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The Big Game: Speaking Frankly


“Birds chirp, the mountains are silent / Rain passes through the thick, green forest”
Cover of Kido, July 1978

Artist: Yokoo Shinrinjin

In the Meijin league, pursuing Kato Masao, without a loss, are Otake and Kudo, fiercely competing. At the critical point in the tournament, the two met in this game, one that made a difference in the final result of the league.

Analysis Team: Otake Hideo 9 dan, Yamabe Toshiro 9 dan, Sato Masaharu 6 dan

Otake Clinches His Dream with a Half Point


From Kido, July 1978

3rd Annual Meijin Tournament

White: Otake Hideo 9 dan

Black: Kudo Norio Oza

Played on May 11, 1978 at the Nihon Ki-in (Japanese Go Association), Ichigaya, Tokyo.

A Game Ensuring a Winning Record


Figure 1 (1-13)
Those interested in replaying the game move by move can click here to do so.

Otake: In league play, setting aside the question of who becomes challenger to the title, the first consideration is securing a play in the next league, which is quite a task, and just as in the sumo contests, this game played an important role in terms of wins and losses. As might be expected, both sides threw all their strength into the game.

Yamabe: Black 1 and 3 make up a formation that Kudo san likes, you know.

Otake: That’s true. It seems that lately he has settled on playing this exclusively, you know. In response to Black 5, White attached at 6, but in comparison with White it is difficult to decide between the two.

Sato: On the right side are stones on the star point and 3-3 point, so there is no need to rush to play there. The checking extension of White 12 is the usual move to play in this position, you know.

Yamabe: Takemiya san said that for Black 13 he would like to jump to .

Otake: Defending against the White invasion at , you know. Except that I don’t like to play the move of White , I must say. Kudo san knows that, so that might be the reason that he didn’t play at . (Laughs) But the question is whether Black 13 or the move on the point above that is the move to play here, you know.

Sato: In both the case where Black plays the attack on the corner at , and the case where White makes the shoulder hit at , the high way would seem to be better, you know.

Yamabe: Black 13 was probably played specifically with the knowledge that Otake was the opponent.

Demanding Prevails


Figure 2 (13-19)

Yamabe: Kudo san is a player who often changes the way he plays depending on who the opponent is. It is just because Otake is the opponent, (laughs) that he takes up a low stance, thinking that he can bring about a drawn-out game and win in the end…

Otake: It’s true that I am terrible in the endgame, you know. [Otake was not known for his endgame play, but every professional player of his ability certainly plays the endgame skillfully. But here may be seen a typical humble comment by Otake.] Although I don’t have many other good points, either. (Laughs) I had absolutely not the slightest idea where the best move to play White 14 was. This is the kind of move that you expect to spend a lot of time thinking about.


Diagram 1

Sato: What if White strikes at the shoulder with 1 here?

Otake: Uh huh. The strike at the shoulder is probably the most natural move to play in this position, you know. Black pushes in the direction of 2, then slides to 4. Then, the White block at 5 sets up the extension at 7.

Sato: Since the marked Black stone is low, White can attach at to build up momentum, you know. [This would only be effective if there was a Black group in the vicinity that could be attacked. So Sato’s comment has only theoretical application.]


Diagram 2

Otake: If Black pushes at 2, White plays 5 and 7, and isn’t this a leisurely paced game?

Sato: With this, too, the position of the marked Black stone is bothersome, you know.

―How about slipping into the side?

Otake: Where is the slipping in point?


Diagram 3

Should White play at 1, developing with Black 2 and 4 is good, you know. This is ideal shape for Black. After thinking about various things, I attacked the corner with White 14, but the pincer of Black 15 is perfect, you know. Had Black defended at , White exchanges 16 for Black 17, then makes the extension to White , and that would have been perfect for White.


Diagram 4

―For White 16, diving into the 3-3 point with 1 would have lost the game by twenty points, you know.

Otake: No, there would not be that kind of loss, I tell you. On the contrary, this way of playing rarely loses. (Laughs) Well, when Black develops with the move at 10, it is an easy game for Black to play.

Sato: Had Kitani Sensei been playing White, he would probably have taken no time to invade at 1. (Laughs) [Kitani Minoru, one of the greatest players in go history, in the latter years of his career, was known for taking territory whenever he could. He died in 1975, just a few years before this game was played, so his memory was fresh in the minds of these players.]

Otake: When White slides to 16, what is one to make of the defensive move of Black 17? Kudo san spent a lot of time thinking about this move, but…


Diagram 5

Yamabe: The opinion in the analysis room was that Black should have ignored this move to develop with Black 1. Should White play at 2, Black can put up resistance with 3.

Otake: Black 3 is a sharp move, you know. If White replies at 4, Black 5 and 7 are a bluntly direct way of playing tenaciously. When White plays 12 and 14, Black jumps out at 15, and the signs do not portend good things for White.


Diagram 6

Sato: For White 4, what about drawing back at 1 here?

Yamabe: Following Black 2 and 4, Black cuts at 6, you know. Here, too, with the moves through Black 14, White seems to have a difficult and painful position.

Sato: For White, unless the pincer in Diagram 5 is played, there is no way to take the initiative.

Otake: I was really in a tight spot, you know. [Note: This is at the 14th move of the game!] When Black responded with the move at 17, overall it was just what was demanded, I must say. Compared to the shape when Black plays 15 at , and then White 16, Black 17 and White , the move at 19 is played more widely than usual, but 15 is oddly placed, you know.

Territory is Balanced


Figure 3 (20-44)

Otake: White turns to play at 20 and has no cause for dissatisfaction, you know.

―Instead of the block of White 24…


Diagram 7

…The jump at 1 is also joseki, but…

Otake: I think that this was also possible, I must say. In response to Black 2, White calmly jumps to 3, you know. Which is better, I have no idea, I must say.

Yamabe: With the block of White 24, the marked Black stone is low, so it is easy for White to attach at 26.

Otake: I intended to attack Black’s single stone on the side, but… For the benefit of readers it should be added that had Black used 27 to hane at 35, White welcomes the opportunity to extend at 36. It becomes easy for White to press at because there is the potential [aji] of cutting to aim at.

―The jump of Black 29 splits White’s two groups.

Otake: That’s right. Likewise, White is put in the position of being attacked, you know. White tries to attack Black while White’s own position is insecure. Perhaps I should have chosen the way in Diagram 7.

Sato: Pushing at White 30, then the jumps in tandem of Black 31 and White 32 are standard, you know. Black 33 and White 34 are also equivalent options.

Otake: Around this time, I thought that it was a close game. White’s territory in the upper left and the lower left is similar to Black’s territory in the upper right and lower right. It seems that White’s two separated groups on the right side are equal to Black’s area on the left side. It’s a little worrisome that Black is thick and strong around the board, but the territory is balanced.

Sato: It seems like a close game, you know.

Otake: What is to be made of White 38, I wonder. Black can make the peep at , so White’s position here is thin and weak. I was having a nervous breakdown. I also considered playing White and … White 40 and 42 are a terrible territorial loss, you know.

Yamabe: I thought the same thing, but it is no big deal. In short, the play in the game can be compared to White 41, Black , White and Black . It doesn’t seem like there is any loss at all, you know. Once White gets a stone at the point of 42, it becomes more questionable [on Black’s part] to have White get strengthened like this.

Otake: Is that so? While I was playing I worried that I was making a big loss… Somehow, I couldn’t get into a good rhythm of play in this game, you know. I just couldn’t focus the action anywhere.

Yamabe: An inexplicable game, you know. In my games, I play a bad opening and things get more and more inexplicable. (Laughs)

Otake: I made the checking extension of White 44, you know. I played this because I was worried about the thinness at being exploited.

Sato: Around the time of 44, isn’t it possible to make the forcing move of White ?

Otake: That would be unreasonable. Black would cut the stone off with a move at . White is thin and weak here and there, I must say. In this game, White 44 combines as a defensive measure, so it is big. In response to this, if Black plays elsewhere…


Diagram 8

…White has the technique [suji] of the attachment at 1, the forcing move at 3 and the hane at 5. Some time ago, in a game with young Ishida [Yoshio], I had this played against me and I was floored. So I thought of that while making the checking extension of White 44. I didn’t expect that Black would play elsewhere, but…

Exquisite Play Around the Board by Kudo


Figure 4 (44-65)

Otake: Somehow in this game it seems that the endgame is being played, you know.

―Black is playing in a thick and strong way, so unavoidably White must also play in a firm and solid manner, you know.

Otake: That’s right. Because Black kept the pressure on without letup, you know. If I had played thin and weak moves, I would surely have been blown away. Black 49 is a good move, and I was stunned. It is a move that I had never considered. For White 50…


Diagram 9

…It’s difficult for White to extend at 2. That’s because it would incur Black 2 and the attachment of 4.

Yamabe: This is distasteful, you know.

Otake: Black 51 was also a good move. This is just like Kudo san, and you can feel the pressure being tightened steadily. I really felt disturbed, I must say.

―For White 52, usually…


Diagram 10

…White pushes at 1, but was this no good?

Otake: It is not attractive to push here, you know. Supposing that Black replies with 2 through 8, White has only been playing on empty points, while in no time at all the center is turning Black. This is the best possible variation for Black. And White’s shape is still funny [due to cutting points and shortages of liberties].

Sato: Black 49 and 51 are vital points, you know.

Otake: That’s right. These two moves paralyzed me. I was thinking that this is what to expect [from Kudo], I must say. [Again, Otake displays humility.]

―Since it is impossible to play 1 in Diagram 10, playing White 52 this way is the only thing to do, you know.

Otake: That’s because incurring a move by Black around the point of would be intolerable, you know. Whether White 52 is good or not, I don’t know. I also considered the knight’s move of and the large knight’s move at . Which is best? Yamabe Sensei? [Addressing Yamabe as Sensei also displays humility on Otake’s part.]

Yamabe: White makes it easy for Black to make the shoulder hit at . And White is thin and weak, so it is worrisome, you know.

Otake: Should White surround territory with the snide move at ? However, playing that move is like proclaiming that the game is won, I must say.

―Black 55 is a move at the vital point.

Otake: I was devastated. White had to struggle [to live] with moves like 58 and 62, while making Black thicker and stronger. And then the invasion of Black 65 is severe.

Sato: What is the reason for playing White 64? I didn’t understand this.

Otake: Yes, yes. No reason at all, I must say. Should this have been used to defend at , even at this late point?

―Would White be safe in the upper right?

Otake: The group is alive, but…


Diagram 11

…Incurring the attachment of Black 1 makes you want to cry, I must say. With White 2 through 6, the group lives (by way of seki), but…

Yamabe: White has zero territory, and the marked White stone has withered on the vine, so this is painful, you know. I was thinking that since this was Otake playing…


Diagram 12

…White would go with 1 here, I must say.

Otake: That was the only move. Connecting with Black 2 would be standard (if Black , White could play elsewhere since the group is alive [a White move two points to the right of is sente – see Diagram 11] as it is), and at that point White plays 3 and 5. In this case, the marked White stone would not be dead. [Black would have to play at to capture it, but that is a small move; and also makes bad shape.] Anyway, there was no more stupid move than White 64, I must say. I can only think that I must have lost my mind for a moment.



Figure 5 (66-76)

Sato: White 66 and the sequence that followed was strange, I must say, you know. It may be expected that White was in a painful and difficult position, but when play reaches 76, it seems that everything is simple and easy. Was this from fooling the opponent or what?

Otake: When things get difficult and painful, I right away set up things to fool my opponent. (Laughs)

―Before that, at White 66…


Diagram 13

…Wasn’t it possible to make the diagonal move at White 1 to capture Black’s stone?

Yamabe: For amateur readers, I will explain this. Black 2 is absolutely unreasonable. The only move for White to play is to strike through the knight’s move with 3, but after the sequence through 14, the shape here is no good for White.

Otake: One way or another, the idea with the move of White 66 was to attach against this solid Black position. It feels good to do this, I tell you. Being forced is intolerable for Black, so that induced the counterattack of 67.


Diagram 14

Sato: If Black draws back at 1?

Otake: White attaches at 2 and cuts at 4. I planned to discard the marked White stone. No matter what happens, good or bad, you know. This would have been a calm and collected way for Black to play, but during that game I just knew that Black would draw back at 67, I must say.

―Was White 70 fooling play, stage two? This was a precarious part of the game to make a forcing move, you know.

Otake: Instead of connecting at Black 71…


Diagram 15

…Counterattacking with the move of Black 1 was possible, you know. This leads to a swap through 7. After the game, I asked Kudo san what he thought of this variation, and he said that it wasn’t very good for Black. Indeed, it is big to have four Black stones captured in sente, White could then turn to play the move at in the figure, and it seems that the outlook is somewhat promising for White in the game.

Sato: When White plays 74, was there no alternative for Black 75? For example…


Diagram 16

…In the analysis room, the question was when Black hanes over White’s stone with 1, what happens? We went through various combinations of moves, but…

Yamabe: What about blocking with White 2? Black takes hold of White’s stone with 3, and then…

Otake: If White plays at 4, Black goes with 5, you know. The White stones must be dead, I would assume.

Sato: This is unusually severe play, you know. [Meaning: professional players do not usually go all out in the early part of games.]

Otake: Had White played 2 as the cut at , it would have let Black connect underneath at 2, and so would have been questionable, you know. Ah, I remember…


Diagram 17

…When Black plays 1, I intended to wedge in with the hane of White 2. Black connects underneath with 3, leading to Black’s pushing through at 7, which would be the usual continuation in this position. This variation would not necessarily be judged as in White’s favor, but the two marked Black stones have been rendered into null activity, so I must say that this is a satisfactory outcome.

Yamabe: In that case…


Diagram 18

…It should be made clear why Black 1 is not a good move.

Otake: That is complicated, I must say. Should White draw back at 2 how can Black connect?

Sato: With Black 3, no?

Otake: In that case, White pushes through at 4, and this swap is good for White. However, for Black 3, the hanging connection of is troublesome. Supposing that White captures with 4 through 16, if Black has made the hanging connection at , Black ends up cutting off the marked White stone. This is distasteful for White, I must say.

White Handles the Problem [Sabaki]


Figure 6 (75-100)

Otake: Instead of Black 75…


Diagram 19 Black 15 connects

…I was really worried about incurring the block of 1, I tell you. What is the right way for White to play? How about peeping at 2 and drawing back at 4?

Sato: Regardless of that, White makes the hanging connection of 5, no?

Yamabe: It seems possible for White to make the wedging insertion technique [suji] of 6, but…

Otake: A Black connection at 8 would be answered by the swap of White 18. After that, Black has nothing more than to make the standard cut at 7. Then, White draws back at 11, and would this be good? In that case, cutting with Black 7 is the only move. Following White 8, a huge ko results from Black 11 and 13, you know.

Yamabe: In regards to this ko, White has leeway to connect at 14, so this variation is playable for White, I suppose. In the end, White captures at 16, so since the swap in Diagram 18 now seems likely, White is well off here.

Otake: A fantastic variation, you know. However, it was possible that this would have happened, you know. Black pushed through at 75, and White was able to play at 76, and I felt like I had profited here, but…

―So for Black, it seems like settling for the variations in Diagram 14 or Diagram 17 was best, you know.

Yamabe: Black went with 77, right? A frightening move, you know. If it was me…


Diagram 20

…I would think about diving into the 3-3 point in the corner with 1 and making life. When Black plays at 5, White might try to capture the stones with 6, but after the sequence through Black 11, one way or another Black would seem to be able to manage, I would imagine. Should White play 6 at 8, Black makes the hanging connection at 6, resulting in a ko, and that would appear to be playable for Black.

Otake: That’s right. Black 77 is a frightening move, I tell you. There are a variety of moves that White could go with here. As the first impression…


Diagram 21

…There was White 1, but…

Sato: Skillful technique [suji], you know. Should Black respond at , White plays 3, and when Black replies at , White extends at 2, capturing the marked Black stones.

Otake: However, had Black come on with the move at 2, I had no confidence that I could deal with it.

Sato: If play proceeds from White 3 through 9, it seems that White has a viable [shinogi] group here, but…

Otake: I suppose that’s true. I guess that I should have gone ahead and played this way, you know. I had various lines of play in my mind, and peeped at White 80, but that was funny. It threw me off. No matter how much I felt that I was ahead in the game, you know.

―It was impressive how you wrapped thing up with White 92 and the following moves, you know.

Otake: For Black 93…


Diagram 22

…I thought that Black would come on with 1, but…

Sato: The atari of Black 5 and the hane over White’s stone technique [suji] with 7, you know. It would seem that this variation would be good for Black.

Otake: However, White is not limited to connecting at 6, since that doesn’t seem to go so well, you know. Kudo san said that he did not think of this variation. For White 2, the attachment technique [suji] of was also possible.

Yamabe: White 98 is not like Otake san, but it was a really good move, you know.


Diagram 23

Otake: Simply going with 1 makes it difficult to rescue the marked White stone, and even though White connects at 5, Black plays the sequence from 6 through 10 that make equivalent options of and , so it doesn’t work out well.

Sato: If Black uses 99 to block at , I suppose that White , Black , White, Blackand White will follow. That works out really well, you know.

White Optimism Leads to a Close Game


Figure 7 (101-142)

Sato: After White 4, capturing two stones, there is a lull in the action. Here, White is better off, you know.

Otake: Somewhat, I guess. But when Black connected at 7, the knight’s move of 8 overdid it. Just playing the usual extension of White 17 was the move to play. The attachment of Black 9 was skillfully played. (If 9 is omitted, White descends at , and fixes the shape.) White 10 was also odd form.


Diagram 24

Had White just pushed through with the commonplace move of 1 and took hold of the Black stones with 5, White would clearly have a won game, you know.

Sato: Because White drew back to 12, Black played at the vital point of 15, which must have been stunning, you know.

Otake: Before that, White 14 was another missed opportunity. Good timing would dictate playing the fencing in move of 36. Pushing through with Black is the only move. At that point White captures with 14. Then, following White 16 and 18, White goes back to extend at , which is a good move.

Yamabe: I see. Just at the instant when Black makes the forcing move of 13, White 36 would be an exquisite move, you know.

Otake: As soon as I had played White 14 I realized this, I must say.


Diagram 25

―When White plays 1, what if Black turns to make the move at 2?

Otake: White descend at 7, and Black loses the race to capture. That’s because Black has to deal with the defect at , you know. Playing Black 10 at would win the race to capture, but Black’s group would get wrapped up, which would be no good.


Diagram 26

Yamabe: For White 16, the attachment of 1 would be standard. Supposing that Black answers at 2, since White 5 is a forcing move, drawing back with White 3 succeeds.

Otake: That’s true, you know. Since the position wasn’t fixed with White 36 and Black , it was funny to make the forcing move of White 16, you know. Around this point, I was thoroughly shaken, I must say.

―After that, a routine endgame was played, you know. But Black 33 was small.


Diagram 27

During the analysis after the game, 1 was suggested as the way to go, you know.

Otake: Right, right. Putting the pressure on with Black 1, you know.

Yamabe: If White presses at 2, will Black hane at 3? Then, White defends with 4 and 6, and there is no big deal, is there? Black 7 and White 8 follow, and if Black incurs the hane of White it would be funny.

Otake: Black 1 would probably be played from the feeling on the spur of the moment, you know. As for the descending move of Black 33, above all else, it’s cash in hand. However the center is surrounded, it will never amount to much, you know.

Yamabe: In response to White 34, Black defended at 35, so instead of playing White 36, couldn’t White have made an attachment at ?

Otake: That’s right. Despite the fact that I was saying to myself, “Attach at White !” I worried that Black would not respond with a defensive move, and then everything turned funny. (Laughs) If White attaches at, Black , White, Black, and White, and this is clearly good, you know. Regardless of that, if White is going to play at 36, first White 37 should have been exchanged for Black . Playing the single move of Black 37 was shrewd and smart. Afterward, the connection of Black is tremendously big. Around this time, the mood was for a complete upset. Although this happens all the time, it is still disgraceful…

A Problematical Ko


Figure 8 (143-200) White 94 takes ko; Black 97 same; White 100 same

Otake: After the game, Kudo san said that for Black 43, it was better to fix the shape with the hane over White’s stone at , White , Black 44, and White 75, but whether this was more profitable or not, I don’t know.

Yamabe: Even around the point of White 46, there was a chance to attach at , you know.

Otake: After suffering Black’s returning to play at 49, and connecting at 57, although the game is close, White cannot win.


Diagram 28

―For White 64, is it possible to tenaciously play at 1?

Otake: Black plays at 2, and then the moves to the cut of 8 follow in order. The cut of Black is sente, so Black can then push at and kill White’s group in the corner.

Sato: Black 65 and 67, followed by 71, is a skillful order of moves, you know. Black had White responding just as dictated to.

Otake: The jump of Black 83 was the only move. Any other move gives White a ½ point win.

―With the cut of White 90, the problematic ko is finally coming into effect.


Diagram 29

In order to avoid the ko, was it no good for Black to connect at 1?

Otake: Suffering a two point loss with White 2 and 4 in sente is painful. White connects at 6, and this would likely be a ½ point win for White, you know. Black course of play in this figure was winning, I must say.

A Ko Threat Settles Things


Figure 9 (201-251) White 6 takes ko; Black 9 same; White 12 same; Black 15 same; White 18 same; White 48 connects (below 28)

―During the analysis after the game, the ko threat of Black 13 was pointed to as the losing move.

Otake: That’s right, you know. At the point of Black 13, there are no effective ko threats available to Black. When Black played 3 in the game, there were no ko threats, and that being the case, there was no way to win the game.


Diagram 30 Black 5 connects

The only thing for Black to do was to play 1 here. This ko threat incurs a 1 point loss, but Black has to tenaciously play this way. This time, it is White who lacks ko threats. So White has to back down with 4, and then turning to play at 6 would be standard. This variation would result in a ½ point win for Black. Winning or losing the ko was worth 5 points, but apparently Kudo san mistakenly calculated as 4 points. At 4 points, a ko threat incorporating a loss cannot be played, but at 5 points, a ko threat incorporating a 1 point loss is irrelevant, you know.

Yamabe: This is irrelevant to the outcome of the game, but instead of White 28, wouldn’t the hane of White 31, Black , and the White connection of 29 be more profitable by 1 point? That’s because White would become a sente move to force Black to make an extra move inside the group. (If Black ignores this, White can cut at .)

Otake: Is that so? Terrible, I must say. Although a 3 point move was available, I made a 2 point move, did I? Had I played the endgame correctly, it would have been a 1½ point win, you know.

251 moves. White wins by ½ point.

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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