Honinbo Shuho (本因坊秀甫)

Honinbo Shuho (1838 - October 14, 1886) was an Igo (board game of capturing territory, also called Go) player from the Edo to the Meiji period. His real name was Shuho MURASE. Born in Edo. Also known as a disciple of Honinbo Josaku and Honinbo Shuwa, 8-dan Jun Meijin (the title next to Meijin in the Edo period) and the 18th Honinbo. His homyo (posthumous Buddhist name given to a person who died or has entered the priesthood) was Nichiju.

Shuho was known with his free-wheeling playing style of Igo. He founded Hoensha, an Igo organization, and supported the Igo world in the Meiji period which had lost patronage from the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and made the first step to spread and popularize Igo in Western Europe. His literary works included "Hoen Shinpo." Shuho entered the Igo Hall of Fame in 2007.

As a disciple of the Honinbo
Shuho was born to a poor carpenter's family, next to the Honinbo dojo (training hall) in Ueno Kurumazakashita in Edo. His childhood name was Yakichi. He became a disciple of Honinbo Josaku when he was eight years old in 1846. It is said that he sometimes could not pay the tuition due to the above-mentioned family situation. Probably due to such situation, he allegedly worked so hard and did any household tasks since he became an uchideshi (disciple boarding in the home of his master), waking up earlier than anybody else and staying up late at night to study Go. He became 1st-dan at the age of 11. He became an uchideshi at the age of 14.

When Shuho was 17 years old in 1854, he became 4-dan and served as jukuto (school manager) to take over Saichiro KISHIMOTO as he returned to his hometown. In 1855, he accompanied Shuwa on the trip to Mino Province, Kyoto and Osaka Prefecture and was given the rank equivalent to 5-dan. In 1860 he changed his name to Shuho MURASE.

In 1861 he became 6-dan and took the tonsure to prepare himself for participating in the oshirogo (castle game of Go), but he never had a chance to do so because the oshirogo was discontinued from the following year. He played a jubango (10-game match of Go) against Honinbo Shusaku, his anideshi (senior disciple) on Sen (playing first as a handicap), and he won 6 games, lost 3 games and tied 1 game. Around this time Shusaku and Shuho were called Dragon and Tiger of the Hoinbo Disciples or the Treasure of the Go world. When Shusaku died in 1862, most people thought that Shuho would succeed him because he was the best among the Hoinbo disciples, but the widow of Honinbo Jowa, Seiko, strongly objected it and 14-year-old Honinbo Shuetsu, Shuwa's first son, became the heir in 1863. In this year he played a jubango against Hanjuro YOSHIDA (on two-stone handicap for Hanjuro). In 1864 he played a sogo (official challenge match) with Matsumoto Inseki INOUE, finishing in his three consecutive wins and he was promoted to 7-dan. Shuho became eligible for the entry to the oshirogo; however, it was called off due to the upheaval at the end of the Edo period. He lost a hope for the future, as his succession of the Honinbo was denied; wondered around the Echigo Province and neighboring regions, thus often being away from Edo. Under such circumstance he advanced to play against Shuwa on Sen ai sen (playing black then white then black) in 1868.

In 1871 he returned to Edo and played eight games on Sen ai sen against Shuwa, resulting in Shuho's five wins and three losses. Shuho accompanied Shuwa to go to Nagoya in October. In 1872 he, together with Honinbo Shuei, traveled Mino, Owari and Ise Provinces and Osaka. In 1873 Shuwa died and Shuetsu succeed the 15th Honinbo.

In the time of Hoensha
In 1879 Kamesaburo NAKAGAWA planned to launch a study group named Hoensha, together with Honinbo Shuetsu, Sanei YASUI, Inseki INOUE and Shuei HAYASHI among others, so Shuho accepted their request and returned from Echigo to join them and he became the president. Shuho's reviews on the kifu (Go game record) appeared on 'Igo Shinpo' published by Hoensha every month.

After the each Iemoto (the head family of Go school) had withdrawn from Hoensha, Hoensha started to issue its original menjo (diploma) and changed from dan-i ranking system to kyu-i ranking system in 1880. Around that time Shuho had beaten other kishi (professional Go players) down to Sen or further handicaps and advanced to 2-kyu (8-dan) with the recommendation by all members of Hoensha. After that, only Nuiji MIZUTANI proceeded to play against Shuho on Sen ai sen, but died young in 1884.

Shuho taught Go to a German railroad engineer, Oskar KORSCHELT, which became the beginning of the popularization of Go in the West.

He released a book titled "Hoen Shinpo" published by Hoensha in 1882. Since 1884 he started to play a jubango with 5-dan Honinbo Shuei (with Shuei at sen). In 1886, Shuei officially approved Shuho being 8-dan at the same time he stepped aside to make him to the Honinbo, thus Shuho became the 18th Honinbo Shuho. Then Shuho gave Shuei 7-dan. The jubango against Shuei ended with the last game on August 6, finishing as a five-five tie. This game was his last game and Shuho died on October 14.

Although Shuho had such an excellent reputation that Chomin NAKAE regarded him as 'one of the 31 distinguished people in the modern time' in his book "Ichinen Yuhan" (One and a Half Year Left), he was less known to the public, compared with the grand masters such as Honinbo Dosaku, Shuwa, Shusaku and Shuei, and his life was not totally fortunate in spite of that he was the leading player of the time. However, he was blessed with good teachers and rivals and he scored fairly well against them.
His master, Shuwa, gave high praise for him, saying that 'Even if Shusaku had lived long enough to the Meiji period, Shuho would probably have had an advantage over Shusaku.'
Even in today's Igo World, not a few people including Akira ISHIDA regard Shuho being on par with these grand masters.