I had already replayed most of the games between Go Seigen and Fujisawa Hosai before reading this book, and I have always found myself cheering for Fujisawa. It is hard to explain why... Fujisawa's style is similar to Shusaku's, but with a modern touch. I should say that the feeling I have when I replay his games is one of the reasons why I can say Go is more than a game. Even today, when I recreate his games in a real goban, I am inspired by his sublime and elegant play.
"9-dan Showdown" was the perfect excuse for me to replay all the games between these two great players again, this time with greater care. It was a joy for me to read the game commentaries as well as the episodes and details behind the matches. Let me say in passing that every reader will find it hard not to empathize with Fujisawa, throughout the book.
It covers three Ten Game Matches and a special (with komi) Four Game Match. Fujisawa won the first Ten Game Match (he took Black in all ten games), but was defeated in the other matches. Nevertheless, you will find that many of the games Fujisawa lost against Go Seigen were not one-sided at all. In fact, Fujisawa often had a won game in his hands, but would then make a mistake due to time pressure and let the win slip through his fingers (note: yes, this is an oversimplification).
The way Fujisawa used his time (thinking long and hard during Fuseki, sometimes taking hours just to play the most obvious-looking move) is one of the major themes of this book.
Needless to say, Go Seigen’s fans will not be disappointed, as he was the unquestionable winner of the "9-dan Showdown".
The (lengthy) game commentaries in this book do not just explain the reasons behind particular moves. As was mentioned before, they also often describe the attitudes and reactions of the players, so the reader can almost sense their character and personality. I very much liked that, as it not only makes the reading more pleasant, but also makes it possible for us to relate with the more “human side” of the players.
The studying material this book provides for the average player is enormous, as it covers so many high-quality games, but it should be noted that, as in every game collection, that doesn't immediately translate into a greater playing strength for the reader. In other words, if you are looking for a book that will help you improve one or two stones, maybe you would do better by reading a Tesuji or Tsumego book. Having said that, what this book will do for you, I think, is potentially change your whole attitude towards Go for the better.
To conclude, in my opinion "9-dan Showdown" is one of those books you should be proud to have in your library.
- DanielTom (March 2012)