- O starts with win in Honinbo title match
- 27th Meijin league
- Japan and China do well in 4th Chunlan Cup
- Spring rating tournament begins
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Most wins
- New Korean ace identifed
- 14th TV Asia Cup
- Korea triumphs in opening rounds of 7th LG Cup
- 27th Meijin league
- New Kisei-league members
- Kobayashi Satoru still undefeated
- Kansai Ki-in player to challenge for Gosei title
- Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
- Two retirements
O starts with win in Honinbo title match
The defending champion, O Meien , has got off to a good start in the 57th Honinbo title match, the first game of which was held in the town of Toi in Shizuoka Prefecture on 13 and 14 May. The game ended at 7:05 pm on the second day after 248 moves, and the result was a victory for O by 1.5 points.
Befitting the first game in a best-of-seven series, the players seemed to be feeling each other out. Awaji Shuzo 9-dan, the commentator for the satellite TV coverage of the match, remarked a number of times that neither player was playing as aggressively as he would usually have expected them to. In Kato's case, the reason was that for much of the game he had a good position; however, he played a little slackly in the late middle game and O seized victory.
The second game will be played in Kure City on 24 and 25 May.
27th Meijin league
One game was played in the 27th Meijin league on 16 May. Playing white, Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan defeated Cho Sonjin 9-dan by resignation. Both these players are out of the running for first place and instead have to worry about retaining their places. Hikosaka still has a chance, as he improved his score to 2-4, but Cho's prospects look pretty grim, as he is now 1-5.
Japan and China do well in 4th Chunlan Cup
The opening two rounds of the 4th Chunlan Cup, a Chinese-sponsored international tournament with a first prize equivalent to $150,000, were held in Beijing on 18 and 20 May. For once, Japan and China outperformed Korea, getting three players each into the quarterfinals to Korea's two. Of course, the Korean pair is Yi Ch'ang-ho and Cho Hun-hyun, the world's top two players, so they must still be the favourites. However, it's refreshing to see a tournament not dominated by Korea.
Round 1(18 May)
Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) (W) beat Pak Yeong-hyeon 3-dan (Korea) by 2.5.
Yuki Satoshi 9-dan (Japan) (W) b. Yi Se-tol 3-dan (Korea) by 8.5.
Cho U 7-dan (Japan) (W) b. Peng Jinghua 5-dan (Chinese Taipei) by 16.5.
Hane Naoki 8-dan (Japan) (B) b. Hu Yaoyu 6-dan (China) by 1.5.
Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan (Korea) (W) b. Rin Kaiho 9-dan (Japan) by 16.5.
Luo Xihe 8-dan (China) (B) b. Michael Redmond 9-dan (USA) by 3.5.
Ding Wei 8-dan (China) (W) b. Ch'oe Myeong-hun 8-dan (Korea) by resig.
Zhou Junxun 9-dan (Chinese Taipei) (W) b. Hans Pietsch 4-dan (Europe) by resig.
Round 2(20 May)
Yi Ch'ang-ho (W) b. O Rissei 9-dan (Japan) by resignation.
Zhou Heyang 9-dan (China) (W) b. Cho Chikun by resig.
Yuki Satoshi (W) b. Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) by 4.5.
Hane Naoki (Japan) (W) b. Kong Jie 6-dan (China) by 2.5.
Cho U (Japan) (B) b. Yu Bin 9-dan (China) by resig.
Cho Hun-hyun (Korea) (W) b. Ding Wei (China).
Chang Hao 9-dan (China) (B) b. Zhou Junxun (Chinese Taipei) by 7.5.
Luo Xihe (China) (B) b. Yu Ch'ang-hyeok 9-dan (Korea) by resig.
Quarterfinal pairings(date not yet decided)
Chou U vs. Chang Hao, Yuki vs. Luo, Hane vs. Cho Hun-hyeon, Yi vs. Zhou.
Spring rating tournament begins
The first promotion of the spring rating tournament goes to Mitsunaga Junzo. He qualified for 4-dan by beating Nakamura Kuniko 1-dan (B) by resignation on 15 May.
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
Just one Western professional had a game at the Nihon Ki-in last week. That was Catalin Taranu 5-dan, who, playing black, defeated Shinoda Hideyuki 6-dan by resig. in the first round of the spring rating tournament (Oteai).
With the year over one third gone, it may not be premature to give the list of top game winners. Hane Naoki Tengen, who set records last year for most games played (88) and most games won (63), has made a surprisingly poor start, with 10 wins to 12 losses. Perhaps he celebrated too much after winning his first title at the end of last year. The previous record holder, Yamashita Keigo, has picked up the slack. However, the best results are being posted by Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan, who is still undefeated. It may have happened before, but we don't recall a player who has played a substantial number of games still being undefeated so late in the year.
The top ten are:
1. Yamashita Keigo 7-dan: 23-4
2. Cho U 7-dan: 20-4
3. Kato Masao 9-dan: 17-9
4. Nakano Hironari 9-dan: 16-3; Takao Shinji 7-dan: 16-4
6. So Yokoku 7-dan: 15-4; Yamada Kimio 8-dan: 15-7
8. Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan: 14-0; Komatsu Hideki 9-dan: 14-4
10. Yoda Norimoto Meijin, Kono Rin 6-dan: 13-7; Cho Chikun Oza: 13-8; O Meien Honinbo: 13-9
New Korean ace identifed
The player whom we only partially identified in our report on the 7th LG Cup is Yun Chun-sang, who was born on 20 November 1987 (thanks to John Fairbairn for providing this information). Yun is not the first Korean 1-dan to appear in an international tournament, but he is the first we know of who did so barely half a year after becoming a professional.
In an interview with Go Weekly(20 May issue), Cho Hun-hyun mentioned that of the 160 inseis at the Hanguk Kiwon (Korean Ki-in), there were probably about 50 who could play him just on black. In Japan, the new 1-dans are more like two stones weaker than a top professional, so that shows how high the standard has become in Korea. Cho also commented that the preliminary rounds of the tournaments, where you find all the new low-dan players, are tougher than the later rounds. The performance of players like Yun and Pak Yeong-hyeon, who won the Bacchus-Chunweon title as 16-year-old, certainly seems to bear Cho out.
14th TV Asia Cup
The 14th TV Asia Cup was held in Beijing from 7 to 10 May. The participants in this tournament are the winners and runners-up in Japan's NHK Cup, Korea's KBS Cup and China's CCTV Cup. In addition, the previous winner also gets a place, being seeded into the second round of this irregular knockout tournament.
Once again, this tournament was dominated by Korea, with the final being an all-Korean affair for the third year in a row. Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan of Korea secured revenge for his loss in the final two years ago by defeating his teacher Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan in the final; this was his third victory in this tournament and his 16th international title. Cho had the lead in the game and seemed to have a good chance of winning this title for the third year in a row, but he made an oversight in the late middle game; his mistake didn't completely wipe out his lead, but the shock caused him to play the endgame badly and so let Yi stage an upset.
Actually, three of the four quarterfinalists were Korean. The third Korean participant, the 19-year-old Yi Se-tol, also did well, defeating the CCTV champion Ma Xiaochun.
Cho U 7-dan (Japan) (W) beat Ding Wei 8-dan (China) by 4.5 points; Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan (Korea) (B) b. Hane Naoki 8-dan (Japan) by resig.; Yi Se-tol 3-dan (Korea) (W) b. Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) by resig.
Cho Hun-hyun 9-dan (Korea) (B) b. Cho U 7-dan by half a point; Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan (W) b. Yi Se-tol 3-dan by resig.
Yi Ch'ang-ho (W) b. Cho Hun-hyun by 3.5.
Korea triumphs in opening rounds of 7th LG Cup
There's nothing new about Korean dominance of international tournaments, but this dominance is reaching new heights. In the 7th LG Cup, the opening rounds of which were held in Seoul on 30 April and 2 May, seven of the eight quarterfinalists are Korea. As we've had occasion to remark before, the international tournaments are coming to resemble domestic Korean tournaments, with players from other countries just a token presence. The frightening thing is that many of the Korean wins against the top players from China and Japan are being picked up by new, young faces and not just by their top trio of Cho, Yu and Yi. For example, in the first round the 16-year-old Weon Seong-chin 4-dan disposed of Kobayashi Koichi. He was backed up by Korea's 17-year-old titleholder Park Yeong-hyeon 4-dan, who beat China's Ma Xiaochun in the second round. Another teenager, the 19-year old Cho Han-seung 5-dan eliminated Japan's youngest titleholder, Hane Naoki, from the tournament in the first round, then disposed of O Rissei in the second.
Incidentally, the first clash that we know of in an international tournament between brothers took place in the opening round, when Jiang Zhujiu met Jiang Mingjiu; these two are Chinese, but Zhujiu is now playing for Korea and Mingjiu for the US.
The only 'outsider' left in this Korean-sponsored tournament is China's Zhou Heyang 9-dan; seeded into the second round, he beat a Korean 1-dan named Yun. Yun is such a new face we have no information on how to spell his given name. Zhou has done fairly well against Korean players in the past (his record against Yi Ch'ang-ho is 3-1), but will be be able to prevail against seven Koreans?
Round 1 (30 April)
Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) (B) beat Kim Seung-chun 7-dan (Korea) by 5.5; Yu Bin 9-dan (China) (W) b. Zhou Junxun 9-dan (Chinese Taipei) by resig.; Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) (W) b. An Tal-hun 4-dan (Korea) by 5.5; Yi Sang-hun 7-dan (Korea) (B) b. O Meien 9-dan (Japan) by 3.5; Cho Han-seung 5-dan (Korea) (B) b. Hane Naoki (Japan) by 2.5; Weon Seong-chin 4-dan (Korea) (B) b. Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan (Japan) by 3.5; Yun 1-dan (Korea) (B) b. Catalin Taranu 5-dan (Europe) by resig.; Jiang Zhujiu 9-dan (Korea) (W) b. Jiang Mingjiu 7-dan (USA) by resig.
Round 2 (2 May)
Yu Ch'ang-hyeok 9-dan (Korea) (B) b. Yu Bin 9-dan (China) by resig.; Cho Hun-hyeon 9-dan (Korea) (W) b. Cho Chikun 9-dan (Japan) by resig.; Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan (Korea) (B) b. Jiang Zhujiu 9-dan (Korea) by 1.5; Yi Se-tol 3-dan (Korea) (W) b. Yi Sang-hun 7-dan (Korea) by 1.5; Cho Han-seung 5-dan (Korea) (W) b. O Rissei 9-dan (Japan) by 3.5; Weon Seong-chin 4-dan (Korea) (B) b. Chang Hao 9-dan (China) by resig.; Pak Yeong-hyeon 4-dan (Korea) (B) b. Ma Xiaochun 9-dan (China) by 4.5.
Weon vs. Zhou; Yi Se-tol vs. Pak; Yi Ch'ang-ho vs. Yu; Cho vs. Cho.
27th Meijin league
One game was played in the 27th Meijin league on 2 May. Taking black, Ryu Shikun 7-dan beat Kato Masao 9-dan by resignation. That took Ryu's score to 3-2 and improved his chances of keeping his place in the league. Kato drops to 1-4, so he can't afford to drop another game.
New Kisei-league members
The four vacant places in the 27th Kisei leagues have been decided over the course of the last couple of weeks. In a marathon game played on 25 April, Yoda Norimoto Meijin (B) defeated Chan Ka Yui (Chin Kaei) 9-dan; the game lasted 330 moves and Yoda's winning margin was 12.5 points.
The other three places were decided on 9 May. Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan (W) defeated Yamada Kimio 8-dan by half a point; Nakaonoda Tomomi 8-dan (B) beat Goto Shungo 9-dan by 3.5 points; and Yamashita Keigo 7-dan (W) defeated Hashimoto Shoji 9-dan by resignation.
All four of these players are making their debuts in the Kisei leagues.
Kobayashi Satoru still undefeated
Kobayashi Satoru has been having an incredible run since his return to tournament go after his suspension was lifted in September last year. After forfeiting eight games in the first eight months of the year, he won four and lost one after his comeback. This year he has yet to lose a game; with 13 wins, he has taken his winning streak started last year to 15 games in a row. His wins have earned him a place in the Kisei leagues and taken him to the quarterfinals of the Fujitsu Cup.
Although the gap in his career affected his earnings, it obviously hasn't hurt his go. Perhaps it made him realize afresh the importance of playing and led him to take his games more seriously than before. Whatever the reason, he seems unbeatable. It's a pity for Japan that he hasn't been playing in more international tournaments.
Kansai Ki-in player to challenge for Gosei title
While they haven't actually won it, Kansai Ki-in players have done reasonably well in the Gosei tournament, becoming the challenger three times in the last dozen years. This year another Kansai Ki-in challenge is certain, as two of their players have reached the final in the 27th Gosei tournament. In one semifinal, played on 2 May, Yuki Satoshi 9-dan (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 7-dan by resig.; in the second semifinal, played on 9 May, Sonoda Yuichi 9-dan (B) beat Cho Chikun Oza, also by resig. Yuki challenged for the 22nd Gosei title in 1997; Sonoda challenged the following year (they were beaten by Yoda 3-1 and 3-0).
Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
(22 April). Michael Redmond 9-dan (B) beat Takanashi Seiken 7-dan by 5.5 points; Morita Michihiro 9-dan (W) beat Redmond by resig. (Kiriyama Cup, 2nd prelim. section).
(24 April). Hans Pietsch 4-dan (W) beat Umezawa Yukari 4-dan by resig. (1st prelim. section, Oza tournament).
(9 May). Redmond 9-dan (W) b. Fukui Susumu 9-dan by 7.5; Sasaka Shiro 8-dan (B) beat Catalin Taranu 5-dan by resig. (2nd prelim., Oza).
The retirements of two Nihon Ki-in professionals were announced last week. One is Matsuoka Akira 7-dan, who retired on 30 April. He was a member of the Western Japan (Osaka) branch of the Nihon Ki-in. He was born on 20 November 1947, so this is quite an early retirement.
The other player is Okumura Noboru 4-dan, a member of the Central Japan (Nagoya) branch of the Nihon Ki-in. He was born on 1 October 1936 and his retirement dates from 16 April.