- O takes Kisei lead with upset win
- Kobayashi Koichi wins Kakusei title
- Kobayashi Izumi wins first game of Women's Meijin
- Cho ties score in Kisei title match
- Yi Ch'ang-ho wins 4th Ing Cup
- Rui wins the 2nd Hung Chang Cup
- Meijin League
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- All-Korean final in 5th LG Cup
- O Rissei to challenge for 39th Judan title
- Rin gains last Fujitsu Cup place
- Cho Sonjin keeps second place in Honinbo league
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Yamashita wins 38th Shusai Prize
- Japanese qualifiers for Fujitsu Cup
- Chinen defends Women's Kisei title
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Kudo stops Yoda's winning run in NHK Cup
- O takes the lead in Kisei title match
- Cho U keeps lead in Honinbo league
- O Meien keeps lead in Meijin league
O takes Kisei lead with upset win
Thanks to an upset win, O Rissei, the defending titleholder, has taken the lead in the 25th Kisei title match for the first time. In the fifth game, played in the town of Hawai in Tottori Prefecture on 21 and 22 February, O (W) forced Cho Sonjin to resignaiton after 188 moves, thus securing a 3-2 lead. The game ended at 6.27 pm. Of their time allowances of eight hours each, O had 21 minutes left and Cho was down to his last minute.
Cho had taken the lead in the middle game when he captured six stones in the centre, but O is an expert at creating complications. He managed to start a confused fight, leading to a complicated capturing race. In time trouble, Cho made a fatal mistake and his group died.
O: 'I was on the point of resigning [in the middle game] . . . I also thought I was behind in the final capturing race.'
The sixth game will be played in Nagano City on 7 and 8 March.
Kobayashi Koichi wins Kakusei title
The final of the 23rd Kakusei title was held on 22 February. Playing white, Kobayashi Koichi Judan defeated Yoda Norimoto Meijin by half a point and so won this title for the 3rd time. This is Kobayashi's 53rd title (behind Sakata's 64 and Cho Chikun's 60) and his win will put him in the right frame of mind for his upcoming Judan title defence against O Rissei, which starts on 3 March.
Kobayashi Izumi wins first game of Women's Meijin
Kobayashi's daughter, Izumi 4-dan, also had a good week, making a good start in her challenge for the 13th Women's Meijin title. In the first game, played on 21 February, she defeated Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan, the titleholder, by the same margin as in her father's Kakusei win. Last year, Izumi's challenge for the same title was rebuffed 2-0 by Aoki; this year she looks like getting revenge.
Cho ties score in Kisei title match
The fourth game of the 25th Kisei title match was played in the ANA Hotel in Oita City on 14 and 15 February. In a titanic struggle that lasted 346 moves, Cho Sonjin defeated O Rissei by half a point and so tied the score in the best-of-seven title match at 2-2.
This was a very complicated game. O had a weak group that could be reduced to one eye, but there was a lot of aji on the outside, so picking the right time to attack the group was very difficult. For his part, O would have fallen behind if he had used a move to secure its eye shape, so he tried to complicate the game. Cho succeeded in setting up a double attack, but O countered very cleverly; although he lost his original group, he managed to get considerable compensation. Even so, Cho had the lead, but O again succeeded in complicating the game by starting a ko fight. In the end, Cho just barely hung on to a lead.
The title match is now evenly poised and could well go the full distance, something that hasn't happened for five years.
The fifth game will be played in Hawai on 21 and 22 February. That's not a typo, by the way. There's a Japanese town named Hawai in Tottori Prefecture.
Yi Ch'ang-ho wins 4th Ing Cup
The remaining games of the 4th Ing Cup were finally played, after a gap of two and a half months, in Shanghai last week. Chang Hao 9-dan of China had done dismally in the past against Korea's Yi, winning only one of the 14 games they had played to date. In the third game, played on 16 February, he finally picked up his second win, which must have encouraged him a lot. However, Yi reasserted his dominance in the fourth game, which he won, playing black, by three points (the Ing komi is eight points).
This victory makes it clearer than ever that Yi is the world's top player -- as if anyone had any doubt. Actually, it nicely filled a gap in Yi's portfolio, as he hadn't won the Ing Cup so far (though the first three cups were all won by fellow Koreans). Yi has now won the Fujitsu Cup (twice), the Tong Yang Securities Cup (four times), the Samsung Cup (three times), the LG Cup (twice), and the TV Asia Cup (twice). With the Ing Cup, that gives him a total of 14 victories in international tournaments, way ahead of the player in second place (Cho Hun-hyeon with 7). Lee is the only player to have won six different international tournaments. All he has to do to complete a clean sweep is to win the Chunlan Cup.
Rui wins the 2nd Hung Chang Cup
Another member of the Korean Go Association, Rui Naiwei, can boast of an even greater dominance in her own arena, which is women's go. The fact that she is of Chinese nationality may be some consolation for disappointed Chinese fans of Chang Hao.
In the just completed Hung Chang Cup final, Rui was faced with a strong opponent in the Korean prodigy Pak Chi-eun 3-dan, who is still only 17. Pak made an excellent start to the title match, defeating Rui (W) by 6.5 points on 12 February. However, Rui got back into the match with a 2.5 point win in the second game, played on 14 February.
In the decider, Rui made no mistake, forcing Pak to resignaiton after 172 moves.
This is Rui's sixth victory in an international women's championship, a remarkable record when you consider that only eight such tournaments have been held. Rui won three out of five in the Bohai Cup, which was the predessor to the Hung Chang Cup. She also won the 1st Hung Chang Cup and the 1st Eastern Airlines Cup.
One game in the 25th Meijin league was held last week. Hane Naoki 8-dan picked up his first win, defeating Komatsu Hideki 9-dan. Playing black, Hane won by 3.5 points. Hane and Komatsu now are both on 1-2.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
Last week Catalin Taranu was the only Westerner to play a game. Taking white, he forced Okumura Noboru 4-dan to resignaiton in their game in the first preliminary section of the Judan tournament.
All-Korean final in 5th LG Cup
After a gap of nearly three months from the quarterfinals, the semifinals of the 5th LG Cup, a Korean-sponsored world championship, were held in Korea on 8 February. In one semifinal, Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan [we've switched to McCune-Reischauer romanization for Korean names] defeated O Rissei 9-dan (B) by 2.5 points. In the other, the 17-year-old Yi Se-tol 3-dan (W) defeated Zhou Heyang 8-dan of China by resignation.
The best-of-five final between the two Korean players will start later this month. It features a former prodigy versus a current prodigy. At 3-dan, Yi Se-tol is the lowest-ranked player ever to reach the final of an international tournament. Yi ch'ang-ho was younger, 16, when he won the 3rd Tong Yang Securities Cup, but he was already 6-dan.
O Rissei to challenge for 39th Judan title
O Rissei has ensured that he will be busier than ever. Not content just with fighting the Kisei title match, he has won the play-off to decide the Judan challenger, so he will be engaged in two title matches simultaneously.
The play-off between the winners of the winners' and losers' sections was held on 5 February. Playing black, O defeated Yoda Meijin by 1.5 points. Yoda was the winner of the winners' section -- the only player who is eliminated from this tournament after just one loss.
This will be the first title match between O Rissei and Kobayashi Koichi Judan. Kobayashi will be aiming at his third successive Judan title and O at his first. The match begins at Ikaho Hot Spring in Gunma Prefecture on 3 March.
Rin gains last Fujitsu Cup place
Rin Kaiho turns 59 this year (on 6 May), but he's still a force in Japanese go. Last year he regained his place in the Meijin league, extending his record for number of appearances to 36 (that figure includes terms as title holder). Rin has now won the final Japanese place in the 14th Fujitsu Cup. On 5 February, Rin, playing black, defeated Shimojima Yohei 6-dan, forcing him to resignaiton, in the final game of the qualifying tournament. Rin will be making his 10th appearance in the cup. He took second place in the first two cups and won the third.
Previously, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan, Ishii Kunio 9-dan, and Kono Rin 5-dan had won the other contested places. The seeded players are O Rissei Kisei, O Meien Honinbo, and Cho Chikun 9-dan. Readers may wonder why the new Meijin, Yoda Norimoto, is not seeded. Actually, seeds are decided on 30 September of the previous year, at which time Cho was still the Meijin.
Cho Sonjin keeps second place in Honinbo league
Three games in the 56th Honinbo league were played last week, with the following results.
Yamada Kimio 8-dan (B) beat Cho Chikun 9-dan by 1.5 points.
Cho Sonjin 9-dan (W) beat Otake Hideo 9-dan by resignation.
Hane Naoki 8-dan (B) beat Oya Koichi 8-dan by half a point.
As a result, Cho Sonjin remained in sole second place in the league, behind Cho U 6-dan, who is 5-0. However, former Honinbo Cho Chikun is now completely out of the running after suffering his second loss. Actually, all the other players have also suffered three or more losses, so the next challenger has to be either Cho U or Cho Sonjin. The latter has to rely on either Otake or Hane to beat Cho U, while at the same time making sure he wins his remaining games, against Cho Chikun and Yuki Satoshi.
5-0: Cho U
4-1: Cho Sonjin
2-3: Cho Chikun, Yamada Kimio, Otake Hideo, Oya Koichi, and Hane Naoki
1-4: Yuki Satoshi.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
Last week was not a good one for the Western members of the Nihon Ki-in. Catalin Taranu 4-dan (W) lost to Sasaki Tsuyoshi 4-dan by 3.5 points in the 1st preliminary section of the 27th Meijin tournament. In the second preliminary section of the 57th Honinbo tournament, Michael Redmond 9-dan (B) lost to Sugimoto Akira 7-dan by 1.5 points.
Yamashita wins 38th Shusai Prize
The Shusai Prize has been awarded to the 21-year-old Yamashita Keigo in recognition of his achievement in bringing a breath of fresh air into the Japanese go world by winning last year's Gosei title. This prize is awarded to the outstanding player of the previous year, which usually means the winner of one or more of the top three titles. However, there is no rule that it has to go to the top title winner and there are precedents for its being awarded to a young player who has livened up the go scene. For example, the 5th Shusai Prize went to Kato Masao for winning a place in the Honinbo league as a 20-year-old 4-dan (a record that still stands) and the 8th Prize went to Ishida Yoshio for winning the Nihon Ki-in Championship at the age of 22. However, in all other cases except one (the 10th Prize went to Sakata Eio for winning the Judan title), it has gone to the winner of a big-three title (in particular, for the last 13 years in a row it has gone to the winner of the Kisei title).
That shows what a significant achievement it is for Yamashita to win this prize. His adventurous play, experimenting with the tengen and 5-5 points, surely weighed with the selection committee. Both Ishida and Kato went on to win the Meijin and Honinbo titles; go fans will be expecting no less from Yamashita. Japanese fans wouldn't mind if he picked up an international title or two, as well.
Incidentally, Yamashita has scored another triumphrecently. Usually when a new player wins one of the top-three titles, the go-publishing industry rushes into print with a book devoted to the player's games. Well, a collection of Yamashita's games appeared recently, which is unusual for the winner of a lesser title; in recent memory, Ryu Shikun is the only other player to have been so honoured. Ironically, the theme of the book is not the 5-5 point, which he played in the Gosei tournament (because of a pun on '5' or 'go' and 'Gosei'), but the tengen or centre point. Yamashita played the centre point a number of times successfully in last year's Tengen tournament, but unfortunately he was eliminated one round before the quarterfinals.
The first part of the book analyses tengen strategy and surveys famous games from the past featuring the first move on the the tengen, while the second half gives Yamashita's commentary on his own tengen games.
Japanese qualifiers for Fujitsu Cup
Three of the four places open to non-seeded Japanese players in the 14th Fujitsu Cup were decided on 29 January. The successful players are Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan, Ishii Kunio 9-dan, and Kono Rin 5-dan. Kono is a 20-year-old disciple of Kobayashi Koichi who will be making his debut in the Fujitsu Cup. He won his place by defeating Kato Masao.
Chinen defends Women's Kisei title
Chinen Kaori has defended the DoCoMo Cup Women's Kisei title, rebuffing the challenger, Kato Keiko 3-dan, 2-1. This is a new title, now in its fourth year, sponsored by the Japanese telecommunications corporation NTT (DoCoMo is the brand name of its mobile telephone). It is the only haya-go (fast go) tournament based on the challenger system (its playing conditions are the same as the NHK Cup: 30 seconds per move + 10 minutes thinking time to be used at will in one-minute units). The first two terms were won by Kobayashi Izumi; the third by Chinen.
The games in the best-of-three title match were played on 19 and 26 January and 2 February. Chinen won the first game, dropped the second, then won the third by 2.5 points.
This is Chinen's fifth title, which puts her in 7th place among women players.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
The Western members of the Nihon Ki-in have made a slow start to the year, playing only three games in the first five weeks. The results are given below.
Michael Redmond 9-dan
beat Akiyama Jiro 7-dan (W) by half a point in the 2nd preliminary section of the 27th Meijin tournament.
beat Nakayama Noriyuki 6-dan (W) by resignation in the 2nd preliminary section of the 57th Honinbo tournament.
Catalin Taranu 4-dan
beat Inagaki Yo 3-dan (B) by 2.5 points in the 1st preliminary section of the 27th Meijin tournament.
lost to Yamamori Tadanao 2-dan (W) in the 1st preliminary section of the Oza tournament (24 January).
Kudo stops Yoda's winning run in NHK Cup
Recently Yoda Norimoto Meijin had seemed unstoppable in the NHK Cup. He had won 17 games in a row, earning him three successive Cups, and he was gunning for his fourth this year. However, playing white, the veteran Kudo Norio 9-dan showed great skill in recovering from looked like a slightly unfavourable start against Yoda in a game telecast on 28 January. He made very skilful use of his thickness and forced Yoda to resignaiton after 194 moves.
O takes the lead in Kisei title match
After making his customary bad start in title matches, O Rissei has won two games in a row, giving him a 2-1 lead over the challenger, Cho Sonjin 9-dan.
The third game of the 25th Kisei best-of-seven title match was held at the Hana-no-yu Hotel in Bandai Atami Hot Spring (near Koriyama City), Fukushima Prefecture, on 31 January and 1 February. Playing white, the defending champion, O Rissei, forced the challenger, Cho Sonjin, to resignaiton after 196 moves. The game ended at 5 pm on the second day. Of their time allowances of eight hours each, O had used six hours 53 minutes and Cho seven hours 31 minutes.
This was the first win by white in the series, which will put a lot of pressure on the challenger in the fourth game. (The winning percentage for the two colours is very close in title matches -- a count of a decade's worth of top-seven title matches showed Black winning exactly 52% -- but having the first move is still felt to be a psychological advantage.)
The fourth game will be played in Oita City on 14 & 15 February.
Cho U keeps lead in Honinbo league
Cho U 6-dan, the newest star on the Japanese go scene, has kept his lead in the 56th Honinbo league. Playing black in his fifth-round game against Yuki Satoshi 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in on 1 February, Cho forced Yuki to resignaiton and so scored his fifth successive win. Cho has thus moved even closer to securing the right to challenge O Meien for the title.
If Cho wins the league, he will become the youngest player to challenge for a big-three title. The title match itself would be the first big-three title match played between two Taiwanese players. Finally, if Cho won, he would break Ishida Yoshio's record for the youngest big-three title holder by about a year.
The only other player who still seems to be in ther running is Cho Sonjin, who is on 3-1. However, he has already lost to Cho U, so he will have to rely on one of the latter's remaining opponents, Otake Hideo and Hane Naoki, to help him out.
O Meien keeps lead in Meijin league
After three rounds in the 26th Meijin league, only one player has scored three points: O Meien Honinbo. O will be hoping to make up for his failure in the league last year, when he had looked like a shoo-in to become the challenger, but lost in the final round, then lost a play-off to Yoda.
Last week, on 1 February, O scored a win over one of the other pre-league favourites, Ryu Shikun Tengen. Ryu, who after his Tengen title success had been expected to do well in the league, has made a dismal start, with three straight losses. This almost certainly puts him right out of the running.
In another game played on the same day, between two former Meijins, the great veteran Rin Kaiho defeated Cho Chikun. Taking black, Rin forced Cho to resignaiton.
Unlike the Honinbo league, however, there is more than one undefeated player. Because he is busy with the Kisei title match, Cho Sonjin has played only one game to date, so O Meien will have to keep a wary eye on him. Actually there are five players who have lost only one game, so at the moment you would have to say that seven players are still well in the running.