History of Topics 2008
Liu Xing wins Japan-China Agon Kiriyama play-off
The same players won the Japanese and Chinese versions of the Agon Kiriyama Cup in 2007, so the annual play-off was a rematch, with a chance for Cho U 9-dan to take revenge on Liu Xing 7-dan of China.
The 9th play-off was one of the last big events of the 2007 go year, being held at the Amoy International Exhibition Hotel in Amoy, China, on 26 December. Despite Cho’s proclaimed determination to make up for his previous loss, the result was the same, a win for Liu, though this time the margin was much narrower. Taking black, Liu won by half a point. Cho had taken the lead in the middle game, but he made an uncharacteristic blunder in the endgame.
China has now won this play-off five years in a row, which more than makes up for its bad start of four straight losses.
China and Korea even after Pusan Round of Nong Shim Cup
Japan won just one game in the Pusan Round of the 9th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup, so it is down to its last player, Takao Shinji. Korea and China both have two players left, so it will take a big effort from Takao, who has not yet enjoyed much success internationally, to salvage the match for Japan. At this point, with Pak Yeong-hun and Yi Ch'ang-ho waiting in the wings, Korea has to be considered the favourite, but China, with Chang Hao sitting on one win already and Gu Li still to come, must also be given a good chance.
In a major disappointment for Japan, Yoda Norimoto, the hero of Japan’s dramatic victory in the 7th Cup？ the first time Korea failed to win ? was unable to meet the expectations of Japanese fans. The star of the Pusan Round was Mok Chin-seok, who won three games in a row. Mok was one of Korea’s stars earlier this century, but he then disappeared from the international scene for a couple of years. Last year he made a return to top form, doing very well on the domestic scene and regaining his place in the Korean team.
Full results in this round follow.
Game 5 （26 Nov.）. Wang Xi 9-dan （China） （B） defeated Cho Han-seung 9-dan （Korea） by 11.5 points.
Game 6 （27 Nov.）. Yamada Kimio 9-dan （Japan） （B） defeated Wang by half a point.
Game 7 （28 Nov.）. Mok Chin-seok 9-dan （Korea） （W） defeated Yamada by 3.5 points.
Game 8 （29 Nov.）. Mok （W） defeated Hu Yaoyu 8-dan （China） by half a point.
Game 9 （30 Nov.）. Mok （B） defeated Yoda Norimoto 9-dan （Japan） by 6.5 points.
Game 10 （1 Dec.）. Chang Hao 9-dan （China） （W） defeated Mok by resignation.
Korea and Japan make good starts in 6th Cheongkwanjang Cup
This is an international woman’s team tournament run along the same lines as the Nong Shim Cup. It started out as an individual championship for the first two terms, which were won by Rui Naiwei 9-dan and Pak Chi-eun 4-dan, both representing Korea. After it became a team tournament, it was won by, in order, China, China, Korea. Each time, the Japanese team came third （measured by number of games won）, but this year it has got off to a better start, matching Korea with two wins in the opening round. Scoring the wins were Aoki Kikuyo for Japan and Yi Sula of Korea, a 16-year-old 1-dan who started her career in April.
Game 1 （8 Jan.）. Yi Sula 1-dan （B） defeated Umezawa Yukari 5-dan （Japan） by half a point.
Game 2 （9 Jan.）. Yi （B） defeated Wang Pan 1-dan （China） by resignation.
Game 3 （10 Jan.）. Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan （Japan） （W） defeated Yi by 9.5 points.
Game 4 （11 Jan.）. Aoki （B） defeated Hong Yonghui 1-dan （China） by resignation.
Yamashita makes good start to Kisei title match
The first game of the 32nd Kisei best-of-seven title match was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 12 & 13 January. This match attracted a lot of attention when the former monarch of best-of-sevens, Cho Chikun, became the challenger. Cho has won 29 of the 37 best-of-sevens he has played in, which is an astonishing success rate （next best for total matches is Rin Kaiho with 30, of which he has won 13, and next best for wins is Kobayashi Koichi, with 16 in 25 matches）. Although Cho is in his 50s, compared to 29 for the Kisei titleholder Yamashita Keigo, he has beaten Yamashita in the only two matches they have played （the latter’s challenges for the Judan title in 2006 and 2007）, so all the signs were good for him.
The customary party on the eve of the game was probably the most spectacular in the history of the Kisei title. There was a samba band and scantily clad samba dancers, who got the players to join in the dancing. Judging by the photos in Go Weekly, Cho and Yamashita, who are also playing tambourines while dancing, seemed to be having a great time.
The game didn’t go so well for Cho, however. Perhaps he was a little rusty after his half-decade break from two-day games and couldn’t get back into the slower rhythm. The game was a relatively peaceful one. Yamashita, playing white, took the lead in territory in the middle game. He did get an isolated group in the centre, but Cho failed to exploit this weakness effectively. Late in the middle game, Yamashita played a clever tesuji that enabled him to make a big dent in Cho’s main corner territory, so the game ended with a resignation after just 140 moves.
This was Yamashita’s ninth win in a row in Kisei title matches, but he still has a long way to go to match Sakata’s record of 17 successive wins in Honinbo title matches.
The second game will be played on 30 and 31 January.
Judan challenger: Takao or Cho U?
In the final game of the Losers’ Section of the 46th Judan title, Takao Shinji Honinbo （B） defeated Kono Rin Tengen by resignation. Takao will meet Cho U Meijin in the play-off, scheduled for early February, to decide the challenger to Cho Chikun. Cho U has already beaten Takao in the final of the Winners’ Section, but the winner here is the only player not afforded the luxury of being able to lose one game. Takao and Cho have each already made an unsuccessful challenge for the Judan title.
There was an unusual breach of etiquette in the above game. In Japanese-style playing rooms, the higher-ranked player takes the seat of honour, which is the one farther from the door and in front of the alcove （where there is often a hanging scroll and a flower arrangement）. Kono arrived first and sat down in the seat of honour. He hadn’t forgotten that the Honinbo outranked the Tengen, because he put the bowl with the white stones on the other side of the board. When carrying our the nigiri to decide colours, the higher-ranked player takes a handful of white stones and the lower-ranked player places one or two stones on the board, to indicate ‘odd’ or ‘even’.
When a go reporter made an inquiry with Kono by telephone the next day, he had trouble understanding the question at first, so his mistake obviously wasn’t deliberate. When Takao was asked about it, he laughed it off, saying he didn’t care where he sat. The chances are he noticed at the time, but it clearly didn’t adversely affect his play.
Japanese Fujitsu Cup places
So far, three of the five nonseeded Japanese seats in the 21st Fujitsu Cup have been decided. They have gone to Cho Sonjin 9-dan, O Rissei 9-dan, and Iyama Yuta 7-dan. There will be a lot of interest in Iyama’s international tournament debut.
The pairings in the final play-offs for the remaining two places are: Yamada Takuji 7-dan vs. Nakano Yasuhiro 9-dan and Komatsu Hideki 9-dan vs. Kono Rin Tengen.
The seeded players are Yamashita Keigo Kisei, Takao Shinji Honinbo （and also Meijin when the seedings were decided）, and Yoda Norimoto （as third place-getter last year）. Something won’t feel right with Cho U not competing, but he came fourth last time, which doesn’t earn a seeded place, and he won the Meijin title a little too late to qualify.
The opening rounds will be played on 12 and 14 April.
Six players share lead in Honinbo League
The Honinbo League has reached the halfway point with the lead shared by six players. Of these, So Yokoku 8-dan and Hane Naoki 9-dan have a slight advantage, as they have only one loss, whereas the other four all have two losses, but these two have played one game fewer. At this point, there’s no way of predicting who will be the challenger.
The 63rd Honinbo League
Title holder: Takao Shinji
in the chart
・B=playing black, W=playing white
* Date: mm/dd
Link to Honinbo Title
33rd Meijin League
Only six games have been played so far in the Meijin League, but two players have got off to a quick start, having played two and won two. They are Takao Shinji Honinbo and Sakai Hideyuki 7-dan. As the previous Meijin, Takao is naturally one of the favourites, but Sakai’s outstanding performance in this league can’t be overlooked.
The 33rd Meijin Challenger's League
in the chart
・B=playing black, W=playing white
* Date: mm/dd
Link to Meijin Title
Xie to challenge for Women’s Meijin
Xie Yimin, who holds the Women’s Honinbo title, will be making a bid for her second concurrent title when she challenges Kato Keiko for the 20th Women’s Meijin title. In the play-off to decide the challenger, held on 10 January, she defeated Kobayashi Izumi 6-dan by resignation holding white. This was the same pairing as in last year’s play-off to decide the Women’s Honinbo challenger; Xie will be hoping that beating Kobayashi is as auspicious as last time.
The first game will be played on 13 February.