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A New Year’s Special Game


不老長春 “No Age, Long Spring” Kido, January 1977

Perhaps not many visitors to GoWizardry know the name of Ezaki Masanori. However, he made great contributions to the go world through his written work. In my library there are two of his books, biographies of Sakata Eio which I received from the great Sakata himself, with Sakata’s autograph. Sakata had mixed feeling about Ezaki. On the one hand, he admired the man’s literary talent. On the other, during the 30th Annual Honinbo Title Match in 1975, just as Sakata was about to clinch the win against Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo, the win that would have given Sakata the title, Ezaki walked into the playing room. Sakata complained that his concentration was broken as a result and he immediately committed a losing mistake. Of course, Ezaki was working as a writer covering the match, so there was every reason why he would want to witness the climax of the game, and as he thought, the match, but what happened was a bitter experience for Sakata. In the next, and final game of the match, Sakata lost by more than 20 points.

There is little connection with this game, but it is an interesting story.

Ezaki is Caught in the Middlegame


From Kido, January 1977

White: Takemiya Masaki, Honinbo

Four Stones: Ezaki Masanori, Literary World Honinbo

Played on November 29, 1976 at the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association], Ichigaya, Tokyo.

Analysis by Takemiya Masaki, Honinbo Writer: 斎藤宜郎 「Saito Yoshiro」

The literary world also has its Honinbo and Meijin tournaments. The Honinbo tournament is played with all games even, so one has to truly be strong to win the title. But the Meijin tournament is played with handicaps, so anyone can win it. In the Meijin tournament held at the end of last year, a two dan amateur was the victor. In fact, he defeated Ezaki on his way to the title.


Figure 1 If Five Stones… (1-19)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

In regards to the game, it was decided beforehand that it would be a four stone handicap.

“Against a professional, I cannot win with four stones. If I take five stones, occasionally I’ll win. With six stones, I think that somehow I will manage…” This is something that Ezaki san has written in some publication or another, but as one who has come to appreciate the great depth of strength that professionals possess, it has merit as a critique.

The Honinbo of the literary world ever year receives teaching games against the genuine Honinbo under the sponsorship of this magazine, but over the years it is recorded they have won just a single game. That was already seven or eight years ago, when this same Ezaki san defeated Rin Kaiho.

Although this is not anything unusual when teaching games are played, the game appeared in print, and so the win blazes as a rare feat against a top professional. However, at that time it was a five stone game.

When White attacked the corner with 5, Black attached with 6, but after the game Takemiya Honinbo pointed out that Black would have been usual. Since the move of White 3 is already in place, the attachment cannot be endorsed.

Black 18 is naturally a big point, but in comparison with the large knight’s move corner enclosure on the upper side of Black , which move should it be? If Black , White would of course attack the corner with a move around on the lower side.

Takemiya: From the perspective of feeling, one wants to put the priority on the upper side, but Black 18 simplifies things, so I suppose that it is all right.


Figure 2 Missing the Critical Point (20-43)

Takemiya: The attachment of Black 20 is good, but for 24…


Diagram 1

…The connection of Black 1 here is best. White 4 is met by Black’s extending to 5. Black’s shape is strong and solid.

When he got cut with White 25, Ezaki san thought for a long time for the first time in the game. He defended with Black 26 through 30, then connected at 32. However, Black 28 and 30 were bad. For 28, Black should just have connected at 32. Supposing that play proceeds with White 28, Black , White 33, and Black , the upper right corner is safe, while White comes under attack on the right side, so this is simple and easy to play for Black.

For Black 34…


Diagram 2

…The attachment of 1 was best. Should White draw back to 2, Black replies with 3, and if White hanes at , Black extends at , and no matter what, White must go back to play on the upper side.

In response to Black 34, should White obligingly defend on the upper side, Black will play at 35 in good form, but White refused to be a partner to that. In reverse, White took the absolutely ideal point of 35, applying pressure to Black.

It is better not to exchange Black 38 for White 39, but immediately playing at 40 would risk being cut with White , so Black was being cautious.


Figure 3 Tightly Adding a Move (44-59)

Ezaki san wears traditional Japanese garb the whole year through. [He can be seen in that clothing in the photograph above, below the title. It is amusing to see Takemiya sitting cross-legged on a cushion opposite him. In later years, Takemiya also took to wearing tradition Japanese hakama and haori during such occasions.] He can be seen at fashionable bars in the Ginza [section of Tokyo, equivalent to Beverly Hills in the US], where hostesses fawn over this lion of the literary world.

Takemiya Honinbo was wearing a light brown suit, and whether he picked that out or his wife did, there is no way of knowing, but he also wore a matching tie and socks. He was the epitome of a dandy.

Once White had played the block of 43 in the previous figure, adding a move in the corner was necessary. If Black plays elsewhere…


Diagram 3

…The two-step ko here can be aimed at.

Black added the move at 46, but it was said that would have been better. That is because moves like the hane of White are a bit disagreeable for Black. Once Black has the move at in place, the value of White is small.

For Black 58…


Diagram 4

…Black should extend with 1, and if White replies at 2, Black 3 and 5 practically make living shape.

[Note that in this figure, Black’s stone on the right side is swallowed up. A lost and wasted move, along with substantial territory.]


Figure 4 White Plays Freely Around the Board (60-81)

“A few years ago, Ezaki was completely absorbed in go. He was obsessed with go, practically published no novels, which is his vocation, Privately, I started to worry about him.

“Although it seemed that he was neglecting his work, it was not just a passing fancy. He brought a deeper insight into what he was doing, and that is typical of the way that Ezaki approaches life. It is with a larger purpose.” [The words are very vague here. I suspect that insiders knew exactly what to read between the lines. I do not. Remember: Ezaki was a prominent member of Japanese society. These kinds of hints give spice to the article. By the way, although the person who makes these last few remarks is identified as a “go rival,” Kondo Tetsutaro, I have no idea who he was. Someone Ezaki went to go clubs with together? A literary colleague? No idea]

Takemiya: Black 66 is questionable since it just solidifies White. In any event, if Black is going to accept ending in gote after the sequence here, playing the knight’s move at 74 would probably be better. Black should also not play at 76…


Diagram 5

…This is the place to live with Black 2. In this diagram, White forces Black , so White ends in sente.

White 81 is a good point. If, with the move at 79, White moves out right away with the single stone [in the lower right corner], it incurs the hane of Black , and being forced to make life is not advantageous for White.


Figure 5 Catching Up (82-103)

Seeing Black 84, Takemiya Honinbo laughed, saying, “Should I go into the gap offered or is that a trap…”

Then he went between Black’s stones with White 85. It seems that Black 84 definitely should have been played as the knight’s move at 87. When Black pushes at 86, the move of White 87 slices right through Black’s knight’s move, making Black’s move questionable.

Takemiya: For Black 86, an attachment at makes shape. If White , Black blocks at .

Once White gets out into the open with 89, there is no chance of capturing the White group.

In the end, White won this game by eight points, but it was said that Black had an opportunity to win here.

The Honinbo pointed out that…


Diagram 6

…Black pushes up once with 1, then turns to hane and connect with 3 and 5. Had this have been played, Black would still have prospects in the game.

When Black played at 90, White got sente and so was able to turn to the 3-3 invasion of White 97. Whatever else, this turns the territorial balance against Black.


Figure 6 A Win-or-Lose Move Misfires (104-157)

Coming to this stage of the game, the hane of Black 4 and connection of 6 are big endgame points. However, the Honinbo had already read the board out, and set out to take solid control of the center, starting with White 11.

Ezaki san tried to encroach on the center with Black 16, but when White pushed through at 17, he mumbled to himself, “Was that a lost stone?” [“Mochi-konda ka?”] He pushed through with Black 18 and cut with 20, but White 21 struck at the vital point, and saying, “A valiant loss,” [“Gyokusai da,”] played Black 22. Then, when Black played the double atari of 24, White defended in a calm and collected way with 25. Black had no alternative but to go back to play at 26.

Before pushing through with Black 18…


Diagram 7

…Black should fix the shape by exchanging 1 for White 2, then play 3 and 5 in sente. In the figure, Black exchanged for White , ending in gote.

After this, as shown in Figure 7…


Figure 7 (158-187)



Figure 8 (188-228) Black 228 takes ko (to the right of 115); Black wins and connects ko

…Ezaki san played the endgame practically flawlessly, but there was already no way to turn the tables.

When the game was over Takemiya Honinbo gave his analysis, placing the emphasis on the questionable points in connection with the skirmishing in the upper right corner during the opening. After that, he pointed out the big chance to hane and connect in the lower left corner.

Ezaki: Without a doubt, that’s the way it was, but even if I had played correctly there, I could not possibly have won. [Professional go players can always squeeze out a win against amateurs. Perhaps that is Ezaki’s point here.]

Following the game, Ezaki, the writer of this article and a fellow writer [also a former literary world Honinbo] who was an observer on this day, retreated to a go club in Akasaka [a fashionable section of Tokyo] to go over the game.

As an addendum, it should be noted that in his games amongst the three of us, Ezaki san has the best record. Actually, last year’s literary world Honinbo likewise lost a four stone game against Ishida Yoshio, Honinbo, and was shocked at that experience, but that was his first encounter with a professional player, and there were various elements involved.

This evening, Ezaki san was his usual self, completely unchanged, cheerfully playing go, and enjoyably drinking sake. [In private go clubs in Tokyo, drinks and food are served to guests.]

228 moves. White wins by 8 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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