How to solve the problems of Japanese Go?
Football was not a popular game in Korea till 2002, the year of the World Football Championship and the outstanding success of the Korean team. All newspapers and TV channels mentioned this event. Later in Korea lot of football schools were opened, they found sponsors for inviting foreign trainers and players. Lots of children decided to study football in Korea and reach the level of Korean football stars: Ahn Junghwan, Lee Chunsoo, Park Chisung and others.
I believe that this scenario is possible, if we look at Japanese Go. If they win few World Championships and find a person, who can challenge Lee Chango, Lee Sedol, Gu Li and other stars, lots of Japanese kids will try to follow them and study this game.
Right now Japanese masters are still far from this goal. Yes, there are few players, who can win important tournaments from time to time, like Cho U and Yoda Norimoto, but we cannot call them stable. There are more than 10 players of their level in both Korea and China, so they cannot always beat them.
How to improve the results of Japanese players on the international arena?
Here I would like to write my thoughts on this problem.
1. Right now they use the qualification system for the majority of international tournaments, so unknown players like Hasegawa Sunao, Yo Kagen, Nakamura Shinya, Yokota Shigeaki, Hikosaka Naoto, Seto Taiki and others can enter the main stages of important tournaments. They did not show any outstanding results in Japanese tournaments, but were just lucky in qualifications. Of course, they cannot compete with top World players.
It’s possible to invite only title-holders, but this decision is also bad. For example, you can check the score of Japanese Meijin and Honinbo titleholder Takao Shinji in international events:
2007-04-14, 20th Fujitsu Cup, Takao – Wang Xi, 0-1 2006-11-26, 8th Nongshim Cup, Takao – Park Yeonghun 0-1 2006-08-26, 3rd Toyota Cup, Takao – Park Cheongsang 0-1 2006-05-17,11th LG Cup, Takao – Zhou Junxun, 0-1 2006-05-15, 11th LG Cup, Takao – Wang Lei (s), 1-0 2006-05-03, 5th CSK Asian Cup, Takao – Cho U, 0-1 2006-05-02, 5th CSK Asian Cup, Takao – Chang Hao, 0-1 2006-05-01, 5th CSK Asian Cup, Takao – Lee Sedol, 0-1 2006-04-08, 19th Fujitsu Cup, Takao – Zhou Junxun, 0-1 2005-11-28, 7th Nongshim Cup, Takao – Cho Hanseung, 0-1 He lost 9 from 10 games he played!
Is it better to determine the coach of the Japanese team and allow him to choose the members, according to his own feeling, like in football? It’s possible to give this right to Otake Hideo or Rin Kaiho, but in my opinion, Cho Hunhyun, 9-dan who had studied Go in Japan, might know the current situation better. He may also know what players are the most dangerous for Koreans.
It’s also possible to accept the local rating system and send the best players in the rating list, that will reduce the chances of unknown lucky players, but I like the idea with the team-trainer more.
2. If we check the recent international qualification tournaments for LG and Samsung cup, that are open for all Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese professionals, we may see, that top Japanese players ignore them. As a result, only few (!) Japanese players were qualified during the last few years. They mainly send young and ambitious players, who agree to pay travel and other expenses in Seoul. Of course, they cannot compete with top Korean and Chinese players, such as Yoo Changhyuk, Kong Jie, Yu Bin and others.
I suggest finding the way of making these tournaments more attractive for top Japanese. The Nihon Kiin may find the way of covering all expenses and set special prizes, for those, who is able to enter the main tournament.
3. There are lots of professionals in Japan, but they are mainly playing with each other. What do you think about the idea of making one big tournament such as Odza or Gosei open for foreign masters? Japanese tournaments prizes are really high, so this tournament may attract lot of strong but hungry Chinese and Korean pros.
4. Chinese players practiced to play with top foreign masters a lot during the Chinese City league. It’s a regular yearly team tournament. This year Lee Sedol, 9-dan is invited by the richest team and in previous years different teams invited such players as Cho Hunhyun, Yoo Changhyuk, Kim Seungchun and others stars.
Nihon Kiin can use their experience and organize such a league, giving Japanese players a chance to meet with top foreign players. This event may also be attractive for TV channels and newspapers and team sponsors can become famous not only in Japan, but also in China and Korea, if they invite their leading players.
5. There are lots of local Japanese tournaments with long time controls like 6 or 8 hours per person. I think it’s better to reduce the thinking time to 3 hours, making conditions similar with World Championships.
6. Few years ago Nihon Kiin rejected to accept some foreign players, like Rui Naiwei and Jijo Jiang. This decision was clear – they wanted to save more prize money for local players, but it seems, that the harm of their non-acceptance was bigger. They both moved to Korea and trained well Korean players, especially females. Yes, we can say, that Korean females lost some money on the local arena because of Rui Naiwei, but nowadays they (Park Chiun, Cho Hyeyeon and others) are able to get even bigger prizes by showing good results in international female tournaments.
7. It seems that there are too many professionals in Japan. Is it necessary to reduce their number by accepting only really strong 1-dans, like Han Sanghoon from Korea? He is able to beat top 9-dans, while in Japan shodans are still taking 2 stones handicap from them. If Nihon Kiin reduces the number of professionals, they can earn more money from Go tournaments, and pay more attention on their improving, instead of finding the ways of making their living from teaching or other activities.
It’s also possible to think of the system of separating all professionals into 2 groups: Tournament pros and Teaching pros. The first group will survive by playing tournaments, while the second one will earn money by teaching beginners, publishing Go books, commenting games on TV and in newspapers. I feel, it’s strange to see 60-70 years old professionals playing seriously in Go tournaments and showing the winning percentage close to zero, while young players, who are still able to win titles are teaching rich students, instead of working on improving of their Go skill.
Alexandre Dinerchtein, from International Goe Newsletter “Goama”