Junious Ricardo Stanton
In 1960 when he was twenty one years old Baba Yatahma was taught to play chess by Robert Kenyatta when they were attending Opportunities Industrial Center taking a drafting class. They both were culturally conscious and they had an Afrocentric worldview. Kenyatta was an advanced chess player and he greatly influenced Baba Yatahma and to the point he too became a chess enthusiast.
On December 23, 1973 he was in prayer asking God to show him how to educate our people. That night Yatahma had a vision of a game board similar to chess but it had more pieces and a larger board . “I was teaching people chess but there was a part of me that wanted something more. I went into prayer mediation and asked God to give me something I could teach my people with. That night I had a vision of a nine by nine board and showed me I should add a few more pieces. It took me about eighteen years to perfect Yanagochi.”
“I left Philadelphia and moved to Miami Florida and I met a lot of different people from around the world, having been an avid reader and I looked at the African continent and I took the names of different ancient people and put them in the game, naming the pieces.”
While it is similar to chess Yamagochi is a unique board game that has its own pieces, strategies and objectives. Instead of knights, kings, bishops, rooks, pawns and queens, Yamagochi has Nasut, Cleopatra, Akoben, Abun, Obrafo, Nyumba and Mujahadin. Baba Yatahma created the game to develop thinking skills, mental discipline, decision making, tactical awareness, analysis, and long term strategic proficiency.
“One thing for sure Yamagochi is not based on color it’s not white moves first and black responses. It’s based upon the concept that everybody is placed on this planet with an equal opportunity by nature, by our Creator’s will and whatever happens after that is based on our experiences on this planet, the circumstances we find ourselves in and our ability to handle the daily issues. Yamagochi has eighty one squares forty one dark squares and forty light squares. We determine who goes first by placing a piece in your closed fist and the other person if he or she picks the hand with the piece in it, they go first.”
Yamagochi is a fascinating board gaming concept. It is deeper than merely a board game. Explaining the game’s name Yatahma stated, “It’s meaning is the Ninth Crown Wisdom. Yama means crown or mountain in Japanese so I wanted to utilize crown. Go is the number nine in Japanese and it’s the ninth principle, the number nine is always showing up and Chi represents wisdom and intellect and it also represents blood and the father. The spiritual and metaphysical part of it speaks to the soul of our people.” When the ancestors and Creator take you, you think you are doing something but they are doing something to you. Along with the learning of the mechanics of the piece sand how each piece moves on the Website I have what is called valuing the nine an explanation of the nine the nine natures of man the added two piece of the board is the development of our conscious nature and develop our super conscious mind.
Yamagochi has seven pieces while chess has six. One feature that differs from chess is if a Mujahadin (similar to a pawn in chess) promotes to the last rank it can only become a piece the opponent has already captured (it’s like a prisoner exchange). The extra piece in Yamagochi is called Akoben which is an extremely powerful piece. The Akoben can move in an L shape like the knight in chess but also moves vertical and horizontal like a rook in chess.
Also unique in Yamagochi is the ability of one piece called the Abun that sits on a dark square but the player may use a one time only move called Abracadabra to place the Abun on a light square.
Baba Yatahma teaches a Yamagochi master class at Black and Nobel bookstore at Broad and Erie Wednesday evenings from 6-8 PM. He also offers classes at the Riletta L. Cream Ferry Avenue Public Library in Camden New Jersey. Baba Yatahma is planning a Yamagochi tournament sometime in the spring.
Baba Yatahma creates the Yamagochi pieces, he and his son created the mold and they make them for each game and they provide a certificate of authenticity. A complete Yamagochi game includes thirty six hand crafted pieces, one vinyl roll up board (for easy travel) one official handbook with the rules, piece description and movement and one book with the history, strategy and origin. The cost of the game is $39.99. For more information or to purchase games call (856) 208-7707 or go to www.yamagochi.ws.