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History of Topics 2004

30 August
19 August
16 August
02 August

30 August

Tengen challenger: Kim or Yamashita

  The semifinals of the 29th Tengen tournament were held at the Nihon Ki-in on 19 August. There was a lot of interest in the first-ever clash between Cho Chikun and his disciple Kim Shujun 7-dan. Like Cho, the 25-year-old Kim was born in Korea but came to Japan to pursue his go career. He did well against his teacher, playing white and earning a resignation.
  In the other semifinal, Yamashita Keigo 9-dan (W) defeated Kato Masao 9-dan by resignation. Yamashita has hardly been in top form this year, but he is now just one win away from making his second successive challenge for the Tengen title.

29th Kisei leagues: Yoda in front

  After two games played in the 29th Kisei leagues this week, there is now just one player with an undefeated record: Yoda Norimoto, who is 2-0 in the A League. His co-leader had been Ryu Shikun, but the latter lost an important game to Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan on 26 August, so his score drops to 2-1 (playing white, Mimura won by 2.5 points). Moreover, as a newcomer to the league, Ryu has the lowest ranking, so Yoda now has the sole lead - except that he's one round behind. Another player with reason to be happy at this result is Yamashita Keigo: his score of 2-1 is the same as Ryu's, but he is the number one player in the league, so if Yoda falters his prospects will improve.
  The game in the B League was also significant. Former Kisei O Rissei defeated Cho Chikun by resignation, taking black. O is now 2-1 and Cho drops to 1-2. There are actually four players on 2-1, but O is the highest-ranked of them.

Takao earns Honinbo league place

  Two of the four vacant seats in the 60th Honinbo league have been decided. The first went to Takao Shinji 8-dan, who will finally make his debut in the league, thanks to a win over Ueki Yoshio 8-dan in the play-off, held at the Nihon Ki-in on 12 August. Holding white, Takao won by 4.5 points.
  The second was decided on 26 August. After dropping out of the previous league, former Honinbo O Meien 9-dan won his way straight back in. In the final game, he defeated Otake Hideo 9-dan, who was bidding to make a comeback after missing two leagues. Holding black, O won by 1.5 points.
  The pairings in the remaining play-offs are Kono Rin 7-dan vs. So Yokoku 7-dan and Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan vs. Han Zenki 6-dan.

Kobayashi Koichi reaches Agon final

  Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan (B) defeated Yamashita Keigo 9-dan in a game played on 16 August and so reached the final of the 11th Agon Kiriyama Cup. Playing black, Kobayashi won by half a point. His opponent in the final will be the winner of a game between Hane Naoki Kisei and Mizokami Tomochika 7-dan.


  Three players have earned promotions recently. Koyama Shizuo and Maeda Ryoji both advanced to 7-dan, and Ms. Mito Yukari stepped up to 3-dan.

3rd successive failure for Japan in Samsung Cup

  The Korean-sponsored Samsung Cup is unique in holding a qualifying tournament for 16 unseeded places (out of 32 in the main tournament) open to all professional players. The only thing is that players have to bear their own food and accommodation expenses in making the trip to Seoul. On top of that you have to win four or five games in a row to win a place - and your opponents include just about every unseeded Korean professional.
  In other words, taking part is a gamble with quite long odds against recovering your stake, but the other way to look at it is that this is a marvellous opportunity for younger players to gain international experience. This argument has convinced large numbers of young -- and not-so-young - Japanese players to make the flight to Seoul.
  The Samsung Cup threw open its qualifying tournament in 2001, in which year 43 Japanese players took part and won three of the 16 seats. The number of participants went up to 72 in 2002, but not one broke through to the main tournament. Last year 49 players made the challenge, but again completely without any luck.
  This year, 61 Japanese, 35 Chinese and 17 Taiwanese players made the trip. They were joined by 182 Korean players, so there was a grand total of 295 professionals competing for just 16 seats.
  Two of the Japanese representatives, Ryu Shikun 9-dan and Han Zenki 6-dan, made it to the final round of the qualifying tournament, but were both eliminated there. Last year, four players had made it this far.
  The result is that for the third year in a row Japan failed to secure an unseeded place. Nine went to Korean players and the other seven to Chinese. One can only hope that this won't discourage the Japanese from trying again next year. Incidentally, to show how tough this qualifying tournament is, even the redoubtable Rui Naiwei 9-dan was eliminated in the first round.
  The main tournament will start on 1 September. Participants are listed below.

1. Seeded place-getters in 8th Cup: Cho Chikun (Japan), Pak Yeong-hun (Korea), Hu Yaoyu (China), Xie He (China).
2. Samsung Cup ranking: Yi Ch'ang-ho (Korea), Yu Ch'ang-hyeok (Korea), Cho Hun-hyeon (Korea), Ma Xiaochun (China).
3. Korean Ki-in seeds: Yi Se-tol, Song T'ae-kon, Ch'oe Ch'eol-han.
4. Chinese Ki-in seeds: Wang Yuhui, Wang Lei.
5. Nihon Ki-in seeds: Hane Naoki, Yamashita Keigo.
6. Nominated by the sponsor: Nie Weiping (China).

Korea: Mok Chin-seok, An Tal-hun, Cho Han-seung, Yun Seong-hyeon, Yun Hyeok, Ch'oe Kyu-peong, Kim Kwang-sik, Yi Yeong-ku, Hong Min-pyo.

  Two points strike one about this list. The first is the absence of Yoda Norimoto; although he won the inaugural cup in 1996, since winning the Meijin title he always gives priority to his title defence, which begins in the same month as the Samsung Cup.
  The second point is the calibre of the Chinese players who took part in the qualifying tournament. Considering that at least three of the players are their regular representatives in international tournaments, it's no wonder they did so well.

Yoda wins 800 games

  Yoda Norimoto has become the 20th Japanese player to score 800 wins, but he has done it in the fastest time. His 800th win as a professional came in his game against Jiang Mingjiu 7-dan in the first round of the 2nd Toyota & Denso Cup on 21 August. Yoda's record is 800 wins to 366 losses and two jigos, a winning percentage of 68.5. His time of 24 years 4 months to score the wins bettered the old mark set by Cho Chikun of 25 years.

19 August

Yoda defends Gosei title

  Yoda Norimoto Meijin has ensured that, for the time being anyway, he remains a dual titleholder. In the fourth game of the 29th Gosei title match, held in the town of Nonoichi in Ishikawa Prefecture on 12 August, Yoda (W) defeated Yamada Kimio by 4.5 points. This gave him a 3-1 league, so he defended his title. He has now won the Gosei title a total of five times.

Kisei league

  One game was played in the Kisei A League at the Nihon Ki-in on 12 August. Taking black, Yamashita Keigo 9-dan beat Miyazawa Goro 9-dan by resignation. Yamashita is now 1-1 and Miyazawa 0-3.

16 August

Meijin league ends in tie

  The final round of the 29th Meijin league was played at the Nihon Ki-in on 5 August. Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan, who played his final game last month, was the only member of the league not playing; on 6-2, he was in provisional first place and was presumably hoping that Cho Chikun would make that absolute first place by defeating his only remaining rival, Cho U Honinbo. However, Cho Chikun didn't come through for him, so the league has ended in a tie. A play-off to decide the challenger to Yoda Norimoto Meijin is scheduled for 9 July.
  Even though only two players were in the running for first place, the other games were quite important for the players. Two of them, the Yamada/O Rissei and Rin/O Meien games, would determine who kept his league place and who dropped out.

Results of the four games in the final round were:
Yamada Kimio 8-dan (B) defeated O Rissei Judan by resignation.
Cho U Honinbo (B) defeated Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, by resig.
Imamura Toshiya 9-dan (B) defeated Yamashita Keigo by 2.5 points.
O Meien 9-dan (W) defeated Rin Kaiho 9-dan by resig.

Final placings are:
1st: Kobayashi Satoru, Cho U, 6-2
3rd: Imamura Toshiya, 5-3
4th: Yamashita Keigo, 4-4
5th: O Meien, 4-4
6th: Yamada Kimio.

  There was an unusual aspect to this year's results. The three newcomers to the league all kept their places, and apparently this has never happened before. Earlier in the year, all four seeded players in the Honinbo league lost their places, being replaced by the four newcomers. This was probably also a first, though no one has gone through the nearly six decades of Honinbo leagues to confirm it. These league results would indicate that the generational changeover is speeding up. Ironically, there has probably never been a more distinguished group of drop-outs from the Meijin league: Rin Kaiho, who holds the record with 39 terms in the league or as the title-holder (including 35 terms in a row) and who has been Meijin eight times; Cho Chikun, with 28 successive terms in the league or as title holder (nine times Meijin), and O Rissei, with ten successive terms in the league. Of course, these players may very well fight their way back into the league.

Kobayashi Satoru slips up in Kisei B League

  Thursday the 5th was not a good day for Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan. Besides having Cho U secure a tie with him in the Meijin league, he suffered a painful loss in the Kisei B League, slipping from the sole lead to a three-way tie. Kobayashi (W) lost by 1.5 points to Yuki Satoshi 9-dan. As a result, three players on 2-1 share the lead: Cho U Honinbo, Kobayashi, and Yuki. However, there are no play-offs for ties in the Kisei leagues, so Cho U, as the highest-ranked in the league of these three, has a slight edge.

Takao Shinji vs. Yoda

  Takao Shinji 8-dan and Yoda Norimoto Meijin ran into each twice in important games last week and the honours were split. First of all, on Monday the 2nd, Takao (B) beat Yoda by half a point in the second round of the Winners' Section of the 43rd Judan tournament. Takao is, of course, shooting for a return match with O Rissei for the title.
  On Thursday the 5th, Yoda (B) beat Takao by resignation in the semifinal of the 52nd Oza tournament. Yoda will meet Yamashita Keigo 9-dan in the play-off to decide the challenger to Cho U.

Cho U to challenge for Meijin title

  The play-off to decide the challenger for the 29th Meijin title was held at the Nihon Ki-in on 9 August.Taking black, Cho U Honinbo defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan by 2.5 points.
  Cho U will be making his first challenge for the Meijin title.
  The Meijin title match will be a replay of the Honinbo title match, with Yoda no doubt looking to secure revenge.The first game will be played in Osaka on 9 & 10 September.

Yoda suffers first loss in Kisei league

  Yoda was busy while the challenger for his Meijin title was being decided, as he was playing a game in the Kisei A League. It's very unusual for a league game to be played on a Monday, but Yoda is ultra busy these days.
  Unfortunately, for him, Yoda dropped out of the lead in the league. Playing black, O Meien 9-dan defeated him by 2.5 points to score his first win in three games. Yoda is now 2-1; the only undefeated player is Ryu Shikun 9-dan, who hasn't played his third-round game yet.

02 August

Yoda takes lead in Gosei title match

  Yoda Norimoto Meijin had a good week last week, winning important games on Monday and Thursday (see following news item).
  On Monday, 26 July, the third game of the Gosei title match was played in the Yugen room, the top playing room at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya in Tokyo. Taking black, Yoda played a masterly game in which he demonstrated superb positional judgement. The challenger, Yamada Kimio 8-dan, made a mistake in his opening strategy, after which Yoda kept the initiative throughout; he convincingly outplayed Yamada and secured a resignation after just 147 moves.
  The fourth game will be played in the town of Nonoichi in Ishikawa Prefecture on 12 August.

Yoda shares lead in Kisei A League

  One game was played in each of the 29th Kisei leagues on 29 July. In the A League, Yoda (B) defeated Mimura Tomoyasu 9-dan by resignation. This was his second win to no loss and gave him a share of the lead with Ryu Shikun 9-dan.
  In the B League, the first game in the third round was played in July (also on the 29th) rather than August because of the difficulty of finding time in Cho U Honinbo's ultra-busy schedule. Cho improved his score to 2-1, thanks to a half-point win with white over Imamura Yoshiaki 8-dan. Kobayashi Satoru leads the league with 2-0, but if he slips up Cho will be in the running (along with three other players who are on 1-1, that is, Cho Chikun, O Rissei, and Yuki Satoshi).
  Imamura drops to 0-3, so his prospects of keeping his league place are bleak. His half-point loss shows that fate has turned against him - he kept his league place last year thanks to three half-point wins.

Father defeats daughter in Judan

  The long-awaited clash between father and daughter in the Losers' Section of the 43rd Judan tournament resulted in an assertion of parental authority but only after some anxious moments. Kobayashi Koichi 9-dan, playing white, defeated his daughter Izumi 5-dan by resignation in the first-ever father-daughter clash in professional go.
  When Koichi arrived in the morning, he was surprised (or pretended to be) by the large number of reporters waiting outside the playing room. 'What's the fuss?' he asked. 'This is just like a title game.'
  Koichi looked relieved when he drew white in the nigiri. However, he got another surprise when Izumi played one of the favourite fuseki patterns of her husband, Cho U Honinbo. 'I thought they must worked out the fuseki strategy as a team,' he commented. 'The opening was strangely logical and I was really on the spot.'
  The full game record hasn't been published yet, so we are not sure what he means by the above comment. A highlight diagram from the early middle game published in Go Weekly shows Izumi attacking with a brilliant wedge tesuji that captures two pivotal stones. In the pressroom, Takemiya Masaki commented that the game was over. Izumi continued to attack aggressively, but in the end Koichi made no mistake in wrapping up a win. Both sides professed themselves satisfied after the game. Koichi said that he was relieved and Izumi that she had done justice to herself in her play.

Hikosaka secures last Toyota & Denso Cup place

  The last of the seven nonseeded Japanese places in the 2nd Toyota & Denso Cup World Go Oza has gone to Hikosaka Naoto 9-dan. In the play-off, held on 29 July, Hikosaka (B) defeated Otake Hideo 9-dan by resignation.

Yamashita reaches Oza play-off

  Yamashita Keigo 9-dan has had a bad year, losing the Kisei title and performing well below his usual level in other tournaments. However, he is on the comeback trail and has reached the play-off to decide the challenger for the Oza title. Moreover, he secured a little revenge for his Kisei loss by defeating Hane Naoki in the semifinal. Taking black, Yamashita edged out Hane by half a point in a game played on 29 July. Yamashita played like the old Yamashita, placing his first move on the 3-5 point and his second on the 6-4 point, making a very ambitious corner enclosure. The game inevitably became a contest between Yamashita's large moyo and Hane's shinogi. Yamashita's thickness is apparently what secured him his narrow win.
  His opponent in the play-off will be the winner of the semifinal between Takao Shinji 8-dan and Yoda Norimoto Meijin.

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