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Career Success
JUN 7, 2005

Go with a Pro

By Yoshito Hori
Copyright GLOBIS

A game was quietly underway one afternoon in April in the Diamond Igo Salon (DIS). I go to this salon every Wednesday evening, but today I was scheduled to play against a pro, and so I headed over there just after noon.

When I arrived, I saw strobe lights had been set up and cameramen, writers, and magazine staff all standing by. The match area was just inside on the left, and a professional female Go player was sitting there.

My opponentーfor the first time, a professional. And it would be covered by the media.

Until now, I had politely refused such matches, insisting that I wasn’t skilled enough or that I didn’t want to appear in the media. However, I changed my mind since Mr. Masao Kato, director of the Nihon Ki-in, passed away at the end of last year. I decided I would do my part to boost the popularity of Go.

In fact, since the beginning of the year I re-started my “Go and Management Discussion Group,” running a condensed version of it in February. On Friday, June 24 of this year, I plan to start it up in a big way.

More and more of my Go friends have started writing blogs about the game. It would be fantastic to get more people interested in Go, we all agree. To be honest, I think this game is just too fascinating to remain limited to an older generation.

But back to the moment at hand.

Today’s match would be covered as a two-part feature by Keizaikai Magazine. I had really wanted to avoid embarrassing myself and planned to train hard, but I just couldn’t find much time. Ultimately, the day arrived, and I had hardly done any preparation at all.

The pro in question was Tomoko Ogawa, a very beautiful lady, as well as a graceful and formidable opponent. She plays some 40–50 matches a year with amateurs through magazine shoots such as this and has only been defeated a couple of times. Eiji Harada of Eiji Press, a friend from DIS and a fifth-grade amateur Go player has taken on Ms. Ogawa twice and been defeated both times. Mr. Yoshihiko Noro of the Ginza Yanagi Gallery also lost by a narrow margin of two stones. My friends and I who play the game rationalize these results, saying, “Of course no one can beat a pro when they get really serious.”

Then again, more than simply winning or losing, the important thing is whether you play up to your full capabilities. Well, maybe it’s even more important to make sure that Keizaikai readers don’t begin to think, “that GLOBIS CEO’s a terrible Go player. How on earth can he be a competent manager when he plays like that?” When the media covers a Go match, there will always be a result, and it is always a big deal.

Forty years ago, my grandfather played in a Go game covered by magazine, but as both competitors were amateurs, the magazine decided not to report on the match to the very end, making the result of the game unknown. The game log was left in my grandfather’s memoirs, however. Once, I laid out all the pieces just as they had been played. This gave me a strong glimpse into his style of play. All those years later, it was fresh surprise to discover how my grandfather had played Go. When the game is covered by a magazine like this, the game log will remain decades after the event. This is why I don’t want to make any bad mistakes.

Feeling deadly nervous, I laid out my six black stones as an advantage, and the match began. I felt black was looking good in the opening stage. In the middle stage, things managed to shape up nicely. In the final, make-or-break stage I made some errors, and Ogawa began to narrow the gap considerably. It became a match to hunt down each other’s stones. When she got up from her seat, I muttered to myself “maybe it is all over,” but a writer nearby assured me that was not the case. I spurred myself to keep going.

One move followed another. The time quietly slipped by. After a while, Ogawa unbelievably declared that she resignedーshe had lost. In Go, this kind of victory is called chu oshi gachi. It means your opponent is four or five stones short of being able to win. Of course, this sort of advanced calculation is beyond me.

To be completely honest, I was at a stage in which I didn’t really know what was going on anymore. Those of you who have played Go will understandーafter a game, your head feels all hazy from over-concentration. Sometimes, you can hardly talk. Overcome with surprise and dumbfounded, I agreed to review the match from the very first move. This post-game recap is important if you want to get good at Go.

Ogawa politely explained everything. I was finally coming back to my senses when I noticed the grins on the faces of all the Go journalists around me. I could see that DIS manager Tetsuichi Shirae (Tecchan) and famous Go analyst Yoshiko Inaba (Yocchan) were looking rather pleased.

My happiness gradually sank in. While I was scrutinizing my game, however, it suddenly crossed my mind that maybe Ogawa had let me win. When she asked, “What would you have done if I have made this move?” I could not think of any good responses. You can’t beat a pro. Though I felt a little unsatisfied, I was relieved that it was over.

Ogawa left quickly, but promised to participate in the Go and Management Discussion Group on June 24. I had originally planned to go back to work for a meeting, but thankfully, it had been canceled. We all toasted with champagne and had a good time.

On the way to dinner, I really felt glad I had taken up Go. I feel there is no question that the game has improved my abilities as both a manager and a venture capitalist. It has also widened my social circle, increased my brainpower, and trained me in a spiritual sense. When playing Go, you have to remain calm.

I would be delighted to see others take up the game and boost the Go-playing population.