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History of Topics 2004

January February March April May June July August September October November December
  • China does well in Seoul Round of 3rd Cheongkwanjang Cup
  • Korea wins International New Stars tournament
  • Promotion
  • 2004 statistics
  • Most wins
  • Best winning percentage
  • Most successive wins
  • Top players at the Kansai Ki-in
  • Cho's winning percentage: correction
  • Kato Masao recovering from stroke
  • China wins Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off
  • Internet World Open Go Tournament starts
  • 30th Meijin league
  • 60th Honinbo league: Cho Sonjin and Takao share lead
  • Yamashita sets new record
  • Judan progress
  • Yi Se-tol wins Samsung title
  • Cho U defends Oza title
  • 60th Honinbo league
  • 30th Meijin league gets under way
  • Shinkai wins Strongest Woman Player title
  • Yamashita picks up first win in Oza challenge
  • Yi Ch'ang-ho holds the fort for Korea

27 December

China does well in Seoul Round of 3rd Cheongkwanjang Cup

  As in the first round, held in Beijing, of this Korean-sponsored international tournament that has switched to a team format this year, China took the honours, scoring four wins to two by Korea and none by Japan. The star for China was Ye Gui 5-dan, who won five games in a row, including three in this round.
  After this round, China is in the box seat, with three players left to one each for Korea and Japan. The question is whether China will require the services of Zhang Xuan 8-dan and Rui Naiwei 9-dan.

The Seoul Round
  Game Five (19 Dec.). Ye Gui 5-dan (China) (W) defeated Yashiro Kumiko 5-dan (Japan) by resignation.
  Game Six (20 Dec.). Ye (W) defeated Kim Eun-seon 1-dan (Korea) by 2.5 points.
  Game Seven (21 Dec). Ye (W) defeated Suzuki Ayumi 3-dan (Japan) by resig.
  Game Eight (22 Dec.). Yun Yeong-seon 4-dan (Korea) (W) defeated Ye by 3.5 points.
  Game Nine (23 Dec.). Yun (W) defeated Mannami Kana 3-dan (Japan) by 5.5 points.
  Game Ten (24 Dec.). Xu Ying 5-dan (China) (B) defeated Yun by resig.

  The remaining games will be played in Shanghai, starting on 17 January

Korea wins International New Stars tournament

  Earlier this month, the 5th International New Stars tournament was held in Korea, with victory going, for the third time, to the Korean team. This tournament pits eight-player teams from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan (participating as of this year) against each other. The time allowance is two and a half hours per player, with the last five minutes allotted to one-minute byo-yomi.
  Like last year, the Korean team won all its three matches, winning 18 games and losing 6. China won two matches, scoring 14-10; Japan won one match, scoring 11-13; Taiwan failed to win a match, picking up five individual wins in all.
  Although the Japanese team did badly, both Kono Rin 7-dan and Kim Shujun 7-dan won all three games, as did the top Korean player Song T'ae-kon 9-dan.
  The matches were played on 6, 7 and 9 December.


  Anzai Nobuaki earned promotion to 2-dan, thanks to a cumulative total of 30 wins.

2004 statistics

  The tournament year in Japan was completed as of 23 December, apart from a game in the NEC Cup scheduled for the 29th. Below are some statistics for the top players. More important than the numbers, of course, are the results of the title matches, so, first, a quick review.
  On 18 March, Hane Naoki took the Kisei title from Yamashita Keigo, staging a comeback in the final game after winning three, then losing three. O Rissei held on to his Judan title, edging player of the year Cho U 3-1 in the latter's only setback in '04. The match was decided on 15 April. Cho rebuffed Yoda Norimoto's first-ever Honinbo challenge 4-2, clinching the title on 9 July, but Yoda recovered to defend his Gosei title against Yamada Kimio 8-dan. Yoda won 3-1, with the match concluding on 12 August. The highlight of the autumn was Cho U's challenge for the Meijin title, which saw him become the fifth Meijin-Honinbo of modern times on 4 November when he defeated Yoda Norimoto 4-2. Yamashita took revenge on Hane Naoki by wresting the Tengen title from him with straight wins (3-0) on 26 November. The Tengen is usually the final match of the year, but Cho U was so busy that he couldn't complete the Oza title match until 9 December. Here he had no trouble fending off Yamashita Keigo's challenge, winning 3-1. O ended the year on a high note as a triple titleholder; everyone expects him to dominate the go scene again in 2005.

Most wins

1. Takao Shinji 8-dan: 44 wins, 15 losses
2. Yamashita Keigo Tengen: 39-32
3. Han Zenki 7-dan: 38-15; Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan: 38-17; Kono Rin 7-dan: 38-18; Cho U Meijin: 38-25
7. Yoda Norimoto Gosei: 37-21
8. Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan: 33-21; Yamada Kimio 8-dan: 33-21
10. Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan: 31-21
11. Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo: 30-23

Best winning percentage

1. Tsuruyama Atsushi 5-dan: 75% (27-9)
2. Takao Shinji: 74.58%
3. Ishikura Noboru 9-dan: 74.19% (23-8)

Most successive wins

1. Takao Shinji: 15
2. Kono Rin: 14
3. Ishikura Noboru: 13

Top players at the Kansai Ki-in

1. Sakai Hideyuki 6-dan: 48-13
2. Yuki Satoshi 9-dan: 47-15
3. Seto Taiki 6-dan: 35-11

Cho's winning percentage: correction

  If the winning percentage we gave for Cho U last week of 79.8 (taken from a TV program that shall remain nameless) sounds too good to be true, it is. According to the January 2005 issue of Monthly Go World, which gives detailed statistics for his career, his record as of 25 November is 630 games, 473 wins, 155 losses, 2 jigo, for a 75.3 winning percentage. That's still quite impressive, but, judging by his record this year of 60.3% (38-25), his percentage will probably settle around 70% in a couple of year, which is about where it was for players like Kobayashi Koichi and Cho Chikun at their peak.
  Another impressive mark from his career: for five years in a row, from 1999 to 2003, Cho won over 50 games each year. That might be a record. To keep that pace up is very difficult once you become a title holder, because you play fewer games and more games against really top opponents.

20 December

Kato Masao recovering from stroke

  The go world was dismayed to learn on Monday that Kato Masao 9-dan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nihon Ki-in, had suffered a cerebral infarction on 7 December. Kato underwent an operation on the 10th that was said to be successful and is recovering in hospital, but no other details are available. We can only hope that he recovers fully and can resume his go career. In the meantime, Kudo Norio 9-dan, Vice Chairman of the board, has taken over his duties.

China wins Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off

  The sixth play-off between the winners of the Japanese and Chinese Agon Kiriyama Cups was held at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo on 13 December. Playing black, Zhou Heyang 9-dan of China defeated Hane Naoki 9-dan of Japan by 2.5 points.
  China has now won this play-off twice in a row (in theory it's held annually, but the fifth play-off was delayed and not held until 8 May this year). Japan won the first four.

Internet World Open Go Tournament starts

  The first two games in the Internet World Open Go Tournament, sponsored by the Nihon Ki-in, were played on 18 December. Both were transmitted live on the Net. In the first game, started at 10 a.m. Japanese time, Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan of Japan took care of Argentine giant-killer Fernando Aguilar, amateur 6-dan; playing white, Kobayashi forced a resignation.
  In the second game, played at 1 p.m., Gu Li 7-dan of China (black) defeated Alexandr Dinerchtein 1-dan of Russia, also by resignation.
  The next game scheduled is Hane Naoki 9-dan (Japan) versus Zhou Junxun 9-dan of Taiwan. It will be relayed live on 26 December.
  This tournament is one of the events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Nihon Ki-in.

30th Meijin league

  Two more games in the first round of the 30th league were played on 16 December. One was between two players who did very well in the previous league, taking second and third place. The higher-finishing player, Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan, beat Imamura Toshiya 9-dan for the second year in a row; playing black, he won by 8.5 points.
  The other game was between two league newcomers: Sakai Hideyuki 6-dan and Ogata Masaki 9-dan. Taking white, Sakai edged Ogata by 3.5 points. The former WAGC champion has thus got off to a good start in his league debut; his performance as a professional continues to impress.

60th Honinbo league: Cho Sonjin and Takao share lead

  The final game in the third round of the 60th Honinbo league was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 16 December. Holding white, Cho Sonjin 9-dan beat O Meien 9-dan by resignation. Cho goes to 3-0 and shares the lead with Takao Shinji 8-dan. At the moment, it's looking like a two-horse race, but the situation could easily change once or twice before the finish. O Meien drops to 1-2.

Yamashita sets new record

  Yamashita Keigo Tengen has set a new record: the most losses in a year. Previously, the record was 29 losses, shared by Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, (set in 2000), Inori Yoko 5-dan (set in 2001) and Cho Sonjin 9-dan (set in 2002). Yamashita's final loss in the Oza title match was his 31st. He is closely followed by O Meien 9-dan, whose loss in the Honinbo league reported above was his 30th of the year.
  Actually, this record is not as inglorious as it might appear. There are ten tournaments unconditionally open to all professionals, so in the normal course of events an average player would end up with ten losses and that would be it. To get the chance to lose more games, you would have to compete in some of the restricted tournaments, either on the grounds of youth (King of the New Stars, etc.), sex (five women's tournaments) or merit (most notably, leagues, special tournaments, such as the NHK Cup, for which only the top players are eligible, or, best of all, title matches). The only way it's really feasible for a male player to lose more than 20 games is to play in one or more leagues. That means that only a top player can set this record. This year Yamashita played in all three leagues plus three title matches. He won one of the title matches, so 99% of players would gladly swap their win-loss records for his. His actual record is 39 wins to 31 losses, as of 17 December. Incidentally, the third highest number of losses was posted by Cho U, whose record is 37-25; with wins in the Meijin, Honinbo and Oza tournaments, this is the most successful year of his career, despite his highest number of losses ever (Cho's winning percentage as of the final Oza game is an awe-inspiring 79.8).0

Judan progress

  The semifinals in the losers' section of the 43rd Judan tournament were held at the Nihon Ki-in on 16 December. In one, Takao Shinji 8-dan (black) defeated Yoda Norimoto Gosei by 4.5 points; in the other, Rin Kaiho, Honorary Tengen, (W) defeated Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan by 6.5 points. The winner of the final between Rin and Takao will meet the winner of the winners' section, Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, in the play-off to decide the challenger.

13 December

Yi Se-tol wins Samsung title

  The 20-year old Chinese star Wang Xi 5-dan had a superb winning streak to make the final of the 9th Samsung Cup, but there his luck ran out. He was outmatched by the 21-year-old Yi Se-tol, who seemed to be in top form. Yi had already won three world titles and he wasted no time adding to his tally, shutting out his opponent 2-0. The match was played in Seoul.
  The first prize is 200 million won (about $192,000). Wang had to be content with 50 million won.

The results:  Game 1 (7 Dec.). Yi (B) by resig.
Game 2 (9 Dec.). Yi (W) by resig.

Cho U defends Oza title

  Cho U has ended the best year of his career so far on an upbeat note. By defending the Oza title, he has maintained his position as a triple title-holder and the dominant player on the current tournament scene in Japan.
  The fourth game of the 52nd Oza title match was held in Arima Hot Spring, Kobe City, on 9 December. Playing black, Cho won by 5.5 points after 260 moves. That gave him a lead of 3-1, so he completed his first defence of this title. Of their time allowances of five hours each, Cho had 74 minutes left, but Yamashita was down to his last minute of byo-yomi.
  First prize is 13,500,000 yen (about $130,000).
  This is Cho U's seventh title; five of them are top-seven titles (Honinbo twice, Meijin once and Oza twice), which is a good proportion.
  Incidentally, Cho is getting a bit of a reputation as being hard to beat with black. He won all his games with black in the Honinbo, Meijin and Oza title matches (though he did lose two with black in his unsuccessful Judan challenge early in the year).

60th Honinbo league

  The first two games of the third round of the current league were played at the Nihon Ki-in on 3 December, followed by another game on the 10th. The result is that two players are already facing the danger of demotion while a newcomer to the league has taken the lead.
  In one game played on the 3rd, league newcomer So Yokoku 7-dan (W) defeated O Rissei Judan by resignation. In the other, this year's challenger Yoda Norimoto Gosei (W) defeated Han Zenki 7-dan, also by resignation.
  Yoda and So both go to 2-1, so they are putting pressure on the joint leaders after the second round, Cho Sonjin 9-dan and Takao Shinji 8-dan. Both O and Han drop to 0-3. Neither can afford to lose any more games.
  On the 10th, league newcomer Takao Shinji 8-dan (W) defeated Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan by resignation. As the only player on 3-0, Takao takes the lead for the time being; he has made an excellent start in his first Honinbo league. However, Cho Sonjin could catch up with him if he beats O Meien in the final game in this round.

30th Meijin league gets under way

  The first two games in the new Meijin league were played at the Nihon Ki-in on 10 December. Recently dethroned Yoda Norimoto made a good start by defeating Cho Sonjin 9-dan; Yoda had black and forced a resignation. In the other game, O Meien 9-dan (B) defeated Yamada Kimio 8-dan, also by resignation.

Shinkai wins Strongest Woman Player title

  Shinkai Hiroko 5-dan has scored her second success in the Strongest Women Player title. In the final of the 6th title, which is just one game, Shinkai (W) defeated Okada Yumiko 6-dan by 12.5 points. The game was played on 7 December. She also won the inaugural tournament in 1999. First prize is 4,500,000 yen (about $43,000).

01 December

Yamashita picks up first win in Oza challenge

  Perhaps Yamashita Keigo has been encouraged by his Tengen success. He has now picked up his first win in his challenge for the 52nd Oza title. In the third game of the best-o-five, held at the Akasaka Prince Hotel in Tokyo, he outfought Cho U in a very exciting game and secured a resignation after 223 moves. He has thus saved his first kadoban (a game that could lose a series).
  The game started at 9 a.m. and finished at 8:15 p.m. Of their time allowances of five hours each, Yamashita had two minutes left and Cho was down to his last minute (the final five minutes of the time allowance is allotted to byo-yomi).
  The fourth game will be played in Kobe on 9 December.

Yi Ch'ang-ho holds the fort for Korea

  To no one's surprise, Yi Ch'ang-ho 9-dan delivered the goods once again for Korea in the final game of the Pusan Round in the 6th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup. Game Ten was played on 29 November; taking white, Yi beat Luo Xihe 9-dan of China by resignation. This was Korea's second win in the tournament. He is the last player for Korea, whereas China and Japan have two players each left. The way we look at it, the match is now even.
  The final stage will be held in Shanghai in late February.

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