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History of Topics 2003

January February March April May June July August September October November December
  • Kobayashi levels score in Gosei title match
  • 28th Kisei leagues
  • Sakai misses Honinbo place
  • Oza challenger: Cho U or Kato
  • Tengen challenger: Kono or Yamashita
  • China-Japan Cyberspace '5 vs. 5' Team match
  • Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in
  • China-Japan Cyberspace '5 vs. 5' Team match
  • 8th Samsung Qualifying
  • Clean sweep for Yamashita in the Meijin league
  • 28th Kisei A League
  • Sakai wins Phoenix Cup
  • Promotion
  • Kobayashi starts fightback in Gosei title match
  • Yamashita reaches Tengen play-off
  • Cho finally overhauls Kobayashi
  • Progress of the new komi
  • Promotion
  • Retirement
  • Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in

28 August

Kobayashi levels score in Gosei title match

  After the first two games of the 28th Gosei title match, it really looked as if Kobayashi Koichi's days as titleholder were numbered. The challenger had won both games by large margins, and no one really expected to see Kobayashi stage another comeback like four years ago, when he took the Gosei title from Yoda Norimoto with a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
  No one is betting against history repeating itself now, for the current title match is following the same pattern. In the fourth game, played at the Nihon Ki-in on 20 August, Kobayashi (B) defeated Yoda by half a point and so evened the score in the series at 2-2.
  According to Go Weekly, Yoda had done better in the opening, but Kobayashi snatched the lead in the middle game; thereafter, he slipped a little but just managed to hang on to a lead.
  The final game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in on 27 August.

28th Kisei leagues

  The lead has become even more definite in both Kisei leagues after two games played on 21 August, with only one player in each having won all his games after three rounds.
  In the A league, Hane Naoki Tengen (B) beat O Rissei Judan by resignation. In the B league, Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, (B) beat Awaji Shuzo 9-dan, also by resignation.
  As a result, Hane and Cho are sitting on top of their respective leagues with 3-0 scores and at this point look likely to meet in the play-off to decide the challenger. Both O and Awaji drop to 1-2; the latter is already out of the running, but the former still has a chance. If O ended in a tie for 1st with someone else on 3-2, he would take precedence, thanks to his number one position in the league.

Sakai misses Honinbo place

  Last week we reported a victory in a minor tournament by Sakai Hideyuki 6-dan, the former amateur champion who gave up a medical career to become a professional go player. This week he just missed out on something that would be a far more significant achievement: a place in the Honinbo league.
  In the final round in the third qualifying tournament to decide the places in the 59th Honinbo league, Sakai, playing black, lost to former Honinbo Cho Sonjin by 5-5 points. The game was played on 21 August.
  This was a great opportunity for Sakai, as membership in a league is the badge of a top-flight player. Moreover, he would have set a record by earning a league place on making his debut in the tournament. However, he was outmatched in positional judgement by his opponent, who thus got back into the league immediately after dropping out.
  Just for the record, the pairings in the other play-offs are: Yoda Norimoto vs. Rin Kaiho, O Rissei vs. Ryu Shikun, and Mimura Tomoyasu vs. Cho Chikun.

Oza challenger: Cho U or Kato

  There seems to be a tendency for players who clash in title matches to keep running into each other. The play-off to decide the challenger for the 51st Oza title will feature a clash between the players who recently finished fighting the Honinbo title match, Cho U Honinbo and Kato Masao 9-dan.
  In the semifinals, played on 14 August, Kato (B) defeated Takao Shinji 8-dan by resignation and Cho U (B) disposed of Yamashiro Hiroshi 9-dan, also by resig.

Tengen challenger: Kono or Yamashita

  The second semifinal in the 29th Tengen tournament was also played on 14 August. Playing white, Kono Rin 7-dan defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan by resig., so he will meet Yamashita Keigo Kisei in the play-off to decide the challenger. Whoever wins will be making his first challenge for this title.

China-Japan Cyberspace '5 vs. 5' Team match

  The second game of this series was played live on the Nihon Ki-in home page on 25 August.
  Playing white, Zhou Heyang 9-dan of China defeated O Meien, representing Japan, by 14.5 points.
  China now has a 2-0 lead in this match.

Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in

  As can be seen by the number of results we have been reporting, August is far from being a holiday month for professional go players. However, go activity does wind down a little. Western members of the Nihon Ki-in worked things out right, because they were slated to play only one game during the heat of midsummer. That was Catalin Taranu 5-dan, who defeated Akedo Kazumi 6-dan by resignation with black in Preliminary B of the 60th Honinbo tournament.

22 August

China-Japan Cyberspace '5 vs. 5' Team match

  To help make up for the blank in international go activity caused by the SARS epidemic, Go Weekly is sponsoring a team match between Japan and China played on the Net. Each country fields a five-player team, with the games being held at irregular intervals. The time allowance is 30 minutes per player, followed by Canadian Overtime of 25 moves every 15 minute.
  The first game was held on 4 August and was broadcast live on the Nihon Ki-in home page. Playing black, Chang Hao 9-dan of China defeated Cho U 9-dan of Japan by half a point.
  The date of the second game has not yet been decided. The other players on the teams are:

Japan) O Rissei 9-dan, O Meien 9-dan, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan, Takao Shinji 8-dan
China) Gu Li 7-dan, Zhou Heyang 9-dan, Wang Lei 8-dan, Kong Jie 7-dan.

8th Samsung Qualifying

  The Samsung Cup is unique among international tournaments in that any professional can compete in a qualifying tournament that decides 16 of the 32 places in the main tournament. This year 49 players from the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in visited Seoul to try their luck, but not one player made it through to the main tournament. The Japanese were thus unable to improve on their performance last year.
  The qualifying tournament was held from 29 July to 4 April. A player had to win four games in a row to secure one of the 16 places. Four Japanese players made it to the final round. Incidentally, two of the successful qualifiers were husband and wife Jiang Zhujiu and Rui Naiwei. Michael Redmond made it as far as the third round.
  The opening rounds of the main tournament will be held in Seoul on 27 and 29 August. The seeded Japanese players are Hane Naoki, Kato Masao, and Yamada Kimio. They will be joined by a player recommended by the sponsors, Cho Chikun.

Clean sweep for Yamashita in the Meijin league

  Yamashita Keigo Kisei had already clinched victory in the 28th Meijin league, but he ended on a perfect note with yet another win in the final round.
  The four remaining games in the league were played at the Nihon Ki-in on 7 August. Yamashita (W) beat O Meien Oza by resignation; Cho U Honinbo (B) beat Ryu Shikun 9-dan by 14.5 points; O Rissei Judan (W) beat Takemiya Masaki 9-dan by 4.5 points; and Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, (W) beat Mizokami Tomochika 8-dan by 6.5 points.
  As a result, the final order in the league is:

1st: Yamashita 8-0
2nd: Rin Kaiho 6-2
3rd: Cho U 6-2
4th: O Rissei 5-3
5th: Cho Chikun 4-4
6th: O Meien 3-5.
Losing their places are: Ryu (2-6), Takemiya (1-7), and Mizokami (1-7).

The title match between Yamashita and Yoda begins on 10 September.

28th Kisei A League

  Two games were played in the Kisei A League on 7 August. In one, Imamura Yoshiaki 8-dan (B) defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan by half a point. This is Imamura's second win by this margin; with this auspicious start, he has an excellent chance of retaining his league place. In the other game, Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan (B) defeated Ishida Yoshio 9-dan by 12.5 points.
  As a result, both Imamura and Mimura improved their scores to 2-1. Kobayashi dropped to 1-2 and Ishida, now on 0-3, looks like losing his league place.

Sakai wins Phoenix Cup

  Sakai Hideyuki 6-dan, the 2000 WAGC champion who turned professional in 2001, has won the 4th Phoenix Cup. This is a privately sponsored tournament open to both amateurs and professionals. Sakai has won this tournament once before (in 2001, but we don't know if it was as an amateur or a professional). Last year he took second place, losing to Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan in the final. This year the final featured the same pairing, but this time Sakai came out on top; playing black, he defeated Kobayashi by 4.5 points.
  Until last year, the main tournament was restricted to 32 players, chosen through preliminary tournaments. This year the number was increased to 64 and first prize was increased to one million yen. The time allowance is one hour, with no byo-yomi, except for the final and semifinals, which have one-minute byo-yomi. The main tournament was held at the Igo Gakuen go club in Shinjuku on 2 & 3 August. Third place was taken by Oya Koichi 9-dan, who won the inaugural cup.
  This year saw the first overseas participant. Hong Mal Eun Saem of Korea, who came second in last year's WAGC, took fourth place and won the prize for top amateur.


  To 6-dan: Okada Yumiko (by the provisional Oteai system)

07 August

Kobayashi starts fightback in Gosei title match

  Faced with a kadoban (a game that could lose a series), Kobayashi has picked up his first win in the 28th Gosei title match and kept alive his chances of defending his title. In the third game of the series, played at the Loisir Hotel Okinawa in Naha City, Okinawa, Kobayashi, holding white, defeated Yoda Norimoto by 4.5 points.
  The question is whether Kobayashi can stage a replay of his come-from-behind victory when he took this title from Yoda four years ago.
  The fourth game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on 20 August.

Yamashita reaches Tengen play-off

  Everything seems to be going well for Yamashita Keigo these days. After becoming the Meijin challenger, he has also reached the play-off to decide the Tengen challenger. He did this by beating the player from whom he took the Kisei title, O Rissei, in the semifinal. The game was played on 27 July; taking white, Yamashita won by 4.5 points.
  Yamashita's opponent in the play-off will be the winner of the other semifinal between Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan and Kono Rin 7-dan. Whichever of these three becomes the challenger, he will be making his debut in the Tengen title match.

Cho finally overhauls Kobayashi

  Cho Chikun and Kobayashi Koichi have played more official games with each other than any other pair in modern Japanese go history. On 24 July, they played their 125th game in the 10th Agon Kiriyama Cup tournament and Cho finally took the lead over his rival. Even though Cho has been more successful, Kobayashi had always kept a lead over him in individual encounters. However, recently Cho had won three games in a row and so drawn level with Kobayashi, with 62 wins each.
  In their 125th game, Cho (black) beat Kobayashi by 5.5 points and took the lead 63-62.

Progress of the new komi

  The first report on results under the new 6.5-point komi (made in early April, covering 688 games played from 6 November 2002 to the end of March) showed only a small change in Black's winning percentage (it had dropped from 51.86% to 51.6%). However, the latest report, published in Go Weekly on 6 August and covering 1874 games shows that the increased komi has redressed the balance between black and white. Black's winning percentage was 50.37.
  The report also looked at the difference between preliminary rounds of tournament, in which all levels of players participate, and the main sections, in which only the stronger professionals play. There was a striking difference, with black winning 50.96% of the former, but white winning 52.55 of the latter. Only 314 of the games counted came from the main sections, so the number is too small to be statistically reliable, but still it's interesting that there is a discrepancy. Under the old komi of 5.5, there was hardly any difference between the preliminaries and the main sections.
  It will be interesting to see if this trend holds up over the years.


  To 3-dan: Osawa Narumi (by the transitional Oteai system)


  Konishi Taizo 7-dan retired on 31 July and was promoted to 8-dan the next day. Konishi has made his mark as a go writer rather than as a player. He writes commentaries on the Judan tournament for the Sankei newspaper; he has also published countless articles in go magazines, including many as amanuensis for Fujisawa Shuko.

Westerners at the Nihon Ki-in

  (21 July) Shimojima Yohei 7-dan (white) beat Catalin Taranu 5-dan by resignation (2nd preliminary round, Oza tournament).
  (31 July) Taranu (B) beat Kamichi Hiroki 1-dan by 11.5 points (Preliminary C, Honinbo tournament).

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