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One of the Great Unknown Players in the History of Go

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Of course the title here is an exaggeration. Cho Hunhyun is an important figure in the history of the game, and there are many players, all around the world, who are familiar with his career. I myself translated and published a book about him, Cho Hunhyun: Life and Master Games. I gave him a copy of the book at a banquet held in Los Angeles a few years ago, and I was photographed with him at the time. (Of course, I had a friend, Gary Choi, present him with a couple of copies in Korea when the work was first published.)

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Segoe Kensaku, May 22, 1889-July 27, 1972

Cho (born November 22, 1950) came to prominence as a youngster in Seoul, where he was recruited to become a student (insei) at the Nihon Ki-in by Segoe Kensaku. Many go players cherish the classic, Go Proverbs Illustrated, that Segoe wrote. It was published by the Nihon Ki-in in an effort to promote go in the West. Cho complained that as a student of Segoe, he had to face the powerhouses of the mighty Kitani School (Dojo) practically alone. That is because in order to prevent collusion, players of the same dojo were barred from playing against each other in the Oteai ranking tournament. (There was no such rule in the commercially sponsored tournaments.) Ishida Yoshio, Kato Masao and Takemiya Masaki especially gave him many tough times.

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Segoe with his beloved student, Cho Hunhyun

Eventually, Cho was required to return to Korea to fulfill his military obligation. He served in the air force, where he met Jimmy Cha (Cha Minsu). Jimmy told me once that losing his student as a companion broke Segoe’s heart and led to his death. Whether this is true or not, Cho’s return to Korea was a wonderful boost to the level of play there and created the conditions for the renaissance in go (or baduk as it is called in Korean) in that country, as well as its popularity throughout the world.

The following article will give the reader a good idea of the great talent that powered Cho’s success.

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Meeting the responsibility of the third game kadoban [meaning that a loss would force the team down a rank, ignominiously having to take a greater handicap] gave Cho Hunhyun 2 dan even more of a boost to his fighting spirit

Cho Hunhyun 2 Dan

A Fine Win

By Mihori Sho

Analysis by Otake Hideo 9 dan

From Kido, March 1969

In this series Otake 8 dan must contend with the body blows dealt to him by a lineup of young players. At the start, lower ranked players play first, the higher ranked player gives a komi of 2 1/2 points, and following three straight decisive games on one side, the komi increases/decreases by 2 points on both sides.

Young Go Players Appearing

1) Cho Chikun 2 dan (loss by resignation) [Game published in Kido, January 1969]

2) Ishida Akira 3 dan (loss by 2 1/2 points) [Game published in Kido, February 1969]

3) Cho Hunhyun 2 dan

Remaining lineup:

Fukui Susumu 3 dan Kawamoto Takeo 3 dan

Kobayashi Koichi 3 dan Hirano Masaki 3 dan

Kuwata Yasuaki 2 dan Yoshida Yoichi 2 dan

Inoue Kunio 2 dan Kanajima Tadashi 2 dan

Kodama Sachiko 1 dan [Sole female player on the team]

"For the third player, young Cho Hunhyun, it is the kadoban you must know!"

[Note: "young" Cho Hunhyun might look strange, but it is my attempt to translate the word kun. Japanese cultural standards require that all members of society be given a title of respect. So for most people, the title san is used, as in Kato san. That would be too exalting for a child, so chan is suitable when talking about Masao chan (or even more familiarly expressed as Maa-chan). Kun is used for young people, young men mostly, but in these days of equal rights, the word is also applied to women. So the original Japanese in this article refers to Cho Hunhyun kun.]

The editor [of Kido magazine] hailed me with this remark. When I learned of this series for the new year, I immediately placed my hopes on young Cho Hunhyun.

My prediction for this series was that chances for the young players were a little bit worse, but I envisioned that Otake 8 dan would have the advantage. At the start, lower ranked players move first and receive a komi of 2 1/2 points from the higher ranked player, with the rule being that following three straight decisive games on one side, the komi increases and decreases for each player. I thought that the young players would be beaten down and the komi received would have been increased. The lineup of the young players was outstanding, but I was entranced by the robust artistry of Otake 8 dan.

However, I foresaw that Hunhyun was a strong opponent whoe explosive punch would tell the tale.

In the end, young 15-year-old Hunhyun wrested a fine win from his elder colleague Otake.

[Note: "elder colleague" Otake might look strange, but here again rendering senpai into English is difficult. This is a word used every day in Japan to refer to an older colleague, but it is a cultural concept unfamiliar in the West. Perhaps "mentor" would be the closest equivalent, but that is too formal a term.]

White: Otake Hideo, Nihon Ki-in First Place Champion (giving 2 1/2 points komi)

Black: Cho Hunhyun 2 dan

Time limit: 2 hours for each side

Komi: 2 1/2 points

Analysis by Otake Hideo 9 dan

Fig01

Figure 1 (1-19)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

At the Kitani Dojo

We were at the Kitani Dojo in Yotsuya Ward,. [This is in central Tokyo, close to the Imperial Palace.]

Otake 8 dan has assumed the authoritative presence in the Kitani Dojo. [Kitani Sensei was in ill health and would die a few years later. Otake was a star player at the dojo.]

Young Hunhyun was wearing a jumper. Since the time that he became an insei, he has grown greatly physically.

I was reminded of how closely he resembled Yamabe Toshiro 9 dan at the same time in his life. Like Yamabe, his artistry has bloomed remarkably at the same time as he has shot up in height. He has a stunning talent for seeing everything at a glance, so these two are very similar in many ways.

Young Hunhyun is the favorite student of Segoe Kensaku Sensei, who is now approaching 80 years of age. Last year observers were crying out, "Look at that! Look at that!" week after week as he managed to force his way into the final preliminary round of the Meijin tournament. [A 2 dan player starts in the first preliminary round, along with 1~4 dan players. This is a mini-knock-out tournament with only the top player advancing. Fees are paid, but they are small in the beginning. As a player advances, these fees rise. In the second preliminary round, 5~7 dan players join, making the competition more severe. The final preliminary round has 8~9 dan players taking part, as well as players from the previous Meijin league who have been seeded into the round. For a 2 dan player to get this far is rare.] He was finally defeated by Handa Dogen 9 dan [of the Kansai Ki-in, who had challenged for top titles like the Honinbo title in the past] but this brought him to the attention of the public.

Young Hunhyun’s best friend is the studious and famous Abe Yoshiteru 6 dan, and more than anyone Abe chan appreciates Hunhyun’s artistry.

"In the future, he will be great," he says.

"He only lacks being conceited enough…" according to a journalist.

"Unless you are a tengu [hobgoblin with a long nose, famous for being conceited], your artistry will not advance. But if you are a tengu, your artistry will be halted." [This means that the best players are fixated on their own play, making them hard to beat, but being too fixated can lead to stagnation.]

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Figure 2 (20-33)

Coordinating with the Upper Right

Black played the joseki in the lower right to coordinate with the upper right.

Since the distance between the corner enclosure in the upper right was good, White had to slide to 30 to avoid falling hopelessly behind. [Meaning that a turning move by Black to the point below would be overwhelming.]

The reason for not exchanging the Black atari at for White , and then playing Black 29 is that White is prevented from then jumping out to . Doing so now means that…

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Diagram 1

…Black is able to push through and cut.

In this joseki, the focus is there and the point of 31. Therefore, from White’s perspective…

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Diagram 2

…playing as in this diagram is desirable, but it would be unbearable now to have Black play "a," White "b" and Black "c" in sente. Consequently, Black 31 is natural. However, if this is disagreeable for White, first exchanging White 31 for Black is an order of moves that is conceivable. Both White 32 and Black 33 were played in no time at all, but…

Fig03

Figure 3 (34-46)

Reflecting on the Road Not Taken

…Instead of White 32 in the previous figure…

diag03

Diagram 3

…"I wonder if White 1 in Diagram 3 was better," reflected Otake 8 dan.

The way of playing in this diagram is to view the three stones to the right as light. In that case, young Hunhyun replied that he would play Black 2 and the following, then make the slipping into the side move of 8. it is likely that there are readers who worry about the viability of the lower left corner stones, but, well, let’s just accept this as a sequence that ends with a pause in the action.

At this point in the game, the variance of one move or another would suddenly change the whole course of the game.

Had Black 33 been played one point higher, White would have answered with 34 as a pincer at , that would have resulted in a completely different game.

Among professional players analyzing games when they are over, it is typical of them to discuss the turning points like this.

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Figure 4 (47-61)

White Misses a Chance to Create Complications

Otake: "Having Black make the defensive move at 57 means that White has lost a chance to create complications. Around the point of White 52…

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Diagram 4

"…White should have played the single move of 1 as a probe to see how Black would answer."

Cho: "In that case, rather than the fencing-in move of Black 51 on the right side…

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Diagram 5

"…Black could also have played the solid and secure developing move of 1 in Diagram 5."

Otake: "That’s true, you know. That would have probably been the real move [honte], you know."

Cho: "I wanted to peep with the move of Black "a" in Diagram 5, but…"

Otake: "I was thinking that Black should have followed up 47 with い, White 50 and Black , you know."

Fig05

Figure 5 (62-65)

A White Life and Death Problem in the Lower Right

In an article published in the the New Year edition of the weekly Y magazine, they wrote about the outlook in various fields over the next 5 years and 10 years. Reading that, S 9 dan stated,

"Look at that! Terrible!"

Hearing that, I, too, read it to see what it was all about. They put the top four in the go world as Takagawa [Kaku, who was the reigning Meijin], Kaiho [given name of Rin Kaiho, the previous and future Meijin — incidentally, Rin’s given name is used in the article because his family name, Rin — — is read as the common family name, "Hayashi," in Japanese and using it could have created confusion], Sakata [Eio, 10 Dan at that time] and Shuko [given name of Fujisawa Shuko [previous and future Meijin — his given name was used because his nephew, Fujisawa Hosai, was a prominent player in his own right, having contested three Jubango matches with Go Seigen], which was fine, but five years after that, it was the trio of Kaiho, Otake and Kato [Masao, at the time 5 dan, but recognized as a top tournament player after having challenged for top titles for several years]. Ten years later it was just the duo of Kato Masao and Takemiya Masaki [who was 4 dn at this time; remarkably, in 1979, Kato and Takemiya were considered the very best of the top professional players].

"ChikuRin [竹林 = OtakeRin; taking from Otake = 大竹 and from Rin Kaiho = 林海峰; this was the name journalists came up with to focus on the two rivals] would disappear in ten years?! Awful!" [Both Otake and Rin would have major successes well into the 1980s.]

That is what S 9 dan said with a disgusted look on his face. However, I was dissatisfied with this for another reason.

When it comes to 10 years into the future, I would have liked to see one or two of the players who are featured in this column who are 2 dan or 3 dan, to have been included in the select group. For my own part, I would like to nominate this young Hunhyun as a great hope ten years from now. And yet, in the cutthroat world of tournament go real fighting strength triumphs over everything, and ten years in the future it would not be strange for the whole top lineup of professional players to change completely. Well then, in the lower right, playing atari and then after the exchange with White 62, the block of 63 is a shrewd order of moves. In this phase of the game, the sharp footwork of young Hunhyun can be discerned. What will happen to this White group?

With an inscrutable look on his face, Otake 8 dan left the group as it was, and turned to play 64 on the upper side, but had White made the reinforcement at , without a doubt Black would have naturally developed rapidly with .

That was distasteful to White, so defiantly White tossed down the gauntlet in regards to the lower right: "If you think you can take it, do so and show me."

Even before that, had White played 62 at , there would have been no problem. However, in the atmosphere of fighting go, it is difficult to play that way from the aspect of fighting spirit.

Fig06

Figure 6 (66-89)

"Breaking Right Into My Territory"

Looking at the upper left corner, young Hunhyun had a sour look on his face.

That is because White played the cross-cut of 78.

Hunhyun: "Black 75 should have been played as the hane-into the position at . In that case, White would play and Black 75. With that exchange in place, the Black group in the upper left would have been secure.

With the play in the figure…

diag06

Diagram 6

….White going for the capture with 78 might be met with the sequence through Black 9, but then White lets loose with the hane of 10, instantly killing Black’s group there in the upper left.

Consequently, giving ground with Black 79 through 83 was unavoidable. Black had to suppress tears of regret when playing in this submissive manner.

Not only that, but White could press home the advantage with the move at 86.

Black had no choice but to answer at 87.

In compensation, Black slapped down the stone of 89 with a ringing note, breaking into White’s territory.

"Un-huh. Breaking right into the opponent’s territory." Otake 8 dan let out an inadvertent groan and glared as he saw Black cutting home with 89.

Of course, White would be forced to be frenetic in counterattacking this challenge.

Both players play quickly. But at this point, play suddenly halted. For myself, I saw this point of the game as the critical moment. Black must have courage in encroaching on White’s territory, but there are also weak points that White has to feel very concerned about.

Fig07

Figure 7 (90-96)

The Aim of Black 95

White 90 is the counterattack.

Here young Hunhyun displayed a strange style of play. He stood up straight on his feet and trained his eyes on the board. He stood there for a long ten minutes.

Then he haned over the stone with Black 91.

In the talk afterward, it was clear that he read out the strong response of butting against the White stone at the point of 96, but he was worried about playing the hane over White;s stone with Black 91, but as might be expected, he chose to do so anyway,

Had Black 91 been by White immediately cross-cutting, Cho said that he would have extended at .

diag07

Diagram 7

diag08

Diagram 8

He expected the sequence in either Diagram 7 or Diagram 8 to follow.

In regards to Diagram 7, play would continue with White "a," Black "b," White "c," Black "d" and White "e," and no matter which two stones Black decides to discard, the game would still be playable for him.

With White 92 in the figure, White altered the order of moves, but Black 95 has another aim besides defensive. The enemy is Honnoji [Honno Temple; the phrase is a famous one, spoken by a samurai under Nobunaga, the first of the three generalissimo who united Japan in the 16th century; the samurai turned around and attacked Nobunaga at Honnoji and killed him; ironically, Nobunaga was playing go with Honinbo Sansa at the time]. The White group in the lower right cannot live.

Fig08

Figure 8 (97-101)

White’s Group Dies

Once the stone at the point of Black 95 in the previous figure is added, the life of White’s group in the lower right is absolutely eliminated.

Young Hunhyun played instantly, not casting a glance at the White cut in the center. Starting with Black 97, he set about to actively capture the group.

For White 98, a common shape is created by…

diag09

Diagram 9

…the attachment below of White 1, but the placement of Black 2 occupies the vital point, and is the only move to deprive White of two eyes.

In addition…

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Diagram 10

…should White block at 1 here, Black can crudely play at 2 and 4 to take the eyes. So this does not go well, either. If Black 95 in the figure was not in place, after the sequence in Diagram 10, White could employ the emergency measure of starting a ko fight above. The reader is asked to investigate the proper series of move that lead to that outcome and ascertain that this is true. The point is that rather than a solid connection [one point to the left of Black 95], there was a reason for Black to make the more submissive move in defense.

White played 98 in search of a viable variation, but Black replied with the move order of 99 and 101 to take the eyes. No matter how White answers, the group will just end up with a five point oversized eye.

What is more, the adjacent Black group has the common slice through the stones at available as another aim. This means that the Black group has no restraints on being able to make eyes. In an instant the game was decided.

Fig09

Figure 9 (102-125)

The Kadoban is Avoided

Seeing Black push through with the move at 25, Otake 8 dan declared,

"Let’s stop here,"

tendering his resignation. This was a great achievement by young Hunhyun. The other youngsters in the group must rally and storm the Otake Castle to give back the komi and fight on even terms.

125 moves. Black 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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One Response to “One of the Great Unknown Players in the History of Go”

  1. Raian says:

    Working through Cho Hunhyun: Life and Master Games, thank you for this! And his lectures on go technique books. Both very good.

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