- Yoda wins NEC Cup
- Cho U wins NHK Cup
- Kato keeps sole lead in Honinbo lead
- Cho Chikun keeps lead in Meijin league
- Rin and Kono scouted for Chinese city league
- Takemiya evens score in Judan title match
- Korea and China star in first round of Toyota & Denso Cup
- Historic victory for South America
- O Rissei defends Kisei title
- Two young stars in NHK final
- Honinbo league: three players in contention
- Yamashita and Cho Chikun share lead in Meijin league
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Toyota & Denso Cup lineup decided
- O wins first Judan game
- Aoki wins Women's Meijin
- Hane wins Shusai Prize
Yoda wins NEC Cup
Fittingly, the final of the 21st NEC Cup, a fast-go tournament that offers a first prize of 15 million yen (more than the bottom four of the top-seven titles), featured a clash between the top two title-holders: O Rissei Kisei and Yoda Norimoto Meijin. The game was played in Tokyo on 9 March (between the 5th and 6th Kisei games, which meant that O had a busy week). Playing black, Yoda forced O to resignaiton after 141 moves and so won this title for the third time. O had to be content with a second prize of 7.5 million yen, which is still not bad for half a day's work.
The final of the parallel 17th NEC New Stars tournament, held on the same day, was won by Takao Shinji 7-dan, who beat Akiyama Jiro 7-dan by resignation, playing black. Takao earned three million yen for what was his second victory in this tournament.
Cho U wins NHK Cup
Cho U 7-dan may have failed to become the youngest holder ever of a big-three title last year when his Honinbo challenge was, barely, rebuffed by O Meien, but he has still secured a place in the record books. By defeating Hane Naoki Tengen in the final of the 49th NHK Cup, he not only became the youngest player, at 22, to win this title, but also became the first player ever to win it on his debut in the tournament.
The final was telecast on 17 March. Cho made a good start by drawing black in the nigiri, which seems to be a big help in fast go. The game got off to an interesting start, with a very unusual fuseki. The opening was initially peaceful, but then a fight started between large eyeless groups. At a crucial stage in the fight, Hane played a non-urgent move that let Cho seize the initiative. He was unable to recover from this strategic slip and was forced to resignaiton when he ran out of ways to complicate the game at move 272.
Cho U is surely going to develop into one of the dominant players on the Japanese go scene. He is calm, has excellent concentration and reads very well -- in fact, he seems to relish reading out difficult fights. Perhaps his greatest weapon may be his outstanding positional judgement: he is already reputed to be one of the fastest and most accurate players at summing up a position.
Kato keeps sole lead in Honinbo lead
Kato Masao 9-dan has taken a major step towards securing the right to challenge for the Honinbo title. In a key game in the 57th league, played on 14 March, he defeated Cho Sonjin 9-dan by 4.5 points (Kato had black). That improved his score to 5-1, while Cho dropped back to 3-3, thus putting him out of the running.
The only other player still with a chance is Hane Naoki Tengen, who is on 4-2. Fortunately for Hane, he won't have to rely on assistance from other players, as is often the case in a league. He is slated to play Kato in the final round, but he will have to beat him twice: once in this round and once in a play-off.
Cho Chikun keeps lead in Meijin league
There was also a crucial game played in the 27th Meijin league on 14 March. In a clash between two of the three undefeated players in the league, Cho Chikun Oza (W) defeated Rin Kaiho 9-dan by 8.5 points. That took Cho to 4-0, while Rin fell behind the pace with 2-1. That leaves Yamashita Keigo 7-dan, on 3-0, as Cho's main rival for the time being.
Rin and Kono scouted for Chinese city league
In China, the main action, as far as go fans are concerned, is a team tournament organized like a soccer league, with city teams matched against each other in two 12-member divisions and with at-home and away matches, making a total of 22 games. Readers of the MSO HP, when it was still going, and rec.games.go will be familiar with this league from the posts by John Fairbairn. Apparently, it has eclipsed the regular tournaments in popularity.
Another feature of this league that makes it reminiscent of a soccer league has been the practice of teams, which field four players in each match, of hiring overseas stars to boost their chances. These hired guns have mainly come from Korea (among others, Yu Ch'ang-hyeok took part last year and this year Yi Ch'ang-ho and Cho Hun-hyeon are supposed to be participating). Now, for the first time, two Nihon Ki-in players have been scouted.
One is Rin Kaiho 9-dan, who hails from the mainland anyway (he was born in Shanghai). He has signed a contract with the Guiyang team, which is managed by Nie Weiping 9-dan. Nie is a great fan of Rin's and he made great efforts to secure his services. Rin, of course, has always been a hero in China and in Taiwan, and the fact that, although 59, he challenged for the Meijin title last year is evidence that he is still in top form. He will play four games for the Guiyang team, which is a member of the 12-city A league. (Go is very popular in Guiyang City, a city of six million that staged the largest go festival ever seen last August.)
Rin visited Guiyang for a contract-signing ceremony -- yet another soccer-like touch -- on 5 March. He played a commemorative game with Chen Zude 9-dan, president of the Chinese Weiqi Association, that was telecast live for two hours, with Nie commenting, and was watched by an audience of 20 million. (As a friendly game, the result may not be important, but, just for the record, Rin won by 3.5 points. The game was played at 30 seconds a move.)
The other player hired comes as a bit of a surprise. Kono Rin 6-dan is recognized as one of the top young players (he is 21), but he has still to win a title or play in a league. However, he made a great impression on Ma Xiaochun when he beat two top Chinese players, Shao Weigang and Zhou Heyang, in last year's Fujitsu Cup. Ma plays for the Zhejiang team, which he also manages, and he already has Yi Ch'ang-ho and Yu Bin on his roster. Hiring Kono to join a powerful lineup like this shows what a high opinion Ma must have of him. Kono himself was astonished but delighted by the invitation. The number of games he will play has not yet been decided. If he does well, though, he will undoubtedly be making many trips to China.
Takemiya evens score in Judan title match
The second game of the 40th Judan title match was held at the Ginbaso inn in the hot spring of Nishiura, Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture, on 22 March. Playing white, Takemiya took revenge for the failure of his large-moyo strategy in the first game. This time he was able to present the defending Judan, O Rissei, with a hard choice: your corner or your centre group. O had gone for early profit, taking all four corners, then invading his opponent's large centre moyo. At first, his strategy seemed to have paid off, but Takemiya launched a clever diversionary strategy in one of O's corners. If O had saved five threatened stones, Takemiya would have been able to use his outside thickness to make a severe attack on O's centre group. O decided that the risk was too great and decided to strengthen his centre group, but the corner profit he had to give Takemiya decided the game. O staked his chances of an upset on a ko fight late in the game, but this led to an exchange that only widened the gap.
Takemiya's play in the latter half of this game was outstanding: he must be very satisfied with evening the match in such dramatic fashion.
After 300 moves, the game ended at 8:14 pm, and Takemiya won by 8.5 points. O had 52 minutes of his six hours left, while Takemiya was down to his last minute of byo-yomi.
The third game will be played in the town of Omachi in Nagano Prefecture on 4 April.
Korea and China star in first round of
Toyota & Denso Cup Historic victory for South America
The first round of the 1st Toyota & Denso Cup World Go Oza tournament was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on 19 March. Despite having the largest number of competitors, 13, the host country could get only four players into the second round. Korea performed up to expectations, winning five out of seven games, and it was matched by China. However, the big surprise of the first round was South America's first victory in an international professional tournament. Fernando Aguilar of Argentina, who had taken part in seven Fujitsu Cups without picking up a win, played the game of a lifetime to defeat Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in; playing white, Fernando won by 3.5 points.
Other notable results included a loss by Japan's Yoda Norimoto Meijin to an 18-year old Korean girl, Pak Chi-eun 3-dan, and a triumphant return to international competitive play by Chen Zude, the president of the Chinese Weiqi Association.
Full results are given below:
Chen Zude 9-dan (China) (W) beat Goto Shungo 9-dan (Japan) by 2.5 points.
Chang Hao 9-dan (China) (B) beat Komatsu Hideki 9-dan (Japan) by resignation.
Yi Se-tol 3-dan (Korea) (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9-dan (Japan) by resig.
Yo Kagen 9-dan (Japan) (B) beat Kim Su-chang 9-dan (Korea) by resig.
Yu Bin 9-dan (China) (W) beat Alexandr Dinerchtein (Russia) by resig.
Wang Lei 8-dan (China) (W) beat Lin Yu-hsiang 1-dan (Chinese Taipei) by 14.5 points.
Cho Hun-hyeon 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan (Japan) by resig.
Yamashita Keigo 7-dan (Japan) (W) beat Pak Yeong-hyeon 3-dan (Korea) by resig.
Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Ryu Shikun 7-dan (Japan) by resig.
O Rissei 9-dan (Japan) (B) beat Huiren Yang 1-dan (USA) by resig.
O Meien 9-dan (Japan) (W) beat Zhang Xuan 8-dan (China) by resig.
Fernando Aguilar (Argentina) (W) beat Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan by 3.5 point.
Yang Shihai 8-dan (Chinese Hong Kong) (B) beat Cho U 7-dan (Japan) by resig.
Shao Weigang 9-dan (China) (W) beat Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) by 7.5 points.
Pak Chi-eun 3-dan (Korea) (W) beat Yoda Norimoto 9-dan (Japan) by resig.
Yu Ch'ang-hyeok 9-dan (Korea) (W) beat Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) by resig.
The second round will be held at the Nihon Ki-in in early September. Pairings are:
Chang Hao vs. Yi Se-tol
Yamashita Keigo vs. Yi Ch'ang-ho
O Meien vs. Yang Shihai
Yu Ch'ang-hyeok vs. Shao Weigang
Wang Lei vs. Cho Hun-hyeon
Yo Kagen vs. Fernando Aguilar
O Rissei vs. Chen Zude
Yu Bin vs. Pak Chi-eun
O Rissei defends Kisei title
The sixth game of the 26th Kisei title match was held at the Keidanren Guesthouse in the town of Omachi in Shizuoka Prefecture on 6 and 7 March. The game turned into a grueling endgame contest, typical of the series. It looked very close, but the challenger, Ryu Shikun 7-dan, slipped up in byo-yomi, and O Rissei secured a win by two and a half points. He thus defended the Kisei title with a 4-2 score and so secured his place at the peak of the Japanese go world for the third year in a row.
O is known as a territorial player, but in this game he embarked on a large-moyo strategy, which is very unusual for him. However, Ryu cleverly reduced his centre, the fight there leading to a large trade. At this stage, Ryu had the advantage, but O fought back and kept the game close. In the endgame, with move 186, Ryu made a misguided attack in an attempt to reduce the size of one of O's territories. His stone became a mochikomi (loss without compensation), and this seems to have been decisive.
The game ended after 277 moves. Ryu, as always, was down to his last minute of byo-yomi, while O still had 54 minutes left out of his time allowance of eight hours.
Two young stars in NHK final0
Two of the top stars of the younger generation have won their way to the final of the 49th NHK Cup. One is Cho U 7-dan, the first player ever to reach the final on his debut appearance in the tournament. Cho defeated Miyazawa Goro 9-dan, Yoda Norimoto Meijin, Yamashita Keigo 7-dan, and Kato Masao 9-dan in the semifinal.
The other player is the new Tengen, Hane Naoki, who defeated Yukawa Mitsuhisa 9-dan, O Rissei Kisei, Ryu Shikun 7-dan, and Imamura Toshiya 9-dan in the semifinal.
The final will be telecast on 17 March.
Honinbo league: three players in contention
Three games were played in the sixth round of the 57th Honinbo league on 6 March, and as a result one player dropped out of contention. The results:
Cho Chikun Oza (W) beat Otake Hideo 9-dan by 3.5.
Cho U 7-dan (B) beat Miyazawa Goro 9-dan by resignation.
Hane Naoki Tengen (B) beat Yamada Kimio 8-dan by resig.
This is how the league standings now look:
Kato: 4-1; Hane: 4-2; Cho Sonjin 3-2; Cho U, Cho Chikun, Yamada: 3-3; Miyazawa: 2-4; Otake: 1-4.
Only the first three players are still in the running for first place. Kato's remaining games are with Cho Sonjin and Hane; if he wins both, he becomes the challenger; even if he loses one, he is guaranteed a place in a play-off. Yamada dropped out of the running as a result of his loss to Hane.
Yamashita and Cho Chikun share lead in Meijin league
Two players are looking good in the 27th Meijin league: newcomer Yamashita Keigo 7-dan and nine-time Meijin Cho Chikun, both of whom have won three games straight. One other player is undefeated: Rin Kaiho on 2-0.
Two games were played on 6 March. In one, Kato Masao 9-dan (B) defeated Cho Sonjin 9-dan by 1.5 points. In the other, Yamashita Keigo (W) defeated Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan by resignation
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
In the first preliminary round of the Judan tournament, Hans Pietsch 4-dan (B) defeated Makihata Taeko 2-dan by 4.5 points.
Toyota & Denso Cup lineup decided
The first round of the 1st Toyota & Denso Cup World Go Oza Championship is scheduled to be held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on 19 March. The lineup for the tournament has now been mainly decided and is as follows.
|O Rissei Kisei, Yoda Norimoto Meijin, O Meien Honinbo, Cho Chikun 9-dan, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan, Hasegawa Sunao 9-dan, Goto Shungo 9-dan, Komatsu Hideki 9-dan, Yuki Satoshi 9-dan, Yo Kagen 9-dan, Ryu Shikun 7-dan, Yamashita Keigo 7-dan, Cho U 7-dan
|Chen Zude 9-dan, Chang Hao 9-dan, Yu Bin 9-dan, Ma Xiaochun 9-dan, Shao Weigang 9-dan, Wang Lei 8-dan, Zhang Xuan 8-dan
|Cho Hun-hyeon 9-dan, Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan, Yu Ch'ang-hyeok 9-dan, Yi Se-tol 3-dan, Pak Yeong-hyeon 2-dan, Kim Su-chang 9-dan, Pak Chi-eun 3-dan
Representatives for this zone were scheduled to hold a play-off, but we don't know the result yet. Two of the following four players will get places.
|Lin Yu-hsiang 1-dan (Chinese Taipei), Yang Shihai 8-dan (Hong Kong China), Victor Chow (South Africa), Yiming Guo (Australia)
|Huiren Yang 1-dan
|Fernando Aguilar (Argentina)
|Alexander Dinerchtein (Russia)
O wins first Judan game
The first game of the 40th Judan title match, a best-of-five, was held at the Takashimaya Hotel in Iwamuro Hot Spring, Niigata Prefecture, on 1 March. The game finished at 6:10 pm after 231 moves. Playing white, O Rissei, the defending champion, defeated Takemiya Masaki 9-dan by 2.5 points.
This is the first title match between these two players, whose go styles are diametrically opposed. As expected, Takemiya played the sanrensei or three star-point stones in a row when he drew black. O followed his usual territorial inclinations, invading the 3-3 points on moves 10 and 24. The game progressed rapidly, with 89 moves being played in the morning session. The issue was decided in the centre, where a white group seemed to be in danger. O secured life and went into the endgame with a small lead that he held to the end. He thus made a good start to his title defence.
The second game is scheduled for 22 March.
Aoki wins Women's Meijin
Kobayashi Izumi has lost one of her two titles, so now the top woman player is Aoki Kikuyo, who has replaced her as the only dual title holder.
The second game of the 14th Women's Meijin title was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 27 February. Playing white, Aoki defeated Kobayashi by 6.5 points. That leaves Kobayashi with just the Women's Honinbo title, while Aoki adds this title to her Women's Top Position title. This is a nice prenatal present for Aoki's baby, whose arrival is expected in April.
Hane wins Shusai Prize
On 23 February, Hane Naoki Tengen was awarded the 39th Shusai Prize in recognition of his achievement in winning the 27th Tengen title. The prize committee also took into consideration the two new records he set -- most wins (63) and most games played (88) -- as well as the fact that he posted the best performance among players of the younger generation (he is 25). In addition, he was one of only three players who played in all three leagues, Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo.