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Kobayashi, First Campaign, First Triumph


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Kobayashi Koichi holds a warm place in my heart. First, we both came into the world in the same year, 1952. Then, he was born and raised in Asahigawa, Hokkaido, where my ex-wife also grew up. And the first published translations of mine were of articles of his written for Kido magazine. Not only that, but the first Japanese go book that I ever read cover to cover was one of Kobayashi’s.

However, over and beyond that, Kobayashi is a major figure in modern go. It is hard to explain how great an influence he exerted over the years. That is because his superlative record on the tournament scene is eclipsed by that of the greatest player in the history of go, Cho Chikun. They were rivals in their youth and vied for the highest honors over the course of their careers. Look at Kobayashi’s record: 8 consecutive Kisei titles, 8 Meijin titles, and a multitude of other prestigious titles. What a magnificent achievement! And yet, one eluded him: the Honinbo title. That one, above all, was sanctified by the winning of nine consecutive Honinbo titles by Takagawa Kaku between 1952 and 1960 and became the "Holy Grail" of accomplishments in the go world for a generation of players until Cho Chikun bested that record by winning ten titles in a row. The feat was historic, and though Kobayashi secured a solid place in go history himself, it fades beside the glory of the Honinbo title. (Which he challenged Cho Chikun for three times unsuccessfully.)

Still and all, study of Kobayashi’s games is recommended for players of all levels. He has a simple but direct style of play that neutralized the strengths of his opponents. Critics carped at that, insisting that his way of playing was boring and detracted from the aesthetic nature of the game. But what of that criticism? As if winning by legitimate means is bad? Kobayashi compiled a record of success that has rarely been equaled in go history.

But decide for yourself. In the following article, Kobayashi analyzes a championship game played against one of the front rank players of the day. It won him the title, no mean feat. And his observations are worth a close look.

5th Tokyo Channel 12 Lightning Go Championship, Final

White: Kobayashi Koichi 6 dan

Black: Fujisawa Hosai 9 dan

Played on March 25, 1973 at the television studio of Tokyo Channel 12.

Komi: 5 1/2 points

243 moves. White wins by 12 1/2 points.

Analysis by Kobayashi Koichi in Kido, May 1973
Those interested in viewing the original article in Japanese can click here to do so.


The 5th Tokyo Channel 12 Lightning Go Championship began on September 3, 1972 with a game broadcast between Fujisawa Hosai 9 dan and Ohira Shuzo 9 dan. After more than seven months of severe fighting over the board, on March 25, 1973 Fujisawa Hosai 9 dan and Kobayashi Koichi 6 dan met in the finale of the tournament.

On the occasion of this event, there were a number of factors that attracted attention but far and above them all was the unexpectedly fine performance of Kobayashi Koichi 6 dan. He was born in September 1952 in Asahigawa, Hokkaido, which makes him a young man of only twenty years old. He capitalized on his winning of the Shinei Tournament [restricted to the best of up-and-coming young professional go players] by willfully advancing on the stage [hinoki butai — performance stage made of Japanese cypress wood — and where my former publisher, Hinoki Press, got its name] to come to prominence. Who could have predicted this?

Kobayashi 6 dan faced great opposition: first, in the Shinei Tournament he defeated Takagi Shoichi 7 dan (challenger of the 10 Dan title), Ishii Kunio 8 dan, and Cho Chikun 5 dan, earning his first major title. Next, upon his entrance to the tournament here, he won in the first round against Takagawa Kaku, Honorary Honinbo, by capturing a big group of stones. and in the second round by overwhelming Shimamura Toshihiro 9 dan in an absolute rout. But on the verge of coming to the final, he committed a mistake against the same opponent the next game and was about to lose when he turned the tables and gained an upset victory. This put him on a roll, which enabled him to ride the wave of his good form to defeat Fujisawa Shuko 9 dan in the semi-final game with Black, an impressive victory. From an observer’s perspective, it seems hardly possible that a young professional player could win against such a formidable array as these three opponents.

Well then, at last we come to the final of the tournament. Fujisawa Hosai 9 dan has an outstanding record of advancing to the final four times. He stands as an equal of Sakata Eio 10 Dan as representative of his generation. [Which included Go Seigen, considered the greatest player of all time. Fujisawa Hosai was the first player awarded the designation of 9 dan by the Nihon Kiin (followed by Go Seigen and then Sakata) and did much to establish go as the national pastime of Japan.] When he has the time, he goes to the public swimming pool in Yoyogi for exercise, vying with younger athletes there.

In this game, Hosai 9 dan built up a large territorial framework [moyo] on the right side to create a great advantage, but as he has been guilty of so many times in the part, he overplayed his hand and turned everything to dust…


Figure 1: A Calm and Collected Start (1-31)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

I grasped a hand of stones and placed my clasped hand on the board. My opponent guessed the number correctly and won the right to play first, but honestly, I was glad of that. That is because holding the White stones Hosai 9 dan uses his vaunted mane-go [imitation go — where White imitates the moves of Black], and I had little confidence in being able to counter it effectively.

The formation that Black develops with 1 through 13 is Hosai 9 dan’s forte.

Instead of White 28…


Diagram 1

…White might jump to 1 here, but supposing that in reply Black pushes through with 2 and cuts with 4, this represents good timing as forcing moves. The object is to find out how White will respond. Should White connect at 5, the moves through Black 12 are standard. After this, Black aims to descend at A and connect underneath at B. For White 5…


Diagram 2

…if the atari of 1 is made, Black 4 works perfectly. White would like to push through with 5 and cut with 7, but after Black 10, the two ladders at A and B are equivalent options.


Figure 2: A Deep Valley of Territory for Black (32-67)

Instead of White 32 there are various ways of playing, but my feeling was that it is not a waste of effort to immediately fix the shape here.

White 36 and 38 are passable moves, but next the attachment of White 40 is an absolutely terrible move. Had I lost this game, this would truly have been the losing play. For 36…


Diagram 3

…the defensive move of White 1 is standard in this position since White also has the komi. This can be considered a sufficient opening [fuseki] for White.

The sequence through White 50 follows the line of play [suji] that I had read out, but next Black 51 and 53 create a deep valley of territory on the right side, so already the position is a difficult one for White to deal with.

White 54 and 56 are a desperate attempt to attack the Black group here, but Black 59 is a good move that is followed up by pushing through with Black 61 and cutting with 63, which is wonderful timing. Black creates survival shape [shinogi] simply and easily.

Instead of White 64…


Diagram 4

…the atari of 1 is answered by Black 4 and the jumping-attachment of 6.


Figure 3: Black 85, the Losing Move (68-86)

Regardless of what happens, White has to takes Black’s eyes away with 68 and 70. Otherwise the story is over.

Playing Black 71 and 73 to quickly make life is a negative strategy unlike Hosai 9 dan’s usual play. Naturally, Black should attach at A.

Black 75 is a terribly greedy play. Instead…


Diagram 5

…surrounding territory with 1 would leave White with a clearly inferior position.

White plunges in deeply with 76, staking outcome of the game on this move.

Should White use 82 to hane at B, Black would swallow up White’s stones with an attachment at C.

Black 85 is the losing move. The feeling is that incurring the attachment of White 86 caused the tables to be turned. For 85…


Diagram 6

…the forcing move of 1, followed by 3 would give Black a decisive advantage.


Figure 4: White Makes Great Inroads on the Right Side (87-109)

When White extends at 88, Black cannot omit answering at 89. Next, the jumping-attachment of White 90 has significant consequences.

Having to meekly submit with Black 95 is excruciatingly painful. However…


Diagram 7

…hanging tough with Black 1 would obviously be met by White 2, leaving Black no chance of success.

Instead of Black 99…


Diagram 8

…the hane of 1 would result in the White atari of 2 and the cut of 4, and Black ends up cut adrift.

The atari that arises from White 100 and 102 feels good. Then, White 104 through Black 109 is a devastating result that is too good for White, especially since White ends in sente.


Figure 5: Black Plays Desperately Tenacious Moves (110-200) White 50 connects at 41

White 12 and the cut at 14 is tesuji in this position. In other words…


Diagram 9

…the standard block of 1 would incur the atari of Black 2 and the connection of 4. Black could even reply to White 5 by playing elsewhere. (After White A, Black B, White C, Black D, White E and Black F, Black wins the race to capture.)

On the other hand, the thoughtless atari of White 20 is a bad move. It is better to leave that unplayed since…


Diagram 10

…the atari of White 1 can be played as a forcing move anytime in sente. (If Black does not respond, White A, Black B, White C, Black D and White E puts Black on the spot.)

White 22 is the sealed move. [I have no idea why a sealed move would be necessary in a lightning go game. Perhaps there was a break for lunch. Or perhaps television broadcast scheduling required a break.] Besides this, I believe that the territorial moves of either White 36 or White 86, buttressing the center, would be sufficient.

For White 48, the connection of 49 would be clear and simple.

With Black 55 and the following moves, Black again and again seeks complications—


Figure 6: The Goal is Reached with Points to Spare (201-243)

In the previous figure, White adroitly stabilized [made sabaki] the position in the center and the lower left corner. It is smooth sailing all the way.

When the play enters into this figure, there is nothing else to say.

243 moves. White wins by 12 1/2 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

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