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1st Japan’s Strongest Deciding Matches

[Seven of these eight games of Go Seigen were played during the 1st Japan’s Strongest Deciding Matches. This article is an overview of these matches.]

[The following is a translation of the Chinese translation of a piece by a Japanese 5-dan. My notes are given in the square brackets. In the translation, “Wu” is used to replace “Go Seigen”.]

When Wu defeated Takagawa Kaku 8-dan, who had won 5 consecutive
Honinbo titles, there was no legitimate 10-games series opponent for him left. Since the first 10-game series, Wu had faced Kitani Minoru 7-dan, Karigane Junichi 8-dan, and Fujisawa Kuranosuke 6-dan of the prewar era, Hashimoto Utaro 8-dan, Honinbo Kunwa (Iwamoto Kun 8-dan), Honinbo Shou (Hashimoto Utaro 8-dan, 2nd time), Fujisawa Kuranosuke 9-dan (2nd and 3rd time), Sakata Eio 8-dan, and Honinbo Shukaku (Takagawa Kaku 8-dan) of the postwar era. It seemed that 10-game series was unable to continue. Therefore, at the end of 1957 (Showa Year 32) [My other records show that it should be at the beginning of 1957], Yomiuri Shimbun initiated and sponsored a championship tournament called “Japan’s Strongest Deciding Matches.”

These matches were also called “Top Six Matches.” Participants included all the 9-dans of the time. That is, Wu and Nihon Kiin’s Kitani Minoru and Sakata Eio; also, the “homeless” Fujisawa Hosai (Kuranosuke) who left Nihon Kiin after losing to Wu in their 10-game series. Besides them [9-dans, which should also include Hashimoto Utaro], there was five consecutive Honinbo title holder Takagawa Kaku 8-dan. Participants were the strongest players who could be invited. Although these matches were not named “Meijin Sen”, the fans all regarded it as the actual Meijin Sen.

According to the rules of these matches, there was no komi, and it was a double round-robin in which each pair of players were to play two games against each other (playing black by turn). By April of 1959 (Showa Year 34) [should be 1958 (Showa Year 33)], all matches, a total of 30, were finished. Among them, there were some historical matches such as Wu and Kitani Minoru’s rematch after 12 years [should be 13 years], and Wu’s new version of “big avalanche joseki.”

To Wu, these opponents all had been beaten by him into “sente handicaps” [These special handicaps were used in Wu’s 10-game series. At the start of each series, both Wu and his opponent would play like normal even games (players play black by turn). But when one of them had a net lead of 4 games in the series (it was almost always the case that Wu had such a lead), the trailing player would receive a “sente handicap” (It’s called BWB handicap) in which he would have sente (black stone) in two out of three games. Then, if this trailing player would net 4 more losses, his “sente handicap” would become “long-sente”, i.e. he would always play black. Of course, if he could net 4 wins after being handicapped, he would be
promoted to play even games again (that, however, didn’t happen to any of the opponents of Wu; Wu usually beat them with white too).], and now he had to agree to play with them in normal even games. One could understand that Wu might have different ideas, but eventually, Wu never suggested anything different from the rules.

Finally, these 1st Deciding Matches ended with Wu winning by a record of 8 wins and 2 losses. In the 2nd Matches [in 1959], Sakata won by a record of 8 wins, 1 loss, and 1 tie; Kitani and Wu won 2nd and 3rd places, respectively. In the 3rd Matches [in 1961], the leading Wu lost his finale to Sakata, thus tying Sakata for the 1st place. [That was the point that Wu started to fade. In the August of the same year, 1961, Wu was injured (including his brain) by a motorcycle in a traffic accident. His body would eventually recover, but his prime time was over.]

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