In memoriam: Kato Masao (1947-2004)
 



              It has been a very sad New Year for Japanese go fans and anyone interested in the Japanese go world. Kato Masao, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nihon Ki-in and one of the top stars of modern go, died of a cerebral infarction and complications in a Tokyo hospital at 12:33 p.m. on 30 December.
            Kato had felt ill on 7 December and had been diagnosed at a hospital as having suffered an injury to a vein in the brain. He had an operation on 10 December that was said to have been successful and was recuperating in hospital. However, his condition suddenly worsened on the 28th and he died on the 30th.
            A private funeral was held by his family and the Nihon Ki-in will hold a farewell gathering with go fans on 21 January.
            Kato was one of the greatest players of the modern tournament era. He is fifth in the all-time listings, with a total of 47 title wins. His most notable achievements were winning the Honinbo title four times, the Meijin title twice and the Judan title seven times. His final career tally was 1253 wins (second only to Rin Kaiho) to 664 losses. His last game was played on 2 December; he defeated the next Kisei challenger, Yuki Satoshi. He was also a member of the Japanese team in the current Nong Shim Cup and hadn't yet played.
            Kato became Vice Chairman of the board in the summer of 2002 and was the right-hand man of the chairman, Toshimitsu Matsuo, who was grappling with the task of reforming the administration of the Nihon Ki-in. Following Toshimitsu's resignation, he became chairman in June this year. At the same time, he maintained his career as a top-level go player and, in fact, was Honinbo at the same time as he was Vice Chairman.
            Kato was one of the most popular players in the Japanese go world. Despite his success, he was modest; his typical manner was low-key and friendly, but he was known for his firm principles, which was perhaps why his fellow professionals entrusted the top position at the Nihon Ki-in to him. Kobayashi Koichi commented that he displayed fighting spirit in both his go and his personal character. Ishida Yoshio, another fellow Kitani disciple, commented that it is going to be very hard to fill the gap that his death has left in the go world.