Professional handicap games

I just found this :D

In 1925, nominal (and arguably legitimate) World #1, Meijin Honinbo Shusai (who was the last of the traditional figureheads of the Japanese Go world), gave a nine-stone handicap to a nine-year-old Takagawa Kaku.

Shusai would go on to either give or sell the Honinbo title to the Nihon Kiin, perhaps sometime after his 1938 Retirement Game against Kitani Minoru, before his death in 1940.

The Honinbo title was revived as a tournament, which was won by Takagawa in 1952. To commemorate this, he changed his name to Shukaku.

The shu element of this name is , which Jisho defines as “excellence, beauty”, the same kanji in Shusai’s name.

The year 1925 occupies a transitional period between the “(Late) Classical” and “(Early) Modern” periods of Go.

  • Shuei, considered by some the strongest of all Classical players, had died in 1907.
    He was (correct me if I’m wrong) the last truly hereditary Meijin, being the son of Shuwa.

  • The Hoensha, the main rival to the Nihon Kiin, had collapsed the previous year; it had been formed by Honinbo Shuho in 1879. In the same year, the Kansai Ki-in was formed.

  • Shusai would play against Go Seigen in the Game of the Century in 1933, and would, as said, retire in 1938. Go Seigen, for his part, would not arrive in Japan until 1928.


Very interesting.

I wonder why the game was played with 9 stones handicap if Takagawa was 1p (1 dan professional) at the time. In the traditional pro ranking system, the handicap between 1p and 9p would be only 3 stones (see
9 stones handicap would make more sense if Takagawa’s level was about 1d (1 dan amateur) at the time.

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Actually, according to Sensei’s Library, Takagawa wasn’t promoted to 1p until 1928, three years after this game.

As you can see, the title of the game is Trial game for acceptance into Nihon Ki-in school. So this was apparently an “assessment” by Shusai of whether Takagawa was strong enough to enter an insei programme.

This wasn’t a “pro – pro” game, but rather “pro – future-pro”.


Here’s a table of high-handicap games I found on Waltheri (obviously, Black is always an amateur).

Stones Date White Black
9 ? Ishida Y. Haruyama Isamu
- ? Ishida Y. Itoda Keiko
- 1925 Shusai Takagawa Kaku
- 1932 Segoe K. Fujisawa Tamotsu
- 1959 Takahashi S. Takemiya Masaki
- 1959 Takemiya F. Takemiya Masaki
- - - -
8 ? Ishida Y. Maeda Ryoji
- 1930 Shusai Felix Dueball
- - - -
7 ? Ishida Y. Kamimura Kunio
- ? Ishida Y. Kumatsu Hideko
- ? Miyashita S. two shodans
- 1962 Kitani M. Kobayashi Chizu
- 1975 Iwamoto K. Francis Roads
- 1980 Kobayashi K. Sakai Naoki
- 1984 Yasunaga H. Chang Hao
- 1999 Wang H. Liao Xingwen

There is a nice book: “secret chronicle of handicap go” which consists of handicap games between pro, highly recommended.
And to go further on handicap theory you can check the handicap go dictionary published by the Nihon kiin. In English, “basic techniques of go” has a few well documented chapters worth to consider.