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The Key to Getting Strong at Go


The Tenjin Festival (天神祭, Tenjin Matsuri) of Osaka is ranked as one of Japan’s top three festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto and the Kanda Matsuri of Tokyo. The festival started in the 10th century and today takes place on July 24 and 25 every year. The main celebrations are held on the festival’s second day, July 25, including a land procession and a river procession with fireworks.

Tenjin Matsuri is the festival of the Tenmangu Shrine and honors its principle deity Sugawara Michizane, the deity of scholarship. The festival begins by ceremonially inviting the deity out of the shrine and parading him through the city, carrying out various exuberant festivities to entertain him, before taking him back to the shrine. For the people, the lively festivities manifest in a wonderful occasion to enjoy the hot summer day, filled with traditional costumes, spectacular processions and a celebratory atmosphere.


I am now producing translations for a new book that explains how to get strong at go. One of the sections contains three essays by Takemiya Masaki 9 dan. He advises studying professional games by playing them out on a board. I did this for years and as a result I rose to strong dan status.


The illustration above is the cover of the 1973 Kido Yearbook. It was one of the first go books that I ever bought. The price can be faintly seen: $5.50. Of course, that was 46 years ago, so inflation has to be taken into consideration. But it still seems like a bargain to me.

I played out all of the games in this volume at least once, and some several times. It was also instrumental in my learning Japanese. The notes are deceptively simple. At first I thought that I could just learn some basic kanji (Chinese characters) to get a idea of what the meaning is. However, Japanese has a complex grammatical structure which, when abbreviated usage is needed for the brief notes, can be maddeningly difficult to understand by beginners. It took me some time to understand how naïve I was to think that I could figure things out quickly.

Just to explain one other thing, I would like to point out the subtitle on the cover: 4 月臨時増刊号 (Shigatsu Rinji Zoukangou = April Extra Expanded Edition). The Nihon Ki-in (Japanese Go Association) considered the Kido Yearbook a special publication that simply offered recaps of games in the regular Kido monthly magazine. In a way, that is perfectly true. Most of the games were already analyzed in that format, and the Yearbook just offered everything in a convenient format, along with much supplemental material such as statistics about players to accompany biographical information (which included the addresses to which letters could be sent), photographs, tournament rules and regulations, information about the Nihon Ki-in, etc.


Here is a game from the Meijin league. It was one that I played over several times. There is just so much to learn about go from it. As stated above, the rules were already spelled out in the introductory section, so it was not noted in this simplified format on what date the game was played, or that the komi was 5 points with White winning in case of a jigo tie. I say this so that it does not seem strange when I ignore anything but what is written on the page.

League Game 1

White: Fujisawa Shuko 9 dan Wins by 1 point

Black: Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo


Figure 1 (1-100)

Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

For Black 11, 22 on the left side is also possible. Black 15 is solid, but the invasion of "a" is superior. Simply playing Black 23 at 25 is usual. White plays in good form with the jump of 32. Black 33 and the following sequence settles the shape while leaving the possibility of making life, but Black "b," White 54 and Black "c" is also possible. Starting with White 60, a skillful order of moves makes life in the lower left corner. Black 75 and the following is a natural progression of moves. The connection of Black 89 is solid. The outlook in the game is unclear. Instead of Black 93, the diagonal move at 96 is also a good point.


Figure 2 (101-259)

For White 4, if the connection at 5 is played and Black responds at 11, it would be good. Through Black 11, defense is secured in sente, and then Black fixes the shape with 13 through 29 favorably. Instead of White 18, the hane of 22 would be sufficient. For Black 33, the attachment of "a" is also big. Black considered the outlook in the game after 37 to be good. The endgame play of White 38 is natural. As before, the outlook is difficult. Had Black played 67 as the knight’s move at 86, it would have ensured having the superior position. It was painful when White ignored the upper left corner to turn to play at 70. Instead of Black 81, "b," White "c" and Black 81 would have kept Black ahead.

259 moves. Complete game.

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