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Thirty odd years...

Thirty odd years ago Mr. Iwamoto spent about a year in New York. At that time the New York Go Club met in the old Nippon Club on 96th Street. Every Friday evening Sensei would play simultaneous with about 10 players and I tried to always to play. Then on Saturday afternoon I would try to have a lesson with him.

Iwamoto Sensei has invited me to his home on several occasions. He use to have an old style Japanese House which has since been replaced with a modern two family house. At that time he, his wife and Yoko San lived downstairs and his son lived on the second floor. Once during a visit to the old house he played a teachng game with me. After the game he showed me a series of bound volumes containing kifu - game records - for many of his games. During this he showed me records for a number of my game. Since he never recorded any of the games and I didn't recall that I had every given him copies of any games I wondered how he obtain these records. His replied to my question that when he returned to his rooms in New York after having five or so teaching games he would write down the game scores. I was amazed.

One Sunday afternoon he played a teaching game with me at his Go Club in Ebisu, a section of Tokyo. During the game I was struck by a 15 or so move combination that he played. Since he took so little time to think about the play I wondered if he had really read out the combination. So I asked and he replied; "Yes."

Those incidents really bring across to you his genius. I wonder if that is a natural talent, or something that can be developed?

I happened to be working in Tokyo when he returned from New York. At that time he was perhaps in his late sixties and had not played any tournament Go for several years. He invited me to watch his first tournament game after his return. This played in the old Nihon Kiin headquarters near Shinagawa train station. I went after work and found him playing a young fourth dan player. I arrived about 6:15 in the evening and the game had been going on since about 9:00 in the morning. Sometime after 9:00 PM Sensei won the game. He was obviously exhausted from the game. I invited him for a drink, but he declinded saying he was too tired. Later he told me that it was very difficult to play the young players as you didn't know what they were going to do. He said, that it was much easier to play the older player as one knew what to expect.

As I had mentioned earlier I played several games with Cho Chikun when he was 5 years old. We played even, but it was difficult for me at the time. Once I discussed Cho's playing ability with Mr. Iwamoto. He said that while Cho would probably become a very good player, it was too early to tell if he was a Go genius.


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Robert A. McCallister

The author Robert A. McCallister can be reached at:

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