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Fujisawa Kuranosuke (Hosai)

Fujisawa Kuranosuke was a long-time rivial of Go Seigen.  If we talk about the games between the two, none was more famous than their 2nd 10-game series, played in 1952.  At the time, they were the only 9-dans in Japan (thus in the entire world) — Fujisawa was the first player to be promoted to 9 dan under the Oteai system, in 1949, and Go Seigen was awarded the rank of 9-dan in 1950 (he was not belong to Nihon Kiin, thus he couldn’t get promoted under Oteai, the Nihon Kiin rating tournament).

Today [1993], the number of 9-dans in the world is approaching 100, if not yet reached.  But before World War II, the only 9-dan in the world would be the Meijin.  So after the death of the last Meijin, Shusai, there was no 9-dan for a long time (about 10 years), until Nihon Kiin decided to promote her own 9-dans.

Anyway, by 1950, there were suddenly two 9-dans. (Incidentially, the 2nd 9-dan promoted under the Oteai system was Sakata Eio in 1955.) Naturally, everyone wanted to know who was better, and the two players were not shy to set up such a battle either.  Finally in the end of 1951, the 2nd Go-Fujisawa 10-game series were under way, sponsored by Yomiuri Shimbon (a major Japanese newspaper).  Recall that in their 1st 10-game series in 1944, Fujisawa beat Go Seigen 6-4 (Fujisawa held black throughout the series, since at the time, Go Seigen, still in Nihon Kiin, was an 8-dan, while Fujisawa a 6-dan).

Each player was given 13 hours in every game.  The very first game probably earned a seat in Go history.  What happened was that both players misread at a corner fight!  At the end, when Go Seigen played one more move at that corner, Fujisawa resigned.  How could they *both* misread?
Probably both knew how important the game was, and after three days oftense fight, their feelings were not so sharp.  But the 4-dan who was recording the game did not miss it!  After the game, he pointed it out to the two 9-dan’s that Black (Fujisawa) could have won the fight at that corner, and maybe the game too.  I think it would be interesting to see a 4-dan teaching two 9-dans, or rather, a relaxed player teaching two nervous players. Unfortunately I don’t remember that 4 dan’s name; believe me, he would be an excellent kibitzer on IGS.

Despite such an unlucky loss, Fujisawa was unbeaten the next three games, with 2 wins and 1 tie, thus leading the series 2-1-1.  People started to think, Hmmm, after all, Fujisawa was stronger!  Then it came the turning point of the series, the fifth game.  In this game, Fujisawa had a good lead but he couldn’t hold it.  When Go Seigen finally turned this game around, he turned the whole series around.  He did not just win this fifth game; he won all the remaining 5 games as well.

After the 10th game, both players were interviewed by NHK (Japanese Boradcasting Association).  I think the conversations were interesting — Go Seigen said, “Since the beginning I’ve thought that luck decides to win or to lose; if one is lucky, then he wins; if he’s unlucky, then he may lose.”

Many years later, when he recalled this game, he said, “One cannot win a game just because he wants to.  The outside world is always disturbing. If my mind is shaken by this disturbance, I would lose.  Luckily at that time, eitehr before the series or during the series, I had a peaceful mind.”

Then NHK’s microphone turned to Fujisawa.  “Miserable loss!” He said with a bitter smile.  However, immediately, Fujisawa challenged Go Seigen again for yet another 10-game series.  In fact, before their 2nd series (the one just finished), they had agreed that no matter what the outcome of the series would be, the loser could challenge again, and the winner must accept.

A year later, Fujisawa lost again in their third 10-game series.  This time by a score of 5-1 and the series did not continue.  This was a significant loss by Fujisawa.  To prepare the series, he neglected his Nihon Kiin obligations, such as Honinbo tournament.  As a result, he was heavily criticized.  If he was to go on to lose to Go Seigen, one can imagaine, the responsibility Fujisawa would have to bear might be too heavy.  And he realized so; right after the loss of the six game (the final game) of the series, he resigned from Nihon Kiin.  I would like to quote a piece from the newly published “The Go Player’s Almanac” by Ishi Press, 1992.  On page 64, John Power writes,

“Fujisawa resigned from the Nihon Ki-in and changed his given name to Hosai, a name with Buddhist overtones more fitting for a retiree than an active player.  His humiliation in the jubango [10-game series] made him a tragic figure and obscured the fact that he was a great player.  In match play, one misstep, one wrong turn can adversely affect the whole series, and, as we have seen, Fujisawa had his share of bad luck.  Nontheless, the two postwar matches with him are remembered as one of the highlights of Go [Seigen’s] career.”

Suddenly I realized, Go Seigen’s comments that “luck decides outcome” were not merely some modest words after his victory.

Finally, an interesting fact about Fujisawa.  We know there are two famous Fujisawa’s, Kuranosuke (Hosai) and Shuko.  I heard that they were uncle and nephew, and when I was younger, I had always thought that Hosai was the uncle.  After all, he’s older.  Not until recently that I found, first he is not that much older, but 6 years; secondly, he is the *nephew*.

By the way, Fujisawa Hosai retired this very year, 1992, while his younger uncle, Shuko, set the new record of being the oldest player to win a major tournament (Shuko already set the record last year).

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