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The Big Game: Frankly Speaking

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Yomiuri Newspaper Ad Back Cover of Kido, October 1978 Artist:
石山弘
Ishiyama Hiro

Intense competition among newspapers in Japan led to the Asahi Newspaper outbidding the Yomiuri Newspaper for the rights to the Meijin title in 1975. Consequently, the Yomiuri launched the Kisei title in 1976 as the most prestigious in terms of the cash prizes and participation of the best players. Fujisawa Shuko won the first tournament in 1977, and faced the title defense in 1978. In order to build up excitement for the event, the Yomiuri took out the back cover space of Kido magazine for the ad shown above. In the upper right corner are the kanji, 棋聖戦, or Kisei Tournament, and the text below asks, “Who will be the challenger of Kisei Shuko? As the grand climax approaches, see the thrilling game records in the Yomiuri Newspaper.” In the illustration are caricatures of the leading candidates: Kato Masao holds a sword up in defiance, with his banners proclaiming the titles he possessed, 10 Dan 十段 and Honinbo 本因坊; below him is Rin Kaiho Meijin 名人; to the left of them, Shimamura Toshihiro Tengen 天元; and outside the castle, Sakata Eio is behind the horse on the right; Otake Hideo lunges with a lance; below him are Kudo Norio and Ushinohama Satsuo.

As a matter of fact, Kato became the challenger (and was defeated by Shuko 4-3 in an exciting match). He also narrowly missed becoming the challenger for the Meijin title. The details are given in the article below, which is translated from the magazine which featured the above ad.

3rd Annual Meijin Title, Challenger Final

Exploring Good Form Otake’s “Strength”

Analysis Team: Rin Kaiho Meijin, Kobayashi Koichi 8 dan, Cho Chikun 8 dan

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From Kido, October 1978

White: Otake Hideo, Gosei

Black: Kato Masao, Honinbo

Played on August 26, 1978 at the Nihon Ki-in [Japanese Go Association], Ichigaya, Tokyo.

The Meijin title playoff game [since Otake and Kato had the same 7-1 records in the Meijin league is on the examination table today. Perhaps it was the participation of the three keenly enthusiastic players here in this month’s version of “The Big Game: Speaking Freely” that caused this analysis session to last for more than three hours. Only the main points can be included in this article, for which we apologize.

Lower Side? Upper Side?

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Figure 1 (1-9)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Kobayashi: For Black 9…

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Diagram 1

…Is the way with 1 no good?

Rin: In the lower right corner Black is on the 3-3 point, you know. But even if it was on the star point, you have to wonder [about the position of Black 1].

Cho: In the position here, White will immediately make the shoulder hit with 2, it was written [in the commentary published in the Yomiuri], you know. Black pushes at 3, then after White 6―

Kobayashi: Black plays 7 and 9 in good form, I would think.

Cho: Rapid-paced, you know. Black ends up playing on all of the sides.

Kobayashi: I think this is playable, I must say. Although incurring the shoulder hit is usually considered bad.

Getting Forced Somewhat

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Figure 2 (10-18)

Rin: It seems to me that following the attack on the corner with White 10, the sequence through 18 is painful for Black. Getting forced by White 12, then forced again with 14.

Kobayashi: That’s true, you know. It seems that Black suffered a small setback in the opening, but was this questionable?

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Diagram 2

Rin: Shouldn’t the large knight’s move of 1 have been played?

Cho: Now the extension of White 2 is standard, you know. Play would proceed with Black 3 and White 4, I suppose.

Kobayashi: Once Black has gone with 11, when White plays 12, rather than defend with Black 13…

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Diagram 3

… Slipping into the lower side with Black 1 is desirable, I must say.

Rin: Right. This way is certainly better, no question. If White comes on with 2, Black plays 3 and it is no big deal, you know.

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Diagram 4

Kobayashi: In response to Black 1, I guess that White would fix the shape with 2, no? However, what about this? In this situation doesn’t Black have the counterattack with 3?

Rin: Uh huh. This seems to make Black thick and strong. 1 comes to be located in exactly the right place.

Kobayashi: In the actual game, counterattacking with 15 at 16 makes the defensive move at 13 a slack move as might be expected, you know. In that case, there is nothing for Black to do but to play 15 and 17, but the extension of White 18 looks fantastically good. As expected, the shape here means that Black has been forced after all.

Cho: Has Black really been forced to that extent? I don’t get that feeling, but…

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Diagram 5

…This kind of shape often appears, you know. This is surely good for Black. After this, adding White and Black is similar to the game, you know.

Kobayashi: White for Black is a considerable forcing move, I must say. Usually when White plays , Black will not immediately defend at .

Cho: That’s true, I suppose. Black was forced in the game.

Kobayashi: White has made a little bit of profit, I guess.

Cho: Taking things a little bit farther, with the move at 15, what if Black ignored the corner and…

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Diagram 6

…Slipped into the lower side with 1?

Rin: The single stroke of White 2 is painful, you know. If White then makes the checking extension of 4?

Cho: Black makes the checking extension of 5.

Kobayashi: White fixes the shape with 6, then descends at 8, you know.

Rin: At the very least, White is not dissatisfied, you know. Although Black had played first in the corner, this shape comes to be the same as when White has played first there.

Kobayashi: Rather than defending with Black 13, it was better to have slipped into the lower side as in Diagram 3.

Rin: Either that, or from the start to defend with the large knight’s move, you know.

An Ideal Invasion

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Figure 3 (19-36)

Rin: Black 19 is the kind of thing to do in this position, you know. It is a move that says, “Make the checking extension of White 20, please.” That’s a little painful, though [because Black ends up squeezed between two strong White positions].

Kobayashi: If Black approaches White’s position in the upper right one point closer at , I guess that White will make the checking extension at . This isn’t clear, either, you know.

Rin: Standard, you know. Black 19 and 21. For White 22…

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Diagram 7

…Going with 1 and 3 is crude, I must say.

Kobayashi: Something like Black 2 through White 9 will be played, I suppose.

Rin: Well, I guess we should just say that this is also possible and leave it at that.

Cho: Black 25 and 27 are precisely timed, you know. For White 26, it would be unreasonable to hang tough with a move at 27, you know.

Kobayashi: White is not bad off with 26 and 28, I tell you.

Rin: I wonder if extending with White 28 isn’t possible. At .

Kobayashi: The same way as in the actual game, for the time being wouldn’t defending at Black 29 be standard?

Rin: In that case, capturing cleanly with a move at would be huge, I must say.

Kobayashi: That’s right, you know. Capturing at would give White a considerable edge in the game, you know. I guess that White was possible.

Cho: For Black…

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Diagram 8

…Wouldn’t crawling immediately at 2 be played? White would surely answer with 3 and 5. Then Black hanes up with 6.

Kobayashi: White is reluctant to fix the shape with a move at 8, you know. Would White go with 7?

Cho: Black doesn’t care, and extends at 8. Well, White 9 is standard, you know. At that point, Black plays 10.

Rin: I see. The feeling is this is how things would probably go. Was this distasteful? For White?

Kobayashi: White 28 was not bad, you know. The reason is that the invasion of 30 was in fact precisely played. I think that incurring this invasion made the game unpleasant for Black, I must say.

Cho: For Black 31…

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Diagram 9

…As might be expected, going as far as 1 would set up a position that would be playable for White, you know. Even with just White 2 and 4.

Rin: Inviting Black to fight, you know. The only thing to do here is to try to fence White in with Black 7 and 9, but there are too many cutting points to defend.

Kobayashi: Here Black is crying, no? Black wants to connect at , but that would incur the cut of White , you know. I guess that Black 31 is unavoidable, I tell you. It is like Black is saying, “Please attach at White 32 and extend at 34. That gives you a strange feeling, though.

Cho: However, in truth the fencing-in move of Black is not possible, you know.

Kobayashi: Kajiwara style, you know. But that would be no good, you know. It seems like it would end up as a completely slack move.

Rin: If Black could win with the fencing-in move of everything would be easy, I must say.

Kobayashi: After incurring the invasion of White 30, the positioning of Black’s marked stone is really troubling, I must say. It seems that playing the move low [on the third line] would have been better.

Cho: It also approaches White’s thickness (in the upper left corner) too closely, you know.

Kobayashi: Therefore, instead of playing the marked Black stone, the sequence of moves in Diagram 1 at the point of Figure 1 should have been used.

A Painful Fight for Black

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Figure 4 (37-62) White 46 takes ko; Black 49 same; Black 51 connects ko

Rin: Starting with White 38, 40 and 42 are correct technique [suji], but instead of capturing with Black 43…

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Diagram 10

…I wonder if it was not possible to move out with 1.

Kobayashi: White plays 2 and then the sequence through 8 and 10, I guess. By thrusting through the corner enclosure, the territory that White takes is big, I must say.

Rin: Black is no good, you know. White 12 is standard, and it’s a big difference [in the balance of territory]. In that case, Black 43 is unavoidable.

Kobayashi: Before that, instead of playing the hane of Black 39…

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Diagram 11

…What about the calm and collected descending move of 1?

Rin: Exactly. Because in the actual game Black was skillfully taken advantage of by White, you know. As might be expected, the way with descending at 1 is good, I must say.

Cho: Now, I suppose that White would move out at 2. Black makes the hanging connection of 3…

Kobayashi: Would the sequence from White 4 through Black 11 be played? However, there’s something also just a little lacking in this variation, you know.

Rin: Uh huh. Not very good, you know. Black 39 is unavoidable, too, I guess. In answer to the atari of White 44, being able to hane up with Black 45 is, in general, something to be proud of, you know.

Takemiya: (From another room in which he was in the middle of playing a game, Takemiya 9 dan popped in.) White really pushed Black around here, you know. The connection of the ko with Black 51 was terrible, I must say.

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Diagram 12 Black 5 takes ko

How about the atari of 1?

Kobayashi: Would Black look for a ko threat at 3? If White defends with 4, Black recaptures the ko, and then running away would be standard, I guess.

Rin: Capturing with Black 7 is unavoidable. Rather than connecting with Black 51 as in the actual game, which requires another reinforcing move, capturing the one stone [ponnuki] is superior in a theoretical sense, you know.

Cho: How would things go after this, I wonder? Maybe things would proceed as in the actual game, with White , Black , White , Black , White , and Black . Ah, I see. In this variation, White is not a forcing move, while in the actual game, Black was forced into playing .

Takemiya: As might be expected, this is better than the actual game, for Black.

Kobayashi: When White plays 52, the shape Black makes in backing down with 53 is painful, you know.

Cho: Therefore, instead of Black playing at 53, how would it have been if Black butted against White’s stone at 60?

Kobayashi: White descends at 59, you know. After that?

Cho: Black plays the move-in-a-row [narabi] of 55.

Kobayashi: White goes ahead and cuts at 56, I say. It’s difficult for Black to butt against White’s stone with a move at 60. Rather than that, for Black 53…

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Diagram 13

…I think that it is better to cut at 1, no question. White will likewise cut at 2, you know. Black extends at 3…

Rin: Black connects underneath with 5 and 7, and about that, this way is good, you know. In the actual game, Black has stones at and , while Black 1 here finishes everything off, resulting in a one move difference in the center, you know. Black cannot be said to be better, but rather than in the actual game, Black would have an easier time of it in the center.

Kobayashi: Black made things bad here, you know.

A Decisive Move was Possible

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Figure 5 (63-94)

Kobayashi: White skillfully deals with the difficulties [sabaki] here, you know. With 66 through 76. For Black 69, butting against White’s stone with a move at 72 to tenaciously hang on to territory, would be met by White , and the Black stones in the center would come under attack. As might be expected, this would be painful. Is White 80 the way to play here?

Rin: would be usual, you know.

Kobayashi: Otake san no doubt judged the board position to be favorable, and so played White 80, you know. Despite losing territory in the corner…

Cho: I’m not sure about the moves from Black 83 through 95, but I guess this kind of play is standard for the position, you know. For White 94…

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Diagram 14

…Would it be impossible to play at 1, I wonder?

Kobayashi: This seems to be a good move, you know.

Rin: Crossing underneath with Black is big.

Kobayashi: No, I don’t think it’s necessary to play Black , I must say.

Rin: That’s true, you know. In this case, fixing the shape with 2 and 4, then cutting with 6 would be frightening for White, I must say.

Kobayashi: In reply to Black 6, White can live immediately with . If the group can live, then playing the way with 1 is good, you know.

Rin: In response to Black 6, cutting with White 7 also seems to be good. If Black wants to take the group’s eyes, Black plays 8 and 10, but White plays atari at 13 and produces a ko. This ko would seem to ensure unconditional life.

Cho: If White can hang tough with 7, then White is even better, you know. This would have been the deciding move in the game, you know.

Kobayashi: White 94 is a move that is a little distasteful to play, you know. I wonder if the eye circumstances were worrisome.

Black Recovers

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Figure 6 (95-107)

Kobayashi: Had White ended up surrounding territory with 1 in Diagram 14, there would have been a big difference [in the balance of territory], you know.

Rin: It would also have eliminated the possibility of the invasion of Black 95, you know. From this point on, Black recovers [lost ground].

Takemiya: (Returns to look in) Black 97 is ridiculously bad, is what young Kato said about it.

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Diagram 15

Playing tenaciously at 1 was the only move, according to him.

Cho: When White answers at 2, Black captures [the three White stones on the lower side] in a ko.

Rin: Fantastically tenacious, you know. Black has ko threats starting with , so doggedly pulling this off successfully would seem to be likely.

Kobayashi: For White, ko threats around would also be effective, I must say. Besides that, any way that Black dissolves the ko will hardly be impressive, I tell you. There is nothing but the connection of Black , but a White move at means that the eye shape of the group is not completely established.

Rin: Is that so? That means that Kato’s hypothesis is not clear, either, you know. Black 3 or else 5 could be played as the hane at 8, in which case incurring White’s connection at 5 could not be said to be good…

Cho: Black’s playing the way in the actual game is good, you know. It destroys territory in sente, so that Black can turn to play at 107. This is the most tenacious way to play, you know.

However, the Game is Close

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Figure 7 (107-129)

Kobayashi: The moves from Black 7 on comprise an unbranched path. The corner enclosure is shattered; a fantastic taking of profit, you know. What is the evaluation of the board position around this point? Black is likewise no good, I imagine.

Rin: No, the game is rather close. That is because the lower side has been devastated in sente, and profit also taken in the lower left, you know. White’s savings [extra territory to bank on] has been eliminated, I believe.

Cho: Which side profited from the swap [furi-kawari] initiated by Black 19, I wonder?

Rin: Didn’t Black incur a slight loss?

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Diagram 16

I think that it would be profitable for Black to defend at 1.

Kobayashi: Shall we play out the endgame moves in this diagram and make an evaluation? White 2 and 4 are the biggest moves, you know. If Black then tries to run out with 6, the stones are caught with a fencing-in move at , no? In that case, making the forcing move of Black 5 would be standard, you know.

Rin: Black 7 is big.

Kobayashi: White then fixes the shape with 8 and 10?

Cho: For Black 11, would the way with be thicker and stronger?

Rin: The moves have pluses and minuses. As a question of materialistic considerations, the way with 11 is more profitable, you know.

Kobayashi: 12 through 18 would be standard here, no?

Rin: Black 19 and White 20, taken at the minimum estimation, would seem to be the thing to do.

Cho: This would be a win for Black, I must say. 7 or 8 points on the board to the good.

Rin: It’s that kind of thing, you know.

Kobayashi: Wait a second, please. We made the most minimal estimation, but that went too far, didn’t it? Black made a lot of territory in the center, I must say. Rather than playing White 20, which is slack…

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Diagram 17

…White could play at 1, which would be standard.

Cho: That’s right, you know. If Black hanes at 9, White cuts at 2, you know. Black would extend at 2, I guess.

Rin: What is the outcome in this diagram?

Cho: It’s close, I must say. A ½ point game.

Rin: Regardless of that, the swap [furi-kawari] with Black 19 in the actual game was a loss. With 1 in Diagram 16, there is no telling which side wins, you know.

Kobayashi: Around this time, both sides were playing quickly, you know. This important game ended before the break for dinner. They often play this quickly, you know.

Cho: Is the descending move of White 24 precise? And the hane of Black 27 and connection of 29 seem to be no good, you know.

Rin: These were the losing moves, you know.

Missing a Half Point Decision

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Figure 8 (127-162) Black 47 takes ko; Black 51 same; Black 55 connects

Rin: Black 27 and 29 are reverse endgame moves [worth twice the value of normal endgame plays], but they were no good, you know.

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Diagram 18

Playing the way with 1 through 5 in the center is clearly more profitable.

Kobayashi: White fixes the shape with 6 and 8, then connects underneath with 10, you know.

Rin: How is it in this diagram?

Cho: Hmm. Close, I must say. Shall we just call it a ½ point game?

Rin: I wonder if there was any other way to play the endgame. For instance, Black 27 as simply the move-in-a-row [narabi] at 41?

Cho: It seems that play would proceed as in the actual game, with White 30 through 40, you know. And then, Black , White , Black , White , Black and White .

Kobayashi: That variation would also be close, I must say. I suppose that White would be better by 1½ or 2½ points.

Rin: That’s right, you know. Therefore, Diagram 18 was the last chance.

Kobayashi: My feeling [when watching the game as it was played] was that White was better all the way, but that’s not so, you know. However, it was terrible to have missed Diagram 18. [This seems to be a roundabout criticism of Kato to have played so quickly and not seriously examined all the possibilities carefully.]

Rin: It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, but using Black 61 to block at would have been 2 or 3 points more profitable. White won this game by 3½ points, so that would have reduced the difference to a minimum.

Well, Now to the Best of Seven Match

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Figure 9 (163-200)

―And now it is on to the match at last. For Otake san, it is a chance to redeem himself after last year. [As challenger to Otake Meijin in the title match, Rin won 4-0, a “disgraceful” performance by Otake.]

Rin: That’s right. Last year he was in poor form, and I just reeled in win after win. “The loach never appears under the willow tree twice.” [Proverbial: A lucky catch of a fish while sitting under a willow on the bank of a river cannot be counted on to happen twice.] So I am resigned to facing a difficult battle. This year as well, I will fight as tenaciously as I can, and someway or another… [Otake won the match 4-2. Ironically he was challenged by Cho Chikun the next year, lost 1-4, with one voided game and never won the title again.]

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Figure 10 (201-242)

242 moves. White wins by 3½ points.

The analysis recorded here gives a taste of how professional players analyze positions, but only a taste. As stated in the beginning, only the highlights could be shown. Next week, the critical position of this game will be thoroughly read out to show exactly how professional players do it.

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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