26th Kisei - Game 1 in London

'Kisei' in kanji 'Japan 2001' logo

A Japan 2001 event

The Kisei Title is the most prestigious go tournament in Japan and hence one of the most important in the world. It is an annual tournament culminating in a best-of-seven-games final between the reigning Kisei and the challenger, who has had to battle his way through a rigorous series of preliminaries and qualifying tournaments.

Montcalm Hotel

In 2002, the first of these seven games was played in the Montcalm Hotel, a four-star de luxe hotel close to the north-east corner of London's Hyde Park and the west end of Oxford Street, on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th January 2002. This was also the venue for the pre-match reception, attended by about 50 BGA members.

'Kisei' means 'Go Saint', a term applied to truly outstanding players from the game's long history. Only a very few players have ever been considered worthy of this title, the most well known being Honinbo Dosaku and Honinbo Shusaku. In 1977 it was adopted as the title of this Go tournament.

The Kisei is organised by the Nihon Ki-in, the Japanese professional go association, and is sponsored by the Yomiuri newspaper. In 2002 the winner received 42,000,000 Yen (about £250,000) whilst the loser of the title match received 12,000,000 Yen (about £70,000). The Yomiuri newspaper has a long history of sponsoring Go, longer than the age of the Kisei tournament. It used to sponsor the Meijin tournament which was then considered the most important, but the Asahi Newspaper, who sponsored the Shogi (Japanese Chess) Meijin title wanted to sponsor the Go title too. They offered the Nihon Ki-in increased sponsorship in exchange. After months of intense negotiation an agreement was reached: the Asahi obtained the Meijin Title in exchange for the increased prize money, and Yomiuri created the Kisei title with an even higher level of sponsorship, making it more prestigious than the Meijin title. This arrangement suited professional go players and the Nihon Ki-in, as it increased the number of tournaments and the level of sponsorship.

Ryu Shikun

'Ryu Shikun' in kanji
Ryu Shikun 7-dan, the challenger, was born in 1971 in Korea. He turned professional aged 17 and was "only" 7 dan in 2002 because he had not won many games in the former rating tournament (the Oteai), despite being a top player in Japan. He had previously held the Tengen title.

The qualification for the Kisei involves two leagues of six people. Ryu won his league and then beat Cho Chikun, the winner of the other league, in the play-off to win his challenge.

Ryu previously clashed with O Rissei in the 1996 Oza title match and won a resounding 3-0 victory.

O Rissei

'O Rissei' in kanji
O Rissei 9-dan, the reigning Kisei at the start of the match, was born in 1958 in Taiwan. He turned professional at the young age of 14 and reached 9 dan, the highest professional grade, sixteen years later. He has held the Kisei, Oza and Kakusei titles and also has been one of the most successful Japan-based players in international tournaments.

O Rissei won the Kisei Title in 2000 by defeating the greatly respected Cho Chikun, 9 dan, by 4 games to 2. Cho had particularly wanted to win because that would have made five wins in a row and earned the title Honorary Kisei. In 2001, O defended his title by beating Cho Sonjin, 9 dan, by 4 games to 1.

The Game

Kudo Norio reviews the game

The game started on the morning of the 10th, with Tim Hunt being the BGA's observer of the first move. An audience about 50 strong watched the game by video link over the two days. It was relayed live from the playing room upstairs to the public room in the basement of the Montcalm Hotel. Professionals Kato Masao, Kudo Norio and Michael Redmond, all 9 dan, analysed the game for locals, with the help of Ms Yuki Shigeno, 2 dan. The game was also broadcast live on Japanese TV and various BGA members were interviewed for the programs, as well as the game being analysed. Further footage of Go in the UK, such as a visit to Fitzharrys School in Abingdon, had been recorded earlier in the week and was also broadcast on Japanese TV.

Kato Masao reviews the game

In the match game O Rissei (defending Champion) beat Ryu Shikun by resignation after a long and interesting game, that ended just on 6pm on the second day, conveniently during the live broadcast to Japan.

Ryu Shikun won the second game in the match, back in Japan, by half a point and the third by 2.5 points. O Rissei won game 4 by 4.5 points and game 5 by resignation. O won the sixth game by 2.5 points on 7th March to retain the title, a best of seven, by 4 games to 2.

TV Interview with Michael Redmond

Club Visit

O Rissei at Central London Go Club

Six professionals, including the winner O Rissei, attended the Central London Go Club during its meeting at the Crosse Keys pub in the City on Saturday 12th. The others pros were Kudo Norio 9 dan, Kato Masao 9 dan, Michael Redmond 9 dan, Shigeno Yuki 2 dan and Osawa Narumi 2 dan. Afterwards there was an informal trip to a restaurant for the local players and visitors and two of the pros, Michael and Yuki.

Kisei Youth

Kisei Youth: Michael Redmond

Michael Redmond and Yuki Shigeno attended the Kisei Youth Tournament held on 13th at the Nippon Club. Thanks to Kisei match sponsors Yomiuri Shimbun and Japan 2001 generous prizes and travel expenses were available to the young players at this event. Also unique was the chance to play professionals Michael Redmond and Yuki Shigeno, and to hear about Michael's journey from American schoolboy to 9 dan professional. Michael beat Tom Blockley and Jimmy Mao. Yuki won 5, lost 1, 1 jigo.

Winner of the tournament was Jimmy Mao (1 dan Bristol), second was Tom Blockley (Worcester) and third William Brooks (Cambridge). Paul Blockley (18 kyu) and Tom Robinson (35 kyu) won all their games in the handicap section.

The trophy, donated by the Yomiuri Shinbun, would in future be the British Youth Champion's trophy.

Kisei Youth: Yuki Shigeno
Last updated Mon Nov 19 2012.
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