Honinbo Shusai (本因坊秀哉)

Honinbo (Holder of the Honinbo Title for the strongest player of the board game of go) Shusai (June 24, 1874 - January 18, 1940) was a go (the board game of go, hereinafter referred to as go) player who lived from the Meiji period through to the Showa period. He was born in Tokyo. His name was Yasuhisa (also known as Hoju) TAMURA. He was a master (which is called Meijin in Japanese) of go. He was the 21st Iemoto (grand master) of the go school of Honinbo, being the last Permanent Meijin (Meijin-for-life). His homyo (Buddhist priest's name or posthumous Buddhist name) was Nichion. After retirement, he transferred the title of Honinbo to the Nihon Ki-in (literally, the Japanese Go Association), which led to the foundation of Honinbo title match. His style was characterized by dominating a riki-sen match (also called chikara-go, referring to a match full of nonstandard moves in the game of go, or rather scuffled match in which players' abilities are tested), people praised him by describing, "Shusai has a plan in an opening game." He was inducted into the Go Hall of Fame in 2008.

Biography
Training Days
Yasuhisa TAMURA (the future Honinbo Shusai) was born in Tokyo on June 24, 1874. Yasuhisa's father was Yasunaga TAMURA who worked at the prewar Ministry of Home Affairs, and his uncle (parent's older brother) was Tamotsu MURATA who was a senator of the House of Lords and known for his impeachment address against Yamamoto's Cabinet which was allegedly involved in the Siemens scandal. Yasuhisa's father, whose hobby was playing go, inspired Yasuhisa to learn go.

In 1885, when Yasuhisa was 11, he entered the Hoensha (a study group formed by top professional go players during the Meiji period). When Yasuhisa studied at the Hoensha, there were only four live-in disciples including Senji ISHII who was the school manager, Tomita DOKE, Eijiro SUGIOKA and Yasuhisa TAMURA. Yasuhisa TAMURA, Senji ISHII and Eijiro SUGIOKA, were collectively called the Three Boys of the Hoensha ('Hoensha no San-kozo' in Japanese).

In November 1891, Yasuhisa was expelled from the Hoensha, thereafter staying away from go for a while.

At the age of 19, Yasuhisa joined the Honinbo school under the 19th Iemoto Honinbo Shuei, having been invited by Gyokukin KIN (KIM Ok-gyun). As a disciple of Shuei, Tamura exerted the usual strength such that he alone could keep taking Black to move first throughout a game (one-stone-handicap game called josen) with Master Shuei who otherwise kept gaining the upper hand with the other disciples by playing a handicap game called sen-ni (i.e. for two games out of three, the lower-rank player is allowed to take Black and for the last one game he or she plays a two-stone-handicap game), and Tamura was therefore viewed as the most successful candidate for the next Honinbo. However, Master Shuei who personally disliked Tamura hesitated to let Tamura succeed his title, and after he became ill in bed, Tamura was never permitted to visit him. Knowing that Junichi KARIGANE did not come up to Tamura's shoulder, Shuei still seemed to hope that Juinchi succeed him. It is said that wayward and penny-pinching Yasuhisa was hated by Shuei due to his such character.

Days as Honinbo Shusai
In 1907, despite Tamura's continuous appeal for the right to succeed the title of Honinbo, Shuei died without designating his successor. This successor problem caused much trouble inside the school of Honinbo, and Tamura was left holding on his own. The disputes over the successor were resolved by the 16th Honinbo named Shugen who was a younger brother of Shuei. Shugen suggested that he took over the title of the 20th Honinbo temporarily and let Tamura succeed him one year later, thereby resolving the disputes.

In 1908, at the age of 34, Tamura became the 21st Honinbo Shusai. Once becoming the Honinbo, Shusai proved the difference by dominating the other top-ranked professional go players who could only play a handicap game of at least sen-ni with Shusai.

In 1914, at the age of 41, he was conferred the title of Meijin (the strongest go player and the Master of go). Thus, he came out on top of all the professional go players in Japan both in name and reality.

In 1926, at a tournament held between the Nihon Ki-in and the Kiseisha, Shusai played a match against Junichi KARIGANE. As a result of that renowned go match full of thrilling twists and turns, Shusai defeated Junichi, thereby achieving distinction as the invincible Meijin.

From 1933 to 1934 Shusai played a match against Seigen GO who was a holder of fifth dan (rank) and had won the "Japan Go Championship" hosted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, and in that match between Shusai and Seigen a handicap called Mukai-sen (or Muko-sen) was applied and Seigen therefore took Black throughout the match, resulting in Shusai's victory by 2 points (to be hereinafter described).

In 1936, Shusai assigned and transferred the professional name of Honinbo to the Nihon Ki-in. This led to the foundation of the Honinbo title match which enabled the successor of Honinbo to be determined not hereditarily but by the championship match. Shusai reportedly considered making Soji KOGISHI (also read OGISHI), who was Shusai's strong favorite disciple, his successor, but unfortunately Shusai Kogishi died young. After Kogishi's death, Shusai concentrated his hopes on Nobuaki MAEDA, but fine performances by Minoru KITANI and Seigen GO stopped him from doing so. From his own bitter experience, Shusai strongly wished to give the Honinbo Title to the strongest, so presumably, he decided to abolish Honinbo's hereditary succession system.

In 1938 Shusai decided to retire. Shusai played his last go match before retirement against Minoru KITANI, and the match became history (to be discussed later).

On January 18, 1940, Shusai died without knowing who was to win the first Honinbo by championship. Shusai's body was buried at the graveyard of Honmyo-ji Temple, where successive Honinbos had been resting in peace.

Major Matches
A Tournament held between the Nihon Ki-in and the Kiseisha
In 1926, a full-scale tournament between the Nihon Ki-in and the Kiseisha took place, and in the first match Shusai fought a decisive battle with Junichi KARIGANE, which was the battle between captains of the two teams. Karigane's black stone which got in a lower white framework ('moyo' in Japanese) was taken high-handedly by Shusai, which made the match scuffled, thrilling people all over the world. The Yomiuri Shimbun which hosted the tournament brought a special bulletin showing a large go board to replicate the game to various locations, and advertised by including reviews of the match written by Kan KIKUCHI and Hekigoto KAWAHIGASHI, leading men of letters, thereby reportedly tripling the number of copy of the paper at once.

42 tsugu (37) 44 tsugu (35), where the term tsugu means that a stone is placed by a player to complement a weak link of the chained stones.

An invasion ('uchikomi' in Japanese) to the lower Black 1 which was the urgent point ('kado' in Japanese) triggered the scuffle. Shusai captured Black's eye, which, however, was countered by Karigane's counter-attacking move toward a weak link of White's encirclement, resulting in a rare game full of twists and turns. A ko (repetision of the same pattern of offence and defense) appeared there led Shusai to making a situation advantageous, thus ending the game when Karigane ran out of time.

Go Game with Seigen GO
In 1933, Seigen GO defeated 16 opponents at a tournament called "Japan Go Championship" and won the victory. Seigen fought with the leading professional go player Shusai by playing Black in every game ('senban' in Japanese). Shusai was 59, while Seigen was 20 then. 24 hours were allotted to each player, and the game was adjourned ('uchikake' in Japanese) 13 times before eventually reaching the end on January 29, 1934. At the beginning the game looked like a mere go lesson, but The Yomiuri Shimbun's advertising campaign gradually turned the game to being viewed with political overtone such as Japan versus China or old authority versus new force, making the competition heating up.

On October 16, the game between Shusai and Seigen began at Kajibashi-ryokan Japanese-style Inn in Kyobashi, Tokyo. Attracting the national attention, Seigen made his first move which was the san-san-uchi (literally, placing a stone at a 3-3 point) that the Honinbo school prohibited. Seigen further demonstrated the adventurous opening portion of a game ('fuseki' in Japanese) such as the hoshi (star) at the third move and the tengen (center point or the origin of heaven) at the fifth move, exciting the audience across the country (see an article on the shinfuseki [the new opening strategy] below).

After advancing to the 159th move, and upon resuming the game after the 13th adjournment, Shusai made the historic move of excellence ('myoshu' in Japanese) to storm Seigen's black territory. Seigen, on the other hand, responded by making the contact move ('tsuke' in Japanese) named "Uke no myoshu" (literally, excellent move in response), so that he avoided disruption of his territory, but Shusai captured 5 black stones in the right side as a result of such offence and defense, getting an advantage.

Shusai's myoshu (White 1) made at the 160th move and the tsuke (Black 2) known as the "Uke no myoshu" made at the 161st move.

Eventually, Shusai whose myoshu worked effectively won the game by 2 points. Later, however, a rumor spread that that myoshu was devised by Shusai's disciple named Nobuaki MAEDA, but the whole truth still remains unknown.

Retirement Match
In 1938, at the age of 64, Shusai announced his retirement as a professional go player, playing a retirement game with Minoru KITANI who had won the victory over the league match. With the longest allotted time of 40 hours in history and the newly adopted rule to seal the move before each adjournment, the game started on June 26. 20 adjournments were called during the game, and Shusai who was sick and went to hospital in the middle of the game was in danger of giving up, but the game finally reached the end on December 4. As a result, Kitani won by 5 points. Yasunari KAWABATA, who wrote a review of that retirement game, later novelized the game under the title "Meijin" (The Master of Go).