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Young Lions of the Past


From the March 1974 issue of Kidō magazine

What kind of feeling is conveyed by the images here? Any idea what they represent? Or how they fit into the pages of the magazine they were printed in?

To answer the last question first, they are taken from an ad for Pioneer audio systems! Most of them are actually family crests of warlords from the medieval period of Japanese history. For instance, the middle three crests in the fourth row from the top are those of branches of the Tokugawa Clan that unified Japan at the start of the seventeenth century. In that same fourth row, the crest on the far right is that of the Takeda Clan. Perhaps that name is an unfamiliar one. But Takeda Shingen was the warlord whose clan played the principal role in the motion picture, "Kagemusha," directed by the great Japanese filmmaker, Kurosawa Akira. This was his clan’s crest.

Finally, might a guess be hazarded as to what the protruding square on the bottom row represents? That is one that Pioneer created for this ad! The words beneath it say, "The Noble Lineage of Sound of Pioneer."

It is nice to be able to read Japanese, but sometimes that results in the disillusionment of romantic notions…

Kidō magazine used to run all sorts of special tournaments so as to highlight players they wished to promote and for material to publish. A favorite theme was a five player knock-out tournament. The first player to win five games in a row would be the victor.

In 1974, Kidō launched this kind of tournament featuring the best of the young players of the Nihon Ki-in. Fans were eager to see the kind of new talent that was coming on the tournament scene, so this was deemed to be a way to good way to showcase them.

First up was Cho Chikun 6 dan. He first came to Japan in 1962 at the age of six to study at the Kitani dōjō. From that time on he was spoken of as a prodigy. By the early 1970s Cho was advancing to the point where everyone knew that he would soon be challenging for major titles. This five player knock-out tournament gave fans a chance to judge his skill on the eve of his appearing in those mainstream venues.

Prior to this game, Cho had already defeated Fukui Masaaki 6 dan and Ishida Akira 6 dan, so here he was looking for his third win in a row. Sakai Takeakira 7 dan, his opponent, was born in 1948, so he was 26 years old at the time of this game. In 1968, he fought his way into the 5th Annual Best Ten Tournament, so he had already begun to make a name for himself as well.

All of the young players highlighted here eventually rose to the rank of 9 dan, proving their great potential.

Cho and Sakai had met over the board twice before this. First was when Cho was 3 dan and Sakai 5 dan in the Oteai Ranking Tournament when Cho won, and in a preliminary round of the Meijin tournament the previous year, when Sakai won. therefore, their head to head score was 1-1.

A Crushing Win for Cho


Cho Chikun 6 dan

Young Powers Five Player Knock-Out Tournament

White: Cho Chikun 6 dan

Black: Sakai Takeakira 7 dan

Played in January 1974 at the Nihon Ki-in, Ichigaya, Tokyo.

Komi = 5 1/2 points

Time limit: 2 hours each

156 moves. White wins by resignation.

Analysis by Yamabe Toshiro


Sakai Takeakira 7 dan

An Orthodox Opening


Figure 1 (1-10)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Black 1 on the 3-4 point and White 2 on the 3-3 point were played as expected. Black 3 is also a common move, so Sakai cannot be thought to have been using any special ploy in the opening. Rather, Chikun’s fencing-in move of White 10 launched a large territorial framework [moyo] strategy.

Chikun: "Now is the age of inflation, isn’t it? So building up savings is no good, and you want to go for a large territorial framework."

Ignorance of the ABCs of Go


Figure 2 (10-26)

Highlights of Figure 2

The pluses and minuses of pushing three times through Black 15 in order to play elsewhere? Is it distasteful to play Black 13 in the usual way as the jump to 15?

The ABCs of playing White 26 as the hane over Black’s stone at . What is the meaning behind both players misplaying here?

Chikun’s statement contradicts the position of Prime Minister Tanaka [Kakue] that, "There is no inflation." But Sakai deliberately sets out to undermine the large territorial framework strategy. Black makes a line of four stones with 11, and then 13 and 15, then turns to occupy the good point of Black 17. This counters the thickness and strength that White builds through 16.

According to Yamabe 9 dan’s analysis, Sakai’s ploy is understandable, but for Black 13 it is usual to…


Diagram 1

…jump to Black 1, and there is nothing to prevent Black from doing so here. White would probably proceed by making the checking extension of 2. Then, Black 3 is natural. At that point, if Black plays the commonplace jump of 4, the knight’s move of Black 5 makes good shape.


Diagram 2

Therefore, White might make the fencing-in move of 1, and then the impetus of play would lead Black to push through with 2 and cut with 4.

Chikun: "If Black pushes through with 2 and cuts with 4, I always play the simple and easy moves of the atari of White 5 and then 7."

Here the usual jumping turn of Black makes shape, but according to Yamabe 9 dan, in this board position pressing with Black 8 is promising. And yet, besides this joseki there is the question of whether the attachment of White is a forcing move or not, and at that time there is the jumping attachment of Black , and what kinds of variations might develop, etc., is a complicated question.

The block of White 18 has tremendous weight, and although defending with Black would safe and sound, it would allow White to play the knight’s move at 21, which is a vital point that creates a good balance in terms of the distance on the lower side.

Sakai: "I thought that it was okay to push with four stones through Black 15. I planned in advance to make the shoulder hit of Black 19."

The knight’s move of White 24 is severe. Black 25 is the only defense, but at that point the hane over Black’s stone with White would have put Black into a difficult position.

Yamabe 9 dan: "I thought that it was natural for White to hane over Black’s stone with . I was looking forward to seeing what counterstrategy young Sakai would come up with to deal with that."

Chikun: "I considered playing White , but…


Diagram 3

…Black lives with the descending move of 8. So it seemed to me that it was no big deal."

After White 11, Black simple plays atari at .

Yamabe: "Black is alive in Diagram 3, but in regards to this shape…


Diagram 4

…according to how the play proceeds in the game, White , or else on the lower side is an effective forcing move. And on the left side, when Black plays at , instead of White , the diagonal move of can also be played as a forcing move. If White becomes a forcing move that has to be answered on the outside, White next kills Black’s group. When forcing moves on both sides have to be watched closely, this is terrible distasteful for Black. In addition, for Black 6 in Diagram 3…


Diagram 5

…after playing Black 6, the attachment technique [suji] of 8, when it incurs the hane of White 9, does not work out well for Black afterward.


Diagram 6

Black might just attach with 1 here, too, but White has the moves of 2, 4 and 6 available to play, leaving Black in trouble."

Both of the players said that they did not realize how much trouble Black was in when White hanes over Black’s stone. In another room, Yamabe 9 dan cocked his head and intimated to young Hirose of the editorial staff that, "This is very strange and there is no remedy for it. The hane over the stone is something that should be dealt with as a problem covered by the ABCs of go."

During the analysis after the game, Gaku Yuzuru 4 dan [born 1940; student of Kitani Minoru 9 dan 1959] participated and with a gentle look on his face said, "These kinds of moves are ones that high dan Sensei [i.e., players above the rank of professional 5 dan; this is mild sarcasm] would naturally be aware of, you know."

Hearing this, both Sakai and Chikun were embarrassed and held their heads in their hands. However, White 26 is also a good point. Chikun thought that White was not badly off with this.

An Ideal Point, Black 39


Figure 3 (24-39)

Highlights of Figure 3

While adding an equivalent move, attention must be paid to the difference between Black 27 and . It is hoped that amateurs take note of these kinds of nuances.

The openings [fuseki] with Black 31 and the diagonal move of Black 32 are conceptions that appeal to different tastes. White 38 is slack. Black is a key strategic point from a whole board perspective.

After Sakai made the attachment of Black 25, he realized that if White haned over Black’s stone at Black would be in trouble, it seems that he was beside himself as to what to do. However, Chikun played the leisurely capping move of White 26, which gave Black leeway to add the move at 27 and feel relieved. However, although this gave Black some peace of mind, the real move [honte] was the butting against of White’s stone with Black , and that is what had to be played. More so than Black 27, a move of Black would have given great support to Black’s position on the left side.

Chikun: "After making the capping moves of White 28 and 30, I did not think that it was bad for White, but…"

To an amateur’s eye, being sealed in like this on the left side would inevitably cause anxiety about Black’s three stones there, but it seems that Black has more than enough scope for dealing with the situation [making sabaki].

Black 31 is a fast-paced move. It may be expected that this is not bad, but according to Yamabe 9 dan…


Diagram 7

…the diagonal move of Black 1 is also strong.

Chikun: "I also thought that Black might make that diagonal move."

Should Black play 1, next the enclosure shape in the upper right corner at , or perhaps would be well balanced with Black 1. And if Black plays for survival [shinogi] on the left side, the playing method of Black , White and Black is available. In addition. when one’s eye gravitates to the lower right, pressing Black here with White would incur Black , which would be no good. In this game, White would rather apply pressure with , Black and White , but at that time the diagonal move of Black 1 would be perfectly positioned to counter White’s large territorial framework.

Therefore, the fencing-in move with White 32 is a good point. However, when Black plays at 37, the knight’s move of White 38 is slack. Instead of White 38…


Diagram 8

Yamabe: "Pressing with White 1 and 3 is good. I suppose that Black 4, White 5 and Black 6 would follow. Or maybe Black 6 would be played as the two-step hane of Black , White 6, Black and White . I am not sure about that, but White 38 is slack. That is because in regards to that, Black 39 is an extremely good move. In terms of the whole board perspective, this is a fantastically good point. I have to express admiration for it."

After incurring 39, as is his habit, Chikun’s face turned red.

Attack and Defense on the Left Side


Figure 4 (40-48)

Highlights of Figure 4

The reason that White plays 42 is to reinforce the position here.

Black 45 and 47 are consecutive, rapid-fire hits.

They are good tesuji that truly demonstrate Sakai’s ability.

Not all of the variations shown are solely aimed at Black’s stones on the left side.

Here Chikun headed to the left side with the peep of White 40. The climax of the game seemed to be steadily approaching. Seeing the play up to now, this is the kind of place where Chikun may be thought to be strong. Of course, Sakai was also playing with care and deliberation. From Black 41 on, play suddenly started proceeding slowly.

Neither of the young men smoke. [Many older Japanese players were smokers in those days.] As always, Chikun frequently snapped his fan open and shut. Some time before, his fan fell apart from wear, so he bought a new one, but some of the ribs have already gotten dislodged. Sakai sits with his arms folded, lightly swaying to the right in silence. His leg vibrates nervously.

White plays 42 as a forcing move here to reinforce the surrounding net. Consequently, for Black 43…


Diagram 9

…playing the hane of Black 2 and leaving it at that to strengthen the defense with 4 would have been solid.

However, Black firmly defended with 43, and after this Sakai had wonderfully good consecutive moves prepared.

Playing at the corner of White’s stone with Black 45 was the first of these. At the moment that this move was played against him, Chikun cocked his head. His cheeks were flushed, and his face was devoid of any trace of its usual boyishness. Its expression was that of a tough, master competitor.

Through Black 45, Sakai had used 75 minutes on the clock, leaving him with 45 minutes for the game. Chikun had used 45 minutes, and was left with 75 minutes. Their situations were perfectly reversed. However, 30 minutes was devoted to White 46, so all at once both players ended up in the same position, with 45 minutes on the clock.

In response to Black 45, if White blocks at , Black would surely make the forcing move of . Then, when Black turns to play at the point of 46, even seen by the eye of an amateur, the Black group is undoubtedly alive. If the group can be made to live so easily, there is no value in having surrounded it. Here, the most irritating thing is the possibility of playing at the gap between Blacks stones with White , but according to Yamabe 9 dan’s research, no matter how White tries to exploit that gap, the variations turn out badly.


Diagram 10

In reply to Black 1, should White play at 2, Black pushes through at 3. If White gives way with 4, Black engineers a swap of the corner for the left side with 5 through 9. The corner territory is big, so this is playable for Black.


Diagram 11

If White blocks with 4, Black cuts at 5. With the moves through 15, Black wraps White up and squeezes, and Black has the attachments of and available. Either way is advantageous for Black.

By thinking for 30 minutes about White 46, Chikun’s distress was obvious, but then the attachment of 47 was Black’s second good move. Black 45 and 47 displayed Sakai’s true merits to the best advantage.

In previous days, Ishida Yoshio, Kato Masao and Takemiya Masaki were dubbed the "Three Crows of the Kitani Dōjō," but Sakai Nobutake [one of the aliases that Sakai was known under over the years] should definitively have been included among them. [Except that the designation of "Three Crows" may be traced back to ancient China and never involves more than three kindred spirits, and Sakai was never a member of the Kitani Dōjō.] In age and the year they became professionals there is little difference among the four of them, and in the past two or three years Sakai has kept pace with the others in the way of fame and results. He has above average sensitivity and sharp perception, and is second to none in the go world as to his passion for the game.

Well then, as might be expected, Black 47 left Chikun at a loss for a reply. Usually…


Diagram 12 White 14 connects

…White 2 is met by the cut of Black 3 and the following moves through 17, whereby Black skillfully deals with the situation [sabaki], and instead of White 16…


Diagram 13

…White 2 and 4 are foiled by Black’s counter through 11, which leaves White shattered.

Slackening Resolve?


Figure 5 (47-64)

White 48 is perhaps a last ditch measure. Neither player had much time left on the clock, but of the two Sakai had less.

Black 49 may have been the result of the shortage of time, but this was peculiar. Since Black had attached with the move at 47, it would be natural to hane over White’s stone at 54, and that is what Black should have done. Besides that, it was hoped that Black played that way so as to spark a thrilling fight. Black took the easy way out by connecting underneath with 49, or maybe wavered in the direction of safety first.

Yamabe 9 dan: "With Black 49…


Diagram 14

…it was best to hane over White’s stone at 1. If White connects at 4, Black cuts at 5, ending up discarding three stones on the upper side. But with the knight’s move of Black 9, or perhaps the standard move at , Black no doubt gets a sufficient result. For White 4…


Diagram 15

…connecting with 1 on this side is met by the cut of Black 2. Instead of 7, White would like to play the knight’s move at 8, but after Black 7, White 9, Black 10, White and Black 11, White loses. In response to the attachment of Black 12, should White connect at 13, Black pushes through at 14 and this is absolutely terrible for White."

In regards to connecting underneath with Black 49, after going so far as to play the consecutive good moves of 45 and 47, they go to waste and are crying in spirit. It is like he world’s mightiest cannon, although set in place, does not participate at all in a glorious battle. Like the Battleship Yamato in olden times. [The famous warship was sunk before engaging in a major battle in WWII.)

Through White 64, rather than discarding the left side, the feeling is that it has been wrenched from Black’s grasp.

To a New Battle Front


Figure 6 (65-74)

Highlights of Figure 6

When Black pushes at 65, White puts up resistance with 66 and 68. For 66, the consideration of giving way with a move at 69 would only be entertained by an amateur. The negative aspect of a tenacious move is that it gives the opponent leeway to counterattack.

Black 73 is a good point. Importance must be places on perception.

For White, it is bothersome to have Black push at 65. Concerning White 66 and the following moves, White tenaciously refuses to give an inch, but because of that, at the point of Black 67 there was scope for a big swap [furi-kawari].


Diagram 16

Yamabe 9 dan: "It was possible to hane at 2 for a variation. From the connection of White 3 through Black 8, a big swap takes place, but White has a difficult choice for the next move. Capturing with White means that in the future a Black move around the point of becomes a forcing move. If it is a matter of capturing the stones, White would like to do so with a move at , but in that case during the endgame Black would have the clever move at to play."

The violent fighting on the left side is over. The battle shifts to the right side, where Black 73 is a good point.

According to Yamabe 9 dan, at the point of Black 73, if asked which side he would prefer to play, he would chose White, but Black still has a perfectly playable game.

Here, Chikun’s invasion of White 74 is a bad move. With this, the outlook in the game again becomes unclear.

Black Recovers


Figure 7 (73-100)

White 74 is not good because when Black responds at 75, it becomes difficult for White to attach against Black’s stone at . Chikun said that instead of 74…


Diagram 17

…the move should have been played mildly at 1. After doing so, it would be standard for Black to answer at 2. White 3 then stops Black’s advance into the center, and if Black connects underneath on the upper side, White surrounds territory with 7 and 9. With this, White still has the potential [aji] of , so this seems promising for White.

After going to the trouble of building up a good game, to negate that with one’s own actions usually makes a player feel dejected, but it appears that Chikun never reacts emotionally that way. With White 76 through 82, he carefully set about reducing Black’s territory.

However, by playing at 83, Black managed to recover lost ground according to Yamabe 9 dan.

Except that at this point Sakai was already down to his last three minutes. Every move he had to listen to the timekeeper read down the seconds, "30 seconds… 40 seconds." [If a move is made before "60 seconds" is read out, the time on the clock stays the same; otherwise another minute is lost. When the last minute is gone, the player loses on time.]

Chikun judged that the outlook in the game was not good, and so boldly invaded the opponent’s sphere with White 84. Annihilation or survival; fighting spirit on both sides allowed for no compromise.

Sakai: "Before playing Black 85, it was better to set the shape with Black and White , then butt against White’s stone with Black in exchange for White . By doing that, the attack would have been more severe."

Leaving White 90 unplayed would have let White block at with added force.

Black 95 was played to gain time on the clock.

With White 92 through 100, things became complicated.

The Final Battle


Figure 8 (101-116)

When Black extended at 1, Chikun grunted, "Hmm," and sat up straight. At this point the seconds were being read down for Chikun as well, "4 minutes left," "3 minutes left," he was being steadily pressured. Finally, he was down to 2 minutes, and then 1 minute.

Chikun: "Ouch, ouch. What am I going to do?!"

With one minute left, when the counting passed 50 seconds, the timekeeper switched to "1… 2… 3… 4… " and if the word "10" was voiced, the game was lost on time. Watching this going on was exciting. "7… 8… 9…" Chikun took it right down to the edge. When he played White 2…

Chikun: "No good, is it? No idea at all. Playing this move of bad technique [suji]."

He was muttering as if in a dream. Most likely he was not conscious of what he was saying.

Yamabe 9 dan: "It was also due to neither player having any time, but they made many mistakes.


Diagram 18

Instead of Black 1 in the game, the diagonal move of Black 1 would have been promising. With this, it would be difficult for White to secure a connection for the stones that invaded. This would have been a different game.

"The attachment of White 6 is bad. Instead of 6, White should play the knight’s move at 8. Black attaches at 9, and White draws back to 12 and is well off. Black would have been destroyed."

When White attached at 6, play proceeded with Black 7 through White 10, and this time Black has the game won.

For White 10…


Diagram 19

…even if White first plays at 1 here, Black 2 and the following sequence sets up a race to capture that Black wins.

However, at the very end Black played — how else would you call it — impulsively by descending at 15, letting White make the placement at 16.

Oh, No! No Good!


Figure 9 (115-156) White 30 (at the point of 16); White 46 takes ko; Black 49 same; White 52 same; Black 55 same

Black descends at 15, and White immediately makes the placement at 16.

Sakai: "Oh, no! No good!" he cried out in a loud voice, and threw his head back.

This had to be the work of a gremlin, there is no other way to explain it. It might be said that his hand moved in exactly the opposite way that he intended.

Yamabe 9 dan: "That is a shame, having the precise winning move at hand and making that mistake." So he declared, but this is not that rare an occurrence.

For Black 15…


Diagram 20

…if Black had made the hanging connection of 3, everything would have been fine. This is a case where one side has an eye and the other doesn’t [me-ari-me-nashi].

After Black 21, a position that was an unconditional win for Black had turned into a two-step ko, which is terrible. The will to fight disappeared from Sakai’s spirit. "Stupid, stupid," he kept repeating.

As might be expected, Chikun is strong at forcing a win out of a game. When speaking about how the previous two games ended, Ishida Akira asked, "How did the game with young Fukui go?" and was told, "At first Black was well off, but when the stones got jumbled together, little Chikun got the better of it." Ishida Akira said, "As expected," and grinned. When asked about this, Chikun replied, "Really, I have a bad reputation, I must say."

That night, there was a big snowstorm in Tokyo. After the usual consolation dinner, we saw Sakai Takeakira off at Ichigaya Station. But the next morning, he proclaimed, "I stayed at the Nihon Ki-in. [In those days, the Ki-in ran a hotel on the top two floors, the 7th and 8th, for the convenience of visitors. It no longer does.] When I got to my stop, the taxi couldn’t make it up the hill [presumably because the snow made it too slippery]. So I had to turn right around and make my way back. I had a terrible time of it. When Sakai can’t even mount a hill, it’s hopeless."

156 moves. White wins by resignation.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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