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Fifty Years of Popular Fuseki


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Sakata Eio, Honorary Honinbo Looks Back

Fifty Years of Popular Fuseki

By Sakata Eio, Honorary Honinbo

From Kido, November 1995

Those interested in viewing the original article in Japanese can click here to do so.

Special Report

Seen from the perspective of divisions of ten and twenty years, the opening [fuseki]has undergone dramatic changes. However, from the perspective of continuity, it is like the flow of a great river, without any breaks. The impact of the New Fuseki influenced developments from the Showa 20 Decade (1945 — 54) through the Showa 50 Decade (1975 — 84), which we will look at here.

The Showa 20 Decade: 1945 — 54

[Note: Showa is the formal name of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, who ascended to the throne in 1926. Since go is the traditional, national pastime of Japan, for many years popularly disseminated matter carried that date, 1926 being Showa 1.]

The Inheritance of the New Fuseki

Two Star Points in a Row [Nirensei]

The vicissitudes of the fuseki have been liked to a Great River Drama [= Taiga Dorama = in the popular sense in Japan, an epic historical production featuring many famous actors and dozens of minor ones reenacting major events of the past; NHK, the National Broadcasting Company, has been filming and broadcasting these shows for decades on television]. Even tracing this current over the 50 years since the war [WWII] is insufficient; without going back still farther, its coherence cannot be grasped.


Diagram 1  Jubango [Best of Ten Game Match] 1954

White: Go Seigen 9 dan Black: Sakata Eio 8 dan

This is a game played in 1954 in which Black occupied two star points in a row and White two facing 3-4 points at the start. Black then attacked the corner with 5, initiating the avalanche model [joseki].

In this way, the combination of the Black two star points in a row and avalanche model [fuseki] became very popular in the Showa 20 Era. The two star points in a row originated in the New Fuseki of 1933 and continued [being experimented upon] for several years, which is a great inheritance. Before that, there was no such thing as the two star points in a row [fuseki].


The New Fuseki [Shin-Fuseki]

The New Fuseki[Shin-Fuseki] resulted from the joint research of Kitani Minoru and Go Seigen, with Kitani inventing the fuseki based on the large scale influence of the three star points in a row. Before that, Go Seigen played moves like the 3-3 point in the opening, the thinking being to place importance in the fuseki more on speed than on influence. The New Fuseki started to be played in the autumn of 1933.



Diagram 2

Looking at this fuseki, what kind of thoughts come to mind? At first glance, it seems like a game played recently, perhaps with Takemiya Masaki 9 dan holding the White stones, does it not?

But that is wrong. The game was played in 1934, White being Kitani, who was 6 dan at the time. This was exactly the time when he began experimenting with the New Fuseki in games like this. Regardless of that, it is startling how much it resembles what is today called the Takemiya Style. The originator of the Cosmic Style was young Takemiya’s teacher, Kitani.

The Shusaku Style, 1, 3 and 5

Before the New Fuseki, the main style of opening play, overwhelmingly, was the Shusaku Style of 1, 3 and 5.


Diagram 3

The model with Black occupying the 3-4 points with 1, 3 and 5.

The point that should be focused on in this fuseki is that White does not use 4 to play in the empty lower left corner, but hurries to attack Black’s stone in the corner. That is because Black’s making a corner enclosure there is thought of as being extremely large. In the generations before komi, Black strived for steady and solid positions, with corner enclosures being the best built strongholds. Therefore, among the oldest games there were games in which White 2 was used to immediately attack the corner at 4, and for Black’s part, the move of 3 was often seen in games to be immediately played in the upper right corner to make an enclosure there.

Even after the New Fuseki became popular, the 1, 3 and 5 fuseki continued to be played as the main line.

Furthermore, Diagram 3 is a game from the 6th Annual Honinbo Title Match, where I was challenging Hashimoto Utaro, who was playing Black here. In Game 1, as Black I played the two stones in a row.


The First New Fuseki Example


Master Kitani first played the New Fuseki in this game. Black 7 can probably be characterized as the Cosmic Style. This is from the Tokyo Daily Newspaper Young Powers Knock-Out Tournament in October 1933. White was Maeda Nobuaki 5 dan.


The Showa 30 Decade: 1955 — 64

The Sakata 3-3 Point Fuseki

During the Height of Strength Period, the 3-3 Point

When I was at the height of my strength, that is, around the time of Showa 30 [1955] through the first half of the Showa 40 [1965] Era, as is well known, when I was holding White I would play my first move on the 3-3 point. During that time, as Black I would also play that way sometimes.

The first one to play the first move on the 3-3 point was Go Seigen before the war, and once the fever of the New Fuseki had died down, it gradually came to be played universally.


Diagram 1 Top Position Tournament 1961

White: Sakata Eio 9 dan Black: Fujisawa Shuko 8 dan

In the Top Position Tournament of 1961, against Fujisawa Shuko, as White I played at the 3-3 point, a move that I had started using around the end of the previous year.


Diagram 2

This game is from the Honinbo title match in 1963 against Takagawa Kaku. Around this time I already liked playing on the 3-3 point even when I held Black.


Komi Go

The komi was adopted for use in go tournaments starting with the Honinbo tournament. This was an epochal event, so at first there were many who were opposed to it. In particular, Kato Shin 7 dan was adamantly against it, and in a leading publication contributed his response to the situation with the single sentence, "Komi go is not go," At first the komi was set at 4 1/2 points.


The arrangement of stones on the right side is often produced in games. When White slips into that side with 16, Black makes the checking extension of 17. Then, even though White can play at 18, the restrained checking extension of the one space move of Black 19 gave good feelings in those days.

When I think about it now, the 3-3 point could not be said to be particularly suitable for my style. Much less could it be called superior to the star point or 3-4 point. But when my playing strength was at its height, I occasionally experimented with the 3-3 point and achieved good results. So with these good results, I grew accustomed to the 3-3 point, and placed my confidence in it. It was not only limited to me, but I found fuseki using it particularly effective.

The Consciousness of the Komi

Something that I would like to emphasize about the fuseki of the Showa 30 Decade (1955 — 64) is that the number of tournaments sponsored by newspapers grew. At the same time, the komi became a fixture of those tournaments.

In the era when there was no komi, Black aimed at playing in a steady and solid manner, while White was motivated to play for a rough-and-tumble dogfight. However, in komi go that was completely reversed. Black strived to take the initiative in fighting across the whole board, while White aimed for a leisurely game.


Diagram 3

Taking up the example of a game played in 1958, in response to the Black 1, 3 and 5 battle formation, slipping into the side with something like White 6 is a conception that comes from komi go. Black "a" is answered by the two space extension of White "b." Allowing Black to make the corner enclosure of "a" is something unimaginable in a game without a komi.

Another thing that is apparent about the Showa 30 Decade (1955 — 64) is that Black’s two star points in a row opening that was often played in the first half, came to be hidden under a shadow in the latter half. That was due to the influence of Go Seigen’s new move of the inward turning move in the Large Avalanche Joseki.


The Definitive Version of the Large Avalanche Joseki?


This is a game from 1958. Up to around this time, the sequence through White 34 was said to be the definitive version of the Large Avalanche Joseki. However, after that, White 22 came to be played as the hane at 29.


The Showa 40 Decade: 1965 — 74

The Peaceful Fuseki Era


Diagram 1 Meijin League 1966

White: Fujisawa Shuko 9 dan Black: Sakata Eio, Honinbo

During the first half of the Showa 40 Decade (1965 — 74), there was nothing that especially caught the eye in the fuseki. The two star point in a row fuseki was in decline, and other than that the fuseki was played in a balanced way. Among those fuseki, one that was most often played was the combination of the corner enclosure comprised of Black 1 and 5 with the 3-4 point of 3.

For White 4, in the era before komi, this would be played as the attack on the corner with 5. But in the komi era, White endeavors to play in a leisurely manner, and therefore occupies the empty corner with 4, allowing Black to make the corner enclosure with 5.

The one space high attack on the corner with White 6 is played out of a distaste at having Black make a pincer against White’s stone. That is, it is easy to see that making a small knight’s move attack on the corner [at 7] would incur a pincer.

The moves through White 12 is a popular fuseki of the Showa 40 Decade (1965 — 74). However, there is absolutely nothing flashy about it, and it has moved in a stately way to be played in the contemporary era.


Time on the Clock

It goes without saying that the trend for time on the clock is for it to be shortened. By the way, in 1941 in the 1st Annual Honinbo League, each side started with 13 hours on the clock, with the game played over three days. That was later 10 hours played over two days, and in the present league, 5 hours in one day, with the best of seven title match being 8 hours played over two days.


For someone like myself, from the standpoint of either the Black or White side, playing this has come to be distasteful. In addition, regarding corner enclosures, attention should be paid to the fact that the small knight’s move version is most often played.


Fujisawa Shuko on the left playing a title match game against Sakata.


Diagram 2

Black 1 and 3 are the star point and 3-4 point combination. Following that, making the corner enclosure with Black 5 is the most frequent continuation. This setup is countered by White’s slipping into the side with 6. Along with the previous diagram, Black sprints ahead in terms of territory, while it can be perceived that White pursues a leisurely pace.

Previous to the New Fuseki, the Shusaku Style of 1, 3 and 5 was the main style of play, but following the New Fuseki, the two star points in a row became established, and komi go ushered in White’s lack of distaste for Black’s making a corner enclosure. Along with that, staking out influence on one side with the "Parallel Play Model" is the fuseki that was overwhelmingly played frequently in the Showa 30 Decade (1955 — 64) and may be said to be its defining feature.


Diagram 3

The odd opposing 3-4 points occupied by Black 1 and White 2 fuseki can only be touched upon here. Black is incited to hurry to play at 3 so that White can play one step ahead and occupy another open corner. That is White’s ploy here. Rin and I contested any number of games using this in title match games. That came under a lot of scrutiny at the time.

From the latter half of the Showa 40 Decade (1965 — 74), the Chinese Style Opening finally made its debut. That will be taken up in the section about the popular fuseki of the Showa 50 Decade (1975 — 84).


The Bud of the Cosmic Style


This is a game that young Takemiya played as Black in 1969. It is famous as a game that showed the budding Cosmic Style. At this time, Takemiya was an 18 year old 5 dan. White was Hashimoto Shoji 9 dan.


The Showa 50 Decade: 1975 — 84

The Zenith of the Chinese Style Opening

Inviting an Attack on the Corner

The Chinese Style Opening came about when Yasunaga Hajime [known as the strongest amateur in the world; he was eventually awarded a professional 6 dan rank by the Nihon Ki-in] taught Chinese players about it and it became popular in China. It then became a reverse import to Japan, where it also gained popularity. This is the prevailing theory.

It began to be played in Japan around 1969, illustrated by a game between Shimamura Toshihiro 9 dan and young Takemiya that was published in the Go Yearbook [Kido Yearbook]. Over the next two or three years it spread like wildfire. By the Showa 50 Decade (1975 — 84) every Tom, Dick and Harry was playing it, and it came to be employed as the principal style of the fuseki. To the extent that the Showa 40 Decade (1965 — 74) represented the peaceful fuseki, it no doubt acted as a spur to the feeling to break stereotypes.


Diagram 1 2nd Annual Kisei Title 1978

White: Kato Masao 9 dan Black: Fujisawa Shuko, Kisei

In the 1978 Kisei Tournament, Fujisawa Shuko, Kisei faced the challenge of young Kato in the best of seven match. The match went all the way to the seventh game, with Black playing the Chinese Style Opening in every game. Among those, two games featured Black 5 played at "a," known as the "High Chinese Style Opening."


The Birth of New Tournaments

In the Showa 50 Decade (1975 — 84), a number of new tournaments were launched. The 1st Annual Kisei Tournament, with a best of seven format, came in 1977, and the 1st Annual Tengen, Gosei and New Players tournaments all were established in 1976. Besides that, in 1979 the Kakusei title and 1982 the NEC Cup tournament were created. On the amateur side as well, in 1979 the 1st Amateur World Championship was launched.



Diagram 2

In the same series, young Kato played Black here. Please pay close attention to White 4. This move at the 3-4 point is said to be a "Chinese Style Opening Counterstrategy." The reason is that in response to Black 5, the corner enclosure of White 6 aims a sword point at the Chinese Style Opening territorial framework [moyo] giving Black a feeling of unease. However, although usually Black 5 would be used to make an attack against the lower left corner, young Kato without a second thought about this "Chinese Style Opening Counterstrategy" immediately completed the Chinese Style Opening with Black 5. It was to that extent that young Kato liked to play the Chinese Style Opening, you know.


In the 1st Annual Kisei Title Match Fujisawa Shuko, Kisei on the left met Kato Masao, Honinbo.


Diagram 3

As soon as the Chinese Style Opening started becoming popular, this "Mini-Chinese Style Opening" immediately began to be played. Up to that time, a move at the 3-4 point was the premise for making a corner enclosure. This invites the opponent to make an attack on the corner and then take the initiative. This is a special used against the Chinese Style Opening, changing the meaning behind playing at the 3-4 point in a big way. It was an epochal playing method, of that there can be no dispute.

An interesting thing is that when the Chinese Style Opening became popular, at the same time the two star points in a row, which up to then had been hidden under a shadow, was revived again. The two star points in a row opening and then the three star points in a row opening aim at developing a territorial framework [moyo] on the side of the board, and in that sense they are similar to the Chinese Style Opening, so it may be said that it was inevitable that they were revived.


The Takagi Style


Black 5 is a move that young Takagi experimented with. This is a game from 1969, played almost the same time that the Chinese Style Opening appeared. This is a move is sometimes still seen.


The Showa 60 Period: 1985 — 88

Two "Kobayashi Style Openings"

Attacking the Star Point

There are two openings dubbed the "Kobayashi Style."


Diagram 1 10th Annual Kisei Title Match 1986

White: Cho Chikun, Kisei Black: Kobayashi Koichi, Meijin

Following Black 1 and 3, attacking the corner with Black 5 and then developing with 7 is the first Kobayashi Style Opening. It invites an attack on the lower right corner. Should White then play at "a," Black replies at "b," and if White "c," Black plays severe pincers in both cases. Black 5 and 7 work as an active and aggressive strategy for playing effectively. In the case of White 8 as well, Black plays 9 and the checking extension of 11, with no cause for dissatisfaction.

From the standpoint of inviting the opponent to attack the corner as the aim, this is in common with the Chinese Style Opening. Young Kobayashi started playing this around the middle of the Showa 50 Decade (1975 — 84), and entering the Showa 60 Decade (1985 — 88), used it often. It goes without saying that it is also popular among many other professional players.


Diagram 2

In the case where White has a stone on the 3-4 point in the lower left corner as well, Black makes the high attack on the corner with 1, and with the sequence through 7, the development is similar to the Kobayashi Style.


International Tournaments

In the Showa 60 Decade (1985 — 88), the international tournament scene became lively. The NEC Japan-China Super Tournament was launched in 1985. The Fujitsu Cup International and Ing Cup tournaments began successively in 1988. In this same year of 1988, the Japan-China Meijin and Japan-China Tengen tournaments also started. The Television Go Asia Championship started in 1987 as well.



Diagram 3

In this case, there is a stone on the 3-3 point in the lower left corner. Black plays 1 and then makes the extension to 3, which is likewise a similar development.

The factor that impelled Kobayashi to work this out was the influence of the Chinese Style Opening and one other thing: as a counterstrategy to the Chinese Style Opening, the two star points in a row and the three star points in a row, White started using the two star points in a row often.

The New Kobayashi Style

As his use of the Kobayashi Style started to wane, the second Kobayashi Style appeared. It was called the "New Kobayashi Style."


Diagram 4 9th Annual Kisei Title Match 1985

White: Kato Masao, Meijin Black: Kobayashi Koichi, Kisei

This is from the 1985 Kisei Title Match. Black 1, 3 and 5 is the New Kobayashi Style. This in itself is not remarkable, and during the Showa 40 Decade (1965 — 74) it was also seen from time to time. But the one space corner enclosure of Black "a" was not played, rather the small knight’s move corner enclosure of 5 was used exclusively. Young Kobayashi concentrated on playing this one model, examining it close up.

The star point and small knight’s move corner enclosure, in other words, maintaining a balance of influence and profit, was compatible with young Kobayashi’s playing style. Along with that, following Black 5, anticipating the extension in the direction of White 6, Black planned to attack the corner with 7, an easy path to read out in this fuseki. These factors agreed with Kobayashi’s taste.

Recently, young Kobayashi has been playing the New Kobayashi Style as his first choice, but he has not been achieving good results, so I imagine that he will be stopping to play it.


The Diametrical Star Points


Recently, the "Parallel Model" is practically all that is played, but when White plays 2 on this 3-4 point, Black occupies the star point in the diametrically opposite corner with 3, aiming at fighting with Black 5. This is often played.


The Heisei Period: 1988 — 95

[Note: When the Japanese Emperor Hirohito died in 1988, his son Akihito ascended the throne, taking the formal name of Heisei, so that the traditional dating system changed from then on to Heisei.]

Attack and Defense Revolving Around the Star Point

White’s Two Star Points in a Row

Artistically, the Heisei Period was an extension of the Showa 60 Period (1985 — 88), with no notably innovative developments in the fuseki. As before, the two star points in a row opening and the three star points in a row opening were most often played. The Chinese Style Opening was not played as often as at one point, but it was still frequently played.

If forced to focus on a particular feature, it would be White’s increasing use of the two star points in a row.


Diagram 1   20th Annual Tengen Title Match 1994

White: Rin Kaiho, Tengen Black: Ryu Shikun 6 dan

This is not a fuseki that has just been invented now, but it is a model fuseki in terms of the development of Black 1 through White 10, with Black’s three star points in a row opening countered by White’s two star points in a row opening.


The Number One in the World

In the go world today, a period has been entered where aiming at being Number One is necessary. International competition has become lively, and what is more, powerful players in China and Korea are catching up to Japan and outstripping it with their advancing skill. At the present time, China’s Number One player is Ma Xiaochun 9 dan, while in Korea, the twenty year old Lee Changho 7 dan is best.


White’s two star points in a row opening is most often used in opposition to Black’s Chinese Style Opening, or the two star points in a row opening, or the three star points in a row opening. That is no doubt because it gives the feeling of being the most steady and stable. The 3-4 point as well as other moves, on the contrary, gives Black the opportunity to build a large territorial framework [moyo] in good form. For example…


Diagram 2

…in recent times this has not been seen much, but in answer to White 4, Black 5 through 9 is a performance of Takemiya’s Cosmic Style. If White 4 is on the star point, this kind of thing is not possible.

White’s two star points in a row have come to be familiar in dealing with Black’s large territorial framework [moyo] strategy, not getting flustered, not getting alarmed, but taking a "waiting attitude."

When that happens, a motivation is born in Black to next strike against White’s two star points in a row.


Diagram 3

This is a game played in 1994 between young Otake Hideo holding Black against young Takemiya Masaki. White 2 is suddenly met by the attack on the corner of Black 3. Unquestionably this is an unusual move, but no one should be surprised. Since after any number of moves have been played the attack on the corner of Black 3 will be answered by White defending "a," or perhaps "b," or else White 4 could otherwise be played as the pincer at "c" or "d," any of these moves selected according to circumstances. Therefore, the reason that Black played 3 was as a probe to see White’s reaction. Besides that, since this was not played against a 3-4 point but as an attack on a star point, quite a few years ago this is a move that would have been viewed with astonishment. However, recently the developments regarding White’s two star points in a row had become unsettling, so Black feeling in playing 3 is well understood. No one was surprised.

Along with the popularity of White’s two star points in a row, there have come to be many variations in star point joseki. In the previous article about joseki, those were touched upon, and it was pointed out that in relation to the two space high pincer of White 4, besides Black invading the 3-3 point in the corner at "e," the double attack on the corner with Black "b" is another new joseki that has been invented.


A Change in the Frame of Mind


This is a recent game that Takemiya played as Black. At first glance it is surprising. Up to now, the three star points in a row would be played in no time. Was there some kind of spur of the moment change in intentions that occurred?


The Heisei Period: 1988 — 95

[Note: When the Japanese Emperor Hirohito died in 1988, his son Akihito ascended the throne, taking the formal name of Heisei, so that the traditional dating system changed from then on to Heisei.]

The Difference Between the 3-4 Point and the Star Point

Playing the 3-4 point aims at making a corner enclosure. The star point finishes the play up in the corner with one move. Therefore, a major principle in olden times was that with the 3-4 point, it was best to hurry to play either a corner enclosure, or an attack on the corner. With a star point, there was no rush to play.

However, that changed greatly with the advent of the Chinese Style Opening and the old Kobayashi Style.


Diagram 4  16th Annual Gosei Title Match, Game 2 1991

Black: Kobayashi Koichi, Gosei White: Kobayashi Satoru 9 dan

This is one example of that. Please focus on the attack on the corner of Black 5. Previous to this, in regards to an attack on the corner with Black 5, it was established practice to head towards the 3-4 point, and attack the corner with either 7 or "a." This was also young Koichi’s idea, but if the attack on the corner with 7 is made first to fix the shape, and then Black attacks the other corner with 5, it could not be anticipated for certain that White would defend at 6.


Kobayashi Koichi and Kobayashi Satoru in Game 2 of the Gosei title match.

From olden times, it was said that go is a living thing. The meaning is that the feeling in regards to the move to be played transcends logic, and depends on subtle factors. In particular, it is often felt that playing in line with the way that the opponent wants is no good. Therefore, concerning innovative ploys, in the majority of cases, considerations of good and bad are surpassed. However, it is due to that severe fighting spirit that progress in go is made. In the future, I will be eagerly watching to see the kind of fuseki and joseki that emerge.

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.

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