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During the past 50 years...

During the past 50 years I have had many great experiences playing the game of Go. One of the greatest was having known Iwamoto Kaoru 9th Dan and to have had him as a teacher and friend. Unfortunately he passed away on 29th November 1999 just short of his 98th year. He was a kind and gentle person who lived a life of moderation and a person admired by all. His efforts to spread the game of Go through out the world are well known.

My acquaintance goes back to April 1959 when he visited New York City and spent several weeks teaching and playing games in the area. April 18th was a special day for me. That day Sensei gave an exhibition at the Chess and Checker Club of New York playing 14 games simultaneously. He won 11 of the games. I was fortunate to be one of the winners with, as I recall, a handicap of seven stones. Sensei gave me an autographed Go Board as a reward, a treasure which I still have.

In, I believe, 1962, Mr. Iwamoto came to New York and stayed for about a year. Each Friday evening he would have simultaneous play at the New York Club on East 96th Street. Nine or ten of us would participate with Sensei winning most of the games. He also played teaching games with a number of us and I would frequently have a lesson on Saturday afternoons. We were fortunate in that his English was quite good and more than adequate for teaching purposes.

I spent 7 or so months in 1963 - 1964 in Japan on business. While there I learned that Sensei was to play his first tournament game after a layoff of several years. He invited me to watch the game which was held in the old Nihon Kiin headquarters at 43 Kitamachi, Shiba, Takawa, Minato-ku Tokyo. I arrived there around 6:00 in the evening and the game was well along at that point. Sensei was playing a youngster, perhaps about 15 or so, and the game had been going on from about 9:00 that morning. Finally at about 9:15 PM the game was finished with Sensei winning. He staggered up from the goban exhausted and I was concerned for his health. I offered to take him for some refreshments, but he said no, he just wanted to go home. Later he told me that it was easier to play the older and stronger players as he knew what to expect. Things were too uncertain with the younger players and he had to work too hard.

Another time I was in Japan with my family and Mr. Iwamoto had opened a Go club, Salon Kunwa, near the Ebisu Station of the Yamate railroad line which circles the inner part of Tokyo. At that time we had an apartment in the Daikanyama section Toyko and it was a only a short walk to the club where I spent many of my Sunday afternoons. One afternoon he was playing a teaching game with me and I was amazed at a 25 or so move combination that he played. I asked if he had read that out. His answer was; "Yes." A clear demonstration of the power and ability of top ranked professional players.

I visited his home in Kakinokizaka in the Meguro section of Tokyo several times. Once we played a teaching game and after the game he picked up a book from a nearby shelf. The book was filled with kifu, records of his games. He leafed through the book and stopped at one game record, which turned out to be one of the games I had played with him in New York some 4 or 5 years earlier. Since he never recorded the games and I had never given him any of my records I wonder where the record had come from. He said that when he had returned to his room after our game he had written it down. This was after he had played several other games that particular day. Again the power and ability of top ranked players.

A great man and perhaps the world will never again see his like.

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Robert A. McCallister

The author Robert A. McCallister can be reached at: mailto:robertmc@ntelos.net

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