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History of Topics 2002

January February March April May June July August September October November December
  • Ryu evens score in Kisei title match
  • Results of Westerners in 2001
  • Aoki to challenge for Women's Meijin
  • Japan wins Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-off
  • Rin and Cho Chikun share Meijin league lead
  • Honinbo league
  • Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
  • Kido Prizes for 2001
  • 2001 statistics
  • O makes good start to Kisei defence
  • O Meien makes Judan play-off
  • China wins international youth tournament
  • 4th round starts in Honinbo league
  • Ogawa is Women's Kisei challenger
  • Sakai suffers first defeat
  • Western professionals
  • Umezawa marries goalkeeper
  • Hane Naoki sets two records
  • Ricoh Cup Pair Go
  • Kisei clash launches tournament year

28 January

Ryu evens score in Kisei title match

  The challenger, Ryu Shikun 7-dan, has won the second game of the 26th Kisei title match, so the contest is now down to a best-of-five.
  The second game was played at the Kiyomizu Hotel in Akiu Hot Spring in the western part of Sendai City. The game was typical of the players' styles, with O Rissei racing ahead to take profit at the expense of creating weak groups and Ryu playing solidly. Ryu tried to launch a double attack on two weak black groups, but O skilfully parried this. Ryu secured enough centre territory in the course of his attack to make the game very close, but O seemed to have a small lead.
  Late on the second day of the game, the main interest was whether Ryu would avail himself of an opportunity he had to throw a black group into ko. The problem was that he had to hazard a small group of his own to do so. He commented: 'I was afraid to try to capture the group. Also, I was hallucinating that I could win on territory.' As this comment indicates, it seems that White was behind at the beginning of the endgame, but O apparently made some dubious moves thereafter. That allowed Ryu to pull ahead by half a point. Readers may recall that he has an affinity for half-point wins: he scored three of them in the 2000 Tengen title match.
  The third game will be played in North Kyushu City on 30 & 31 January.

Results of Westerners in 2001

  The results of Westerner players for the previous year are now available. Unfortunately, it was not one of their best years for any of the three Western professionals at the Nihon Ki-in, so we look forward to their doing something big this year to make up for it. Results were:

Michael Redmond 9-dan: 18-13
Catalin Taranu 5-dan: 17-15
Hans Pietsch 4-dan: 8-13

21 January

Aoki to challenge for Women's Meijin

  The play-off to decide the challenger for the 14th Women's Meijin title was held in Yugen, the top playing room at the Nihon Ki-in, on 16 January. Playing white, Aoki Kikuyo, current holder of the Women's Strongest Player title, defeated Kato Tomoko by resignation. She will now attempt to regain the title from Kobayashi Izumi, Women's Meijin & Honinbo, who took the title from her 2-0 last February. This will be the third successive clash between these two, as Kobayashi challenged unsuccessfully for this title in 2000.
  The title match will be played in February. Whoever wins will have two titles, so she can claim to be the top woman player in Japan.

Japan wins Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-off

  Japan does not enjoy much success on the international scene these days, but one international title Japan does do well in is the annual play-off between the winners of the Japanese and Chinese Agon Kiriyama Cups, which is sponsored by Agon, a Japanese Buddhist sect with its headquarters in Kyoto.
  The third annual play-off was held in Beijing on 11 January, and, like the previous two, was won by Japan. Actually, the Japanese representative, for the second time in a row, was Cho Sonjin 9-dan, who was born in Korea. Some fans may have dismissed Cho as a flash in the pan when he lost the Honinbo title after a reign of just one year, but since then he has maintained a place near the top of the Japanese go world and has enjoyed consistently good results. In the 2nd play-off, held in December 2000, he defeated Zhou Heyang 8-dan to score his first significant victory in the international area; he more than matched that performance in the third play-off by disposing of his opponent, Liu Jing 8-dan, in just 83 moves. Poor Liu had an appalling lapse of concentration in the middle of a capturing race and played a completely useless move; he had to resignaiton on the spot after Black's next move. He had beaten Ma Xiaochun to win the Chinese version of the title, so he is obviously a better play than this performance would indicate.
  Just for the record, Kobayashi Koichi was the player who got Japan off to a good start in the 1st play-off, when he beat Ma.

Rin and Cho Chikun share Meijin league lead

  There was a lot of activity in the 27th Meijin league last week, with three important games being played. The results:

Cho Chikun Oza (W) beat Kato Masao 9-dan by 7.5 points.
Rin Kaiho 9-dan (B) beat Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan by resignation.
O Meien Honinbo (W) beat O Rissei Kisei by 2.5 points.

  Cho Chikun and Rin are now both on 2-0. Two other players have not lost a game, Ryu Shikun 7-dan and Yamashita Keigo 7-dan, both on 1-0. The two Os are on 1-1, followed by Kato and Hikosaka on 0-2. Since the league has eight rounds, no one is out of the running yet.
  Incidentally, all the players who went to London for the first Kisei game and who played last week just a couple of days after the return flight suffered losses: O Rissei, Ryu Shikun (to Otake in the final qualifying tournament for the Fujitsu Cup), and Kato Masao (the newspaper commentator). On the NHK satellite channel go and shogi program, Kobayashi Chizu pointed an accusing finger at jet lag.

Honinbo league

  The second game this year in the 57th Honinbo league was played on 17 January, but the result did not affect the lead. The game was between Cho U 7-dan, last year's challenger, and Yamada Kimio 8-dan; taking white, Cho beat Yamada by 3.5 points. That put both players on 2-2, one loss more than Cho Sonjin, Cho Chikun, and Kato Masao.

Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in

  Only one Western professional had a game last week. That was Catalin Taranu 5-dan, who lost to Nakane Naoyuki 7-dan (W) by resignation in the 2nd preliminary round of the Meijin tournament.

Kido Prizes for 2001

  Although the magazine 'Kido' is defunct, the Kido Prizes are alive and kicking. The prize winners for 2001 were decided by a group of go writers representing all the media involved in sponsoring go on the 17th.

Most outstanding player: O Rissei Kisei & Judan (for half the year O held three titles concurrently, the third being the Oza) (second year in a row for O)
Outstanding players: Hane Naoki, for winning the Tengen title and setting two new records (see below) & Rin Kaiho (challenged for the Meijin title at the age of 59)
New Star prize: Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan (played in the Kisei league, won the NEC New Stars title, won 45 games)
Best woman player: Kobayashi Izumi, Women's Meijin & HoninboInternational prize: no deserving candidate, so not awarded (a reasonable decision, in our opinion, as Japan had one of its worst years in international go)
Most wins: Hane Naoki (63, a new record)
Most games played: Hane Naoki (88, a new record)
Best winning percentage: Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan: 79.55% (35-9)
Most successive wins: Takao Shinji 7-dan (18)

2001 statistics

  Below is a review of some statistics for professional go in Japan last year. It's interesting to see the correlation between the prize-money list and the other lists.

Most prize money won in 2001
  For the second year in a row, the top prize-money winner failed to earn 100 million yen, a mark that had more or less become the 'norm' in the 90s' (it was achieved six times between 1990 and 1999). Perhaps most notable is the appearance of two women players in the top 20 -- only one (Aoki) made it last year. Another difference: all the top 20 made eight figures last year.

1. O Rissei: 84,835,670
2. Cho Chikun: 67,412,400
3. Yoda Norimoto: 45,671,690
4. O Meien: 45,205,400
5. Cho Sonjin: 39,282,000
6. Hane Naoki: 35,679,266
7. Kato Masao: 29,227,330
8. Kobayashi Koichi: 28,002,070
9. Cho U: 26,985,000
10. Ryu Shikun: 25,766,540
11. Rin Kaiho: 24,363,600
12. Yamashita Keigo: 18,667,770
13. Mizokami Tomochika: 17,290,618
14. Kobayashi Izumi: 15,074,557
15. Yamada Kimio: 12,919,960
16. Ishida Yoshio: 11,102,000
17. Komatsu Hideki: 10,789,400
18. Hikosaka Naoto: 9,431,080
19. Mimura Tomoyasu: 9,429,800
20. Aoki Kikuyo: 9,077,140

Most games won
  Below we give the top 25 place in this list, which actually covers 27 players. As reported before, Hane set a new record for most wins in one year. Another point of interest is the appearance in the list of Kobayashi Izumi: a woman player doesn't often make the top ten. Also, it's unusual to see Cho Chikun so close to the top; the reason, of course, is that the average strength of his opponents is lower than usual, now that he has been, involuntarily, freed from the burden of playing a large number of title-match games.

1. Hane Naoki Tengen: 63 wins, 25 losses
2. Cho U 7-dan: 52-24
3. Yamashita Keigo 7-dan: 50-19
4. Cho Chikun Oza: 47-20
5. Kono Rin 6-dan: 46-15
6. Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan: 45-21
7. Takao Shinji 7-dan: 44-12-1 jigo
8. Kim Shujun 6-dan: 43-17
9. So Yokoku 7-dan: 41-15; Kobayashi Izumi Women's Honinbo: 41-18
11. Matsumoto Takehisa 5-dan: 40-14
12. Kato Atsushi 8-dan: 39-14
13. Yamada Kimio 8-dan: 38-15
14. Kato Masao 9-dan: 37-18
15. Cho Riyu 5-dan: 36-16
16. Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan: 35-9; Kataoka Satoshi 9-dan: 35-11
18. Yo Kagen 9-dan: 34-12; Akiyama Jiro 7-dan: 34-13; Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan, Nakamura Shinya 8-dan: 34-14; O Rissei kisei: 34-25
23. Kobayashi Koichi Gosei: 33-20
24. Nakano Hironari 9-dan: 32-17
25. Ishii Kunio 9-dan: 31-11; Takanashi Seiken 7-dan: 31-13; Arimura Hiroshi 8-dan: 31-16

Best winning percentage
1. Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan: 79.55% (35-9)
2. Takao Shinji 7-dan: 78.07% (44-12-1 jigo)
3. Kataoka Satoshi 9-dan: 76.09% (35-11)
4. Kono Rin 6-dan: 75.41% (46-15)
5. Nakaonoda Tomomi 8-dan: 75% (30-10)
6. Obuchi Morito 9-dan (20-7), Matsumoto Takehisa 5-dan (40-14): 74.07%
8. Yo Kagen 9-dan: 73.91% (34-12)
9. Ishii Kunio 9-dan: 73.81% (31-11)
10. Kato Atsushi 8-dan: 73.58% (39-14)

Most successive wins
1. Takao Shinji: 18
2. Yamashita Keigo: 14
3. Yo Kagen, Takanashi Seiken: 13
5. Cho U: 12

16 January

O makes good start to Kisei defence

  O Rissei is a slow starter: he usually loses the first game of a title match even when he goes on to win the match. In his third Kisei title match, however, he has made a good start for the first time. For O, this must be an encouraging sign that he may have come out of his recent slump.
  The first game of the 26th Kisei best-of-seven was held at the Montcalm Hotel Nikko in London on 10 & 11 January. Playing white, O forced Ryu Shikun 7-dan to resignaiton after 190 moves. The focus of the game was the fate of a white group that invaded a low-Chinese framework set up by Ryu. O settled his group comfortably, then weathered a second attack by Ryu. But for a slip in the timing of two moves, he would have wrapped up the game earlier.
  O had 58 minutes left of his eight-hour time allowance while Ryu was down to his final minute. The second game will be played in Sendai on 24 & 25 January.

O Meien makes Judan play-off

  The final in the losers' section of the 40th Judan tournament was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 10 January. Playing white, O Meien Honinbo defeated Kobayashi Koichi Gosei by 7.5 points. The play-off to decide the challenger with the winner of the winners' section, Takemiya Masaki 9-dan, will be held on 31 January. This game and the play-off to decide the challenger for the Women's Neijin title, to be held on 16 January, will both be relayed live on the Net by the Sankei Newspaper at:

China wins international youth tournament

  An international team tournament for young professionals from Japan, Korea and China was held in Beijing from 17 to 20 December last year. Unofficial go exchange like this had been organized by Heo Chang-heui 8-dan's go school in Korea and Kikuchi Yasuro's Ryokuseikai in Japan for a number of years; last year it was expanded to include China.
  Teams were made up of eight players and in the case of China, which fielded two teams, and Korea they included teenagers who had already established themselves as top players. One of the Korean players, the 16-year-old Pak Yeong-hyeon 2-dan, had just won the Chunweon (= Tengen) title. The average age for the China A and Korean teams was 18; China B, restricted to players who made their professional debut in 1996 and 1997, was even lower: 16. There was then a bit of a jump, to 22, for Japan, which fielded two players who were members of last year's Kisei leagues, Yamada Takuji and Mizokami Tomochika.
  The final results reflected the recent surge in youth go in China and Korea. The winner was the China A team, with a score of 18-6; second was Korea with 15-9, and Japan came third with 9-15. Fourth place was taken by China B, which scored 6-18.
  We have only the results for the Japanese team, so we would just like to list the results of some of the most interesting encounters.
  Mizokami 7-dan (age 24), the Japanese captain, lost to Kong Jie 6-dan (China; age 19) and Kang Chi-seong 4-dan (Korea; turned 20 on December 18), and beat Yang I 4-dan (China B).
  Nakano Yasuhiro 7-dan (age 24) lost to Gu Li 5-dan (China A; age 18), Han Chong-chin 3-dan (Korea; age 22) and Wang Xi 4-dan (China B).
  Yamada Takuji 6-dan (age 22) beat Qiu Jun 6-dan (China A; age 19), Ch'oe Ch'eol-han 3-dan (Korea; age 16), and Li Ang 3-dan (China B). Yamada was the only Japanese player to score 3-0; this was actually an outstanding performance, as Qiu and Ch'oe are both already top players.
  Seto Taiki 3-dan lost to Xie He 4-dan (China A) and Song T'ae-kon 4-dan (Korea; age 15) and beat Fu Heng (China B). Seto, aged 17, came under the spotlight when he scored 24-2 in his first year as a pro at the Kansai Ki-in; though he picked up one win, he must have found this match a tough initiation into international go.
  Kikuchi Yasuro of the Ryokuseikai, who led the group, is doing his best to raise the level of young Japanese players. He is going to take a group of six young players and ten inseis on a visit to Hangzhou in China for goodwill matches with Chinese players from 21 to 26 January. In June he will represent Japan in the 24th World Amateur Go Championship, in which, at 72, he is bound to be the oldest player.

4th round starts in Honinbo league

  The first game in the fourth round of the 57th Honinbo league was played on 10 January. Taking white, Hane Naoki Tengen defeated Miyazawa Goro 9-dan by resignation. That evened Hane's score at 2-2, but Miyazawa has dropped behind the pace with 1-3. After the third round, the leaders were Kato Masao 9-dan, Cho Sonjin 9-dan, Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, and Yamada Kimio 8-dan, all on 2-1.

Ogawa is Women's Kisei challenger

  Ogawa Tomoko 6-dan won the right to challenge for this fast-go title by defeating Koyama Mitsuru 5-dan in the final. Playing black, Ogawa won by 3.5 points (we don't have a date for the game). The final is a best-of-three and the title holder is Chinen Kaori.

Sakai suffers first defeat

  Sakai Hideyuki, former WAGC champion, made a great start to his professional career. After qualifying as a 5-dan at the Kansai Ki-in in September, he remained undefeated last year, winning all the five games he played. He finally tasted defeat on 9 January when he faced the Nihon Ki-in player with the best performance last year in the low-dan group. In a game in the Shinjin-O (King of the New Stars) tournament, Tsuruyama Atsushi 4-dan, who scored 40-14 in 2001, defeated Sakai (B) by 6.5 points.
  Sakai is also playing an unofficial series of 12 games with top young professionals. The series is sponsored by the magazine Igo, published by Seibundo Shinkosha, and is the featured game in each issue. Sakai made an excellent start, defeating Kono Rin 6-dan, one of the stars in last year's Fujitsu Cup; playing white, he forced a resignation. However, in the second game, playing black, he was forced to resignaiton against Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan. (The commentator for the magazine commentary was Fujisawa Shuko, who still studies go every day despite his retirement.) Kono and Mizokami are among the top half-dozen players of the younger generation in Japan, so if Sakai can do well in this series, it will be a sign he has real potential as a professional. The magazine is also trying to arrange for some top young Korean players to appear in the series.
  Sakai's opponent in the third game will be Akiyama Jiro 7-dan.

Western professionals

  Only one Westerner played a game in the first week of tournament play after the New Year break. That was Hans Pietsch 4-dan, who, taking black, beat Kin En 3-dan by resignation in the first preliminary round of the Oza tournament. The game was played on 9 January.

Umezawa marries goalkeeper

  In a shock for male go fans, Japan's most popular woman professional, Umezawa Yukari 4-dan, got married on 11 January. Her husband is Yoshihara Shinya, a professional soccer player, goalkeeper for the J2 (second Japanese league) club Kawasaki Frontare. At 23, he is five years younger than Umezawa. Just for interest, her record to date in her professional career is 137 wins to 89 losses; she's already doing very well, but the results of women players in Japan seem to improve after marriage, so might there be a title in her future?

09 January

Hane Naoki sets two records

  As far as tournament statistics went, the outstanding performer last year was the new Tengen Hane Naoki. First of all, he broke the record for most games played in one year by a big margin. The old record, set the previous year by Yamashita Keigo, was 77; last year Hane played 88 games. Not surprisingly, he also broke the record for most wins in one year. The old record, set by Takao Shinji 7-dan in 1999, was 61; Hane won 63 games. Of course, for Hane, neither of these feats was as significant as his achievement in winning his first title.
  We will present a more detailed review of 2001 tournament statistics in a later instalment.

Ricoh Cup Pair Go

  The quarterfinals and semifinals of the Ricoh Cup Professional Pair Go Championship 2002 were held at Tepia Hall in Minato Ward in Tokyo on 15 December. Making the finals are last year's winning team of Kusunoki Teruko 7-dan and Yoda Norimoto Meijin. Their opponents will be Inori Yoko 5-dan and Cho Chikun Oza.
  This is the 8th term of this title. The final is scheduled for 27 January.

Kisei clash launches tournament year

  As always, the title match for the top title, the Kisei, will launch the new tournament year. The first game of the 26th Kisei best-of-seven title match is scheduled to be held on 10 & 11 January. It will be played in London at the Montcalm Hotel Nikko.
  The Kisei title holder is O Rissei, who turned 43 on 7 November last year. He will be seeking to extend his two-year reign at the peak of Japanese go. The challenger is Ryu Shikun 7-dan, who turned 30 on 8 December. This will be Ryu's second challenge for a big-three title -- he lost a challenge for the Honinbo title in 1996, losing 2-4 to Cho Chikun. However, he has a plus record against O Rissei of 11-9 and won their only previous clash in a title match, the 44th Oza in 1996, 3-0. In the last five years, however, O leads 6-4. It's interesting to note that nine of their games have been in the Meijin and Honinbo leagues, so, with the three title-match games mentioned above, the majority of their games have been important ones at the top level.
  Both players ended 2001 in inauspicious fashion, with O losing the Oza title and Ryu losing the Tengen title. However, they have had plenty of time to recover; moreover, two-day games are completely different from one-day games, so bad form prior to the title match may not be relevant.
  Incidentally, readers may wonder why Ryu, who has long been established as a top player, is still only 7-dan. The reason is that he takes no interest in his nominal dan rank and he doesn't play in the rating tournament.

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