- Katoka reaches Gosei play-off
- Otake Hideo retains place in Honinbo league
- Yoda and O Meien tied in Meijin league
- Korea and China share the honours in 13th Fujitsu Cup
- Korea wins 1st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup
- O Meien becomes Honinbo challenger
- Kobayashi defends Judan with straight wins
- Hane shares lead in Meijin league
- Upcoming international tournaments
Katoka reaches Gosei play-off
In the first semifinal of the 25th Gosei tournament, Kataoka Satoshi 9-dan, playing black, defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan by half a point. The game was played on 13 April. In the play-off to decide the challenger to Kobayashi Koichi, Kataoka will meet the winner of the other semifinal between Yamashita Keigo 6-dan and Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan.
Otake Hideo retains place in Honinbo league
The play-off to decide the fourth place in the 56th Honinbo league was held on 13 April. Playing white, Otake Hideo 9-dan defeated Ryu Shikun 7-dan by half a point, so he keeps his league place. Otake also won his final league game, against Cho Chikun, by half a point.
Yoda and O Meien tied in Meijin league
Three games have been played in the 25th Meijin league recently. On 13 April, O Rissei Kisei (black) defeated Takemiya Masaki 9-dan by resignation. On 20 April, O Meien 9-dan (white) defeated Imamura Yoshiaki 9-dan by 2.5 points and Yoda Norimoto 9-dan (black) defeated Ryu Shikun by half a point.
As a result, Yoda and O Meien share the lead on 4-1. However, they are closely followed by Kobayashi Koichi, O Rissei and Hane Naoki, who are all on 3-1.
Ryu suffered yet another painful half-point loss following his Honinbo-league game the previous week. Actually all three of his Meijin-league losses were by half a point, so he is certainly having a run of bad luck.
A second new 9-dan has emerged from the spring Oteai (rating tournament). On 20 April, Yo Kagen earned promotion to this rank by defeating Kono Takashi 6-dan. On 12 April, Cho Riyu, who represented Japan in the 11th Fujitsu Cup, earned promotion to 4-dan.
Korea and China share the honours in 13th Fujitsu Cup
In the first round, played on Saturday, 8 April, the highlight was a victory by Rui Naiwei 9-dan, representing Korea, over one of Japan's top players, Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan. Rui, long the world's top woman player, recently became the first woman ever to win a professional tournament open to both men and women players when she won the Kuksu Championship in Korea, where she is a guest member of the Hanguk Kiwon (Korean Go Association). In other games of interest in the first round, Michael Redmond 8-dan was unable to maintain the momentum of his seven straight wins in the Japanese qualifying tournament; he lost to Choi Myung-hoon 7-dan, who is one of Korea's top players; Jimmy Cha 4-dan of the USA, who has pulled off some spectacular wins in the Fujitsu Cup, was unable to get past the solid guard of Liu Xiaoguang 9-dan of China. The two amateurs in the tournament, Rob van Zeijst of Europe and Fernando Aguilar 6-dan of South America, were unable to make a dent in their top-flight Asian opposition.
In the second round, Rui ran out of luck, losing a hard-fought game to Kobayashi Satoru of Japan. Korea's top player, Lee Chang-ho, was also eliminated, losing to Zhou Heyang of China. Two-time champion Takemiya Masaki of Japan seemed to make a good start in his game against Liu Xiaoguang of China, but, perhaps betrayed by his incurable optimism, he slipped up and eventually lost. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Cho Hun-hyun of Korea had said that he hoped to meet Takemiya in the final, but already this possibility has disappeared. Cho Chikun of Japan suffered a similar fate to Takemiya, starting well against Cho Hun-hyun of Korea, but overdoing things and suffering an upset loss. The promising young Korean player Mok Jin-seuk 5-dan, whose low rank is not indicative of his real strength, as he has been one of Korea's top players for a year or two, defeated Japan's Honinbo Cho Sonjin. Chang Hao of China got through to the semifinals, but Ma Xiaochun, who recently regained the top place from Chang in the Chinese ratings for the first time for a number of years, was defeated by the young Japanese representative Cho U 6-dan. Cho, who is a Taiwanese citizen, like his teacher Rin Kaiho, is one of the top players of the younger generation at the Nihon Ki-in. In the quarterfinals, he is pitted against Mok of Korea, who is exactly the same age: they were both born on 20 January 1980. This must be a first for an international tournament.
Full results of the first two rounds:
(8 April). Zhou Heyang 8-dan (China) (B) defeated Fernando Aguilar ama. 6-dan (South America) by resignation, Yu Bin 9-dan (China) (W) d. Moriyama Naoki 9-dan (Japan) by resig., Cho U 6-dan (Japan) (W) d. Rob van Zeijst ama. 7-dan (Europe) by resig., Rui Naiwei 9-dan (Korea) (B) d. Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan (Japan) by 4.5 points, Mok Jin-seuk 5-dan (Korea) (W) d. Ding Wei 7-dan (China) by resig., Choi Myung-hoon 7-dan (Korea) (W) d. Michael Redmond 8-dan (Japan) by 9.5 points, Liu Xiaoguang 9-dan (China) (W) d. Jimmy Cha 4-dan (USA) by 5.5 points, Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan (Korea) (B) d. Chou Chun-hsun 9-dan (Chinese Taipei) by resig.
(10 April). Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan (Japan) (W) d. Rui Naiwei (Korea) by 1.5 points, Cho Hun-hyun (Korea) (B) d. Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) by resig., Mok Jin-seuk (Korea) (B) d. Cho Sonjin 9-dan (Japan) by resig., Liu Xiaoguang (China) (B) d. Takemiya Masaki 9-dan (Japan) by 9.5 points, Cho U (Japan) (B) d. Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) by 2.5 points, Chang Hao 9-dan (China) (W) d. Choi Myung-hoon (Korea) by 7.5 points, Yoo Chang-hyuk 9-dan Korea (W) d. Yu Bin (China) by resig., Zhou Heyang 8-dan (China) (B) d. Lee Chang-ho 9-dan (Korea) by 1.5 points.
For once the honours were evenly divided between the colours, with black and white winning eight games each.
Cho Hun-hyun vs. Zhou Heyang, Cho U vs. Mok Jin-seuk, Kobayashi Satoru vs. Liu Xiaoguang, Yoo Chang-hyuk vs. Chang Hao.
The quarterfinals are scheduled to be played in Kyongju in Korea on 2 June.
Korea wins 1st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup
Just like its predecessor, the Jinro Cup, this tournament has ended in a triumph for Korea.
The Seoul round, the final section of the tournament, started out with an impressive three successive wins by China's number one, Chang Hao 9-dan, who beat two of Korea's top players in Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan, who had beaten Yoda Norimoto, and Yoo Chang-hyuk 9-dan and also Yamada Kimio 7-dan of Japan. However, Japan's new Honinbo, Cho Sonjin, showed that Japan was still a factor by putting a stop to Chang's winning run.
At this stage the tournament looked exactly level, with each country having one player left, but no tournament is even when Korea still has Lee Chang-ho. Once again, he showed that he is almost invincible in international go, disposing of the last players for Japan and China. Thanks to his efforts, Korea continues its monopoly of this team tournament.
Results of the Seoul round
*(22 March). Chang Hao (China) (W) beat Cho Hun-hyun (Korea) by 3.5 points.
*(23 March). Chang beat Yamada Kimio (Japan) by 1.5 points.
*(24 March). Chang Hao (W) beat Yoo Chang-hyuk (Korea) by resignation.
*(26 March). Cho Sonjin (Japan) (B) beat Chang Hao by 2.5 points.
*(28 March). Lee Chang-ho (Korea) (W) beat Cho Sonjin by resignation.
*(29 March). Lee (W) beat Ma Xiaochun (China) by resignation.
O Meien becomes Honinbo challenger
A dark horse has won the Honinbo league and will challenge Cho Sonjin for the 55th Honinbo title. Perhaps the term 'dark horse' is not complimentary, but the immediate past Honinbo, Cho Chikun, took the lead from the start and kept it up until the final round (though a loss in the sixth round meant that he shared the lead), so everyone expected to see a return match between the two Chos. Since Cho Chikun has never lost a best-of-seven challenge match, he would have been the clear favourite. However, these calculations are now beside the point, as Cho Chikun stumbled in the final round, losing to the veteran player Otake Hideo by half a point.
There had been a possibility of multiple ties if Cho lost his final game, but O Meien ended up with the sole lead, as the other main player in contention, Ryu Shikun, also lost his final game. That left O Meien in the sole lead with 5-2. Actually, once the league got under way, go journalists realized that O was a threat to Cho, as he was playing so well, both in the Honinbo league and the Meijin league (where he currently has a share of the lead).
The preceding two leagues both ended in ties, necessitating play-offs. Depending on the results of the final-round games this year, there were actually eight possible results, including various multiple ties. Only the two higher-ranked players qualify for a play-off, but there was even a possibility of six players ending on 4-3 this year, in which case two players who actually tied for first place in number of wins would have lost their league places.
This will be O Meien's first title challenge. The first game is scheduled to be played in Seoul on 24 and 25 May.
The four games of the final round were all played on 3 April, but in three different cities: Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
O Rissei (W) d. Rin Kaiho by resig. (Tokyo)
Otake Hideo (W) d. Cho Chikun by 0.5 point. (Tokyo)
Yamada Kimio (W) d. Ryu Shikun by resig. (Osaka)
O Meien (W) d. Hikosaka Naoto by resig. (Nagoya)
Final league standings:
1st: O Meien 5-2
2nd: Cho Chikun 4-3
3rd: Yamada Kimio 4-3
4th: Otake Hideo and Ryu Shikun 4-3
Eliminated from the league: Hikosaka Naoto 3-4, Rin Kaiho 2-5, O Rissei 2-5.
Otake and Ryu will meet in a play-off on 13 April to see who gets the fourth place in the 56th league.
Kobayashi defends Judan with straight wins
In the third game of the 38th Judan title, played in Omachi City in Nagano Prefecture on 5 April, Kobayashi Koichi (W) defeated Nakano Hironari 9-dan by resignation after 248 moves, so he defended his Judan title 3-0. This was Kobayashi's first defence since winning the Judan title last year and his fifth Judan title overall. Kato holds the Judan record with seven titles, but Kobayashi is now in equal second place with Sakata Eio.
This was a disappointing title-match debut for Nakano: it's very hard to play your best when you are not accustomed to the pressure of a title match, and very few players are successful on their first challenge. Nakano will probably do better if he gets a second chance.
Hane shares lead in Meijin league
Hane Naoki 7-dan ceased to be the only undefeated player in the 25th Meijin league when he lost to Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan in the fourth round (note that he had a bye in the first round), but in his fifth-round game, played on 6 April, he scored a valuable win against Kato Masao, so he retains a share of the lead. Playing white, Hane defeated Kato by 4.5 points.
Leading the league are Hane, Yoda, Kobayashi Koichi, and O Meien, all on 3-1. Hard on their heels is O Rissei, who has played only three games because he was busy with the Kisei title match, on 2-1.
Upcoming international tournaments
Besides the next round of the Fujitsu Cup, scheduled for 2 June, a number of other international tournaments will be played in the near future.
First is China's Chunlan Cup, the quarterfinals of which will be played in Shanghai on 28 April. Yoda and O Rissei are Japan's surviving representatives.
This being an Olympic year, the next Ing Cup is also scheduled. The first three rounds of the 4th Ing Cup will be played in Shanghai on 30 April and 2 and 4 May. First prize is $400,000, making this the richest international tournament. Unlike the other international tournaments, participation is by personal invitation by the sponsor, the Ing Chang Ki Foundation. Players who have expressed dissatisfaction with some of the tournament rules, specifically, Kobayashi Koichi and Kato Masao of Japan, are not invited.
Participants in the upcoming Ing Cup are:
||O Rissei, Cho Chikun, Rin Kaiho, Otake Hideo, Takemiya Masaki, Yoda Norimoto, Awaji Shuzo, O Meien
||Ma Xiaochun, Chang Hao, Liu Xiaoguang, Cao Dayuan, Shao Weigang, Yu Bin
||Lee Chang-ho, Cho Hun-hyun, Yoo Chang-hyuk, Seo Bong-soo, Yang Jae-ho, Choi Myung-hoon, Rui Naiwei, Jiang Zhujiu
|Chinese Taipei) Chou Chun-hsun
The 13th Japan-China Tengen Play-off will be held in Sapporo, Japan on 10, 12, and 13 May. Like last year, it will feature Chang Hao for China and Kobayashi Koichi for Japan. China has won this play-off eight years in a row.
The 15th Japan-China Super Go will be held in Shanghai on 15, 17 and 18 May. On the top board, Cho Chikun will play for Japan against Shao Weigang of China.
Lastly, the TV Asia Championship will be televised in Japan from 28 to 31 May (we don't know the actual date the games will be played). Representing Japan will be Yoda Norimoto, aiming at his third win in a row, Imamura Toshiya and Ryu Shikun.
The spring session of the Oteai or rating tournament has started and already we have a new 9-dan: Ishikura Noboru, who won his promotion on 6 April. On 5 June, Kubo Hideo won promotion to 5-dan.
Besides Sakata Eio and Kajiwara Takeo, a number of other professionals have also announced their retirements, as of 31 March 2000. They are: Kaji Kazutame 8-dan, Suzuki Masaharu 6-dan, Honda Sachiko 6-dan, Ito Yoshio 3-dan, Ozaki Hiroshi 1-dan, Hasegawa Kayoko 1-dan, and Tamaki Shoji 1-dan.