- Yi Ch'ang-ho wins 4th Chunlan Cup
- Rui Naiwei wins women's international title
- Ryu wins his first NEC Cup
- Mimura wins 50th NHK Cup
- 58th Honinbo league
- Rin Kaiho and Cho Chikun suffer first losses in Meijin league
- Amateur beats top professional
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- First promotions under new system
- O makes good start in Judan title match
Yi Ch'ang-ho wins 4th Chunlan Cup
Japan had high hopes of Hane Naoki, its first finalist in a world title for over 20 months, but Yi Ch'ang-ho of Korea proved to be too strong. The latter took the final of the 4th Chunlan Cup with two straight wins. The first game was played on 16 March; taking white, Yi forced a resignation after 136 moves. The second game was played on 18 March and also ended in a resignation after 221 moves.
Yi is the first player to complete a grand slam of the current international titles:
Ing, Fujitsu, Samsung, LG, Toyota & Denso, TV Asia and Chunlan. This is his 18th international title. Incidentally, this is the 14th international title in a row won by Korean players; if one includes women's and team tournaments, it's the 21st in a row. Their domination of international go is becoming more and more of a stranglehold.
The play-off for 3rd place was held in China on 10 March. Luo Xihe 9-dan of China beat Chang Hao 9-dan, also of China.
From the next term, the Chunlan Cup is going to be held once every two years.
Rui Naiwei wins women's international title
The final of the 1st Cheongkwanjang Cup, a Korean-sponsored international women's tournament, was won by Rui Naiwei 9-dan, representing Korea. In the best-of-three final, Zhang Xuan 8-dan of China made a good start, winning the first game, played on 8 March, by resignation with white, but Rui made a strong fightback. In the second game (9 March), Rui in turn forced a resignation with white; in the third game (11 March), she drew black and won by 9.5 points (the komi is 6.5).
Ryu wins his first NEC Cup
The final of the 22nd NEC Cup was held in Tokyo on 8 March. Playing black, Ryu Shikun 7-dan defeated Takao Shinji 8-dan by half a point to win this tournament for the first time. The game was an exciting one, with Takao taking the initial lead but losing it through an overplay and then almost catching up again in the endgame. This is Ryu's first title win since winning the Tengen title in 2000 and his eighth title overall.
The final of the parallel NEC New Stars tournament was played on the same day. Akiyama Jiro 8-dan (W) beat Han Zenki 6-dan by 8.5 points. This is Akiyama's first title and made up for losing the final to Takao Shinji last year.
Akiyama becomes the last winner of this title, as the sponsor has decided to terminate it, on the grounds that the recent success of new stars shows that the tournament has achieved its aim of helping to promote the development of younger players.
Mimura wins 50th NHK Cup
A dark horse has won the 50th NHK Cup:
Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan, whose only previous title wins were in a junior title, the Shinjin-O (King of the New Stars) in 1994 and 1995. In the final of the 50th NHK Cup, telecast on 23 March, Mimura defeated O Rissei Judan by resignation.
The final was one of the great fighting games TV tournaments often seem to produce. Mimura took an early lead, but O Rissei got back into the game. At the end, a triple ko threatened to produce a no-result and a replay (probably a first on TV), but O Rissei apparently hallucinated under time pressure and connected one of the kos; the result was an unfavourable approach-move ko for him, so he resigned on the next move.
Mimura is a solid, orthodox player who favours thickness. He played in the 16th Meijin league and one of the 26th Kisei leagues, but this win is the biggest achievement of his career to date.
58th Honinbo league
One game was played in the Honinbo league on 20 March. Playing white, Yamashita Keigo Kisei beat Ryu Shikun 7-dan by resignation. Yamashita improved his score to 4-2 and ensured that he kept his league place. Ryu Shikun fell to 1-5.
Rin Kaiho and Cho Chikun suffer first losses in Meijin league
Two of the three undefeated players in the 28th Meijin league blotted their copybooks last week. On 20 March three games were played. O Rissei Judan scored his first win in the league, defeating Rin Kaiho 9-dan by resignation (O had black); Cho U 7-dan (W) defeated Cho Chikun 9-dan by resignation; O Meien Oza (B) defeated Mizokami Tomochika 8-dan by 2.5 points.
As a result, Rin's score is now 4-1 and Cho Chikun's is 2-1. That leaves Yamashita Keigo, on 3-0, as the only undefeated player in the league. Cho U goes to 3-1, and O Meien to 2-2; O Rissei and Mizokami are both on 1-3.
Amateur beats top professional
Kikuchi Yasuro, amateur 8-dan, has scored one of the biggest wins of his career, beating Ryu Shikun 7-dan. The encounter took place on 10 March in the 10th Agon Kiriyama Cup, the only professional tournament open to amateurs. Playing white, Kikuchi won by 3.5 points. Twenty amateurs took part in this tournament, starting out in Preliminary C; six of these made it into the second round, Preliminary B, but only Kikuchi survived, making it into Preliminary A. The total record of the amateurs was a respectable 11 wins to 19 losses, however.
This is one of the best wins ever by a Japanese amateur against a professional. Kikuchi's play belies his age of 73.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(13 March) Michael Redmond (W) beat Kurotaki Masanori 7-dan by resig. (2nd prelim. section, Honinbo tournament).
(20 March) Hamanaka Takamitsu 6-dan (B) beat Catalin Taranu 5-dan by half a point (Preliminary C, Tengen tournament).
First promotions under new system
As reported earlier, the Nihon Ki-in has abolished the rating tournament and instituted a new system of promotions based upon tournament results. The new system comes into effect on 1 April and the first three promotions based on it have been announced. They are as follows.
Yamashita Keigo jumps from 7-dan to 9-dan for winning the Kisei title.
Ryu Shikun goes from 7-dan to 9-dan for winning the Tengen title four years in a row plus other titles.
Cho U goes from 7-dan to 8-dan for becoming the Honinbo challenger in 2001.
In general, the new system makes promotions harder. No one will quarrel with the merit of the above promotions. Presumably there will be others based on cumulative win totals.
O makes good start in Judan title match
Just one week after losing his Kisei title, O Rissei bounced back to take the first game of the 41st Judan title match, which was played on 6 March. The venue was the Takashimaya, a Japanese-style inn in Iwamuro Hot Spring, which is located in the middle of Niigata Prefecture, at the foot of Mt. Yahiko. O must surely have been a little downcast after his disastrous start to the year (his record was 3-7), on top of which he faced the in-form player at the moment, Takao Shinji 8-dan. The latter's record so far this year was 13-0, and he actually was sitting on a winning streak of 15 games that started last December. In his first top-seven title-match game, he got off to a reasonable start, but O took control in the middle game and scored a comfortable win. O had black and his winning margin was 6.5 points.
The second game will be played on 27 March.
Incidentally, the time allowance for the title match this year has been shortened from five hours to four.