- Korea wins Pair Go championship
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Kobayashi Koichi and Weon shine in Nong Shim Cup
- Cho U wins Judan Winners' section
- Hane evens score in Tengen title match
- Hane wins Okan title
- Yamashita opens his account in the Honinbo league
- Kobayashi Satoru and Imamura Toshiya wins Meijin-league places
- Amateur Honinbo vs. professional
- Honinbo 14 November
- Hane to challenge for Kisei
- Samsung finals: Cho Chikun vs. Pak
- Kobayashi defends Women's Honinbo title
- Cho U evens score in Oza title
- Kobayashi Koichi doing well in Honinbo league
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Yamashita wins first Tengen game
- Titleholder wins first Oza game
- Kobayashi Izumi takes lead in Women's Honinbo
- First round of Honinbo league completed
- Yamada wins Meijin-league place
- O Rissei reaches 900 wins
- Yamashita Kisei to marry
- Honinbos to marry
Korea wins Pair Go championship
The 14th International Amateur Pair Go Championship was held at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in Iidabashi, Tokyo, on 15 and 16 November. 64 players in 32 teams from 21 countries and territories participated in the Main Tournament; making their debut this year were Armenia, Ireland, Portugal, Ecuador, and Madagascar, the last being the first country from Africa to take part. Over 200 pairs competed in the thre three blocks of the Araki Cup Handicap Pair Go Tournament held on the Sunday.
After four rounds in the Swiss-system tournament, two pairs had 4-0 scores, and their 5th-round game was treated as a final, being played in a separate room. There was also a public commentary by Michael Redmond 9-dan and Ogawa Tomoko 6-dan. One pair was the Japanese team of Arai Naoko and Taga Bungo, which won the 10th tournament in 1999 (Arai Naoko was then Goto Naoko). The other was the Korean pair of Kim Se-young and Kim Nam-hoon (not related), who are both university students and who have both had professional training. The Kim pair won this game by resignation and so scored Korea's third Pair Go victory.
Another Japanese pair (there were 12 participating, representing the various regions of Japan) took 3rd place. They were followed by the best Western pair, the father-and-daughter team of Tibor and Rita Pocsai. The pair that attracted most support from the spectators, however, was the Taiwanese team; the female player was an elementary-school pupil, Ching Ting-hui; although she is only nine years old, she is already 4-dan and her team scored three wins and took 12th place.
As usual, the first round was played on Saturday afternoon and was followed by a friendship match. This is always one of the most popular features of the tournament; pairs are drawn by lot and sometimes professionals participate. This year some lucky players drew Michael Redmond, Hane Naoki Tengen and Han Konyu 1-dan as partners. The only disappointing note was that while most of the overseas players wore colourful 'ethnic' clothes for this event, only one of the Japanese women wore a kimono.
Although we mentioned above that Ireland was one of the countries making its debut, it didn't actually get to play any official games. The reason is that Bernard Palmer turned up in Tokyo alone; his partner had lost her passport on the way and had had to return home, as it wasn't possible to get a replacement passport in time. Ireland forfeited its games, but Bernard actually played the games, with different partners, including two of the guest officials and the professional Han Konyu.
1st: Kim Se-young & Kim Nam-hoon (Korea) 5-0
2nd: Arai Naoko & Taga Bungo (Japan) 4-1
3rd: Shimosaka Miori & Ito Akio (Japan) 4-1
4th: Rita & Tibor Pocsai (Hungary) 4-1
5th: Takanashi Shoko (Yamashita Kisei's fiancee) & Nagai Masayoshi (Japan) 4-1
6th: Ishii Miyuki & Sasada Shoji (Japan) 4-1
7th: Kinoshita Kaori & Ise Teruyuki (Japan) 3-2
8th: Higuchi Naoko & Sogabe Toshiyuki (Japan): 3-2
The tournament concluded with the usual lavish party, during which lots were drawn for the large number of prizes donated by the sponsors.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(20 November) Michael Redmond 9-dan (W) defeated Ishida Akira 9-dan by resignation (Preliminary A, Tengen tournament).
Kobayashi Koichi and Weon shine in Nong Shim Cup
In the opening round of this tournament, played in Beijing in late October, the honours were divided evenly between Japan and China, with each winning two games.
The second round was held in Pusan, Korea, from 12 to 17 November. Kobayashi continued the good work of Cho U in Beijing, winning three games in a row. However, Weon Seong-chin of Korea then took over, stopping Kobayashi's run and also eliminating Hu Yaoyu of China and Ryu Shikun 9-dan of Japan.
At the conclusion of this round, Japan and Korea are even, both having two players left, while China is down to its last player. Besides Weon, Korea has the formidable Yi Ch'ang-ho, so perhaps the position is not really level. Japan has Kato Masao and Rin Kaiho to oppose these two. China's last player is Gu Li.
Game 5 (12 Nov.). Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan (Japan) (B) beat Wang Lei 8-dan (China) by 1.5 points.
Game 6 (13 Nov.). Kobayashi (B) beat Pak Chi-eun 4-dan (Korea) by 7.5 points.
Game 7 (14 Nov.). Kobayashi (W) beat Zhou Heyang 9-dan (China) by resig.
Game 8 (15 Nov.). Weon Seong-chin 3-dan (Korea) (B) beat Kobayashi by 3.5 points.
Game 9 (16 Nov.). Weon (W) beat Hu Yaoyu 7-dan (China) by 4.5 points.
Game 10 (17 Nov.). Weon (W) beat Ryu Shikun 9-dan (Japan) by resig.
The remaining games will be played in Shanghai, starting on 11 February 2004.
Cho U wins Judan Winners' section
The final of the winners' section of the 42nd Judan title was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 13 November. It featured two of the top three titleholders, Yoda Norimoto Meijin and Cho U Honinbo. Yoda was still basking in the glory of his Meijin-title defence, but that success didn't affect Cho U. Playing black, he defeated Yoda by 6.5 points and so secured his first-ever place in the playoff to decide the Judan challenger.
Yoda moves sideways to the losers' section, where he has to win two games to get a return match against Cho. In the first, he plays Yamada Kimio 8-dan; the winner of that game plays the winner of a game between O Meien Oza and Hashimoto Yujiro 9-dan in the final of this section.
Hane evens score in Tengen title match
When Yamashita won the opening game of the Tengen title match, there were fears that the series might turn out to be one-side, as Yamashita has dominated Hane in past encounters. Fortunately, however, for the sake of an exciting match, Hane has made a comeback and evened the series.
The second game was played in Nagahama City in Shiga Prefecture on 20 November. Taking black, Hane won by 4.5 points, making the score 1-1.
The third game should be the key game of the series. It is scheduled to be played in Nagasaki on the 27th.
Hane wins Okan title
The final of the 44th Okan (Crown) title, which is open to members of the Central Japan (Nagoya) branch of the Nihon Ki-in, was held on 10 November. Hane Naoki, the titleholder, rebuffed the challenge of Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan to win this title for the third time. Holding white, Hane won by 3.5 points.
Yamashita opens his account in the Honinbo league
An important game in the second round of the 59th Honinbo league, pitting the Kisei against an ex-Honinbo, was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 13 November. Both Yamashita Keigo Kisei and O Meien had started out badly in the league, with losses in the opening round, and they are both very busy, being engaged in ongoing title matches.
The clash between the two produced a seesaw game. O Meien, who had black, was the first to take the lead, but then he slipped up and fell behind. In turn, Yamashita was unable to hold onto his lead, letting O get back into the game. However, right at the end of the game O slipped up again and was forced to resignaiton. Yamashita thus improved his score to 1-1, while O now may have to focus on keeping his league place rather than on becoming the challenger.
Another game in the second round was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 20 November. Yoda Norimoto Meijin (B) defeated Kato Masao 9-dan by resignation. Both players are now 1-1.
Kobayashi Satoru and Imamura Toshiya wins Meijin-league places
We neglected to report last week that the remaining vacant places in the 29th Meijin league were decided on 6 November. One place goes to Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan, who, playing white, defeated Hane Naoki Tengen by 1.5 points in the play-off. Kobayashi Satoru will be making his third appearance in the league.
In the other playoff, Imamura Toshiya 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in (W) defeated Katayama Yasuo 8-dan by 3.5 points. Imamura will be making his debut in the league (together with Yamada Kimio 8-dan, who, as reported earlier, won the first of the three vacant seats).
The league is scheduled to start in December.
Amateur Honinbo vs. professional Honinbo
The 41st annual playoff between the amateur and professional Honinbos was held in the Sunshine Culture Hall in Ikebukuro in Tokyo on 8 November. Harada Minoru, the amateur Honinbo, took a two-stone handicap plus three points reverse komi against the professional Honinbo, Cho U, and the result was a jigo.
Harada's results in this playoff are now two wins, two losses, and two jigos. However, the games were all played on different handicaps, as the handicap is adjusted every year according to the previous year's result. In recent decades it has gone up or down by 2.5 points, but, in order to match the new komi of 6.5, this has been changed to three points, making jigo possible once again. Harada's best results were beating Sakata Eio twice on two stones and getting a jigo against Cho Chikun on black with a reverse komi of five points. His worst result was losing to the same player, Cho, on three stones (giving a 2.5-point komi).
Cho U is a tough opponent, too, so Harada was not too unhappy about the jigo, but apparently he lost a point quite late in the endgame, so he could have had a win.
Hane to challenge for Kisei
Hane Naoki Tengen has earned the right to challenge Yamashita Keigo for the Kisei title, so this tournament will witness its first-ever clash between two players in their 20s. As they are also the top two players of the younger generation, it should be an outstanding match. The only worrying point is that to date Hane has done very badly in personal encounters with Yamashita, but Hane sounded quite undaunted in a Yomiuri interview and commented that he is looking forward to his first two-days games.
The play-off to decide the challenger for the 28th Kisei title was held at the Central Japan headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Nagoya, which is Hane's base, on 13 November. It pitted Hane, who won the Kisei A League with an unblemished score of five wins, against former Kisei Cho Chikun, who won the B League with 4-1. Cho is the monarch of two-day go, with an unrivalled record of success in top-three title matches; the problem is that in one-day games he is more human, so getting into a best-of-seven is the real challenge for him.
In the play-off, Hane, who had black, came up with a new move, described in the Yomiuri as a 'counterpunch', in the opening. This gave him the lead and, despite Cho's best efforts to upset it, he hung on to it right until the end. The game finished at 9:26 p.m., and Hane won by 2.5 points.
To go into ages here, Cho, at 47, is 20 years older than Hane, who in turn is Yamashita's senior by two years. Cho is undoubtedly the greatest player of the last three decades, but physically he may have passed his peak, though his many Japanese fans would dearly love to see him make a comeback in a big-three title. Hane and Yamashita, on the other hand, are the flagbearers of the younger generation, joined by Cho U, of course. Hane is also a second-generation 9-dan; he is the first child of a titlewinner to outshine his father. Can he go all the way next spring and reach the pinnacle of the go world? As mentioned above, past statistics don't favour his cause: his record against Yamashita to date is a miserable 2-9. Such an imbalance is quite unusual among fellow title holders. The losses include, of course, the first game of the current Tengen title match, in which Yamashita is challenging Hane. However, go pundits always claim that past records are irrelevant once a title match starts; there's no way this clash won't be an interesting one.
The title match will be launched with the traditional overseas game, this time in Seattle, on 15 & 16 January.
Samsung finals: Cho Chikun vs. Pak
The best-of-three final of the 8th Samsung Cup will pair a great player who has not shone in international go and a teenager who could develop into one of its stars.
The great player is Cho Chikun, who, surprisingly, has only one international title to his credit, the 4th Fujitsu Cup in 1991. Apart from that, he had reached an international final only once, in the 4th Tong Yang Securities Cup in 1992. The up-and-coming player is Pak Yeong-hun, an 18-year-old Korean 4-dan who won his first domestic title two years ago; Pak has done fairly well in international tournaments but this will be his first appearance in a final.
The semifinals were held in Korea on 4 & 5 November, and both were decided 2-0. Details are as follows.
(4 November) Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) (W) defeated Hu Yaoyu 7-dan by resig.; Pak Yeong-hun 4-dan (Korea) (W) d. Xie Ho 5-dan (China) by 3.5 points.
(5 November) Cho (B) d. Hu by half a point; Pak d. Xie by half a point.
Kobayashi defends Women's Honinbo title
Though she made a bad start to her defence of the 22nd Women's Honinbo title, dropping the first game, Kobayashi Izumi came back strongly to win three games in a row and so win the title for the third year in a row.
The fourth game of the best-of-five title match was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on 5 November. Playing black, Kobayashi forced the challenger, Yashiro Kumiko 5-dan, to resignaiton after 141 moves. Kobayashi thus won the match 3-1.
Things are looking rosy for Kobayashi. With two titles to her name, she has held on to her position as the top woman player. During the title match, it was revealed that she planned to become engaged to the holder of the open Honinbo title, Cho U, on 9 November. Her defence has ensured that there will be two Honinbo titles in the family when they get married next spring.
Cho U evens score in Oza title
Cho U Honinbo has recovered from the bad start he made to his challenge for the 51st Oza title and has evened the score. The second game was played at the Hotel Okura Kobe in Kobe City on 6 October; taking black, Cho defeated O Meien Oza by resignation.
The third game will be played in Atami on 27 November.
Kobayashi Koichi doing well in Honinbo league
The first game in the second round of the 59th Honinbo league was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 6 November. Playing black, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan defeated Cho Sonjin 9-dan by resignation. Kobayashi has made a good start to the league with two wins; Cho drops to 1-1.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(6 November) Michael Redmond 9-dan (B) defeated Sugiuchi Kazuko 8-dan by resig. (Preliminary A, 43rd Judan tournament).
Yamashita wins first Tengen game
Yamashita Keigo Kisei's first Tengen challenge has got off to a good start. In the first game of the 29th Tengen best-of-five title match, played at the Furano Prince Hotel in Furano City, Hokkaido, on 30 October, Yamashita (B) defeated the titleholder Hane Naoki by 1.5 points. Yamashita comes from Asahikawa in Hokkaido, but this was his title-match game played in the northern island. Furano is only about an hour by car from Asahikawa, so plenty of fans from his hometown turned up at the public commentary held at the hotel to support Yamashita.
Incidentally, the time allowance has been reduced by one hour this year, to four hours per player. Hane is quite a slow player, so he may not welcome this change.
Yamashita now has a lead of 9-2 over Hane, so the pressure is really on the latter.
The second game will be played in Nagahama City in Shiga Prefecture on 20 November.
Titleholder wins first Oza game
The 51st Oza title match got off to a dramatic start when the defending champion, O Meien, killed a large group of the challenger, Cho U Honinbo. Perhaps O Meien has decided to join O Rissei in blocking a complete generational changeover in Japanese go (the two Os are the only titleholders in their 40s).
The first game of the best-of-five title match was held at the Takanawa Prince Hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo on 30 October. As expected the game became a contest between moyo (O) and territory (Cho). However, Cho made a careless move with White 68 - he's a player known for the precision of his analysis, but for once he made an elementary (by professional standards) oversight. Thereafter, in an attempt to recover, he made a number of unreasonable moves and ended up losing a large group.
The second game will be played at the Hotel Okura Kobe on 6 November.
Kobayashi Izumi takes lead in Women's Honinbo
Kobayashi Izumi has bounced back from her bad start in her defence of the 22nd Women's Honinbo title. After evening the series in the second game, she has now taken the lead.
The third game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya on 29 October. Holdign white, Kobayashi defeated Yashiro Kumiko 5-dan by 7.5 points. She now seems to have a good chance of winning this title for the third year in a row.
First round of Honinbo league completed
The remaining two games in the first round of the 59th Honinbo league were played last week, and the two players who had just contested the Meijin title got off to a bad start. First of all, the Meijin challenger, Yamashita Keigo Kisei, lost to Cho Sonjin 9-dan (B) by 6.5 points in a game played on 27 October. On 30 October, Yoda Norimoto Meijin (B) lost to O Rissei Judan by 2.5 points.
Yamada wins Meijin-league place
The first of the three empty seats in the 29th Meijin league has been filled. In the final round of the qualifying tournament, played on 30 October, Yamada Kimio 8-dan (W) defeated Takao Shinji 8-dan by resignation and so will make his debut in the Meijin league.
The pairings in the other two play-offs are Katayama Yasuo 8-dan vs. Imamura Toshiya 9-dan and Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan vs. Hane Naoki Tengen.
O Rissei reaches 900 wins
O Rissei Judan has become the ninth player in modern Japanese go to score 900 wins. After winning his Honinbo-league game with Yoda, his record is 900 wins to 448 losses, which gives him a winning percentage of 66.76. At 44 years 11 months, he is the third-youngest player to reach this mark, after Cho Chikun and Kobayashi Koichi. It took him 31 years six months, which is the fourth-fastest (Kato Masao has third place).
Yamashita Kisei to marry
Yamashita Keigo (aged 25) has announced that he plans to get married on 11 November and to hold his wedding ceremony in early December (in Japan all it takes to get married officially is to lodge a form with the local ward or city office with the seals of both parties affixed; it's quite common for the ceremony to be held at a later date). His wife will be Takanashi Shoko (aged 22). Takanashi is the sister of Takanashi Seiken 8-dan; she works as a go instructor and as M.C. of programs on the Go and Shogi Channel on cable TV (especially the Ryusei Cup program). The two have been dating for about a year and a half. In an interview with Go Weekly, Yamashita complained that he couldn't find the time for a honeymoon trip. Although his Meijin challenge finished early, Yamashita is now engaged in the Tengen title match and, of course, his first Kisei defence will start in January.
Honinbos to marry
According to an article in the Asahi Newspaper (27 October), Cho U Honinbo (aged 23) and Kobayashi Izumi Women's Honinbo (aged 26) plan to become engaged on 9 November and to get married next spring. This marriage will create yet another professional-go couple, the 12th by our count. Kobayashi Izumi is a third-generation professional, the daughter of Kobayashi Koichi and the late Kobayashi Reiko 7-dan and the granddaughter of Kitani Minoru 9-dan.
According to the Asahi, the two have been dating for two years. Kobayashi is at present engaged in a defence of her Women's Honinbo title; Cho U will begin a challenge for the Oza title on 30 October.
So far, to our knowledge, there has been no fourth-generation go professional, but we wouldn't bet against it in the future.