- O evens score in Honinbo title match
- Yi Ch'ang-ho wins LG Cup
- Chang Hao wins Japan-China Tengen Play-off
- Kobayashi Koichi Gosei challenger
- O Rissei a threat in the Meijin league
- Western pros: Catalin Taranu doing well
- Chou U makes good start in Honinbo title match
- Cho Hun-hyeon repeats in TV Asia Cup
- Son beats father for league place
- 26th Meijin league: O Meien loses lead
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
O evens score in Honinbo title match
The second game of the 56th Honinbo title match was played in Uji City, on 23 and 24 May. Like the first game, it was marked by interesting and unusual fighting. Cho (white) seemed to be doing reasonably well in the beginning, but he may have played a little slackly in the middle game (much of which centred on the problem of a ladder-block), and O went into the endgame with a slight but unshakeable lead. Although he was in byo-yomi, which he normally dislikes, O surprised himself by playing the endgame perfectly. He eked out a narrow win by just half a point and so squared the series at 1-1.
The game was played at the Hana-yashiki Ukifune-en (which translates as 'Flower Mansion Floating Boat Garden'), the first time for 50 years that a Honinbo game had been held there. Fittingly, one of the players then, Sakata Eio, was the referee for this game.
The third game will be played on 6 & 7 June.
Yi Ch'ang-ho wins LG Cup
The 5th LG cup, a Korean-sponsored world championship, looked like being a walkover when the 17-year-old Yi Se-tol 3-dan started out with two straight wins against Yi Ch'ang-ho (the games were played on 26 and 27 March). However, when the title match resumed two months later (by which time Se-tol had turned 18: his birthday is 3 March), the senior Yi (all of 25 years old) turned out to be back in his usual form. He won three games straight and so took this title for the third game. He has now won 15 world championships (he must have reached his 100th title overall by now, although, unfortunately, we don't have an updated count).
||Game 3 (15 May). Yi Ch'ang-ho (B) won by 7.5 points.
Game 4 (17 May). Yi Ch'ang-ho (W) won by resignation.
Game 5 (21 may). Yi Ch'ang-ho (W) by resignation.
Chang Hao wins Japan-China Tengen Play-off
China has scored yet another victory in the annual Tengen play-off with Japan. Chang Hao 9-dan, holder of the Chinese Tianyuan title, defeated Ryu Shikun, the Japanese Tengen, 2-0 in the 14th play-off, held in Shanghai. This gave China its ninth victory in the series. Ryu was making his fourth appearance as Japan's representative, but so far he has not been able to win a single game.
||Game 1 (22 May). Chang (W) won by 3.5 points.
Game 2 (24 may). Chang (B) won by resignation.
Kobayashi Koichi Gosei challenger
Kobayashi Koichi has earned the right to challenge Yamashita Keigo for the 26th Gosei title and so has a chance to earn revenge for his loss last year. In the play-off on 24 May, Kobayashi defeated Kataoka Satoshi 9-dan (W) by 9.5 points. This is the second year in a row that Kataoka has lost the Gosei play-off. Actually, he took the early lead against Kobayashi, who commented later that he had resigned himself to losing, but Kataoka's lead was upset because of one slack move in the middle game.
O Rissei a threat in the Meijin league
O Rissei Kisei made a bad start in the Meijin league, with two early losses, but he made a good recovery and is making his presence felt in the race for the challengership. On 17 May, he defeated Komatsu Hideki 9-dan (B) by resignation. On the same day, Ryu Shikun Tengen (B) defeated Kato Masao 9-dan by half a point.
As before, Rin Kaiho is slightly in front on 4-2, but he is closely followed by O Rissei and Cho Chikun, who are both on 3-2. Besides having played and won an extra round, Rin also has a slight advantage in that he has already played both O Rissei and Cho, so they are going to have to rely on other players (specifically, Kato and Komatsu) to inflict a loss on Rin.
Western pros: Catalin Taranu doing well
Catalin Taranu 4-dan has done very well in the second half of May. On the 15th, playing white, he defeated Shimamura Michihiro 4-dan by 17.5 points in the first preliminary round of the Okan (Crown) tournament (which is restricted to Nagoya players). He then had what must be one of the most successful weeks of his professional career, playing three games and winning all three. Two of them were played on the same day, the 21st, in the Ryusei tournament. In the morning, he beat Shimamura Michihiro 4-dan (B) by 22.5 points; in the afternoon, he beat Kim Hyon-jon 1-dan (W) by resignation. His third win was in the Oteai or rating tournament on 23 May. Playing black, he defeated Ogawa Tomoko 6-dan by ten points.
Hans Pietsch 4-dan has not had such a good month. On 16 May, he lost an Oteai game to Ko Iun 3-dan (B) by resignation. He also played in the Ryusei tournament on the 21st, but he lost to Mitsunaga Junzo 3-dan (B) by resignation.
The third Western player, Michael Redmond 1-dan, has had just one game in the last two weeks. Playing black, he defeated Izumitani Masanori 7-dan by 7.5 points in a preliminary round of the Gosei tournament.
Two players won promotions on 25 May, as follows.
To 7-dan: So Yokoku
To 4-dan: Takemiya Yoko.
Chou U makes good start in Honinbo title match
The 21-year-old Chou U 7-dan has wasted no time in demonstrating that he is a serious contender for the Honinbo title. In the first game of the 56th Honinbo best-of-seven title match, which is an all-Taiwanese affair, he defeated the title holder, O Meien, forcing him to resignaiton after 145 moves. No wonder he was smiling in the game review later: it must be a great relief to win your first two-day game. A player making his debut probably has nightmares of a 0-4 wipeout, but that possibility has been eliminated.
The game was played in the Hotel New Akao in the hot spring resort of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture on 14 and 15 May. It finished at 5:16 pm on the second day. Fighting started early when Cho split a white group into two with moves 31 and 33 and continued on the second day (the sealed move was White 54), with Cho holding the initiative. O counterattacked, leading to a capturing race that actually ended peacefully when both sides lived. However, another attack, this time by White, led to another capturing race. Cho said that he felt under a lot of pressure in this fight, but he discovered the vital point. Taken by surprise, O slipped up and the game was decided. One factor in Cho's win was certainly his coolness under pressure, which belied his years.Judging by the way he played in this game, he has to be given a good chance of taking the title. However, O also started badly last year, so it's too early to make predictions.
Of their time allowances of eight hours each, Cho had one hour 35 minutes left and O 12 minutes. The second game is scheduled for 23 & 24 May in Uji City in Kyoto.
Cho Hun-hyeon repeats in TV Asia Cup
Cho Hun-hyeon of Korea has shown in the 13th TV Asia Cup that he is certainly one of the wiliest players on the international scene. In the second successive all-Korean final, Cho beat Mok Chin-seok 5-dan, forcing him to resignaiton. The game went to 227 moves, but was actually decided by a brilliancy Cho played on move 91. This gave him his second successive victory in this tournament and his eighth international title.
This year the TV Asia Cup, a tournament for the haya-go (fast go) champions of Japan, China and Korea, was hosted by Japan. The venue was the Keidanren Guest House in the town of Oyama in Shizuoka Prefecture (the Keidanren is the Federation of Economic Organizations, the most important Japanese business organization). Each game was telecast live in both Japan and China and Korean TV joined the party for the final. The tournament was held over four days, from 7 to 10 May.
Each game in the tournament had its own drama and excitement. In the first round, the luck of the draw pitted Ishida Yoshio, winner of the NHK Cup, against Ma Xiaochun, who came second in the Chinese CCTV tournament. These two had played two games previously, scoring one win each, each by half a point. Sure enough, this game turned out to be yet another half-pointer. Playing white, Ishida Yoshio was betrayed by over-confidence in his position, and Ma edged him in the endgame.
The second first-round game was between Cho Chikun, who came second in the NHK Cup, and the world's number one, Yi Ch'ang-ho, who came second in the Korean KBS tournament. Cho had an abysmal record against Yi, having secured only one win in eight games, but this time, playing black, he inflicted a crushing defeat on Yi, forcing him to resignaiton after just 129 moves.
The third first-round game was between the 21-year-old Mok Chin-seok, the KBS winner, and the 19-year-old Hu Yaoyu, winner of the CCTV title. This game was a one-sided win for Mok (B), who forced Hu to resignaiton after 177 moves.
As the previous year's winner, Cho Hun-hyeon had a seeded place in the tournament regardless of his results in his national tournament. The luck of the draw gave him the bye for the first round. In the second round, he defeated Ma (we didn't see this game, so can't comment on it) and so won a berth in the final. The other second-round game was a very exciting clash between Cho Chikun and Mok. Cho seemed to be in great form in this tournament and was playing in his usual style, looking for the absolutely best move each move he played. The lead fluctuated, but in the end Mok pulled ahead with some very skilful play. His poker face during a game rivals Yi Ch'ang-ho and makes him seem much more mature than his years (though, unlike Yi, who to our knowledge has never been caught smiling by the camera, Mok is very friendly and sociable away from the go board ?Ehe speaks both Chinese and Japanese and is on particularly good terms with Chinese players, as he likes China a lot and spends as much time there as he can).
In the final, Mok (W) played an extremely aggressive move with 64, making what looked like an unreasonable attempt to capture one of Cho's groups. As it turned out, his attack wasn't unreasonable, but he missed the key move that would have won a capturing race and taken the title. It was after this that Cho came into his own. Once he found the brilliancy referred to above, he played with complete ruthlessness, denying Mok any chance to get back into the game.
This victory is yet another reminder, if one were needed, that Cho Hun-hyeon may well be the best all-round player in the world. His tally of eight international victories is second only to Yi's 14, but his overall tally of over 150 title victories is unrivalled.
As for Mok, apart from that one move he failed to spot against Cho, his play was so impressive that it's hard to believe that his first international victory is very far away.
Son beats father for league place
The play-off to decide the final vacant place in the two 26th Kisei leagues was held at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in on 3 May. It was the second official game ever between father and son professionals and the first really important one. If nothing else, the result vindicated judgement of the father, Hane Yasumasa (56), in influencing his son to follow in his footsteps.
Playing black, the 24-year-old Naoki defeated the 56-year-old Yasumasa by resignation. Naoki had started by scoring an early success, but his father fought back tenaciously and at one stage seemed to catch up. However, Naoki played the endgame very skilfully and secured an unshakeable lead of ten points on the board.
Hane Naoki is one of the small handful of players who are members of all three leagues, the Honinbo, Meijin and Kisei (actually, there are only three, the other two being Cho Chikun and Cho Sonjin).
Go Weekly gave the statistics of the careers of father and son to date, so here they are.
Hane Yasumasa: 984 wins, 481 losses, 5 draws (a winning percentage of 66.9).
Hane Naoki: 437 wins, 144 losses, 3 draws (74.8%).
Yasumasa should reach 1,000 wins later this year. What's interesting is that Naoki is close to halfway there after just ten years as a pro. Of course, that shows what a good players he is, but we think it is also a result of the proliferation of tournaments in last couple of decades. Probably means a lot of players will reach a thousand wins in the future, though so far it has been quite unusual. We don't have access to a list, but the number can probably be counted on the fingers of both hands.
Just to recap, the other three new members of the Kisei leagues are Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan, Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan and Yamada Takuji 6-dan.
26th Meijin league: O Meien loses lead
Perhaps O Meien has been preoccupied with his upcoming Honinbo title defence. In his last two games in the 26th Meijin league, he has been bested by the two Chos and has lost his lead. The first loss, to Cho Sonjin on 19 April, cost him the sole lead. The second loss was to Cho Chikun, who defeated him by resignation on 3 May (Cho had black). On the same day, Rin Kaiho (B) defeated Cho Sonjin by 1.5 points.
As the result of these two games, Rin took the sole 'lead', but it is not an absolute one. Rin is now on 4-2, ahead of O Meien on 3-3. However, there are still four other players with only two losses, though they have fewer wins than Rin. They are Cho Chikun, on 3-2, and O Rissei, Kato Masao and Komatsu Hideki, all on 2-2. Besides these six, there are three players on 2-3: Hane Naoki, Ryu Shikun and Cho Sonjin. All nine players are therefore still in the running, which is very unusual so far into the league.
To 9-dan: Ogaku Yusaku
To 6-dan: Kono Rin
To 3-dan: Izawa Akino, Ko Iun
To 2-dan: Mannami Kana
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
Western professionals gave played only two games so far this month, both on 10 May, and have been victorious in both. In the second preliminary section of the Meijin tournament, Michael Redmond 9-dan (B) defeated Nakamura Hidehito 9-dan by resignation. In the Oteai (rating tournament), Catalin Taranu 4-dan (B) defeated Miyagawa Fumihiko 6-dan by two points.