Go Commentary: Takemiya Masaki vs Cho Chikun – 5th Igo Masters Cup

This game is from the final of the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

It was played between Takemiya Masaki 9p and Cho Chikun 9p on July 11, 2015, in Tokyo, Japan.

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (left) and Cho Chikun 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (left) and Cho Chikun 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup

The Igo Masters Cup

The Igo Masters Cup is a Japanese Go tournament for veteran players over the age of 50.

There are preliminary matches, but former major title holders don’t need to play in the preliminaries and can start in the round of 16.

Cho Chikun defeated Hane Yasumasa 9p, Hikosaka Naoto 9p and Kobayashi Satoru 9p to proceeded to the final, and Takemiya Masaki defeated Rin Kaiho 9p, Ishida Yoshio 9p, Yamashiro Hiroshi 9p.

The prize money for the winner is ¥5 million Yen (approximately $40,000 USD), and ¥1.5 million Yen for the runner up.

Cho Chikun

Cho Chikun 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

Cho Chikun 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

Cho Chikun 9p was born in 1956, in Korea, and he went to Japan to study Go when he was 6 years old.

He became a pro in 1968 when he was only 11 years old, and he took his first major title (the Pro Best Ten) in 1975.

He never stopped playing throughout his career, and he’s won 73 titles in total. That’s a record in Japan.

The former record holder was Sakata Eio 9p (1920-2010), with 64 career titles.

Cho also won two international titles – the 4th Fujitsu Cup in 1991, and the 8th Samsung Cup in 2003 (defeating Park Younghun 9p).

At the time of the 8th Samsung Cup, Cho was 47 years old, and Park was only 18. It was amazing to see Cho defeating a far younger opponent to win another international title.

In 2012, he achieved 1400 career wins, which was also a new record in Japan, and he’s still going.

Cho won the 1st Igo Masters Cup, defeating Kobayashi Koichi 9p in 2011, and he won the 4th Igo Masters Cup, defeating Kobayashi Satoru 9p in 2014. He was aiming for a third win in this final.

Takemiya Masaki

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan at the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

Takemiya Masaki was born in 1951, and he became a pro in 1965.

He won the 31st Honinbo title, defeating Ishida Yoshio in 1976, and it was the first major title of his career.

In the following year, he lost Honinbo title to Cho Chikun, but he came back to win the Honinbo again, and won it five more times afterwards.

He held the Honinbo for four consecutive years, from 1985 to 1988, and was hoping to become an Honorary Honinbo by defending the title for one more year. However, Cho Chikun was the challenger in 1989, and Takemiya didn’t succeed.

In 1988, the Fujitsu Cup was established as the first international title, and Takemiya became the first international champion of the historic title. He defeated Rin Kaiho 9p in the final.

He wasn’t satisfied with one victory though, and he won the 2nd Fujitsu Cup too (defeating Rin Kaiho again) in 1989.

In the same year, the first international lightning Go tournament was established. Takemiya became the inaugural winner of that too, after defeating Kobayashi Satoru 9p in the final.

He performed very well in that tournament, and continued winning the title for another three years; defeating Lee Changho 9p, Cao Dayuan 9p and Cho Hun Hyun 9p in the finals.

In 1995, he won the 20th Meijin, defeating Kobayashi Koichi 9p, and it was his first Meijin title. However, he lost the title to Cho Chikun in the following year.

In 2009, he proceeded to the final of the 56th NHK Cup, but lost to Yuki Satoshi 9p.

This was his first appearance in the final of the Igo Masters Cup, and Go fans were expecting an exciting match for the final.

Opposing styles of  play

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (left) and Cho Chikun 9 dan, when the game was finished.

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (left) and Cho Chikun 9 dan, when the game was finished.

Both Takemiya and Cho are from the Kitani dojo (Kitani Minoru 9p, 1909-1975). However, ironically, their styles of play are complete opposites.

Cho’s style of play is very dynamic and passionate. He used to play extremely territorial games when he was in his 30s, and he was also famous for spending a long time to think and making accurate moves in byo-yomi.

He’s regarded as the master of two day matches, like the big three Japanese titles (Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo), and he was nearly always playing frantically, in the last byo-yomi, by the end of his games.

On the other hand, Takemiya is very famous for his cosmic style of play. He preferred to call it ‘natural style’ himself, but most people call it cosmic style.

His large scale style of play was very new and sensational at the time, and many Go fans were impressed and fascinated by his humongous moyo games.

His unique center oriented style of play, with his creative point of view, was like a romantic dream. Practically nobody else could mimic Takemiya’s style and win, so he was very highly regarded by other top players.

When I was an insei, I liked their styles of play very much and I greatly enjoyed replaying their games. Their games were always exciting and fun to watch, with their opposing, colorful styles of play.

Let’s have a look at the final of the 5th Igo Masters Cup.

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (third from left), and Cho Chikun 9 dan at the presentation.

Takemiya Masaki 9 dan (third from the left), and Cho Chikun 9 dan at the presentation.

Commented game record

Takemiya Masaki vs Cho Chikun


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He qualified as a professional in 1997 and won an award for winning 18 consecutive professional matches the following year. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea in 2008, to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now lives in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the founders of Go Game Guru. On Friday evenings, Younggil is usually at the Sydney Go Club, where he gives weekly lessons and plays simultaneous games.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. If Cho (for example) plays top younger players, what will be the cause of his loss?
    Is it the accumulation of small errors? Being behind on opening theory?
    Inability to cope in complicated fights?

  2. Actually that is interesting question – what older pro’s lack this days to compete with young top pro’s? I can’t imagine that it’s only motivation, there should be another thing or number of things

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s an interesting question, and here’s my opinion.

      Younger players would be better at concentration, reaction speed under the time trouble, and recent opening theory and variations.

      In addition, they’re physically stronger, so they can maintain their concentration power longer with making less simple errors compared to older players.

      There would surely be some other advantages for younger players, so even if their strength is about the same, older players still have disadvantages when they play against younger ones I think.

      • Anonymous says:

        Having said that, Cho Chikun is still not so far behind the top players: he is still in the Kisei league for example which is something a lot of younger players only dream of.

        • Younggil An says:

          You’re right. That’s amazing to see that Cho is still playing in the Kisei league at the age of 60.

  3. Thank you for that commentary. It was very interesting.

    I’ve a question : At move 45, why does Black played S15 and not R15 ? (If he wanted White to be forced to focus on the “not interesting right side”)
    Was it because if White play the same way, then he was not planning to separate too ? Or is it because if White answers R15, then the result is not as good as if White answers S15 ?
    Or I’m just wrong ? 🙂

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a really good idea Siméon.

      Attaching at R15 is surely possible, and that might be even better than Black 45. However, Takemiya might have thought that’s not good enough for Black, so he tried to get more with 45. If White answers at S14, that’d be slightly better for Black than just attaching at R15 instead of 45.

      However, Cho knew Takemiya’s plan, so he tried not to continue on the right side, but invade the top in the actual game, and that was the right choice as a result.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for the answer.
        I actually always have troubles to choose between S15 and R15 moves in my games 🙂
        I should watch more pro games !

        • Younggil An says:

          Yes, that’s pretty hard to choose the right one between them.

          You’ll see more cases in pro games, and hopefully you’ll be able to learn from them. 🙂

  4. dichotomy says:

    Move 69 variation 2 bC3, C4, D3 description displays incorrectly.

  5. What was the point of exchanging the 2 kos (at H2 and H18) in the end? Can White’s bottom group be killed if he just connects H2? I couldn’t find a way to kill that White group as long as there is still an outside liberty.

    • Younggil An says:

      You’re right.

      I couldn’t find any special meaning for the ko exchange, but probably Cho wanted to have extra time to count correctly.

      You’re also right that White’s bottom group was already alive without White 270, but the result is the same anyway. 🙂

  6. Thank you for reviewing the game of these masters! I was also fascinated by their old games and seeing the titans clash once again gave me a lot of joy! Such merciless and beautiful go.

  7. I honestly felt a thrill running along my nape when i discovered the title. I do thank you for this review because i did too discovered Go with the Chikun – Takemiya contests.

    The little book Takemiya wrote about his style is one of my favourite since i read it. I was indeed a true beginner but i still enjoy the idea that he gave me more than technic and combinatory. He showed me Go as a way to pursue your dreams. And he learned me something about myself…

    Reading your commentary reminded me the way i used to look at the goban by those years. And i truly thank you again for this. I have a great affection for their games. The opposite styles clearly demonstrate that any path and any kind of people can find his own way to Go, or the path (to victory) of a specific game. Quite inspiring i think 🙂

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I also felt like that when I was replaying their games when I was an insei.

      Their games were so colorful and vivid, and I also felt their fighting spirits by their moves whenever Cho was struggling to sabaki inside of Takemiya’s huge moyo.

      I’m glad to show their game here, and also happy to see that many readers like their unique style of play. 🙂

  8. Gil Dogon says:

    Yes, this was a nice game, and on the surface of it not too complicated at all in the middle game, comparsed to other pro games. being finely balanced throughout, subtly managed and very solid without anyone seemingly taking a big risk.

    I found my personal style is much similar to Takemiya, but I tend of course to overplay more often than not. I think that I will find it more instructive to study Cho’s technique, in reducing what seemed to be an enormous teritory to managable one, withut actually taking any invasion risk.

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s reasonable to make more overplays than they do, and that’s still fine.

      Cho’s technique is worthwhile to learn, and that’ll also be helpful for you too, when you play games with cosmic style like Takemiya does. That’s because you’ll be able to recognize the weaknesses of your moyo more quickly.

  9. Sorry for asking but wasnt 270 necessery?I mean not know, but sooner or later white had to defend it, otherwise when ko would be filled and outside liberties too, if white hadnt defended, black would kill with L1, so maybe Cho wanted to defend as early as possible to dont lose a won game (no pro want to produce famous blunder, but mistakes happen sometimes)?

  10. Younggil An says:

    You’re right.

    White 270 wasn’t necessary by the time, but White has to reinforce there at the end anyway.

    Since White doesn’t have to worry about the half point kos because they’re miai, reinforcing at 270 was safe and clear as you mentioned.

  11. Olivier Dulac says:

    Beautiful article, with the players description, and the detailled commentary. You give us many beautiful commentaries, and I thank you deeply for that.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Olivier, I was also happy to see and comment these great players’ recent game. 🙂

  12. An-sensei,

    What can you say about Kobayashi Koichi’s playing style as well as Otake Hideo’s style? How do they compare with Cho Chikun’s and their teacher, Kitani Minoru’s playing style. More power to your excellent website. Continue to popularize the best game in the world!!!