Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

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Hello Blog. Here’s something that might go relatively unnoticed unless we bring it up here at Debito.org:

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Go master Seigen Go dies
The Yomiuri Shimbun
December 01, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001757079, courtesy of JK.

Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100.

Funeral services will be held with only close relatives in attendance, but a more public farewell ceremony is expected to be held at a later time.

Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.

In 1933, Go and fifth-dan player Minoru Kitani announced a new strategy focusing on the center of the board, which has become the basis of modern go strategy.

Go dominated professional circles until his retirement in 1984, waging fierce battles with top players.
ENDS

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Why does this matter to Debito.org? As submitter JK notes:

Hi Debito: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).

Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

3 comments on “Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

  • For what it’s worth, there have been a fair number of Japanese go professionals who, like Go Seigen, came from China or Korea but played under Japanized names; many achieved high rank. Why go and not other Japanese “national” activities? That’s the fundamental question, I think.

  • Marnen: Perhaps because everyone knows and agrees that the game of Go originates in China, and is currently played best in Korea (though it was at one time played best in, and the game and its rules were fundamentally reborn / improved in, Japan)?

  • Bob: The fact that go is a Chinese import had indeed crossed my mind as an explanation for this. The Korean dominance of professional go today, however, is pretty recent (last few decades?), if I remember correctly, and wouldn’t have been true in Go Seigen’s youth.

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