not the end of this story of woe
One more harrowing detail I feel you should know.
When Julian reaches Siberia, he finds
That they're not, as he thought, going down in the mines.
To a factory rather to take them was thought right,
Where ten thousand chess sets are made every fortnight.
So pity our hero! Success came so near,
But now he will have no degree, no career,
No house in suburbia, no children, no wife,
And condemned to play chess for the rest of his life!

1At the time of writing, Russian go was renowned
for excessively long time limits, and for a theory
that it was always reasonable to sacrifice up to 15 stones.