Kisei - 2007

Final result: Yamashita Keigo defended his Kisei title against Kobayashi Satoru with straight wins: 4 - 0

Quick links to the games: Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4

Kisei is the top professional Go tournament in Japan. It means something like "The God of Go".

Kisei is an annual tournament, the previous year's title holder is playing a best-of-seven match with the winner of a qualification tournament.

Yamashita Keigo photo

The Kisei title holder from last year is Yamashita Keigo. He is 28 years old, and comes from the Go school of Kikuchi Yasuro, the famous amateur player that even professionals call "Kikuchi Sensei". While a title holder, that title's name is usually appended to one's name, so he is addressed in the Go circles as "Yamashita Kisei".

Kobayashi Satoru photo

The challenger for this year's Kisei title is Kobayashi Satoru: 47 years old, he is one the many talented disciples of the late Kitani Sensei.

He is the brother of Kobayashi Chizu, who was my sensei in Japan. So he is my favourite in this year's Kisei match :-)

Kobayashi Satoru won the Kisei title once in the past, in 1995. I received a lesson from him back in 1994 when I was insei in Japan: we played a teaching game which meant a great deal to me - top professional players very rarely do that.

I am going to post here the game results as soon as I have them. I found that the online Go server Cyberoro is broadcasting many pro games live, including the Kisei.

Also, if you plan to follow the games live, be aware that the dates of the next games are in Japanese time (which is GMT + 9 hours) - which means you'll have to get online the evening of the previous day if you live in US, or around midnight if you live in Europe. Each game starts at 9 am in Japan.

Game 1

Game 1 was played on 17 and 18 January 2007 and was won by Yamashita by resignation in 165 moves.

Here is the end position of the game:

Black played at 165 and effectively captured the 5 white stones in that area - actually white was looking for a good place to resign after black made a huge territory on the lower side and was definitely leading. White lost a move in the middle game during a ko fight on the upper side, so not only did Black's central group got out to safety, but it also helped black close the lower side territory from above.

The game viewer is a Java applet called ZGo, created by Daniel Cioata.

You can download the SGF file for game 1 here.

Game 2

Game 2 was played on January 31st and February 1st and was won by Yamashita by resignation, in 178 moves.

I added some comments directly in the SGF file, based on the variations I saw on the Cyberoro Go server.

You can download the SGF file for game 2 here.

Game 3

Game 3 was played on February 7th and 8th, and was won by Yamashita by resignation, in 157 moves.

Here is the position at the end of day 1, in game 3:

It is an all-hoshi game, with Yamashita playing san-ren-sei and the fight started very early.

If you think White's stones look scattered on the lower side, you are not alone: I thought white played a nozoki too late, when it was not kikashi anymore, and an exchange took place - but white doesn't look too happy right now. On the other hand, the 3 isolated white stones on the lower side (4th line) are actually more resourceful than they look: white can either sacrifice them and capture the 3 black stones in the lower left, or choose to live locally, or move them out... Anyways, it looks like black will keep the initiative for a while.

In the second day of game 3, black did keep the initiative. A spectacular exchange took place towards the end: white sacrificed a huge group in the lower left, in exchange for building a very large moyo in the upper left quarter of the board:

Black jumped right with move 133 in the diagram in and lived, and the game was over for white.

I added my own thoughts on the game in the SGF file.

You can download the SGF file for game 3 here.

Game 4

Game 4 started on February 22nd (and will be continued on February 23rd)

I was surprised to see the fuseki: it's the "old" Kobayashi-fuseki (no relation to Kobayashi Satoru though - it is named after Kobayashi Koichi, who dominated Japanese Go in the 80's). I checked in my games database, and indeed, the last time it was played in a professional tournament (at least based on the games I have) was in 2005: I don't know of any Kobayashi-fuseki professional game from 2006!. See the diagram for what this fuseki is about: the interesting part is the lower side for Black.

The most popular choices for White next are, in order: A (242 games in my collection), B (41 matches) and C (18 matches). White (Yamashita) chose C in the 4th Kisei game. When this fuseki was still new, white used to play closer approaches in the lower-right: keima-kakari and ikken-kakari appeared briefly in the 80's and early 90's. Note how nowadays white keeps distance - black is very strong on the lower side, after all.

Close to the end of day one, the position is very complicated: white just did a cross-cut in the center, putting pressure on the black group in the middle. Black took profit in the lower-right quarter of the board, while white took profit in the lower-left.

Black resigned in the second day, after White 142 - see the diagram: Black's last attack didn't succeed, White lived with all his groups and is ahead in territory. As an exercise, it's interesting to think how should White defend if Black attacks with A in the upper right.

You can download the SGF file for game 4 here.

* If you don't have a Cyberoro account, there is also a client that can be downloaded for free here. The client software is a Japanese Windows application that needs to be installed manually. In the remote case that you don't read Japanese, try to follow the visual instructions from this page - it worked for me! Once you find the icon of the newly installed software on your desktop and start the application, click on the big button on the middle of the right side of the application window - the button text is a series of question marks on my English Windows system. That will connect you to the server and on the lower left you'll have 2 buttons with icons the shape of a video camera - the second one will connect you to the game. When a game is live, you'll see it there. Otherwise, you'll see the latest played game.