- O Rissei and Ma reach Chunlan final
- 35th Judan Tournament
- Kato first to reach Oza semifinals
- Western members of the Nihon Ki-in
- Amateur 8-dan diplomas started
- Meijin tournament admits amateurs
- Kitani school reaches 500-dan, Oeda school 100-dan
- Yoda loses to Lee in TV Asia Cup
- Cho Sonjin wins first Honinbo game on the first day
- Obituary: Death of Kaji Kazutame
- Honours shared in the Japan-China Super Go
- Hane Naoki scores fourth win in Meijin league
- Western members of the Nihon Ki-in
- 4th Ing Cup: O Meien stars for Japan, but Lee Chang-ho the favourite
- Yu Bin wins 4th LG Cup
- Kobayashi Koichi wins 13th Japan-China Tengen Play-off
- O Meien first to score five wins in Meijin league
- Members of Kisei leagues decided
- 38th Judan tournament starts
- Western players at the Nihon Ki-in
- Oza quarterfinalists
- Chunran Cup
- Yamashita reaches Gosei play-off
- Kisei-leage places decided
- Yamada Kimio and Hane Naoki win promotion to 8-dan
- Quadruple ko
- Cho Sonjin first tomake Tengen semifinals
- Most wins
- Kato finally picks up second win in Meijin league
O Rissei and Ma reach Chunlan final
The 1st Chunlan Cup featured an all-Korean pairing (Cho Hun-hyun beat Lee Chang-ho); this time it's China vs. Japan.
The semifinals were held on 19 May in Chongqing City in Sichuan Province. In one semifinal, Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (B) of China defeated Yoda Norimoto 9-dan of Japan by resignation; in the other, O Rissei 9-dan (B) defeated Kong Jie 5-dan, also by resignation.
The early stars of this tournament were the two new Chinese prodigies, the 14-year-old Peng Qua and the 17-year-old Kong Jie. Peng beat Jimmy Cha and Yoo Chang-hyuk, but lost to Yoda in the quarterfinals. Kong did even better, beating Cho Sonjin Honinbo, Choi Myung-hun and Cho Hun-hyun. In his commentary on their semifinal final, O Rissei commented wryly that Kong seemed to be up-to-date in his research: he played a couple of variations played by the winners in games that O had recently lost. Despite that, O scored a convincing win.
The final and the play-off for third place will be held in Nanjing on 18 June.
35th Judan Tournament
Two more games were played in the Winners' Section of the 35th Judan tournament last week and both were decided by half a point. In one of them, Takemiya Masaki 9-dan, playing white, defeated Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan. Takemiya has lost a number of games recently through upsets in the endgame, and this game almost followed the same pattern, with Takemiya losing points in various places. However, he just managed to hold on to his lead. Takemiya has been having a truly awful time this year and this was only his sixth win against 13 losses.
In the other game, Yoda Norimoto 9-dan, also playing white, defeated Cho Chikun Meijin.
Both games were played at the Nihon Ki-in on 25 May.
Kato first to reach Oza semifinals
Kato Masao has a particular fondness for the Oza title: he's won it 11 times, the second-best record for a single title (after Cho Chikun's 12 Honinbo titles). His wins include an eight-year winning streak from 1982.
This year Kato perhaps has set his sights on regaining past glory: he has become the first to qualify for the semifinals of the 48th Oza title. Taking black in a game played at the Nihon Ki-in on 25th May, he defeated Kobayashi Koichi Judan by 5.5 points after 248 moves. Actually Kobayashi was leading for most of the game, but he mishandled a 3-3 invasion by Kato late in the middle game, letting the latter get a ko and stage an upset.
Western members of the Nihon Ki-in
All three Western-born members of the Nihon Ki-in won their games last week. Playing black, Catalin Taranu 4-dan defeated Kobayashi Kenji 6-dan by 7 points in the Oteai or rating tournament. In another Oteai game, Hans Pietsch 3-dan, playing white, defeated Fu Kobai 1-dan by resignation. In a preliminary round of the 26th Gosei tournament, Michael Redmond 8-dan defeated Takahashi Hideo 6-dan by resignation.
Amateur 8-dan diplomas started
The Nihon Ki-in has decided to institute 8-dan diplomas for amateurs, with the qualification being three or more victories in three amateur tournaments that are conducted on a nationwide scale. The tournaments are the WAGC qualifying tournament, the Amateur Honinbo, and the Amateur Best Ten.
Based on this criterion, the following players have been awarded 8-dan diplomas:
Kikuchi Yasuro, Harada Minoru, Hiraoka Satoshi, Hirata Hironori, Imamura Fumiaki, Miura Hiroshi, Nakazono Seizo, and Sakai Hideyuki.
No one can argue with amateur 8-dan rankings for these players, all of whom are of low to middle-dan level professional strength and who could easily give the average amateur 5-dan three stones. However, it's easy to see what is next. Something over two decades have passed since amateur 7-dan diplomas were instituted, so around 2025 we can expect to see the debut of amateur 9-dan diplomas, making the amateur dan system exactly parallel to the professional one. Would the next step then be an amateur Judan tournament?
Meijin tournament admits amateurs
To date, there has been just one tournament in which both amateurs and professionals could participate: the Agon Kiriyama Cup (formerly the Acom Cup). Now the Meijin tournament has also opened its doors to amateur participation, though for one year only. The occasion is the holding of the 40th Asahi Amateur Best Ten tournament. To commemorate this, the top five place-getters are being allowed to compete in the first preliminary round of the 27th Meijin tournament.
The final section of the amateur tournament, in which 58 players who have won their way through qualifying tournaments held all over Japan join eight seeded players, is scheduled for 15 to 17 July. The top five will then compete in the first Meijin preliminary round, which will start at the end of August.
Sakai Hideyuki, who is generally regarded as Japan's top amateur player, has won his way through the first preliminary round (3 or 4 games) of the Acom or Agon Kiriyama Cup four times and has twice reached the final game in the second preliminary round. The first time amateurs played in the Acom Cup, their combined results were a dismal one win to 12 losses, but by this year that had improved to 21 wins/16 losses, so they can clearly hold their own with the lower-ranked professionals. We are not likely to see an amateur win a place in the Meijin league, but it's theoretically possible. If the experiment proves a success, it might open the way for the birth of genuine open tournaments.
Kitani school reaches 500-dan, Oeda school 100-dan
The news items below are ones that slipped through our net earlier, so we are catching up.
On 28 March, a celebration was held in Tokyo to commemorate the Kitani school's reaching a combined total of 500-dan for its disciples and their disciples. In 1970, the school reached 200-dan (Kitani Minoru died in 1975), so one can see how the school has continued to expand since then. The dan total of direct disciples is 397, so the remainder comes from 'grandchild' disciples, including Kitani's actual grandchild, Kobayashi Izumi 4-dan.
Earlier in the same month, on the 19th, the Oeda school, which is one of the biggest run by a living player, celebrated achieving a total of 100-dan. Leading disciples include Yasuda Yasutoshi 9-dan, Michael Redmond 8-dan, and Yo Kagen (then 8-dan).
Yoda loses to Lee in TV Asia Cup
The 12th TV Asia Cup is being held from held from 28 to 31 May in Kyongju, Korea. We are making this post as of 30 May, so we don't know the result of the final, but we can safely predict that the winner will be a Korean.
Yoda Norimoto 9-dan of Japan was aiming at his third successive victory in this tournament, but he lost to Lee Chang-ho by 6.5 points in the second round (into which he was seeded). The other two Japanese players also lost and likewise the two Chinese, so the final pairing is Lee vs. Cho Hun-hyun.
Results to date:
First round. Lee Chang-ho (Korea) beat Luo Xianhe (China), Cho Hun-hyun (Korea) beat Ryu Shikun (Japan), Ding Wei (China) beat Imamura Toshiya (Japan).
Second round. Lee Chang-ho beat Yoda Norimoto (Japan), Cho Hun-hyun (Korea) beat Ding Wei.
Cho Sonjin wins first Honinbo game on the first day
O Meien's challenge for the 55th Honinbo title got off to a disastrous start when he overlooked a ladder and had to resignaiton on the first day. The first game of the best-of-seven title match started in Seoul on 24 May and ended abruptly at 4:31 pm on the same day after 59 moves. Playing white, O had pulled out some stones in atari without checking the ladder. At a casual glance, there seemed to be no danger because Black's ladder headed towards a white position of five stones. After Cho played two moves in the ladder, O took a proper look for the first time. At the end of the ladder, Black was able to twist the ladder in among white's stones, adding three stones short of liberties to the ladder, then driving it into the edge of the board. O burst out laughing and prompty put the go proverb -- 'don't play go if you don't know the ladder' -- into effect. He had already lost nine stones in the ladder, so his position was hopeless.
This is the first time since the 19th Kisei title match in 1995 that a two-day game has ended in one day. On that occasion, Cho Chikun resigned the second game after 50 moves, making it the shortest two-game move. There was another one-day game in the Honinbo title in 1979. In Game 2 of the 34th title match, Kato resigned after 89 moves. An amateur would feel ashamed of losing like this, but for a professional it's apparently relatively easy to forget a game he loses through a gross blunder, whereas he will remain full of regrets for a close game lost by a small slip.
Of their time allowances of eight hours each, Cho had 4 hours 9 minutes left and O 5 hours 21 minutes. The second game is scheduled for 7 and 8 June.
Obituary: Death of Kaji Kazutame
Kaji Kazutame, a retired player at the Nihon Ki-in, died of heart failure on 21 May at the age of 78. Born on 3 January 1922 in Tokyo, Kaji was a disciple of Kitani Minoru 9-dan. He became 1-dan in 1941 and reached 8-dan in 1979. He was promoted to 9-dan after his retirement on 31 March this year. Kaji's daughter is married to Takemiya Masaki.
Honours shared in the Japan-China Super Go
Making his first appearance in the Japan-China Super Go since the format changed to best-of-three play-offs between three representatives of each country (perhaps his first ever -- we can't recall his playing in the team matches), Cho Chikun showed his class, decisively defeating the Chinese representative Shao Weigang 9-dan. Cho does not usually play up to his full potential in international tournaments, with their short time limits, but he had no trouble disposing of Shao. Their match, between the NEC Champions of the two countries, was the highlight of the Super Go, but China shared the honours by taking the other two matches, between the NEC New Stars tournament winners of each country and between two women players.
This is the fourth year since the Super Go changed to the new format. For the first 11 series, it was a team match, and China won seven. Under the new format, Japan has won three out of four in the NEC Champions play-offs, and China has won five out of eight in the other play-offs. The makes the honours even at 6-6 so far, so Japan is doing much better than in the team matches.
The NEC New Stars matched Takao Shinji 6-dan of Japan and Xu Shuxiang 5-dan of China while the women's playoff matched Chinen Kaori 3-dan and Li Chunhua 4-dan of China. Both matches were won by the Chinese side 2-1.
The best-of-three play-offs were held in Shanghai on 16, 17, and 18 May.
NEC Champions play-off
Game 1. Cho Chikun 9-dan (W) defeated Shao Weigang 9-dan by resignation.
Game 2. Cho (B) d. Shao by resignation.
NEC New Stars play-off
Game 1. Xu Shuxiang 5-dan (B) d. Takao Shinji 6-dan (Japan) by resignation.
Game 2. Takao (B) d. Xu by 6.5 points.
Game 3. Xu (W) d. Takao by 1.5 points.
Game 1. Chinen Kaori 3-dan (B) d. Li Chunhua 4-dan by resig.
Game 2. Li (B) d. Chinen by resig.
Game 3. Li (W) d. Chinen by resig.
Hane Naoki scores fourth win in Meijin league
Hane Naoki 8-dan has already matched his father's best performance in the Meijin league and still has three games to go. He and Yasumasa 9-dan are the only father and son both to play in a Meijin or Honinbo league. Yasumasa played in the 5th (1980), 7th (1982) and 8th (1983) Meijin leagues, with his best performance being in the 7th league when he scored 4-4. Last week Naoki defeated Takemiya Masaki 9-dan to score his fourth win to only one loss. That keeps him in contention for the right to challenge for the Meijin title, along with O Meien on 5-1 and Yoda Norimoto on 4-1. These three are the only players with just one loss. Of course, the players with two losses (Kobayashi Koichi and O Rissei, both on 3-2) still have a chance.
The game between Takemiya and Hane was one of two Meijin league games played at the Nihon Ki-in on 18 May. Playing black, Hane defeated Takemiya by 6.5 points. In the other game, Ryu Shikun 7-dan, playing black, defeated Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan by resignation.
Western members of the Nihon Ki-in
Michael Redmond 8-dan was the only Western member of the Nihon Ki-in to play a game last week. Michael had won a place in the main section of the 38th Judan tournament, but he made an unlucky start. Playing black, he lost to Otake Hideo by just half a point in the first round of the Winners' Section. He will have to switch to the Losers' Section.
Two players won promotions at the Nihon Ki-in last week.
To 3-dan: Yamamoto Kentaro, Takemiya Yoko.
4th Ing Cup: O Meien stars for Japan, but Lee Chang-ho the favourite
The opening rounds of the 4th Ing Cup were held in Shanghai at the end of April and the beginning of May. Participation in this tournament is by invitation, which accounts for why some familiar faces are missing.
From Japan's point of view, the star so far has been O Meien 9-dan, who is enjoying marvellous form this year. He's just become the Honinbo challenger and last week he took the lead in the Meijin league; in the Ing Cup, he defeated two former world champions, Cho Hun-hyun of Korea and Ma Xiaochun of China. This performance shows that he must be given a chance of winning the Cup, but the favourite must be, as always, Lee Chang-ho. China's Chang Hao, whom O plays next, is also a strong contender.
Rui Naiwei and her husband, Jiang Zhujiu, played for Korea, but unfortunately both lost in the first round.
Results of opening rounds:
Round 1 (30 April). Choi Myung-hun (Korea) b. Cao Dayuan (China), Chang Hao (China) b. Jiang Zhujiu (Korea), O Meien (Japan) b. Yang Jaeho (Korea), Awaji Shuzo (Japan) b. Chou Chun-hsun (Zhou Junxun) (Chinese Taipei), Otake Hideo (Japan) b. Catalin Taranu (Japan), Yu Bin (China) b. Seo Bong-soo (Korea), Shao Weigang (China) b. Rui Naiwei (Korea), O Rissei (Japan) b. Liu Xiaoguang (China).
Round 2 (2 May). Rin Kaiho (Japan) b. Choi Myung-hoon (Korea), Chang Hao (China) b. Takemiya Masaki (Japan), O Meien b. Cho Hun-hyun (Korea), Ma Xiaochun (China) b. Awaji (Japan), Otake (Japan) b. Yoo Chang-hyuk (Korea), Yu Bin (China) b. Cho Chikun (Japan), Yoda Norimoto (Japan) b. Shao Weigang (China), Lee Chang-ho (Korea) b. O Rissei (Japan).
Quarterfinals (4 May). Chang Hao (China) b. Rin (Japan), O Meien (Japan) b. Ma (China), Yu Bin (China) b. Otake (Japan), Lee Chang-ho (Korea) b. Yoda (Japan).
Semifinal pairings: Chang Hao vs. O Meien, Yu Bin vs. Lee Chang-ho.
The semifinals are best-of-three and the final is best-of-five.
This tournament is known for its unusual rules. The komi is 7.5 points, the largest in a professional play. The time allowance is three and a half hours each. If you use up this time, you must buy an extension of 35 minutes for two points komi. The maximum is three extensions, which would cost you six points. After that, you lose on time.
Yu Bin wins 4th LG Cup
Yu Bin 9-dan of China has scored his first victory in international go, defeating Yoo Chang-hyuk 9-dan of Korea 3-1 in the final. Yu has been a member of the top group in China for a decade now (he was 6th in the Chinese rating system at the beginning of this year), but this is his first big success. Incidentally, he is the third player to take 2nd place in a World Amateur Go Championship and subsequently win a professional world championship -- the others were his opponent in the LG Cup, Yoo, and Ma Xiaochun.
We hope to have exact details of the match later.
Kobayashi Koichi wins 13th Japan-China Tengen Play-off
After losing for eight years in a row, Japan has finally broken its jinx in the annual Tengen play-off with China. The victorious Japanese representative was Kobayashi Koichi, who took revenge for his loss last year to China's Chang Hao, defeating the same player 2-1 this year.
The 13th playoff was held at the Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo in Hokkaido on 10, 12, and 13 May.
In his speech at the Opening Ceremony the night before the first game, Kobayashi pointed out that this was his home ground (he was born in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido), so he expected to do better than last year. He did made a good start, playing black and forcing Chang Hao to resign in the the first game. However, Chang made a comeback in the second game; playing black, he in turn forced Kobayashi to resign.
That made the third game, played without a rest day, as is customary in these playoffs, on the 13, the decisive one and also indicated that the nigiri might be the most important part of the game. Kobayashi guessed correctly, securing black, and he duly won the game, forcing Chang to resign.
Japan won the first four play-offs, so it has now won a total of five to China's eight.
O Meien first to score five wins in Meijin league
O Meien is enjoying fantastic form at the moment: first, he won the Honinbo league, then he reached the semifinals of the 4th Ing Cup, and now he has taken a slight lead in the 25th Meijin league. By defeating O Rissei Kisei on 11 May, he became the first to score five wins (he has one loss), so he is the closest to becoming the challenger to Cho Chikun. He doesn't have a proper lead yet, because three other players have also lost only one game, but at least psychologically he is in front.
Members of Kisei leagues decided
The remaining four places in the two Kisei leagues have now been decided. The last four players are Ryu Shikun 7-dan, Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan (Kansai Ki-in), Miyazawa Goro 9-dan, and Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan.
On 12 May, lots were drawn at the Nihon Ki-in to decide the composition of the two leagues. The members of A Leagnue are: Cho Chikun Meijin, Awaji Shuzo 9-dan, Imamura Toshiya 9-dan (KK), Yo Kagen 9-dan, Ishida Atsushi 8-dan, and Ryu Shikun 7-dan. B League is made up of: Cho Sonjin Honinbo, Ishida Yoshio 9-dan, Miyazawa Goro 9-dan, Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan (KK), Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan, and Cho U 6-dan.
The youngest player in the leagues is Cho U, 20, who starred in this year's Fujitsu Cup. There are 10 Nihon Ki-in and two Kansai Ki-in players. Notable absences? Yoda Norimoto and Kobayashi Koichi.
Play in the leagues will start in June. The Kisei challenger will then be decided by a one-game play-off between the two winners, scheduled for November. The title match with O Rissei Kisei will then start in January 2001.
The new Kisei system
As we reported in November last year, the Kisei system has been completely changed. The main reason was that the distribution of dan levels had changed considerably since the Kisei tournament started, so the individual dan championships were no longer a fair reflection of the composition of the professional go organizations. For example, 9-dans now make up a quarter of the joint membership of the Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in, a much higher proportion than when the tournament started.
The new preliminary tournaments are now more similar to those of other tournaments--but not as simple: the Yomiuri doesn't seem to like simplicity. At the Nihon Ki-in, instead of three successive preliminary rounds, there are four separate ones, the winners of which gain places in a final knockout preliminary. The four preliminaries are organized as follows: 1- to 4-dans (two winners), 5- and 6-dans (six winners), 7- and 8-dans (seven winners), and 9-dans (nine winners). One big difference is that the winners in the first preliminary don't then go into the next preliminary, as in other tournaments. That system is actually weighted against the lower dans, who have to win around nine successive games to get into the main round or a league. In the case of the Kisei, the 24 winners all go into the final knockout tournament preceding the two leagues. Here the 24 Nihon Ki-in winners are joined by eight winners from the Kansai Ki-in preliminaries. Previously, Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in players played together in the individual dan tournaments, but under the new system they hold separate preliminaries. The winners of the knockout section win places in the two leagues (the Kisei is the only Japanese tournament with a double league).
Just now, we don't have full details of the Kansai Ki-in system, but we do know of a couple of important differences from the Nihon Ki-in. In the interests of fairness, all players, from 1-dan to 9-dan, except for the top 22 players (decided by the prize money rankings from the previous year), start out together in the first preliminary round. So far as we know, this is the first time that the built-in advantage enjoyed by the top dan ranks has been eliminated. Secondly, there are no game fees in the first preliminary round. In Japanese tournaments, the basic concept is not that you win a prize for winning a game but that you earn a game fee -- both the winner and the loser. The 'prize' for the winner is the chance to earn another game fee. This continues up to the actual title match, where both the winner and the loser are paid match fees. Commentators have applauded the courage of the Kansai Ki-in in making these changes, though the Nihon Ki-in has shown no interest in following suit.
38th Judan tournament starts
The first game in the winners' section of the 38th Judan tournament was played on 11 May. The previous challenger, Nakano Hironari 9-dan, made a bad start, losing by half a point to Ogaki Yusaku 8-dan. Perhaps Nakano hasn't yet recovered from his painful initiation into title-match play. He will now have to go all out in the Losers' Section.
Western players at the Nihon Ki-in
Western players at the Nihon Ki-in had mixed results last week. Catalin Taranu 4-dan, a member of the Nagoya branch, playing black, defeated Kirimoto Kazuo 3-dan by half a point in the first preliminary round of the 40th Judan tournament. Hans Pietsch 3-dan of the Tokyo branch (B) lost by resignation to Takemiya Yoko 2-dan, the son of Takemiya Masaki, in the same tournament. Michael Redmond did not have a game.
The following players won promotions last week:
To 6-dan: Kanazawa Hideo (born 1975)
To 4-dan: Takano Hideki (born 1970)
To 2-dan: Ms. Koda Akiko (born 1976)
Only 16 players qualify for the final section of Oza tournament, so after one round the number is down to eight. The pairings for the quarterfinals in the 48th Oza title are as follows:
Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan vs. Yoda Norimoto 9-dan, Awaji Shuzo 9-dan vs. Kudo Norio 9-dan, Cho Chikun Meijin vs. Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan, Kobayashi Koichi Judan vs. Kato Masao 9-dan.
One of these players will challenge O Rissei for the title.
The quarterfinals of the 2nd Chunlan Cup, a Chinese-sponsored international tournament, were held in Shanghai on 28 April. Both the Japanese representatives, Yoda Norimoto and O Rissei, won their games, and they are joined in the semifinals by two Chinese representatives, Ma Xiaochun and Kong Jie.
This tournament has been notable for the success of two Chinese teenagers, the 14-year-old Peng Quan and the 17-year-old Kong Jie. In the quarterfinals, Peng was defeated by Yoda, but Kong defeated Korea's Cho Hun-hyun. Most unusually for an international tournament, therefore, no Korean player made the semifinals, which both feature Japan-China clashes. The semifinals will be held in Chongqing on 19 May.
Quarterfinals. Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) beat Zhou Heyang 8-dan (China), Yoda Norimoto 9-dan (Japan) (B) b. Peng Qua 3-dan (China) by resignation, Kong Jie 5-dan b. Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan (Korea), O Rissei 9-dan (Japan) (B) b. Chang Hao 9-dan (China) by 5.5 points. (We don't have full details for all the games.)
Semifinals. O Rissei vs. Kong Jie, Yoda Norimoto vs. Ma Xiaochun.
Incidentally, Yoda caused a stir at the party held on the eve of the quarterfinals. Each player is usually interviewed at such parties and Yoda proclaimed: 'If I can't win one of the Chunlan Cup, the Ing Cup and the LG Cup, I won't play anymore.' For Japan's sake, Yoda has to win, as it would be quite a blow if he stopped playing in international tournaments.
Yamashita reaches Gosei play-off
The second semifinal of the 25th Gosei tournament was held at the Central Japan headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Nagoya on 27 April. Playing black, Yamashita Keigo 6-dan defeated Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan by resignation. Yamashita will meet Kataoka Satoshi 9-dan in the play-off to decide the challenger to Kobayashi Koichi.
As in his previous games in this tournament, Yamashita played his first move on the 5-5 point (inspired by a pun on '5' or go and the go in Gosei). Hikosaka was equally adventurous, responding by playing on the 3-3 point in the diagonally opposite corner, then playing a new move in an exchange in another corner. He actually took the lead in the game, but spoiled it with a wasted move that was equivalent to passing a move.
It will be interesting to see if Yamashita plays the 5-5 again in the play-off. In the last half year, Yamashita has missed two chances to challenge for a title, losing the Tengen play-off at the end of 1999 and the Judan play-off this year. Will it be third time lucky?
Kisei-league places decided
Under its new format, the final stage of the Kisei tournament has become two six-player leagues. One place is reserved for the loser of the previous title match, so 11 places are to be decided by the preliminary rounds. So far, seven of these places have been decided. The successful players are Cho Sonjin Honinbo, Ishida Yoshio 9-dan, Awaji Shuzo 9-dan, Imamura Toshiya 9-dan, Yo Kagen (just promoted to 9-dan), Cho U 6-dan, and Ishida Atsushi 8-dan.
Yamada Kimio and Hane Naoki win promotion to 8-dan
Yamada Kimio has finally won promotion to 8-dan. One of the anomalies of the go world has been the low rank of two players who have won open titles. One is Yamada and the other is Ryu Shikun, who became 7-dan in 1995 and 1996 respectively. As a 7-dan Yamada won the Oza while Ryu won the Tengen title as a 6-dan. One half of this anomaly has now been corrected, as Yamada won promotion to 8-dan on 27 April. Ryu must be due to join him soon.
Also on 27 April Takanashi Seiken won promotion to 7-dan. Earlier in April, Han Zenki won promotion to 5-dan. On 4 May, Hane Naoki won promotion to 8-dan; he reached 7-dan in 1998, so he is moving up faster than Yamada and Ryu. On 3 May, Ms. Kin En won promotion to 2-dan.
A game in the Kisei tournament played at the Kansai Ki-in on 6 April between Doi Makoto 8-dan of the Nihon Ki-in and Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in ended in 'no contest' because of a quadruple ko. This is the first time in five years that a quadruple ko has occurred in professional play in Japan. The game will be replayed, but the players will get only half the usual game fee.
Cho Sonjin first to make Tengen semifinals
Cho Sonjin has maintained consistent form since winning the Honinbo title last year. Following his success in qualifying for the Kisei leagues, he has now become the first player to qualify for the Tengen semifinals. The title holder is Kobayashi Koichi.
The players who dominated the 'most wins' category last year are doing just as well this year. After four months, top place is held by Yamashita Keigo 6-dan, with 18 wins to 5 losses. Yamashita came second last year. The player who came first, Takao Shinji 6-dan, is in second place this year with 16 wins to 7 losses. Equal second is Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan on 16-9. In 4th place is Hane Naoki 8-0 dan, with 15-6. Three players are tied for 5th: Cho U (14-2), and O Rissei and O Meien (both with 14-6).
Kato finally picks up second win in Meijin league
With three losses, Kato Masao 9-dan is already out of the running to become Meijin challenger, but the fall-back target is to keep your place in the league. Kato made a step towards attaining it when he scored his second win last week. Playing white, he beat Imamura Yoshiaki 8-dan by resignation. Imamura is having a rough time in his league debut, with five straight losses.