Monday, October 13, 2008

Let's Talk About: Kato Masao

Kato Masao (March 15, 1947 - December 30,2004) or Kato Kensei, was a famous Japanese 9-dan professional Go player best known for his nickname "The Killer" due to his aggresive attacking playing style.

Kato sensei is the one and only Honorary Oza (until now), due to his victorius in Oza tournament, 8 concecutive times from 1982-1989.

His first major title were 1st Gosei and 14th Judan in 1976. he finally won a title after became unsuccessfull challenger for 8 titles (Honinbo,Pro Best Ten twice, All Japan #1, Prime Minister's Cup,NHK Cup, Shinei,and Nihon Ki-in Championship)

Kato sensei was one of Kitani Minoru's diciples, along with Cho Chikun, Takemiya Masaki, Ishida Yoshio, and Kobayashi Koichi.

He had 4 students, they are Omori Yasushi, Suzuki Isao, Nishida Terumi, and the famous Umezawa Yukari.

There was one of his game that was resulted as void. It was at the 14th Judan title match, when he played against Cho Chikun. The result was void, due to the triple ko occured. The match was replayed and Kato won the game along with the title

Kato sensei was elected to be the Chief Director of the Japanese Nihon Ki-in and President of the International Go Federation (IGF). Kato did several changes under his leadership.He eliminated Oteai (used to be Japanese promotion system) and made new ways of dan promotion (which is still used now). He also changed the komi point, from 5.5 moku to 6.5 moku. He also cut the game times limits. At the same time, Kato sensei still active in the top tournament.

In 2002, Kato sensei established a new record in japanese Go world, as the oldest player ever to win Honinbo title, at age 55. He lost the title to Cho U in 2003.

His record of titles:
* 2003 10th Agon

Kato Masao (W) vs. Cho U 10th Japanese Agon Cup, Final, W+R up to 52 moves

* 2002 57th Honinbo

Kato Masao (W) vs. O Meien 57th Japanese Honinbo, title match #6 W+1.5, up to move 52

Yu Bin (W) vs. Kato masao 3rd Nongshim Cup, game 10, W+5.5

* 2001 10th Ryusei
Kato Masao (W) vs. Cho Hunhyun 2nd Nongshim Cup, game 13, W+3.5 up to move 52

* 1999 32nd Hayago Championship
* 1998 4th JT Cup
* 1997 35th Judan, NEC Cup
* 1996 3rd Agon, 18th Kakusei
* 1995 2nd Agon, 17th Kakusei
* 1994 27th Hayago Championship
* 1993 41st Oza
* 1992 NEC Cup
* 1991 NEC Cup
* 1989 37th Oza
* 1988 36th Oza, NHK Cup, 21st Hayago Championship
* 1987 12th Meijin, 25th Judan, 12th Gosei, 35th Oza
* 1986 11th Meijin, 34th Oza, 8th Kakusei
* 1985 33rd Oza
* 1984 32nd Oza
* 1983 21st Judan, 31st Oza
* 1982 30th Oza
* 1981 7th Tengen
* 1980 28th Oza, 6th Tengen, 2nd Kakusei
* 1979 34th Honinbo, 17th Judan, 27th Oza, 5th Tengen
* 1978 33th Honinbo, 16th Judan, 4th Tengen
* 1977 2nd Gosei, 15th Judan, 32th Honinbo
* 1976 1st Gosei, 14th Judan
Kato Masao vs Cho Chikun in the 14 th Judan, ther result of this game was void, due to triple ko occur. They replayed the game and Kato sensei won the game, along with the title

Two books had been written by Kato Masao and available in English. Chinese Opening: The Sure-Win Strategy and Kato's Attack and Kill.

Kato sensei's favorite opening was the Chinese fuseki. He played the fuseki a lot.His last game against Yuki Satoshi (who was that year's Kisei challanger) in the 31st Japanese Tengen tournament was a very good example of how to use Chinese fuseki to attack and kill. His next opponent in Tengen tournament was Imamura Toshiya 9-dan. Unfortunately, the game would never been played.

Kato died on december 30, 2004. The cause was cerebral infection. Kato first signs of becoming ill showed on december 7. There were an operation performed on December 10 and was said to be successfull, but in December 28, his condition dropped and he died two days later. At that time, he was member of Japan team at the Nong Shim Cup and hadn't played yet.

Kato was one of 1,200 wins club's member, with a 1,253 win and 664 loss. Only few players can achieve 1200 win.. There are many dedication to him, including a large book published by Nihon Ki-in containing over 200 games of him. Another one is internet Go tournament dedicated to him.

Despite his success, he was modest, his typical manner was low-key and friendly, but also known for his firm principles, which was perhaps the reason why he was entrusted as the Chairman of Nihon Ki-in and the President of IGF.Kobayashi Koichi commented that Kato Masao showed a great fighting spirit inside and outside the Goban (Go board).

I think, many things can be learned from Kato sensei. His fighting spirit, both at his Go life and his personal character, a good character, and his responsibility as a Chairman (he really did what he must did!).

Thank you Kato Masao. You've left us not only your priceless kifu, but also something we must learn about. Two thumbs up for you.