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A Masterpiece of Handicap Go


Honinbo Shusai Meijin

From Kido, December 1986

Meijin Tutoring Dojo

January 14, 1937

5 Stones: Fujisawa Tamotsu (Shuko)

White: Honinbo Shusai Meijin


In 5 stone handicap games, the tengen stone has power unrelated to territory. The point is to harness that power.

In short, the power must be used effectively to attack.

This game was played a half a century ago.

It was a memorable game for young Fujisawa, who was honored to “borrow the chest” [i.e., a term from sumo wrestling, where young wrestlers would be allowed to practice with champions in the sumo stables, ramming chests] of Honinbo Shusai Meijin.

Although he was but 11 years old, he displayed the great fighting spirit that became “Shuko Style,” with its thick and strong sharpness.

It may be said to be a textbook example of a 5 stone handicap game.

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


Figure 1 Tamotsu Chan (1~7)

Tamotsu. Shuko, Honorary Kisei’s real name.

When he was young, he was endearingly known by the affectionate Tamotsu chan.

The large knight’s moves of Black 2 and 6 have the scent of the early Showa years [late 1920’s to early 1930’s].

White 7. This is the exact same pattern that is seen today, but how is Black to meet it?

This is the first barrier to overcome in handicap games.


Figure 2 Black 8 is Slack (8~13)

Simply jumping to Black 8 is a slack move. In this position on the board…


Diagram 1

…Black should invade at 1, and if White answers at 2, Black plays 3, making and equivalent options.

White 9 through Black 12 is a set pattern.

White 13 is an unpleasant move to deal with.


Figure 3 Leisurely (14~18)

It is painful to make the diagonal attachment of Black 14, but it is the prelude to defending with Black 16.

However, White puts the shape of the right side in order with 17, so White is satisfied as well.

It can be considered that the basic cause of this leisurely tempo of play may be traced back to Black’s defense with the large knight’s move in the lower left corner.

The checking extension of Black 18 is unquestionably a big point.


Figure 4 Shusai Meijin (19~21)

The 21st Generation Honinbo Shusai Meijin.

The last traditional Honinbo under the system [that went back to the seventeenth century].

While small in physique, he was said to be a powerful man as Honinbo. The way he projected authority was overwhelming, but the 11 year old Tamotsu ignored that.

He fought freely and confidently.

White attacked the corner with 19, then left it at that to invade at the 3-3 point with White 21.


Figure 5 This is Desirable to Play (22~31)

Black 22 is the move to make under the circumstances.


Diagram 2

Since White’s two marked stones are in place, Black 1 and 3 create thickness that will not work effectively.

The moves through White 27 are natural, but Black then attacks with 28 and 30. Black had been wanting to play these moves all along.

White 31 is a probe to see how Black reacts.


Figure 6 Consistent from Beginning to End (32~38)

Black 32 and 34 are correct.

Ending in gote here is no good.

White is allowed to become comfortable on the left side while making territory, but Black’s aim is solely focused on the upper side.

Black turns to put pressure on with 38, and the play has been consistent from beginning to end.

With this move, White’s stone is practically immobilized.


Figure 7 Seeking Complications (39-41)

Moving out with White’s two stones immediately would be terrible.

White attaches with 39 and 41, seeking complications, which is a common method of strong players.

The potential of a move at the 3-3 point at also exists, so Black’s moves in reply are not necessarily easy.

One thing that absolutely must be kept in mind is that this is Black’s sphere of influence, so fighting severely is required.


Figure 8 An All-or-Nothing Ko (42~49)


Diagram 3

Black 1 would incur White 2, and the situation is unclear.

The hane of Black 42 is sharp. White has no choice but to 43 and 45, setting up a ko. Black fearlessly takes up the challenge, making it an all-or-nothing ko with Black 46.

White’s ko threat is 49.


Figure 9 Taking Cleanly Off (50~56)

Unconcerned, Black takes White stone off cleanly with 50. Although this was the original intention, it naturally shows fighting spirit.

In conjunction with the tengen stone, the thickness built up on such a grand scale on the upper side is impressively imposing.

Pushing through at cutting with White 51 and 53 is White’s compensation for the ko, but Black plays 52 and connects at 56, making the damage slight.

At a stroke, Black has the superior game.


Figure 10 Peeping (57~71)

For Black 58, Black would have been better.

The play in the figure was a little bit greedy, and because of that, the result was that White was helped to expand the territory on the left side. This often happens, so it should be taken to heart.

In response to White 67, it is necessary for Black to play at 68. If this is omitted, the White attachment atis troublesome.

After waiting for Black 68, White peeps at 69 and 71, moves in sync with the rhythm of play, and once more vexatious for Black.


Figure 11 Yikes! (72~73)

Young Tamotsu hanged tough with Black 72, which leaves the potential for problems [bad aji], and when he saw the placement of White 73, he must have thought, “Yikes!”

Most likely, he overlooked this move. Here…


Diagram 4

…Wedging into White’s stones with Black 1 would have been safe.


Figure 12 An Unwelcome Ko (74~81)

Black has no good reply.

Unavoidably, Black sets up a ko with 74 and 76, but this is an unwelcome ko for Black.

The trouble was caused by a single, one move miss.

Black cuts at 78 and extends at 80, the only way to fight, but White cuts at 81, making it a direct ko.


Figure 13 A Huge Loss (82~90) White 87 takes ko; White 89 connects ko

Black 82 and White 83 set the shape of the ko fight.

There is no choice but to answer the ko threat of White 85. If Black ignores this, White then kills the corner with by descending to .

Black has no ko threats, so Black played the move at 88 to capture two stones. However, incurring the connection of White 89 was a huge loss.

That is because although the right side has been broken into, the corner is big, and White’s position on the lower side has also been stabilized.


Figure 14 Skillful Endgame Play (91~100)

White 91 settles the shape, then White 93 is the real move [honte].

This is to defend against the technique [suji] of Black , White and Black .

White 95 and then 97 is skillful endgame play.


Diagram 5

Even if Black intercepts with 1 here, through White 4 the marked stone works effectively and the White group in the corner cannot be captured.


Figure 15 White Bursts In (101~105)

A loss was incurred in the lower right corner, but the outlook in the game has not changed very much, and that is due to the great power of the thickness on the upper side.

White plays the forcing move of 1, then bursts in as far as 5.

This prevents the Black area from expanding, and had White not gone in this far, there would have been no chance to win the game. This is definite proof that White judged the game to be going poorly.


Figure 16 Thick and Strong and Sharp (106~115)

How to attack? This position is a little puzzling, but Black’s play is solid and steady.

First, Black makes preparatory moves at 6 and 8.

Then, Black attacks with 10 and 12, getting impetus to turn at Black 14.

As may be seen, Black’s stones in play are thick and strong. This sharpness is the hallmark of Shuko, Honorary Kisei’s style of play.


Figure 17 Just a Kid (116~127)

Black 16 and the hane of 18 restrain the left side.

Black extends at 20 to surround the upper side with little potential for problems [good aji]. This is sufficient to preserve Black’s superior game.

White 23 through 27 insure a connection for the group.

At this rate of endgame play, the game will soon be over, but it was just a kid playing, right?

No, Tamotsu chan was different.


Figure 18 An All-Out Attack (128~132)

The attachment of Black 28, then in response to White 29, Black 30 and 32 launch an all-out attack.

As might be expected, it is an Edo-mae, sharp-spirited playing style. [Edo-mae, which is a word most often encountered in sushi bars, refers to old-fashioned, swashbuckling fighting.]

For the youngster just coming into his own, there was nothing else that he could do.

There is no exit route for White.

Shusai Meijin was not dismayed. Rather, this is the destiny of handicap games. To be defeated in this manner must have made Sensei delighted.


Figure 19 Winning by Reading (133~140)

White 33 and 35 provide no exit route after Black 40.

Young Tamotsu won this game through reading.


Figure 20 Wrapping Things Up Magnificently (141~148)


… when White plays 45, if Black carelessly answered at , White would end up living, so it is frightening.

Black 46 is a calm and collected move.

Black wrapped things up magnificently through 48.

148 moves. Black wins by resignation.

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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