- Yamashita wins Gosei title
- Ishida takes sole lead in Kisei B league
- Ing Cup Final: Lee Chang-ho vs. Chang-hao
- Rui wins China Eastern Cup
- Cho Chikun becomes Oza challenger
- Tengen challenger: Ryu or Cho Sonjin
- 56th Honinbo league
- Aoki Kikuyo wins fourth Women's Kakusei title
- Korea triumphs in Fujitsu Cup
- Yoda becomes Meijin challenger
- Awaji keeps sole lead in Kisei A League
- Judan tournament
- Samsung Qualifiers
- Korea wins Japan-Korea Go Exchange
Yamashita wins Gosei title
Yamashita Keigo 7-dan has been successful in his first challenge for an open title, defeating Kobayashi Koichi 3-2 to win the 25th Gosei title. Aged just 21, Yamashita is the second-youngest player ever to win one of the top seven titles (the record is held by Cho Chikun, who won the Oza at the age of 20 in 1976). This brings a badly-needed injection of youthfulness into the Japanese title scene, which has been dominated by the same players for the past two decades.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Yamashita's challenge ran into trouble. First, he suffered an upset loss in the third game. Then, in the fourth game, played in the town of Nonoichi in Ishikawa Prefecture on 23 August, Kobayashi (W) defeated him by 1.5 points to even the score. This development was all the more ominous for Yamashita in view of Kobayashi's feat last year of defend his title with three straight wins after losing the first two games.
This time it was different. The final game was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 30 August. Playing white, Yamashita edged Kobayashi by 2.5 points after 248 moves and so clinched the title. He is, of course, the youngest-ever holder of the Gosei title.
Kobayashi was philosophical about his loss, commenting: 'For the sake of the go world, we have to have new young players emerge.' Yamashita actually represents a new type of professional in Japan. He doesn't have a professional teacher, being a product of the go school run by Kikuchi Yoshiro, Japan's top amateur of the last four decades. His school, the Ryokusei Gakuen, has produced many professionals. Yamashita is popular with fans for his bold and innovative fuseki. In short, he's the best thing to happen to Japanese go for quite a while.
Ishida takes sole lead in Kisei B league
In a game played at the Nihon Ki-in on 17 August, Ishida Yoshio 9-dan (W) defeated Miyazawa Goro 9-dan by 4.5 points to take the sole lead in the B League. Ishida is the only undefeated player in this league. There are two players with just one loss: Cho Chikun on 1-1 and Cho U on 2-1. Ishida has yet to play either of them, so it is too early to make any predictions, but, based on results so far, we could see a play-off between Ishida and Awaji, who leads the A League with the same score as Ishida.
Ing Cup Final: Lee Chang-ho vs. Chang-hao
Like the Fujitsu Cup, the final of the Ing Cup is a Korea-China pairing. The Chinese player is the same, Chang Hao, but the Korean player is Lee Chang-ho.
The best-of-three semifinals were held in Korea on the 22, 24 and 26 August. Lee Chang-ho defeated Yu Bin of China 2-0 in one and Chang Hao defeated O Meien 2-1 in the other.
Ironically, Chang Hao has been said to be in bad form this year and in fact he tumbled from the top place in the Chinese rating list that he'd held for three years. However, this is his second world championship final in a row -- that's the kind of bad form other players would envy.
Even so, Lee Chang-ho is the clear favourite to win his first Ing Cup.
Rui wins China Eastern Cup
The newest women's professional world championship is the China Eastern Cup, sponsored by an airline company. The 1st Cup was held in mid-August and the winner, to nobody's surprise, was Rui Naiwei 9-dan. Once again, Rui has shown that she has no rivals in women's go.
We hope to have more details on the championship later.
Cho Chikun becomes Oza challenger
The play-off to decide the challenger for the 48th Oza title was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 28 August. Playing black, Cho Chikun defeated Yoda Norimoto by resignation after 187 moves. He thus earned the chance for a rematch against O Rissei, who defeated him 3-1 when he challenged for the Oza title last year.
Defeating Yoda in this play-off may also be a good omen for the upcoming Meijin title match.
Tengen challenger: Ryu or Cho Sonjin
The semifinals in the 26th Tengen tournament were held recently. On 17 August, Ryu Shikun defeated Cho Chikun; on 24 August, Cho Sonjin defeated Rin Kaiho. Either Cho or Ryu will therefore be the challenger to Kobayashi Koichi.
An interesting point about this tournament, remarked on by go journalists, was that all four semifinalists were players with single-character surnames. Such surnames are unusual in Japan, where the great majority of names have two characters, so this indicated that all four were overseas members of the Nihon Ki-in. Going back one round, actually, six of the eight quarterfinalists had single-character names. Japan has long been a hospitable home to overseas players, especially Chinese and Korean. Their success here is out of all proportion to their numbers; one reason often advanced to explain this is that such players, who have taken the big step of going overseas and living away from their families, have more of a drive to succeed than Japanese players, in short, that they are 'hungrier'.
Regardless of who wins, we will see a new title match pairing.
56th Honinbo league
The final two vacant seats in the 56th Honinbo league have been decided. One was taken by Yuki Satoshi 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in, who defeated Kobayashi Koichi in the final round of the preliminary tournament. Yuki will be making his fourth appearance in the league.
The other place was won by Hane Naoki 8-dan, who defeated Kato Masao in the final game. Hane will be making his debut in the Honinbo league. He retained his place in the Meijin league, so he will be one of the few members of that elite group of players who are members of both leagues.
The members of the new league, in order, are:
Cho Sonjin, Cho Chikun, Yamada Kimio, and Otake Hideo (ranked 1st to 4th) and the newcomers, Oya Koichi, Cho U, Yuki, and Hane (ranked equal 5th).
Aoki Kikuyo wins fourth Women's Kakusei title
In the final of the 22nd Women's Kakusei tournament, Aoki Kikuyo 7-dan defeated Osawa Narumi 2-dan. Playing white, Aoki won by 3.5 points. This is Aoki's fourth Women's Kakusei title and her second current title (she is also the Women's Meijin).
Ando Takeo 6-dan retired from active play on 31 July. He was born on 11 September 1938. He became a disciple of Ito Tomoe 7-dan and made 1-dan in 1958. He was promoted to 6-dan in 1971. He acted as a director of the Nihon Ki-in for many years and his disciples include Yoda Norimoto and Cho Sonjin.
Korea triumphs in Fujitsu Cup
It was Korea day in the 13th Fujitsu Cup on 12 August, with Korean players winning both the final and the play-off for third place. In the final, Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan (B) forced Chang Hao 9-dan of China to resignaiton after 203 moves and so won his second Fujitsu Cup. In the play-off, Mok Jin-seuk 5-dan defeated Kobayashi Satoru (details not yet available) to take third place and also secure a seeded place in next year's Fujitsu Cup. Both games were played at the Kudan Kaikan in Tokyo.
This double triumph for Korea confirms yet again, not that confirmation was needed, her ascendancy in international go. Korea has now won 24 of the 45 international titles held to date.
The result of the final must have been a bitter disappointment for Chang Hao, as Chinese fans were expecting big things of him and there was a lot of on-the-spot coverage by the Chinese media. He has yet to win an international tournament.
Yoda becomes Meijin challenger
O Meien stumbled in the final round of the 25th Meijin league, losing to Kato Masao 9-dan. The game was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 3 August and Kato, playing black, defeated O by resignation. On the same day, Yoda Norimoto 9-dan (B) defeated Hane Naoki 8-dan, also by resignation, so he ended up on 6-2 and tied O for first place.
Two other games were played on the same day, with the following results: O Rissei Kisei (W) defeated Kobayashi Koichi by 13.5 points and Ryu Shikun 7-dan (W) defeated Imamura Yoshiaki 8-dan by resignation.
A play-off to decide the challenger was held on 7 August. Playing black, Yoda won this by 2.5 points and so will challenge for the Meijin title for the second year in a row. Yoda was reported to be staking everything psychologically on the Meijin title this year, so we should witness an exciting title match. On the other hand, O Meien will be very disappointed to slip up in the final round. There would have been a nice symmetry about it if he had won both the Honinbo and Meijin leagues in the same year, and 2000 would definitely have been remembered as the year of O Meien.
The final standings in the Meijin league are as follows:
1st: Yoda 6-2
2nd: O Meien 6-2
3rd: O Rissei 5-3
4th: Hane Naoki 5-3
5th: Ryu Shikun 4-4
6th: Kato Masao 4-4
Falling out of the league: Kobayashi Koichi 3-5, Takemiya Masaki 2-6, Imamura Yoshiaki 1-7.
Awaji keeps sole lead in Kisei A League
Awaji Shuzo was already the sole leader of the Kisei A League after two rounds. In a game played at the Nihon K-in on 10 August, he defeated Imamura Toshiya 9-dan by 3.5 points (Awaji had black), so he has kept his lead. Imamura drops back to 1-2.
Awaji still has to play Cho Chikun, who is on 1-1, and Yo Kagen (0-2), but at the moment he has to be given a good chance of winning the league. Everything will depend on his game with Cho.
Two games were held in the Losers' Section of the 39th Judan tournament last week. In one, Yamashita Keigo 6-dan (W) defeated Cho Chikun Meijin by resignation. In the other, Ogaki Yusaku 8-dan (W) defeated Otake Hideo 9-dan, also by resignation.
The preliminary tournament for the 5th Samsung Cup was held in Seoul from 26 July to 1 August. Twelve players from the Nihon Ki-in and four from the Kansai Ki-in plus two other players based in Japan, Michael Redmond representing North America and Hans Pietsch representing Europe, made the trip from Japan. Since all expenses, including transportation and accommodation, have to be borne by the player himself, the conditions are quite different from other international tournaments. Actually, the Samsung Cup is the only international tournament in which players go to the host country to compete in a preliminary (usually, as with the Fujitsu Cup, separate preliminaries are held in each country). Eligibility is determined by the prize money rankings in each country. Perhaps because of the expense -- and the possibility of a wasted trip if one loses -- some top players from Japan, such as O Meien Honinbo, passed up the tournament. (The Japanese seeds were decided before O won the Honinbo title.)
In the end, only three of the 18 players from Japan qualified for the main tournament: Yokota Shigeaki 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in and Nakano Hironari 9-dan and Ko Mosei 8-dan of the Nihon Ki-in.
One encounter of interest: the new star of Korean go, Lee Se-dol 3-dan, who is only 17, beat Hane Naoki 8-dan of Japan.
Korea wins Japan-Korea Go Exchange
The Japan-Korea Go Exchange is an unofficial series of goodwill matches between young players from Japan and Korea. On the Japanese side, it is mainly organized by Oya Koichi 8-dan, who gets together a group of Japanese players to visit Korea. This year it was held for the 7th time, and the Japanese team was made up of players visiting Korea to participate in the Samsung Cup preliminaries.
When we say "young" players, that applies to the Korean side more than to the Japanese. This has been an explosion of interest in go among young people in Korea, resulting in the emergence of a very strong group of young professionals at the Korean Ki-in (Hanguk Kiwon). According to Oya, every year the Korean team seems to be getting younger and younger. This year almost all of their players were teenagers, whereas there was not one on the Japanese team.
The honours in the two-match series went to the youthful Korean team, which won 20-16. Korea has now won three years in a row and has an overall lead of 5-2. Oya himself scored 1-1. Best for the Japanese team were Yamashita Keigo, Akiyama Jiro, Nakano Hironari, Kurahashi Masayuki and Kiyonari Tetsuya, who all won both their games.
The following two players won promotions in the first week of August:
To 2-dan: Ko Reibun (son of Nie Weiping 9-dan and Kong Shangming 8-dan); Yamamoto Tadanao.