- Hane defends Tengen title
- Honinbo and Meijin leagues
- Two weddings
- Samsung follow-up
- Cho Chikun wins Samsung Cup
- Kobayashi keeps lead in 59th Honinbo league
- Yoda eliminated from Judan tournament
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Cho U takes Oza title
- Yamashita evens Tengen title match
- 29th Meijin league is launched
- Third round of Honinbo league starts
- Hane takes lead in Tengen title match
- Cho U takes lead in Oza title match
- Kobayashi leads Honinbo league
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
Hane defends Tengen title
Hane Naoki has won the Tengen title for the third year in a row. This year's was expected to be a very tough defence for him, as he had done badly against the challenger, Yamashita Keigo Kisei. His career record against him was a miserable 2-8, and that included two successive wipeouts in Shinjin-O title matches in 1999 and 2000.
However, go journalists often comment that past results are not a reliable guide in predicting the outcome of a match, and that's how it turned out. Despite losing the first game, Hane took a 2-1 lead; Yamashita survived the kadoban in the fourth game, but Hane triumphed in the fifth. This is a very good omen for his upcoming challenge to Yamashita for the Kisei title.
The fifth game of the 29th Tengen title match was played in the Hotel Clement Tokushima in Tokushima City on 18 December. Taking white, Hane got off to a bad start when a group of his stones in the top left corner was captured. That gave Black an early territorial lead, though Hane had thickness as compensation. Hane later started a fight that spilled all over the board and that involved a ko. When Hane won this ko fight, he took the lead, and held on to it through precise endgame play.
The game ended at 7:08 p.m. after 284 moves, and White won by 6.5 points. The time allowance in this title is only four hours per side, and each player was in the last minute of byo-yomi.
Hane commented: "I'm very happy, because I didn't expect to win this match. I was able to display all my strength."
Yamashtia: "The games I lost in this series were hopeless and even the games I won were upsets, so I can't complain about the result."
Honinbo and Meijin leagues
The second game in the new Meijin league and two games in the third round of the Honinbo league were played on 18 December.
In the Meijin-league game, Cho U Honinbo got off to a good start; playing black, he defeated Yamada Kimio 8-dan by resignation. Since Cho is Honinbo, one may think that this was the natural result, but actually it's a good one for Cho, as Yamada has been enjoying marvellous form in recent months and was expected to do well in the league. His loss to Cho brought to an end a 14-game winning streak.
In the Honinbo league, no one can catch Kobayashi Koichi, who has already played his third-round game and is on 3-0. However, two players showed that they have every intention of putting up a fight for the challengership. They are O Rissei and Cho Sonjin, who are following close behind Kobayashi.
In his league game, O Rissei, playing white, defeated immediate past Honinbo Kato Masao by half a point. O goes to 2-1 and Kato to 1-2. In the other game, past Honinbo Cho Sonjin defeated the player who deposed him as Honinbo, O Meien; taking white, Cho won by 2.5 points. He also goes to 2-1, while O has made an abysmal start and is on 0-3.
Two weddings have been held recently. On 7 December, Yamashita Keigo Kisei and Takanashi Shoko held their wedding party at the Tokyo Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku. Takanashi is the younger sister of Takanashi Seiken 8-dan. Yamashita and his wife studied together at Kikuchi Yasuro's go school, the Ryokuseikai.
The other auspicious occasion was a little earlier, on 30 November, when Ko Reibun 4-dan married Kobayashi Sayaka. Ko is the son of top Chinese players Nie Weiping 9-dan and Kong Shangming 8-dan, but he is now a naturalized Japanese. His bride is the eldest daughter of Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan. The latter looks so young that it's a bit of a shock to find he has a child old enough to marry (just for the record, Ko and Sayaka are both 21).
Our Samsung report last week was a little incomplete. Cho Chikun's victory was front-page news in Go Weekly, of course, but the headline was: 'Chikun's great upset'. Apparently the third game was headed for an easy win for Pak Yeong-hun, but he made an terrible blunder on move 183, playing on the only point that allowed his opponent to pull off something. Pak must have felt awful, but after the game he was his normal self and calmly reviewed it with Cho.
Cho lavishly praised his opponent after the game. He commented: "Despite his youth, he is already a person of magnificent character. If I had lost a game in that fashion, I would have been carrying on and making a great fuss."
Cho Chikun wins Samsung Cup
Cho Chikun has lost all his Japanese titles, but he has made a great comeback on the international stage, winning the 8th Samsung Cup. Surprisingly, this is only his second international title.
The best-of-three final was held in Taegu City in Korea on 8, 9 and 11 December, and Cho's opponent was the Korean prodigy Pak Yeong-hun 4-dan, who is 18. Pak made a good start, winning the first game by 4.5 points, but Cho evened the series by forcing a resignation in the second, then secured another resignation in the deciding game. All games were won by white.
Kobayashi keeps lead in 59th Honinbo league
Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan has kept his lead in the current Honinbo league by defeating one of his most dangerous opponents, Yamashita Keigo Kisei, in the third round. Playing white, Kobayashi won by 1.5 points. As he is the only undefeated player, no one can catch up to him in this round. In contrast, Yamashita drops to 1-2 and so will have to start focusing more on keeping his newly acquired league place than on becoming the challenger.
Yoda eliminated from Judan tournament
Yoda Norimoto was doing so well in the winners' section of the Judan tournament that fans thought he had a good chance of becoming the challenger. However, his winning streak came to an end in the final, which he lost to Cho U. He had a chance of making a comeback, as he switched to the losers' section, but he suffered his second loss this week and so has been eliminated from the tournament. Playing black, he was forced to resign to Yamada Kimio 8-dan in a game played on 11 December.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(4 December) Michael Redmond 9-dan (W) defeated Aragaki Takeshi 9-dan (Kisei tournament, A preliminary).
(11 December) Redmond (B) defeated Takano Hideki 8-dan by resignation (Judan tournament, A preliminary).
Cho U takes Oza title
Earlier this year, the top seven titles were held by seven different players. That changed when Yoda Meijin won the Gosei title in August. Now we have another dual titleholder, Cho U, so the number of titleholders is down to five.
In the fourth game of the 51st Oza title match, played at the Utsunomiya Grand Hotel in Utsunomiya City on 4 December, Cho U defeated O Meien to take the title 3-1. Playing black, Cho won by half a point after 284 moves. After losing the first game, Cho won three games in a row and so added the Oza title to his Honinbo title.
This is the fourth title of Cho's career. He started out with the NHK Cup last year and has won three this year: the Honinbo, Shinjin-O, and now the Oza. This is a pretty good start to a career - he looks like emulating his teacher, Rin Kaiho, and becoming one of the really prolific title winners.
Yamashita evens Tengen title match
Two titles could have been decided in one day, but the player facing the kadoban in the 29th Tengen title rallied to even the match.
The fourth Tengen game was played at the Hotel Okura Kobe in Kobe on 4 December. Playing white, Yamashita Keigo Kisei, the challenger, defeated Hane Naoki Tengen, forcing a resignation after 172 moves. This evened the series at 2-all, so the final game, scheduled to be played in Tokushima City on 18 December, will be the clincher.
This game was typical of the series, with Hane going for profit and Yamashita for thickness. When Hane secured three corners, he took the lead in territory, but he slipped up in making shinogi for a group cut off in the centre. Yamashita succeeded in killing this group and so clinched the game.
29th Meijin league is launched
The first two games of the new Meijin league were played on 4 December.In one of them, a newcomer made an auspicious debut; in the other, a league great showed that he's still a force to contend with.
Playing his first-ever game in the Meijin league, Imamura Toshiya 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in couldn't have asked for a better start. Playing black against the top star of the big-three titles in recent decades, Cho Chikun, Imamura forced a resignation. Winning in the first round gives you a great psychological boost: suddenly it makes the task of retaining your league place look a lot easier. (It's not till you pick up a couple more wins that you start thinking of yourself as a contender to become challenger.)
The veteran who started well is Rin Kaiho 9-dan, who, of course, has been one of the dominant figures in the history of the Meijin tournament. Playing white, he defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan by 3.5 points.
Third round of Honinbo league starts
The first game in the third round of the 59th Honinbo league was played on 4 December. Playing white, Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan defeated Yoda Norimoto Meijin by 2.5 points. Mimura is now 2-1 and Yoda 1-2.
Hane takes lead in Tengen title match
Hane Naoki has finally stemmed the tide, taking a lead over the player who has been his nemesis so far in his career. In the third game of the 29th Tengen best-of-five title match, played at the Nagasaki Prince Hotel on 27 November, Hane, holding white, defeated Yamashita Keigo Kisei by resignation. This gives him a lead of 2-1 and he now needs just one more win to defend his title.
Before this match began, Yamashita had an 8-2 lead over Hane; when the challenger won the first game of the match, it looked as if the titleholder might be steamrollered. However, Hane has fought back well; if he can defend the Tengen title, he may be able to put the Yamashita jinx behind him, which in turn would augur well for his upcoming Kisei challenge.
In the third game, Yamashita didn't seem to be his usual self in the opening, and Hane took an early lead. Late in the middle game, overconfidence led him to neglect a large group, but Yamashita missed his chance to make a serious, perhaps fatal, attack on it. The game ended after 180 moves.
The fourth game will be played in Kobe on 4 December.
Cho U takes lead in Oza title match
The third game of the 51st Oza title match was played on the same day at the game above. The venue was the Atami Hyakumankoku hotel in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture. In contrast to the Tengen title match, victory went to the challenger, Cho U Honinbo. Playing white, he forced O Meien to resign after 158 moves.
The game followed the pattern already established in this title match, with O setting up large moyos and Cho invading, then relying on his shinogi ability to get his groups out of trouble. In the first game, O destroyed the invading group; in the second game, it lived. In this game also, O set up a large moyo, but Cho skilfully reduced it and took a small lead. O launched an all-out attack late in the game, but Cho dealt with it very cleverly. Instead of seeking outright life through a sequence that would have let O take the lead in territory, he chose a more profitable sequence for White that gave Black a ko. His judgement was correct, and the ko proved to be the shortcut to victory.
The fourth game will be played in Utsunomiya City on 4 December.
Kobayashi leads Honinbo league
The last game in the second round of the 59th Honinbo league was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 27 November. Playing black, Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan defeated O Rissei Judan by resignation. Both Mimura and O Rissei are on 1-1, and, thanks to Mimura's help, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan takes the sole lead in the league.
With five rounds to go, it's too early to make any predictions, of course. However, if Kobayashi were to become the Honinbo challenger, he would be matched against his son-in-law, which would be a first in tournament go.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(27 November) Kato Masao 9-dan (W) defeated Redmond 9-dan by resig. (29th Gosei tournament). (In the previous term of this title, Michael reached the semifinals, but this time he has been eliminated in the opening round.)
Kurosawa Tadanao 9-dan retired on 30 November. Born on 1 February 1940, Kurosawa became a professional in 1959 and reached 9-dan in 1987.