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Twentieth Century Famous Games


1933: New and Old Guard Confrontation, Honinbo Shusai versus Go Seigen

By Ito Keiichi

Artwork by Uchiyama Tsutomu

From Kido, June 1970

The Problem of the Karigane/Takabe Rise to 8 Dan

On February 11, 1933, the promotion of Karigane Junichi and Takabe Dohei of the Kiseisha to 8 dan upon recommendation by the organization was announced. This angered Vice Executive Director Okura Kishichiro of the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association].

According to Yasunaga Hajime’s work, "One Hundred Years of Go," at this time Okura was highly indignant. He brought out the Young Lions of the Nihon Ki-in, Kitani [Minoru] and Go [Seigen] and challenged the other players to a match. Karigane and Takabe were thoroughly routed, causing the self-proclaimed 8 dans to lose face, and leaving the challengers exultant.

In opposition, starting with Honinbo Shusai and the Old Guard and directors of the Nihon Ki-in, the negative view was taken that the Kiseisha should not be attacked further while its fortunes were declining. Takabe’s scheme should not be cooperated with to give him credence.

At that time, Yasunaga approached the Okura faction himself and persuaded Okura to run a five page opinion poll in the April issue of Kido magazine asking, "In regards to the promotion of Karigane and Takabe to 8 dan, a wide number of professionals are asked." That was the last nail in the coffin.

In those days, the conditions in the go world included, besides the Nihon Ki-in, the Kiseisha, the House of Inoue [one of the four traditional Houses of Go established by the Tokugawa Shogunate at the start of the 17th century], Tokai Ki-in, etc., as the groups active. Of course, in terms of the size of their operations, they were comparatively weak groups, but in general they supported themselves independently.

Players of the Nihon Ki-in were forbidden to play games against members of these various organizations. Besides that, the playing standards were also different. For Nihon Ki-in players, the difference between the Meijin [assumed to be the strongest player in Japan and the yardstick against which all other players could be measured] and a shodan was assigned the value of three stones. The Kiseisha made this a four stone disparity between Meijin and shodan, with the difference between Meijin and 3 dan being three stones.

Some kind of accommodation had to be come to in the matching of playing strengths for the sake of competition. The Nihon Ki-in and the Kiseisha were at loggerheads concerning the recognition of 8 dan status, and that stymied progress.

In regards to this, the majority of the leadership of the Ki-in came to a decision.

There was another development that affected this situation


In this year [1933] the Japanese army occupied Shanhaiguan [Hebei Provence, China].

Just a little bit before this problem arose, the Jiji Shinpo [Times Newspaper] launched a competition among 7 dan go players to determine an 8 dan player. [Note: traditionally, 8 dan was the highest rank a player could rise to. 8 dan was considered a "Quasi-Meijin" and only a true Meijin could assume mastery above the 8 dan rank to demonstrate superiority over all of Japan. This, seemingly, was demonstrated by the emergence of the 4th Honinbo Dosaku, one of the greatest players of all time, who dominated all others. But, actually, that was comparatively rare in go history.]

Karigane and Takabe asked the Nihon Ki-in if they could participate, but the Ki-in refused. [This all seems petty today, but the Nihon Ki-in as just established in 1924, nine years earlier, and was struggling to get established itself. It could not spare resources to help others, especially potential rivals.

The Nihon Ki-in had earlier even refused to recognize Takabe’s rank of 7 dan, so he and Karigane together stated, "In that case, we are going to have to think of other ways to go."

However, Yazawa Chikucho had died earlier, so the off-shoot started by Suzuki Tamejiro, Kato Shin and Onoda Chiyotaro returned to the Nihon Ki-in. After that, the Kiseisha remained isolated and weakness throughout the land was evident.

On the other hand, the Nihon Ki-in was in tune with the times and went with the flow. Honinbo Shusai Meijin was aloof from the scene, but Kitani, Go Seigen and all of the other strong young players emerging were sparking a new dawn in the exciting new go world.

Karigane and Takabe and their dead-set followers along with their well-set plans worked out by Takabe, ended up leading his organization into unrecoverable disaster.

The New Fuseki Vogue

What is called the "New Fuseki," the two star points in a row, the three star points in a row, the 3-3 point, tengen [star point in the center of the board], etc., are moves that daringly dispense with the opening moves in the past. In contrast with the Shusaku Opening that held sway in former days, this was a departure from the opening [fuseki] theory of the past, where the vogue among the go playing public gave an opening to Kitani Minoru and Go Seigen, (both 5 dan at the time).

In the summer of 1933, Kitani published a work entitled, "The Proper Alignment of Fuseki and Joseki." In connection with this, the go writer, Otoriwara Tadahiro, accompanied him on a trip to the hot spring resort of Gokutani in the Shinshu region.

Go [Seigen] arrived after this, and the two worked together in consultation examining various things.

As a result of that, the spirit arose to play a new style of opening and see what would happen. With that in mind, Kitani, returning to Tokyo [from the hot springs meeting with Go Seigen], played a game with Maeda Nobuaki 5 dan for the Jiji Shinbun [Times Newspaper] in which he tried out the three star points in a row opening. Next, in the Hochi Shinbun [Reporting Newspaper], a knock-out tournament, with Black against Chinoda Chiyotaro 6 dan, he tried out the New Fuseki again, but lost both games. Kitani took it as a failure of his research.

These were actually the first times that the New Fuseki was played. In Kitani’s published work, "The Direction of the New Fuseki," he wrote, "Those two games were painful experiences, but with them in mind I faced the autumn session of the Oteai Ranking Tournament [which in those olden days was the biggest event on the go scene; remember: in those days there was no established newspaper sponsorship as there is today, and strong go players had to wing it on their own, hoping to attract media attention, so the Oteai provided the focus of the strongest go players in Japan battling it out for supremacy]. Of course, the New Fuseki was still a wild, uncontrolled concept, so it was to be expected that losses would be incurred in those days."

Beginning in the first round of the autumn session of the Oteai, Kitani tried out the New Fuseki and had an outstanding success. [Note: Go Seigen was never a formal member of the Nihon Ki-in, so he did not participate in Oteai games. Therefore, Kitani was the one who introduced the New Fuseki to the tournament go world.] At the same time, Go Seigen played the New Fuseki and compiled a good record. [Note: In those days, playing conditions were not set. Therefore, outstanding players such as Go Seigen were sponsored by private parties for matches.] So Kitani and Go Seigen vied for supremacy in the go world.

The ardor of fans was kindled, and besides that the attention of the world was directed on the emergence of the Nihon Ki-in into prominence, led by the two who had achieved such a winning record with the New Fuseki. It created a groundswell that shook the nation.

Besides that, Yasunaga Hajime, who had just been employed by the Nihon Ki-in as an editor, took hold of this opportunity and Go, Kitani and Yasunaga became joint authors of "The New Fuseki Method" pubished by Heibonsha. Then, they worked tirelessly to promote it. Combined with the popularity of the two players, the New Fuseki came explosively in vogue among both professional players and amateurs as well.

In opposition to this, and standing in the position as the upholder of the "Old Fuseki" was principally the House of Honinbo. In particular, Shusai took every opportunity afforded him to express his opinions critical of the New Fuseki.

The Challenge to Tradition

It was just at this time that the Yomiuri Shinbun [Newspaper] instituted a tournament for professional players ranked 5 dan and above. In that format, the Japan Go Championship was sponsored, with the winner earning the right to play a game against Honinbo Shusai Meijin. That was how the tournament was designed. And then in the final, Hashimoto Utaro 5 dan and Go Seigen 5 dan faced off against each other.

In the end, Go won by 2 points playing White. In regards to the atmosphere at the time, in his work, "The Spirit of the Contest," Hashimoto had the following to say.

"…1 point ahead at the end is fine, or else, hanging on by 1 point, is an easygoing feeling, but it is just that which ends up becoming the cause of a loss.

There is nothing at all to be mortified about in losing to Go san. Rather, by obligingly winning, Go san set up the game of Shusai Meijin versus Go Seigen, one that created excitement among go fans everywhere. That also was instrumental in helping the go world to prosper, and when contemplating that, there was no cause for dissatisfaction. However, the feeling of having botched things, in other words, losing through a failure of one’s own spirit is a mortification that cannot be avoided.


Afterward, I won a variety of titles, but for me more than all of those other titles, I wanted to win this game, and still today I think that way. It might be said that the mental resolve that I compose myself with before playing a game was born at this time.

When the game was over and I was going home, Shoriki Matsutaro [president of the Yomiuri Shinbun, and a promoter of go tournaments and matches, especially those of Go Seigen; he also brought baseball to Japan, launching the Yomiuri Giants as the powerhouse team, similar to the New York Yankees], approached me and asked, ‘What happened?’

‘I lost.’

‘You lost, did you? Well, thank you very much. It is good that you obligingly lost,’ he said, which was a strange way of commending my efforts.

As things turned out, instead of me coming into prominence from that time, it was Go Seigen who came into prominence, and that was good for both the newspapers and the go world. As might be expected, Shoriki san foresaw that good results and has to be admired for that. However, the loss of the spirit at that time was mortifying, the strange commendation was mortifying, and ate at me…"

In this way, the Honinbo Shusai versus Go Seigen game started on October 16, 1933 at the Kajibashi Ryokan [Japanese inn] in Kyobashi. In terms of playing conditions, the difference between the Meijin [considered the strongest player in the world] and a 5 dan was four ranks, so usually games would be played at the standard of ninisen [two stone handicap, two stone handicap, Black], but it was the desire of the Yomiuri that Go just play Black, and that was what was decided. The time limit was 24 hours apiece, and play would be suspended 13 times [to give the players breaks which would presumably lead to superior play], the end of the game being in the next year, 1934, on January 29.

During the Nihon Kiin versus the Kiseisha rivalry match which had taken place earlier, the Honinbo/Karigane game had drawn tremendous attention throughout the world. As relations between Japan and China were deteriorating, since Go was Chinese and was opposed by Shusai, the leader of the go world, and then, the game started with revolutionary moves at the 3-3 point, the star point and tengen [the center star point] in the fuseki, etc., it stimulated the House of Honinbo and the fans even more than normally.

For Shusai, it was a challenge to tradition that he was confronted with, which was disquieting to his spirit. Besides that, the personal disciples of Shusai’s school, the hot-blooded Takahashi Shigeyuki, Murashima Naoki and Maeda Nobuaki among others found it intolerable to lose, and so supported Shusai in every way possible. This was a feeling that natural.

In the room next door to the playing room, there was always a group of several players from the House of Honinbo that had assembled there to analyze the game. This bothered Go and he talked to his sensei, Segoe Kensaku, about it. As a result, they had Yoshida Misako enter the room and make those present uncomfortable.

In addition, there were Japanese who were unsettled by the situation, and felt that a Chinese national was behaving insultingly towards a Japanese. As a result, stones were thrown at Go’s house.

And then, these incidents, all of them, contrarily put a burden on Shusai Meijin’s spirit. They had a reverse effect from that intended, becoming an affront to his dignity.

For Go at the time, this game had the tincture of a teaching game from a master, which is how he thought about it. Besides that, since their nationalities were different, he felt no pressure of being faced by the traditional authority of the Meijin. He could use a new playing method without reservations, going all out. His play conveyed the freedom and imagination of youth. In contrast to the 21 year old Go, the 59 year old Shusai felt a great burden physically.

Play proceeded with both sides following their own beliefs, so that at the height of the struggle, White could not give way to optimism, rather, it was seen that the game was close, and this gave hope to Black.

The Exquisite White 160

The outlook in the game was convoluted, or else it was advantageous for Black. That was the board position, with the win clearly trending towards Black, when White played the exquisite move of 160. According to Shusai’s work, "Honinbo Game Talk,"

"…I was able to regain my composure. And then, without being self-conscious about anything, truly, without thinking that the opponent was Go Seigen, or else, whether I would win or lose, I banished all of those things from my mind, and just looked at the board with the simple logic of a person playing his own game. It was just then that in the flash of an instant the move of 160 came to mind.

"Black had occupied tengen [the center star point] and boasted of an impregnable territory in the area surrounding the star point, and yet I had discovered a move to be played in there…"

However, this exquisite move reverberated years later in the go world. The fact is that move had been discovered by Shusai’s disciple [deshi], Maeda Nobuaki.

In those days, it was a convention that when it was time to suspend play, it would always be when it was White to play that the game was suspended.


1st Session October 16 Move 21 afterward, play suspended 21 moves played

2nd Session October 23 Move 31 afterward, play suspended 10 moves played

3rd Session October 30 Move 47 afterward, play suspended 16 moves played

4th Session November 6 Move 69 afterward, play suspended 22 moves played

5th Session November 13 Move 79 afterward, play suspended 10 moves played

6th Session November 20 Move 95 afterward, play suspended 16 moves played

7th Session November 27 Move 107 afterward, play suspended 12 moves played

8th Session December 4 Move 109 afterward, play suspended 2 moves played

9th Session December 11 Move 121 afterward, play suspended 12 moves played

10th Session December 18 Move 131 afterward, play suspended 10 moves played

11th Session December 25 Move 155 afterward, play suspended 24 moves played

12th Session January 15, 1934 Move 159 afterward, sealed move 4 moves played

13th Session January 22 Move 183 afterward, play suspended 24 moves played

14th Session January 29 Move 252, game completed


As may be seen in the above table, during this game things such as deterioration of Shusai’s health and Go’s suffering from influenza frequently resulted in postponements of play. The game extended into the 14th Session, and during that time Black would always play a move before White sealed the move to end play. Of course, this was seen as the prerogative of the higher ranked player, as well as a remnant of the customs of feudal times, and although Shusai was not personally responsible for this. But it cannot be denied that this was clearly unfair.

The problematic White 160 was the point at which play was suspended following Black 159, which was played on January 15. After the passage of a week, the move was made on the 22nd of the same month.

The sanctum was Honinbo Shusai’s house, where all of his disciples [deshi] gathered together to analyze the game. This was customary in those days, and this was nothing about it to be particularly critical of. And this was not limited to the go world. Throughout society, things were organized along these lines, with a person in an upper position surrounded by a support group.

White: Meijin Honinbo Shusai

Black: Go Seigen 5 dan

Played from October 16, 1933 at the Kajibashi Ryokan [Japanese inn] through January 29, 1934, conducted over 13 Sessions

Time limit: 24 hours apiece

No komi

252 moves. White wins by 2 points.


Figure 1 (1-31)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Go 9 dan’s Analysis

For a long time, Black 1 and 3 comprised a playing method that I loved to use.

Black 5 at tengen [the center star point] is a move that the Meijin surely did not expect. Here, White 2 and 4 follow the same pattern, so it becomes a move that one wants to play. This Black 1, 3 and 5 is my own invention, and while it has been incorporated in a mixed up way into Kitani san’s New Fuseki, it was not the result of any especially deep research.

White plays at 6 as a strategy to see the way that Black defends with 7 and 9, and thereby determine the direction in which to make a corner enclosure, whether in the upper left or the lower right.

The moves through Black 13 form the turret [yagura] formation, which I tried once since the birth of the New Fuseki, but putting everything else aside, this is generally a serviceable set-up.

Black 15 next aims at invading at 16. Even though this move is exchanged for White 16, there is no loss incurred.

Black 17 and 19 are too tenacious. 17 should be used to turn to 29 right away, and if White answers by defending at 30, Black either invades immediately at 31, or else makes the checking extension of Black A, pressing all the way in from the right to the left side. This is just common sense.

Black 21 is a terribly slack move in the opening. This kind of move that is played solely to surround territory is, in the majority of cases, lukewarm. If Black is going to surround the center, it has to be done in proper form, with the attachment of Black B, followed by White C, Black D, White E and Black F. Due to the slack move of Black 21, the left side is open at the edge, so it ends up giving White the opportunity to attack Black’s corner in good form on the other side at 22.

The knight’s move of Black 23 is a playing method characteristic of the New Fuseki. From the standpoint of shape, this move entails something of a loss, but in relation to the territory in the center, in this case it is unavoidable.


Figure 2 (30-80) Black 39 connects

Go 9 dan’s Analysis

Instead of White 30, if it is considered desirable to avoid Black 31 being played, White could have made the extension to 31. Had that been done, Black would have headed for the checking extension at A.

For Black 41, the shoulder hit at 50 would have just solidified White, and that was not promising, I thought.


Diagram 1

For White 42, separating Black’s stones with the move of White 1 does not frighten Black. Rather than offering direct resistance, the key is for Black to take advantage of White’s territory being open at the edge with 2 and 4.

White 44 is a good point.

White 48 is a tenacious move. The sequence through Black 69 is a reasonable divvying up of the area.

White 72 is played at a difficult point. By incurring Black’s moving in at the point of 75, White’s entire position in the lower right gets tormented. That is the reason behind the swap that takes place from White 72 through 78, but Black also consolidates the center with 79 and is not dissatisfied.


Diagram 2

If White 80 is played as the cut of 1 and 3, Black plays atari from above at 4, using a sacrifice strategy discarding two stones. However, for Black 4…


Diagram 3

…if Black takes hold of the stone from below with 1, once White puts the stone at 2 in place, the aim of moving out at A materializes. White 80 is a painstakingly played move chosen out of distaste for the sequence in Diagram 2.


Figure 3 (80-117)

Go 9 dan’s Analysis

Black 95 is a bad move. From the standpoint of having this stone work effectively across the whole board, at this point one would like to balloon outward with a move at A. Due to the lax move of 95, Black is forced to make the exchange of 97 for White 98, which leaves no potential [aji] that can be utilized in the future. Next, White is able to hane fruitfully at 100. White ends up sprinting ahead all over the board.


Diagram 4

Here, Black had the defensive measure of 1 available. Should White defend at 2, now Black 3 is possible. White aims at playing the peep at A with the playing method of cutting after Black B at White C in mind. White can play the ladder breaker of 4, but Black 5 deals with that [shinogi]. in addition…


Diagram 5

…Black 1 might be answered by the atari of White 2, but Black can play 3 and 5 in sente. Then, Black is able to capture White’s group in the lower left corner by descending at 7. Therefore, for White, after Black 3 in Diagram 4, the cut at C would probably be made, followed by Black D and White connecting underneath with E. However, this is a trivial matter, so Black would not be dissatisfied.

Instead of Black 109, the capture at B is the real move [honte]. Whit’s making the insertion move of C could be met by Black’s wedging in at 113.

This move of 109 is the distant origin of White’s getting the opportunity to play a good move.


Figure 4 (117-161)

Honinbo Meijin’s Analysis

There was no alternative but to butt against Black’s stone with White 18. Playing any other move would have resulted in a loss, so White could only desperately butt against Black with this move.

Go 9 dan’s Analysis

White 18 is the strongest move in response. With this move, playing something like the diagonal move at 21 would be met by the peep of Black 19, and Black would be able to deal with the situation [sabaki] easily.

Through 27, Black successfully destroys White’s territory here, but White 28 and 30 lay waste to the upper side, so this is a 50-50 result.

Taking profit with Black 45 and 47 is the direct cause of defeat. For 45, connecting at the point of 50 is best. By getting cut in sente by White 50, the potential [aji] is bad for problems.

White 60 is the good move that became the talk of the town.


Diagram 6

If Black blocks White off with 1, following White 2 and Black 3, simply cutting with Black 4 is a skillful move. The sequence through White 10 finishes things off. The result of leaving the move of White 4 until the end is that…


Diagram 7

…when Black plays at 9, even if White cuts at 10, Black has latitude to play atari at 11 to survive [shinogi].

Black 61 is a dangerous move, but there is no other feasible way to play.


Figure 5 (161-200)

Go 9 dan’s Analysis

White 78 aims at moving out with the two White stones of 62 and 70. Without 78 in place, White A would be followed by Black B, White C and Black D, a countermeasure already worked out.

Instead of Black 85, the move of Black B is also possible, but the difference is hard to evaluate. Either way, a loss of 2 or 3 points could not be avoided.

White 80 through 92 capture five stones, which seals the win.


Figure 6 (201-252)

252 moves. White wins by 2 points.

(Reprinted from Kido, May 1964, "Reflecting on the New Fuseki" by Go Seigen.)

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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