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Consecutive Title Myth
(Source: a discussion forum by Chinese Go fans, edited and translated by Yonghe Zhang on Dec. 2002.)

From the forties of last century, Honinbo raised the curtain on the modern Go. Whenever you win a champion, next time you don't need to fight from the bottom, you only need to calmly wait for one challenger. This makes consecutive domination possible. However, there are still very few who can achieve 5 consecutive titles. Among so many go players and tournaments, it is not exaggerating to say that the players who can dominate one champion for a very long time are myth. Who can create the myth of consecutive titles?

Cho Hunhyun's record is the biggest myth of all the myths. Sixteen consecutive Paewang champions are an astronomical figure! Sixteen year is enough time to train a kid who has no knowledge of Go to a mature top-flight player. Up to 1992, under the intense attack by his disciple Lee Changho, this record finally stopped with a huge period mark. While Cho Hunhyun was unraveled on Korea baduk arena, consecutive titles to him were as simple as routine. When he savagely oppressed the whole Korea baduk world, Seo Bongsoo could only act as the "greatest challenger", striving tragically and persistently. Cho Hunhyun also has achieved 10 consecutive Guksu titles, 9 consecutive Wangwi titles, 8 consecutive Chaegowi titles, 7 consecutive Myungin titles, 7 consecutive Gukgi titles, 5 consecutive Daewang titles ..... Cho Hunhyun's myth is like wonderful and unreal legend, keeping you in reveries and reminiscences. Maybe one day in the future, someone can make the same myth as Cho Hunhyun's, but it can only happen in countries like U.S.A and Europe. At least in Go deep-rooted countries like China, Japan and Korea, this kind of domination is very hard to happen again.

Even for Cho Hunhyun's single title record, there are only two players still arduously chasing.

Ma Xiaochun's 13 consecutive Mingren champions should have the highest "carat", because nationwide there are few tournaments which have been organized for more than 10 times. Since he successfully challenged the title in 2nd Mingren, Ma Xiaochun has tightly controlled the "Meijin" title. Over more than 10 years, he holds out against continuously pounding by almost all top players and stands lofty and firm, you cannot say this is not a miracle. Mingren title seems specially designed for himself, he successfully defended this title one year after another, in reality as well as in name it becomes Ma Xiaochun's "happy journey": Nie Weiping's dream of all-round champions was broken here, Chang Hao's great ambition of unifying Go arena was thwarted right here, Liu Xiaoguang's great undertaking of "rallying all mountains and rivers" was so close to accomplish but slid into the abyss ...... When Ma dynasty drags its exhausted body and walks alone with its ability falling short of his wishes, the "Meijin" flag over the lone city gate is still fluttering in its never-old appearance. Another year comes by and the autumn wind starts again, in autumn wind we hope this episode of fairy tale will be more brilliant.

The other player who can hope to break Cho Hunhyun's record is the current world #1 Lee Changho. In 1992 when he was only 6p, Lee Changho took over Kisung title from Cho Hunhyun's hand, and then started building Lee's mansion. Till now, his Kisung mansion with more than ten floors, though, is not the most important one in Lee's flock of buildings, but it is still full of power and grandeur. The time to build the roof is still unknown, perhaps in the near future; and maybe the designer of the roof is still not entering 1p.

Besides these two players, within 10 years, no one can hope to break Cho Hunhyun's record. However, one after another myth that once touched us to swell up our blood veins, and one after another scene that happened in the history, all silently relate that once performed miracles. The birth of every myth contains tears of blood and sweats.

By 2:4, Cho Chikun's ten consective Honinbo titles amazingly came to a sudden end, Cho Sonjin, feeling like a stranger for the people who are not familiar with Go world, became famous overnight. Having transcended his spectacular senior Takagawa Shukaku but not himself who has created the new record, Cho Chikun heaved a deep sigh. However, in childhood having heard a lot of interesting myth from his uncle, now himself became their leading role, isn't our unpredictable life more like so profound Go games?

Takagawa Shukaku's record is 9 consecutive Honinbo titles, which was a miracle at that time. Unfortunately, in his rival contest with Go Seigen held once every year, Takagawa Shukaku lost time and again. In his Ten Game Match with Go Seigen, he was utterly routed. If Go Seigen was not restricted from Honinbo, perhaps Takagawa Shukaku could not create this record.

The other player holding 9 consective titles is Cho Namchul, he was also kind of lucky. Nowadays when players' strength is very close, the opportunity of consecutive titles become less and less.

Kobayashi Koichi was once terrifying. In the eighties, he was in reality as well as in name "Japan Go #1", and at that time "Japan Go #1" is out-and-out "World Go #1". If you browse over newspapers, journals and magazines of that period, you will find out to what degree people are fearful of Kobayashi Koichi. Especially for Chinese Go fans, if they know one foreign player besides Chinese, it must be Kobayashi Koichi. Looking back those years, just from the record of 8 consecutive Kisei titles, you can see how imposing and magnificent Kobayashi Koichi is.

Kato Masao maintains a record of 8 consecutive Oza titles. Although there is nothing worth mentioning in three major titles (Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo), and he even never won Kisei title, but in Oza competition, he adequately saved his face, at one period of time Kato Masao almost became the nickname of Oza.

Today, although they appear elder and cannot compare to that of the good old times, Kobayashi Koichi and Kato Masao still hold important positions on Japan Go arena. It is thus clear that to what extent Go king country has sank since the time when they created the myth of consecutive titles.

Sakata Eio, once "running wild" on Japan Go arena, has 7 consecutive Honinbo titles. In 1961, Go Seigen unfortunately got injured by a motorcycle, then Go Seigen's era sadly ended earlier. And exactly from that year, the prelude of Sakata Eio's Honinbo journey officially starts. From that time on, wherever his razor arrives, everybody falls down. Japan Go arena went into genuine Sakata era. As if it was arranged by the God, just at the zenith of Sakata's career, after successfully challenging Meijin title in 1965, it was Rin Kaiho again who held back Sakata's consecutive Honinbo titles in 1967 and since then Rin Kaiho replaced his leading role. The title from Go Seigen was taken over by Go Seigen's disciple in the end!

As to most Go fans, I believe, Kim In is a not a familiar name. But he was once man of the hour in Korea baduk circles, and monopolized Korea Go arena for a while. At that time, Cho Namchul became elder and Cho Hunhyun still did not come back from Japan, he was invincible in newly started Wangwi title. Although Korea baduk was still studied behind closed doors and unknown to the outside world, and even if Kim In's strength was outstanding partly due to overall low levels at that time, but he really helped to hand on Korean baduk spirit from Cho Namchul. Besides his 7 consecutive Wangwi titles, Kim In also achieved 6 consecutive Guksu titles. However, since Cho Hunhyun came back from Japan, this glory couldn't belong to him anymore.

Fujisawa Shuko's 6 consecutive titles are really a miracle. At that time, Kisei title just started with an unprecedented rich prize, so many top players cannot hold back their madly beating hearts, but to everybody's surprise, in the end, Fujisawa Shuko, at the age of more than half century, again played the role of "fresh taster", and amazingly went on dominating this title for 6 consecutive years. Perhaps he was too lucky in the first six titles, no matter it was a 100-point big victory or 10-million-dollar half-point win, all his luck was overdrawn. In 7th Kisei, after leading the series 3:0, Cho Chikun turned the table by winning 4 games in a row, unexpectedly ending his great journey of consecutive titles.

Otake Hideo created a record of 6 consecutive Gosei titles. Though he and Rin Kaiho started a grand new "Otake-Rin" era, but they are not too high to be reachable, especially Otake's junior fellow apprentices, at the apex of his career, began to mature, he could be hit by their "hidden weapons" if not careful and fell short of great understaking of consecutive titles. And after Kobayashi Koichi and Cho Chikun flew into the sky of Japan Go circles, the chance of grabbing the hot shot doesn't belong to Otake Hideo anymore. Even if Gosei is not a big title comparing to the three major titles, at least Otake Hideo's 6 consecutive titles are memorable in the era that once belonged to him.

The other player who achieved 6 consecutive titles is Shimamura Toshihiro, who was nicknamed as "enduring player on the board" and passed away in 1991. His consecutive titles were created in Okan title, which is a minor title in Japan, so his achievements are not noticeable. What worth prasing is his Tengen title at the age of 65, this is a high-age champion record just next to Fujisawa Shuko.

There are a few players who achieved 5 consective titles.

Rin Kaiho is Japan only "Honorary Tengen". While being fiercely challenged by Kitani Minoru's disciples, this "Honorary Tengen" should have very high "carat".

Ishida Yoshio is a top-flight but prematurely waning player. Although when still young he became the strongest rival of Rin Kaiho and won a good reputation as "Electronic Computer", but later this "computer" exposed so many "bugs", this "technical problem" kept him away from top-flight players ahead of time. Today, the only fame left is 5 consecutive Honinbo titles (also awarded "24th Honinbo").

Seo Bongsoo was not lucky due to Cho Hunhyun. "Great Challenger" was not easy to undertake because it needs to suffer one loss after another. If there were no Cho Hunhyun, perhaps all Cho's titles would be his!

Among very few Go tournaments in China, achieving 5 consecutive titles, Nie Weiping and Chang Hao adequately showed their ability. The myth of Nie Weiping now belongs to the history, and with the maturity of a young generation of Go players, Chang Hao is also very hard to create miracles, who will be the next dominator on China Go arena?

There are still two players worth mentioning here who have achieved 5 consecutive titles. One is Hashimoto Shoji, he accomplished it in a non-challenger tournamnet, and this record is higher than that of Lee Changho's 4 consecutive Chunwon titles. The other player is Ito Tomoe, 5 consecutive women Oteai is so far the highest record for women players.

By putting all these dominating players together, it is not difficult to find one common factor: they have almost all created a Go era of themselves in their own countries. Take Chinese Go circles for example, "three dragons" Nie Weiping, Ma Xiaochun and Chang Hao are representives of Chinese three different eras of Chinese Go. In Korea, from Cho Namchul to Kim In, then to Cho Hunhyun, Seo Bongsoo, to Lee Changho, it clearly draws the outline of Korean baduk development. The same holds true for Japan. However, such as Takemiya Masaki, Yoda Norimoto and Yoo Changhyeok, they are world-level top players, but they never create myth of consecutive titles, because they do not have an era belonging to themselves.

Each age brings forth new genius on Go arena, and each will rule its own domain for 3 to 5 years. When the tempo of life becomes faster and faster, has Go already walked out of its "myth era"? Tomorrow, on Go stage, are these longing myth going to be performed again?

Place Player Name Consecutive Title Game Title and Serial Year Terminator
1Cho Hunhyun1613th-28th Korea Paewang title1977-1992Lee Changho
2Ma Xiaochun132th-14th China Mingren title1989-2001Still going ...
3Lee Changho104th-13th Korea Kisung title1992-2001Still going ...
4Cho Chikun1044th-53rd Japan Honinbo title1989-1998Cho Sonjin
5Takagawa Shukaku97th-15th Japan Honinbo title1952-1960Sakata Eio
5Cho Namchul91st-9th Korea Guksu title1956-1964Kim In
7Kobayashi Koichi810th-17th Japan Kisei title1986-1993Cho Chikun
7Kato Masao830th-37th Japan Oza title1982-1989Hane Yasumasa
9Sakata Eio716th-22th Japan Honinbo title1961-1967Rin Kaiho
9Kim In71st-7th Korea Wangwi title1966-1972He Xiansi?
11Fujisawa Shuko61st-6th Japan Kisei title1977-1982Cho Chikun
11Otake Hideo65th-10th Japan Gosei title1980-1985Cho Chikun
11Shimamura Toshihiro65th-10th Japan Okan title1957-1965Iwata Tatsuaki
14Rin Kaiho515th-19th Japan Tengen title1989-1993Ryu Shikun
14Ishida Yoshio525th-30th Japan Honinbo title1971-1975Takemiya Masaki
14Seo Bongsoo54th-8th Korea Myungin title1971-1975Cho Hunhyun
14Nie Weiping51st-5th China New Sports Cup1979-1983Ma Xiaochun
14Chang Hao511th-15th China Tianyuan title1997-2001Huang Yizhong
14Hashimoto Shoji514th-18th Japan Kansai Kiin #1 Championship1970-1974non-challenger type
14Ito Tomoe56th-10th Japan Women Oteai1957-1961non-challenger type
Note: One player may have several consecutive titles, but only the highest is used for that player.

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