Japanese Kisei

Overview: 

The Japanese Kisei (棋聖戦) is the most prestigious tournament of the Japanese professional Go scene in terms of prize money. It was established in 1976 by Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞), a leading Japanese newspaper and a major sponsor to Japanese Go. The word 'Kisei' literally means 'Go Sage', a title that has traditionally been reserved for only the best players.

Tournament Format: 

Being the most prestigious professional tournament, its format is also by far the most complex. A brand new system was introduced in term 40 which is describe below in great details.

  • This tournament is open to all Japanese professionals. There are 32 preliminary groups (reducing to 16 from term 41) with winners filling up the 32-player league C.
  • League C is not really an all-play-all league as implied by its name. It is a modified five-round Swiss tournament with players losing 3 games demoted immediately ('triple-knockout' is another way describing the format). Simple math shows that there are 73 games in total in this section. After five rounds, there are exactly one player with 5-0 score, five players with 4-1 score and ten players with 3-2 score. Sixteen players losing 3 games are demoted (so from term 41 only 16 preliminary groups are needed). Six players winning 4 games or more get promoted to league B next year. And the league C winner enters the final challenger deciding tournament directly.
  • In league B, sixteen players are divided in two groups of eight (B1 and B2). Each player needs to play seven games. Top 2 of each group are promoted to league A and bottom 3 demoted to league C next year. Also winner of league B1 and league B2 need to play one extra game to decide who enters the challenger deciding tournament.
  • League A is a single league with eight players. Each player needs to play seven games. Winner of league A enters the challenger deciding tournament. Top 2 are promoted to league S and bottom 4 are demoted to league B.
  • League S is a single league with six strongest players. Each player needs to play five games. Top 2 finishers enter the challenger deciding tournament. Bottom 2 get demoted to league A next year.
  • The challenger deciding tournament runs like a ladder. e.g. league C winner playing league B winner first, the winner in turn plays league A winner, then league S runner-up, then league S winner. The final round is a modified best-of-three match, meaning that the lower ranked player has to win 2-0 to become the challenger. The league S winner only needs one win to become the challenger.
  • The challenger goes on to play previous year's titleholder in a best-of-seven match to decide the Kisei title.
  • In the event that a lower-ranked player going all the way to become challenger or even win the title, his/her position in the lower league next year will be replaced by player falling out from a higher league.

Format introduced in term 25 and abolished after term 39: after a series of preliminary tournaments (preliminary C, B and A, followed by a final preliminary, all using single-elimination format with stronger players seeded directly into later stages), 4 players reach the league stage, joining the 8 top players who survived previous year's leagues. They are divided into two groups (league A and league B). The winners of the two leagues play a single game to decide the challenger, who will challenge previous year's titleholder in a best-of-seven match. The bottom two players from each league get demoted and have to start over from preliminary tournament next year.

Prize Money: 
The winner's prize is 45,000,000 JPY (since term 34). There are also significant game fees for those top league players.
Time System: 
In the title match, each player has 8 hours thinking time (these games last for two days). The time is 5 hours each for challenge deciding tournament and league S, 4 hours for league A and 3 hours for lower sections. These are followed by the normal 1-minute 'byoyomi'. During old years, all league games have 5 hours reserved time.
Ruleset and Komi: 
Japanese rule with 6.5-point komi (was 5.5 before year 2003).
Key Players, Events and Statistics: 

Fujisawa Hideyuki won the first six consecutive Kisei titles. This record was later broken by Kobayashi Koichi, who won the title eight times in a row. Both players were awarded the 'Honorary Kisei' title.

Historical Results: 

Term

Year

Winner

Score

Runner-up

Game Records

1

1977

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-1

Hashimoto Utaro

2

1978

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-3

Kato Masao

3

1979

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-1

Ishida Yoshio

4

1980

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-1

Rin Kaiho

5

1981

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-0

Otake Hideo

6

1982

Fujisawa Hideyuki

4-3

Rin Kaiho

7

1983

Cho Chikun

4-3

Fujisawa Hideyuki

8

1984

Cho Chikun

4-2

Rin Kaiho

9

1985

Cho Chikun

4-3

Takemiya Masaki

10

1986

Kobayashi Koichi

4-2

Cho Chikun

11

1987

Kobayashi Koichi

4-1

Takemiya Masaki

12

1988

Kobayashi Koichi

4-1

Kato Masao

13

1989

Kobayashi Koichi

4-1

Takemiya Masaki

14

1990

Kobayashi Koichi

4-1

Otake Hideo

15

1991

Kobayashi Koichi

4-3

Kato Masao

16

1992

Kobayashi Koichi

4-3

Yamashiro Hiroshi

17

1993

Kobayashi Koichi

4-3

Kato Masao

18

1994

Cho Chikun

4-2

Kobayashi Koichi

19

1995

Kobayashi Satoru

4-2

Cho Chikun

20

1996

Cho Chikun

4-3

Kobayashi Satoru

21

1997

Cho Chikun

4-1

Kobayashi Satoru

22

1998

Cho Chikun

4-2

Yoda Norimoto

23

1999

Cho Chikun

4-2

Kobayashi Koichi

24

2000

O Rissei

4-2

Cho Chikun

25

2001

O Rissei

4-2

Cho Sonjin

26

2002

O Rissei

4-2

Ryu Shikun

27

2003

Yamashita Keigo

4-1

O Rissei

28

2004

Hane Naoki

4-3

Yamashita Keigo

29

2005

Hane Naoki

4-3

Yuki Satoshi

30

2006

Yamashita Keigo

4-0

Hane Naoki

31

2007

Yamashita Keigo

4-0

Kobayashi Satoru

32

2008

Yamashita Keigo

4-3

Cho Chikun

33

2009

Yamashita Keigo

4-2

Yoda Norimoto

34

2010

Cho U

4-1

Yamashita Keigo

35

2011

Cho U

4-2

Iyama Yuuta

36

2012

Cho U

4-3

Takao Shinji

37

2013

Iyama Yuuta

4-2

Cho U

38

2014

Iyama Yuuta

4-2

Yamashita Keigo

39

2015

Iyama Yuuta

4-3

Yamashita Keigo

40

2016

Iyama Yuuta

4-0

Yamashita Keigo

Go4Go Collection Note: 
Go4Go database has all title games, almost complete collections of league games (for term 25 and newer), a large number of main tournament games for term 24 and older, and a large number of preliminary games since 2005. In the Go News section, score charts from 1999 onwards are almost complete.
Tournament Tag: