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Great Comeback in Go History
(Original by double5504 from weiqi.tom.com forum, edited and translated by Yonghe Zhang)

Among Japanese newspaper-sponsored pro tournaments, Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo (the "Three Majors") are top ranked with the most prize fund. The title matches use best-of-7 format, who first wins four games will obtain the title. Normally, the one who wins the first three games will have a decisive advantage, but in reality it is true? Let's open up the history book.

The first great comeback happened in the 12th Meijin (old) title match in 1973, Ishida Yoshio challenged Rin Kaiho. Three years ago, Ishida Yoshio took Honinbo away from Rin Kaiho, Rin Kaiho challenged twice in a row but failed to get the title back, from pros to amateurs, everybody thought that Ishida Yoshio was Rin Kaiho's biggest subduer, so when Ishida Yoshio killed out of Meijin league, all people felt that Rin Kaiho was fraught with grim possibilities, even Rin Kaiho himself put up a very heavy burden before the match. As expected, Ishida Yoshio easily won the first three games, it seems Meijin title would immediately change hands, Ishida Yoshio's fans already started to prepare the inaugural ceremony of a new Meijin, the biggest subduer almost became true.

However, just at this critical moment, Rin Kaiho finally showed his true qualities, after setting his mind fully relaxed, he won back two games tenaciously, under an almost-losing situation in game 6 he turned the game around and took the series to the decisive game 7. After guessing stones, Ishida Yoshio took Black, probably due to psychological factor, he started with a big moyo opening which he seldom used. Rin Kaiho waged a tit-for-tat fight by first taking the four corners, then dived into Black's center, causing an earth-shaking change, and this almost destroyed all Black's territory.

In the end Ishida Yoshio finally lowered his arrogant head, however the Go world was seething with excitement, Rin Kaiho became fans' ideal overnight, the great comeback of losing the first three and winning the last four games never happened before in Go history.

Notes after the game: In 1974, Ishida Yoshio staged his own comeback, Rin Kaiho finally had to release his three consecutive Meijin title. However, after losing Meijin for two years, in 1977 Rin Kaiho rose again and won 24 consecutive games in the newspaper-sponsored tournaments, so far nobody breaks this record.

In 1983, Cho Chikun challenged Fujisawa Hideyuki in the 7th Kisei title match, this was also a very famous series. After he won the 1st Kisei title, Fujisawa Hideyuki never allowed anybody else to touch it, he safely protected his castle as an elder king, stand firm and erect in the consecutive challenges from Hashimoto Utaro, Kato Masao, Ishida Yoshio and Rin Kaiho. At that time, in order to defend his Kisei, Fujisawa almost gave up all other newspaper-sponsored tournaments, he was called "a brave man who only wins four games in a year". The time when Fujisawa Hideyuki achieved consecutive Kisei titles was considered as "Fujisawa era".

After he won Meijin title ingloriously in 1980, Cho Chikun was always regarded as "pick-up expert", specializing to win games by an unusual, extreme play and his tenacious will. After he defeated Kato Masao in the challenger final, Cho Chikun finally could charge to the summit of Go scene, he was full of hopes and wanted to take back unfair comments to him. At that time, Fujisawa Hideyuki's overall record versus Cho Chikun was 2 wins and 11 losses, Go fans hoped fanatically that after winning Meijin, Honinbo and Judan, Cho Chikun could win one more title.

After the title match started, unexpectedly Fujisawa won the first three games in a row and drove Cho Chikun into a blind alley. As for games' content, it was also Fujisawa's overwhelming advantage. Particularly in the game 3, Cho Chikun took White and enclosed territory from the upper right corner, to the top, to the whole left side and to the lower left corner, completely killing all black stones inside, 128 points! However Fujisawa was not falling behind either, he completely captured all the remaining white stones on the board, 137 points! In front of complicated fight and direct confrontation, Fujisawa had demonstrated the ability of extremely high control of the situation and touched all players who were watching the game. Everybody felt that the seventh consecutive Kisei title was already close within reach.

However, facing young and indomitable Cho Chikun, Mr. Fujisawa finally felt the pressure, he told the reporters, "it seems not easy to win just one more game!". Fujisawa incurred a complete defeat in game 4, and again made typical Fujisawa's mistakes and lost regretfully in game 5 and game 6. At that time, on the one hand, people hoped that Fujisawa could achieve the seventh consecutive title, on the other hand people also hoped Cho Chikun could make persistent efforts and have a meteoric rise. Just like this, the game 7 started in an anxious and fearful mood. After guessing stones, Fujisawa took Black.

Although all people thought the decisive game 7 would slightly favor Cho Chikun, but the game was to everybody's surprise. I have replayed this game for more than 10 times, Fujisawa's ability of controlling the situation was indeed too excellent. In the process, Mr. Fujisawa had played thickness all the time without any hurry, sometimes he also delivered novel moves such as the diagonal's extension of B15, it doesn't look like a high-prized decisive Kisei game, however Cho Chikun played very tightly and went all out to grab territory. My initial misconception was that White must lead in territory by a big margin, but in fact after careful calculation, I found out that White had trailed 10+ points on the board and caught up with Black all the time. Mr. Fujisawa seems to have played loosely but in fact had cleverly controlled and gradually guided the game to his own victory.

At the final stage of game, Cho Chikun again started to give full play to his professional skill --- make trouble. Originally Mr. Fujisawa had a chance to squeeze with one move in sente to fix his own defect but was afraid of reducing his own liberties, so he elected to reinforce in gote. White's only chance in this game was thus grabbed by Cho Chikun and never let go until he dragged Mr. Fujisawa out of Kisei seat.

Notes after the game: So far, Cho Chikun has won Kisei for a total of 8 times, same number of Kisei titles as Kobayashi Koichi has, but he never achieve five consecutive titles, so he doesn't get Honorary Kisei. However, in 1991 Fujisawa Hideyuki took Oza title from Hane Yasumasa and successfully defended his title next year by defeating Kobayashi Koichi who was at the apex of his career, winning the last champion at the age of 67, the eldest age to win a champion, till today nobody breaks this record. (Rin Kaiho perhaps still have a chance)

In 1983, Rin Kaiho challenged Cho Chikun in the 38th Honinbo title. In this year, Cho Chikun won all "Three Majors" (Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo) for the first time, however this situation only had lasted for four months, because another originator of great comeback Rin Kaiho stepped on the challenging stage.

I feel, God treats everybody equal, if you lack something here, God will make up for you somewhere else --- the essential prerequisite is that you have to work hard enough. Perhaps Cho Chikun had used all his luck in Kisei, in addition Rin Kaiho was not that easy to defeat, so even after he won the first three games, Cho Chikun couldn't help but to lose the last four games.

The game 5 among the seven games was absolutely the turning point for the series. Rin Kaiho took Black, from the beginning he attacked White fiercely, however Cho Chikun saved his white stones cleverly one time after another. Offense and defense ran through the entire game, almost not even one move from both sides was to take territory. In the end, Cho Chikun had to get out of trouble by playing a ko, however in the process of seeking ko threats, he made a mistake, the tail of his big dragon was cut and he had to concede defeat. I guess, Cho Chikun was completely controlled by his opponent in the situation where he used to be very good at, this led to his imbalance in his state of mind, which caused him to lose the next two games and the title.

Notes after the game: So far, Rin Kaiho has won Honinbo for a total of 5 times, Meijin for 8 times, but he didn't achieve five consecutive titles in either of them, however his five consecutive Tengen title won him Honorary Tengen.

Another frightening record of Rin Kaiho is that he had stayed in Meijin leagues for consecutive 35 years (1964-1999) and never got eliminated. In 2000, he failed to advance but immediately killed back and won the right to challenge next year. Nobody ever breaks this record so far.

In 1984, Otake Hideo challenged Cho Chikun in the 9th Meijin title, this was the third great comeback within two years.

Otake Hideo together with Rin Kaiho initiated "Otake-Rin era", in the continuous and repeated fights with top-rated professional such as Sakata Eio, Fujisawa Hideyuki and Ohira Shuzo, he was slightly favored, in the process he also won Meijin for four times and was very respected. However in 1980, when young Cho Chikun stepped over the big stage for the first time, Cho Chikun surprisingly fell insufferably arrogant Otake Meijin, the game 4 was ruled as no-result because of the event of immediately taking the ko, which directly affected the outcome of the series. (In the history of best-of-seven series, besides this no-result, a triple-ko appeared in 1998 Meijin title when O Rissei challenged Cho Chikun.) I always feel that it was the turning point for the whole series, and also the most important reason why later on Otake Hideo was always in an unfavorable position when playing with Cho Chikun.

In 1982 and 1983, Otake Hideo challenged Cho Chikun consecutively, but lost both series by 1:4. In 1984 series, although Otake Hideo won the first three games, he still couldn't prevent Cho Chikun from defending his title. I browsed over Cho Chikun's game collection published in 1996, about 30% of the games in the book were played with Otake Hideo. In most of those games, Cho Chikun was already clearly in an inferior position in the first two charts, some games even "can't be looked any more", but he still persisted, and most likely in the third chart, Otake Hideo made mistakes and Cho Chikun turned the game around. In the games between them, either Otake Hideo won the game from the beginning to the end or Cho Chikun turned the game around and won the game, however Otake's comeback and Cho's complete victory were indeed hard to find.

Afterwards, while competing with Otake Hideo, Takemiya Masaki and Kato Masao, Cho Chikun gradually became stronger and stronger. I feel, Cho is indeed an extremely alert genius in controlling victory or defeat, and in 90s, he improved in overall situation judgement, and this helped him take the upper hand in the fights with Kobayashi Koichi later on.

Notes after the game: Although Otake Hideo lost Meijin to Cho Chikun, but in the same year he took Cho's Gosei title and also defeated Cho Chikun in the Kisei challenger final. Especially Otake Hideo had kept Gosei title for 6 straight years and thus won him Honorary Gosei.

In 1992, Kobayashi Koichi challenged Cho Chikun in the 47th Honinbo. At that time, Kobayashi Koichi already achieved five consecutive Meijin titles and seven consecutive Kisei titles, he was just at the apex of his power, however Cho Chikun just won three consecutive Honinbo titles, and his consecutive title still doesn't seem to end soon. In 1990, Kobayashi Koichi once led by 3:1 in his first challenge of Honinbo but Cho Chikun turned the series around successfully. In 1991, Kobayashi Koichi led by 2:0 in his second challenge but Cho Chikun won back four consecutive games to conclude that series. What's going to happen in the third challenge?

At that time, I had just advanced to amateur 4 dan and was obsessed by the game, certainly I wouldn't let slip the final series by these two top-rated players. When seeing Kobayashi Koichi was way ahead and led by 3:0, I thought, the big comeback couldn't happen again. Human's calculation can't be comparable with God's calculation! The terrifying Cho Chikun won back one game after another even in an unfavorable and ugly situation and successfully made another great comeback!

From that time on, I knew that only if he doesn't die completely, Cho Chikun will always have the chance and ability to turn the game around, No matter who the opponent is, no matter what the tournament is, Cho Chikun regards each game as the decisive game. That is also the important reason why I didn't think highly of Chinese players in the Samsung Cup semi finals this year (2003).

Notes after the game:
Kobayashi Koichi won eight consecutive Kisei titles, so far nobody breaks this record.
Kobayashi Koichi won seven consecutive Meijin titles, so far nobody breaks this record.
Cho Chikun won ten consecutive Honinbo titles, so far nobody breaks this record.
In 1996-1998, Cho Chikun won three consecutive "Three Majors", so far nobody breaks this record.

Till today, the situation of losing the first three and winning the last four games in the best-of-7 series appeared for a total of five times, it is simply named as "great comeback". Among all five great comebacks, Cho Chikun accounts for four of them (once he was overturned by somebody else), he is the king of "great comeback" in reality as well as in name.

A new chapter will come as the time goes by, in the future, perhaps there will be more great comebacks. However, the chance of another Cho Chikun is almost impossible. Let's remember all these great players, no matter whether they are winners or losers:

Fujisawa Hideyuki, Honorary Kisei;
Rin Kaiho, Honorary Tengen;
Otake Hideo, Honorary Gosei;
24th Honinbo Ishida Yoshio;
25th Honinbo Cho Chikun;
Kobayashi Koichi, Honorary Kisei;

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