Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
We have millions of friends around the world... and they all play go!

A Guide to the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association]


"Music, Go, Calligraphy and Painting Illustration" by Kaiho Yusho (1533~1615)

Japan Festival Houston, April 13~14, 2019

Visit the website: https://www.houstonjapanfest.org/

The game of go was brought to Japan, along with Buddhism and other cultural advancements, from China in the eighth century. It was eagerly embraced by the upper class and other educated individuals, especially Buddhist monks. For hundreds of years after that, go remained mainly the province of those Buddhist monks.

However, the nobility continued to view go as an admirable pursuit. That is because it was depicted in famous Chinese paintings as a civilized art, included among such things as music and calligraphy.

At the start of the 17th century, when the Tokugawa Shogunate closed Japan to the outside world, it also began subsidizing the four major Houses of Go, included that of the Honinbo. The first Honinbo Sansa was a Buddhist monk who was patronized even earlier, by the warlord Nobunaga. This state of affairs continued for hundreds of years, into the 19th century.

At that time, Japan was forcibly opened to the West by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. That was in 1854. It threw the country into turmoil. The Houses of Go lost their patrons and struggled to stay in existence. Eventually only the Honinbo would survive.

As the 20th century began, various groups of go players sought to form viable organizations devoted to the promotion of the game. This continued for a couple of decades, until the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association], under the leadership of Honinbo Shusai, emerged as the leading group. It was formally established in 1924 in Tokyo.

This ushered in a golden age of go. A prodigy who had come from China, Go Seigen, created a sensation with his fabulous play. And along with his great Japanese rival, Kitani Minoru, he revolutionized the game with the "New Fuseki," which altered the way the game was perceived. That also captured the imagination of the go playing public.

Unfortunately, at the same time the Japanese military began expansionist activities, first in China, then throughout Southeast Asia and finally to the United States, Bombing Pearl Harbor. Of course, this was an unwise policy that resulted in Japan’s utter defeat.

While all of this was going on, the go world suffered. Wartime austerity caused severe cutbacks in go tournaments and matches. But they did not stop entirely. If fact, the Honinbo title match (which had been set up by the Nihon Ki-in as a modern-style competition after Honinbo Shusai, the last hereditary Honinbo, bequeathed his title to the Ki-in) being played on the outskirts of Hiroshima, was in progress when the atomic bomb was dropped. The player huddled in the garden of the house where the game was held, aghast at the destruction that they witnessed.

After the war, the American Occupation made it very difficult for go events to be held. But the interest of the Japanese public regarding professional go continued unabated. Jubango best of ten game matches featuring Go Seigen against a variety of opponents, as well as other events, were sponsored by newspapers, which became to mainstay of support of the go world. This continues to this day.

However, it was only in 1964, when Japan organized the Summer Olympics, that the country finally reemerged as a world power. A new generation was taking over.

It was the same in the go world. Go Seigen’s top student, Rin Kaiho, and Kitani’s, Otake Hideo, were in their twenties when they ascended to the front rank. Rin won the Meijin title at the age of 23, while Otake won the 10 Dan title at 27. Otake also eventually won the Meijin title himself and his rivalry with Rin continued for the next twenty years.

In the 1970s a new group of young professionals, led by students of Kitani, came to the fore. First by winning the Honinbo title, then the Meijin title, and then all the rest.


This brings us to the following game. The Nihon Ki-in had built a new facility in the Ichigaya section of Tokyo, in the center of the city, just a few blocks from the Japanese Diet.


The circle represents the Yamanote Line, which runs all around Tokyo. The line that dissects the circle is the Center Line, which is shown here to start at Akihabara on the right and runs to Shinjuku on the left. The arrow in the middle points at the location of the Nihon Ki-in, indicated by the box, just up the street from the Ichigaya Station of the Center Line.

This is a prestigious location, suitable for the status of the organization that it had finally attained. All sorts of events were held to celebrate the occasion, including the game below, which was aired on NHK, the national broadcasting company of Japan, similar to the BBC in England.


Customary when launching a major endeavor in Japan, a Shinto ceremony was held to sanctify the site.


A party was held to commemorate the occasion.


Honored guests toured the facility, including the major title playing room, the Yugen no Ma. A piece of calligraphy created by the winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature Kawabata Yasunari adorns the wall. It reads, "Shino Yugen," or "Abstruse Profundity."


The main playing hall can accommodate major professional and amateur tournaments.


The Nihon Ki-in also has a cafe to offer refreshments.


The scene of the game in the studio of NHK. The kanji in the lower right says, 人気 = "ninki" = "popular"

A Popular Line-Up of Professional Go Players

This past November 23, for one hour in the afternoon between 4:00 and 5:00, on Labor Thanksgiving Day, NHK Educational Television [NHK Popular Television is a second channel that NHK broadcasts] aired a special program entitled, "Your Favorite Group Go Game."

This group go game (rengo) featured on one side Segoe Kensaku, Honorary 9 dan, Rin Kaiho, Meijin and Kodama Sachiko 2 dan, and on the opposing team Iwamoto Kaoru 9 dan, Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo and Ogawa Tomoko 1 dan. These lineups, ranging from elder players to the pinnacle of contemporary players to the best women players is an exceptionally unusual group. What is more, the commentator was Takagawa Kaku, Honorary Honinbo, renowned for his fine analysis. Joining him at the analysis board was the Nihon Ki-in’s Chief Director Arimitsu. This was a varied and splendid cast.

Before anything, photographs were shown of the opening of the new Nihon Ki-in facility on the previous day, the 22nd. The nation’s go fans were undoubtedly delighted to be informed of the birth of this palace of go. Following this, the game finally began.

The rules governing this game were that neither side had any time on the clock, each move played within 30 seconds of time-reading [byo-yomi] and 5 points komi.

In addition, due to the time constraints of broadcasting, the airing ended abruptly with an unfinished board position. Therefore, the only place to completely appreciate this game is here in the present article.

NHK Special Commemorative Group Go Game

White: Segoe Kensaku, Honorary 9 dan, Rin Kaiho, Meijin, Kodama Sachiko 2 dan

Black: Iwamoto Kaoru 9 dan, Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo, Ogawa Tomoko 2 dan

Played on November 23, 1971 at the television studio of NHK in Tokyo.

Komi: 5 points

261 moves. White wins by 4 points.

Analysis by Takagawa Kaku, Honorary Honinbo


Figure 1: The Two Elder Players (1-30)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Segoe Kensaku, Honorary 9 dan was born in 1889 and turned 82 this year. He is the elder statesman of the go world. In 1958 he was presented with the prestigious Shiju Hosho [Purple Ribbon Award], in 1964 the 1st Okura Prize and in 1966 the Zuihosho, 2nd Class.

Iwamoto Kaoru 9 dan was born in 1902, and is a respected elder, 69 years old. As an active he still competes in various tournaments the same as always. In 1967 he was awarded the Shiju Hosho and in 1971 the 6th Okura Prize.

When in the world was the last time these elders played against each other? In particular in the case of Segoe Kensaku, Honorary 9 dan, who, though still hale and hearty in his old age, suffers from poor eyesight and hearing. It may be thought this this was the last time that he would play a public game. Sitting at the side the board, a profound emotion was conveyed.

Well then, moving on to the game, Iwamoto 9 dan held Black and started the play with the stable and steady Shusaku-style development in the opening. With the pincer of Black 7 in the lower left corner, the first confrontation began.

Instead of White 16…


Diagram 1

…the diagonal move of White 1 followed by the jump of 3 is also joseki.

For Black 17…


Diagram 2

…the variation starting with the hane of Black 1 and continuing with the sequence through Black 7 is the most common model.

Black 29 is a free and easy move most characteristic of the Iwamoto style.


Figure 2: The Pinnacle of Contemporary Players (31-70) Black 63 connects (at 56)

Well then, coming up to bat in the second spots were players who turned the lineups much younger. They were the 29 year old Rin Kaiho, Meijin and the 23 year old Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo.

These young contemporary players both revel in power games, and with their appearance an air of tension immediately floated over the board.

White 34 is another severe move.

In response to White’s pushing through at 38, blocking with Black 39 in an unconcerned manner was a stubborn move. Rather than Black 39…


Diagram 3

…giving way with Black 1, and should White answer at 2, descending to Black 3, sacrificing the two marked Black stones in exchange for an attack against White’s stones on the left side was another feasible strategy according to Takagawa 9 dan’s commentary.

For White 44…


Diagram 4

…the Black stones here can be captured by White 1, but Black wraps up White and squeezes with 2 and 4. The White team considered that incurring this sequence would produce an inferior result.

When play reached White 54, a lull came in the fighting here.

Following White’s jump to 68, if Black uses 69 to turn to play elsewhere, immediately cutting directly with White A, Black B and White C would make things difficult for Black.


Figure 3: The Best Women Players (71-130)

Third up in the lineup were the best women players, who were eagerly awaited for by go fans everywhere.

25 year old Kodama Sachiko 2 dan faced 20 year old Ogawa Tomoko 2 dan. This was truly a lovely confrontation. Kodama san, whose face betrays her every emotion, was in marked contrast to Ogawa san, who always maintains a poker face. According to the reply to inquiries, this year the two will play their hundredth game against each other. Therefore, they have greatly polished their games against each other, and although they are focused on their craft, they are immensely popular. That has been a disturbing hindrance to their progress in technique it seems.

The invasion of White 84 is a considerably dogged move to play. No doubt, it may be considered that there is a bit of danger connected with this, but when White clearly makes life with the move at 96, one is tempted to say that this might be expected. [That is because it is easier to make life for weak stones than to kill them.]

Black 97 is slack. Naturally…


Diagram 5

…Black should play at 1 to take sente.

Nonetheless, White 98 falls in line with Black’s intentions, failing to take advantage of the favor giving by Black and instead surrenders sente to the opponent.

For White 108, playing at 110 would be usual, but here the women players display their power game.

Extending with Black 113 is all too much a complacent move.


Diagram 6

The hane of Black 1 strikes at the vital point. [Go proverb: Hane at the head of two stones.]


Figure 4: The Pinnacle of Contemporary Players (131-200) Black 53 takes ko; White 56 same; Black 59 same; White 62 same; Black 69 same; White 84 takes ko (right of 67); Black 91 same

In this figure and with the following moves, both teams fielded their aces in order to wrap up the game.

Actually, the broadcast, due to time considerations had to be halted with the last move of the previous figure (130). So the reader is urged to play the game out on a board alone.

Black has aimed at playing 31 for some time. White must feel uneasy after seeing Black make the move.

For Black 39…


Diagram 7

…Black would like to tenaciously play at 1, but because of the ability of White to make the forcing move of 4, in the end, even though Black can cut at 9, White 10 would then turn the tables and end up capturing Black’s stones.

Black 41 and 43 are skillful moves. White is prevented from capturing with a move at A. Should White play at A, the peep of Black 52 then makes White unable to make the fencing-in move at B.

Black 49 starts a big ko fight. This is the showdown that will decide the game.

Since Black does not have enough ko threats to continue the fight, White 70, Black 71 is unavoidable. A big swap for the lower left corner takes place. However, despite this, the outlook in the game is considerably close.

The connection of Black 87 is the losing move. Instead of playing there…


Diagram 8

…Black 1 would create a double ko which would capture White.


Figure 5: The Pinnacle of Contemporary Players (201-261)

"Computer" Ishida calculated that the mistake of Black 87 in the previous figure amounted to a 4 point loss. When considering that the game ended with a 4 point Black loss, it may be said that around that point the outlook in the game was for a jigo draw or 1 point difference.

When play reached the endgame in the board position in this figure, the pinnacle of contemporary players finished the game with consummate skill as to be expected. No further commentary is needed.

261 moves. White wins by 4 points.

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

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply


book cover

Go on the Go Collection: Volume I

Three booklets have been assembled into the collection here.

Buy this Book at Amazon

Go For Everyone

Go For Everyone

A New Method for Learning to Play the Game of Go

Buy this book

Book Cover

Journey to the West

This is a semi-autobiographical novel that depicts a unique American success story; a rags to riches tale of a man escaping his humble origins to make millions of dollars, but then he throws it all away due to the ancient character flaw of hubris.

Buy this Book at Amazon