Shuko the Champ – 1

June 22, 2006

shuko.jpgFujisawa Hideyuki, best knwon as Fujisawa Shuko (an alternative reading of the kanji 秀行), is one of the greatest Go players of the XX century.

At 81, he’s now retired from active play, but one of his (few) disciples, Takao Shinji, is the current Honinbo, and ahead 3-1 in his first defence of the title.

He became professional in the thirties, and started winning titles in the fifties. He had a knack of winning the first edition of newly established titles: he won the first Prime Minister’s Cup (1957), the first Nihon Ki-in Number One Position (1959), the first Meijin (1962), the first Haya-Go Championship (1969), the first Tengen (1976), and the first Kisei (1977).

But he won many, many more titles. Just to mention some of the most important: he won the Meijin twice, the Kisei six years in a row, thus becoming Honorary Kisei, the Oza 5 times…

He is famous for his unruly genius (he astonished very often his fellow professionals with extremely effective moves no one would have thought of), for his drinking abilities (more about this later), and also for his blunders: he used to say that had he been allowed to take back a move every now and then he would have been the strongest of them all…

He set records as the oldest player to win a title (the Oza in 1991) and the oldest to defend it the year after, beating the much younger Kobayashi Koichi, who at that time was considered the strongest player.

Just to mention one anecdote, he was one of the professionals that negotiated with the Yomiuri Shinbun the sponsorship of a new big title, the Mejin. In fact he was the main representative of the professional Go players.
The first edition (1962) was a round-robin between the 13 strongest players of the time, including the two top players, Go Seigen and Sakata Eio.

It happened that at the end of the tournament he thought he had not finished first, so he left the playing premises and went to get drunk in the pleasure districts of Tokyo.

But in fact he had won it, as for a tricky rule of tie-breaking one of his points had more value (coming from a won game) than the point earned by Go Seigen in drawn game…

So the officials of the Nihin Ki-in (the Japanese professionals association) and of the Yomiuri went looking for him to award him the first Meijin title, but couldn’t find him till the morning after…
To be continued…

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