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49th Annual Honinbo Title Match, Game 5


Hachioji, Tokyo Cable Cars

Popular Culture in Japan

A friend in the US asked me recently if the media in Japan is flooded with stories of Donald Trump as it is in America. I told him that is hardly the case. On television there is virtually no mention of Trump. There was a three second shot of him on Halloween giving out candy to kids in front of the White House along with his wife, but that is all that I have seen. And there is little political analysis on television at all whatsoever. On the other hand, the Japanese are far from ignorant of such matters. There was a summary in the Yomiuri Newspaper that gave a complete rundown (buried deep in the paper, though) of the impeachment process going on in Washington now, including the history of events leading up to it. The report was as thoroughly informative as anything that I have seen in English. However, Japanese have better things to do with their time than focus on the latest nonsense that Trump is involved in.

For example, Tokyo Mayor Koizumi was embroiled in a controversy with the International Olympic Committee over the IOC’s moving the marathon in the 2020 Summer Olympics to Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido without any consultation with Japanese officials in Tokyo. That is after Tokyo had gone to considerable trouble and expense to accommodate the concerns of those who worried about the heat and humidity that might affect the runners. Among other measures, they built special rest areas along the route of the race with roof-topped benches equipped with mist-spraying equipment to cool off the contestants. This matter occupied the attention of most of the Japanese media day after day until a compromise was reached. The marathon will be run in Sapporo, and the only concession that the IOC made was that it would not make any other changes to the itinerary of the Olympic Games.

Tokyo also hosted the World Rugby Championship, but as an American I know nothing of the sport and have no interest in it, so I did not follow the event at all. It was the same with the Table Tennis World Cup that was just held in Tokyo. I watched a little of the coverage on television, but it left me cold. No doubt the Japanese feel differently, since the Chinese apparently hold the top four men’s ranks in the sport, followed by a Japanese player in fifth place, so there is a rivalry there, but seeing the play is as interesting as watching bowling is for me in the US. The same with professional badminton, which is also shown on television here. I used to play the game as a kid, but lost interest when I became a teenager.

One Japanese sport that I do enjoy watching is sumo wrestling. The latest tournament started this past week in Kyushu, the southernmost major island of the country. (Okinawa is farther south, as well as other Japanese islands, but they are much smaller and have no industry to speak of, except tourism.) For years, sumo was dominated by foreigners, including an America at one time, and now the Mongolians hold the top ranks. In fact, Hakuho has been setting records as Yokozuna (Grand Champion) that are threatening ones held by the greatest Japanese sumo wrestlers of all time. It disturbs the Japanese that someone from a place like Mongolia should reach such heights, but what can they do? There are now 16 foreign wrestlers in the top division of sumo, so that kind of development is to be expected. It shows how attractive the Japanese culture has become around the world.

In a similar way, basketball, which originated in America, is now immensely popular everywhere, including Japan. As a result, Japan now has its own home-grown basketball player, Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards. He recently made a very good showing, with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes. That shows that he has great promise in the game. Japanese fans are rooting for him to develop into a top player.

And, of course, above everything else I enjoy watching televised games of professional go. Every Sunday the NHK Cup Lightning Go Tournament is broadcast on television featuring top players vying for first prize. Each get ten minutes on the clock, and when they have used up that time, they must make every move within thirty seconds or forfeit the game. During the last ten seconds the timekeeper counts out loud from ten down, which makes the pressure even more intense. It is exciting to watch these games. And analysis is given by other high-ranking professionals on a demonstration board. It is a shame that these games cannot be somehow broadcast in English. That would attract attention to the game better than any other form of promotion.

However, in terms of Japanese culture, everything took backstage to the ascension of the emperor to the throne last weekend. It was estimated that 160,000 spectators gathered in front of the palace to watch the public festivities. A popular rock group performed on the stage, followed by a celebrated singer who gave a rendition of the Japanese national anthem, "Kimi ga Yo," while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Japanese Diet, and other dignitaries mouthed the words. At the same time, the crowd waved thousands of Japanese flags. (The flags were all identical, supplied by the organizers of the event to attendees as they picked up their tickets.)

Then the emperor stepped forward to the microphone to speak. He expressed his thanks for everyone in the crowd coming to support him. He then said that he would do his best to help the country develop and contribute to world peace. In conclusion, the emperor declared that the country had suffered greatly from the destruction wrought by Typhoon 19 and the downpour of rain that followed, and that he would do all that he could to help in the recovery effort. After a final word of thanks, he and the empress walked away, each carrying a Japanese lantern.

49th Annual Honinbo Title Match, Game 5


White: Cho Chikun, Honinbo

Black: Kataoka Satoshi 9 dan

Played on June 29 & 30, 1994 at Asahikawa.

231 moves. Black wins by resignation.

Commentary by Takagi Shoichi 9 dan in KIDO, Sept. 1994.

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


Figure 1 (1-26)

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

Nakahara, former shogi Meijin, states that in a best-of-seven match, there is no relationship with the score. If one side has two wins, the match is in the middlegame, and if that side has three wins, the match has entered the endgame. It may be imagined that Kataoka, trailing 1-3 in the match, was determined to make the most out of every single move.

For Cho Honinbo’s part, after this game, played in Asahikawa [in Hokkaido, the farthest northern island of Japan], was over, he had one rest day and then was off to Osaka to play the semi-final round of the Fujitsu Cup against Lee Changho 6 dan of Korea. This is a punishing schedule. Of course, if one wins, half of one’s weariness is dissipated, a fact that is well known. It is not hard to imagine that Cho Honinbo would play all-out to win this game. Whether that fact is relevant or not is hard to say, but the opening closely resembles a game that he played against Otake Hideo, 10 Dan. [The variation from that game is shown diagram 1.]

Cho has a lot of experience with this position.


Diagram 1

A number of years ago Cho Honinbo played this opening in a game with Otake. The development of the two games is very similar, so much so that they might be considered sister games. In addition, Cho recently played a game in almost the same style with Ohira Shuzo 9 dan (Cho won both games), and it seems like his judgment was that the position after 32 is favorable for white. Compared to the actual game, in the upper right corner black answers white’s probe at 14 by extending outward into the center. This means that later the value of white playing at "a" is high. When white plays at "a", black "b" and white "c" follow, and compared to the position where white has simply extended on the side at 12, this is much better for white. In addition, if black answers white "a" by playing at black "c", white plays at "d", usurping the territory in the corner as well as black’s base.

Kataoka defends the corner with black 11 in order to avoid playing into Cho Honinbo’s preparations. The move is tight territorially, characteristic of Kataoka.

To my way of thinking, it would be better to play white 12 as a solid connection at "A", and when black replies at 13, extend to white "B", but who can say?

Along with black 11 in the upper right corner, black plays at 17 in order to create a unique opening scheme and frustrate Cho Honinbo’s preparation.

I would never play the moves at white 20 and white 22. Since black played the tight stone at 11, there is no need to rush to play in this area. Instead, I think that playing at "C", or else white 24, black 25, white 26, as in the game, would have been a strong way of playing. Cho Honinbo seems to have felt the same way, that white 20 & 22 need not be played quickly, but decided that in this position it was sufficient for white to have played both big points of 22 and the white stone at 18.

Komatsu Hideki 8 dan, who handled the public commentary, stated that he would have liked to play black 23 at 1 in diagram 2.


Diagram 2

I too would elect to play this way as black.


Figure 2 (20-48)

When black invades at 27 white immediately makes the counter invasion at 30, and we see a somewhat similar technique at work.

In the moves following the capping move of black 31, it may seem as if nothing out of the ordinary happens, but move by move demands the utmost concentration from the players.

When black plays 35 white 36 is a strong response. Cho Honinbo commented that he had intended to exchange white "A" for black "B", and then play at white "C".

As he was considering white 40, which became the sealed move ending the first day’s play, Cho Honinbo slapped his knees harshly, as if bitterly regretting something.


Figure 3 (49-66)

Anyone, looking at the position here would be able to see that it is close. Black’s marked stones on the right side as well as white’s on the upper side are weak, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be gained in attacking them. So playing black 49 shows good intuition, oh so typical of Kataoka.

Defending the right side with white 50 at 61 would have been a solid way of playing.

Cho Honinbo also vigorously said that it would have been better to make a defensive move here. However, if white defends at 61, the sequence of black “A”, white “B”, black “C”, white “D” through black 50 will follow, and it appears that Cho’s unyielding spirit was unwilling to permit this. But white seems to have a reasonable game here.

It’s bad for white to play 52 at 1 in diagram 3.


Diagram 3

White 1 is bad, because black 2 & 4 are good moves that leave white with a dilemma: even if black loses the ko, the shape is such that black incurs no damage. Black’s stones are light.

The exchange of white 52 and black 53 weakens the marked white stone, and therefore is better left unplayed.

White 62 calls for a difficult decision.

Playing white “E” & “F” would give white’s marked stone on the upper side more support, but at the same time, black’s stones run away more quickly with “G”. In the game of go, each and every move is the cause for renewed consternation.


Figure 4 (67-89)

Plunging into white’s position with black 67 and black 69 is a sharp attack that shows how robust Kataoka’s game has grown recently. In response, white 68 and white 70 offer a supple response while making a good defensive shape. Since black’s stones are within white’s sphere, white must reap tangible rewards of some kind in attacking them.

Black 71 is an effective skillful finesse [tesuji]. However, it’s unfortunate that Kataoka made an oversight in playing at black 75.


Diagram 4

Extending at black 1 is a decisive move. Kataoka thought that then white "a", black "b" and white 5 would capture black’s stones, but at that point black plays at "c" and there’s nothing to worry about. In answer to black 1, white 2 is strong, but the position through 15 seems to be advantageous for black. There are a number of other variations that were examined after the game, but none appeared that were favorable to white.

By pushing through at black 75 and 77, black appears to have profited at first glance, but white has a thick strong position after making the moves with 82 and 84.

Through 89, black captures three stones, but there is a possibility that black’s position might become seki, and it cannot be said that black has clearly profited here.


Figure 5 (90-121)

After engineering an unusual and unexpected variation in the upper right and the right side, Cho Honinbo turned to attack black’s two stones with a sense of holding the advantage at that point. But Kataoka’s move played at that instant at 91 seems to have caught Cho by surprise. If black replies in the ordinary way with 91 at "A", white "B" will make black’s whole group heavy. But if black just runs out into the center, the balance of territory will be problematic.

The continuation through white 98 is an inevitable series of moves.

When black hanes at 99, if white answers, black will have made a considerable profit in sente. Or white might leave the three stones open to capture and for the time being turn to attack black’s two marked stones. For Cho Honinbo, who was left with no time on the clock, this must have been an exceedingly difficult decision. It’s interesting that Kataoka could usher in a position where it is difficult to determine how to play when things could radically change at any moment.

It would be irksome to be forced into immediately capturing black 91 and 95, so white turned for the moment to the attack at white 100.

But Kataoka makes precise replies with the moves at black 101 black 103 and black 105. Over the ten or so moves played during this stage, the board position presented any number of options, with the largest range of possibilities to read out. For Kataoka, who is playing the best go of his career, his play here is superb.

For Cho Honinbo’s part, starting around 106, white’s play becomes somewhat uneven. Perhaps that was due to a consciousness of having the advantage so Cho Honinbo was compromising his play in order to turn to play at white 112.

Black also hangs tough with 121. In this position, black "B" or thereabouts would be solid, but then white plays at 121 and it seems like black will fall a little short.


Figure 6 (122-159)

Cho Honinbo’s attachment at white 124 strikes at the vital point to attack this black group. In response to this black 127 is a bad move by Kataoka, but in the final analysis, this move lead directly to the win, so there is little one can say except that one never knows what might happen in a game of go. The correct order of moves was to play black 29, white 35 and then black 127.

Therefore, white should have played white 128 at 2 in diagram 5.


Diagram 5

By playing at white 1 & 3, white would have had a clear advantage. After white has played at 3, white can later play the sequence from white "a" through black "f" to take profit in sente. Nevertheless, if white is going to play elsewhere, white "g" is a better point, and maintains the advantage.

And again, instead of defending at white 134, white should have drawn back at 135. Considering the fact that playing this way leaves the moves of white 143, which limits the options available to black’s group here, and the hane over at white "A" for later, white seems to still have the advantage. However, drawing back after black has already played the marked stone is difficult to bring oneself to do. Lucky Kataoka, unlucky Cho.

By capturing two stones with 139, black stages an upset.


Figure 7 (160-231) 196 captures 193

However, chased by the clock, Kataoka makes an unbelievable blunder with black 179. That is because exchanging this move for white 180 removes a vital liberty for black’s group in the corner. Can you see what white should play to take advantage of black’s mistake?

At some point during this stage, white should have played at 1 in diagram 6.


Diagram 6

The exchange of the marked stones allows white to play at 1 & 3. Naturally, if this had happened, white would have turned the tables on black. Once again, Kataoka had luck going for him.

231 moves. Black wins by resignation.

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