Kamakura jubango

    Keywords: Culture & History

The Kamakura jubango is a historically significant ten-game match between Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru played from 1939-41. It pitted two close rivals and friends, both ranked 7 dan, against each other at the Buddhist temples of Kamakura, except for games two and five. More significantly, it marked the beginning of Go Seigen's period of dominance as the top player in Japan, which continued until the First Meijin Tournament of 1962. The match was sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun, and Go Seigen won by a margin of 6-4.


Nine months before the match started, Kitani had defeated Honinbo Shusai, the Meijin, in Shusai's retirement game. The Honinbo title was to be open to competition, and both Kitani and Go took part in that tournament. Each failed to get through to the final match, which was contested by Sekiyama Riichi and Kato Shin, with Sekiyama becoming the first Honinbo under the titleholder system in 1941. The preliminaries of this first Honinbo tournament were under way during the Kamakura match. With wartime conditions, the pace of all competitions slowed considerably. All these players also took part in the oteai competition. The first 9 dan to emerge from the Oteai was Fujisawa Kuranosuke, some years later (at this time 6 dan). At the time, it was hard to receive promotion even to 8 dan. The pool of top players was rather small; Karigane Junichi was 8 dan but had stayed outside the system that had established itself around Shusai and the Nihon Ki-in.

The result of the match was the first step in the process by which Go Seigen would establish ascendancy over his rivals (except Sekiyama, who withdrew from competition because of bad health). He was promoted to 8 dan in spring 1942. Having taken on Kitani, against whom he had an unfinished jubango stopped at 3-3 in 1933 when Kitani was promoted, Go took on both Karigane and Fujisawa (whom he played in the end in three long matches), and then the new Honinbos Hashimoto Utaro and Iwamoto Kaoru. Go Seigen played again in the Honinbo tournament, but not after 1945. In later years various challenges allowed him to face the Honinbo of the time.

Playing Locations & Games

Eight of the ten games were played in the temples at Kamakura, a coastal town in the Kanagawa prefecture (less than an hour south of Tokyo). The first game was in the Buddhist temple Kenchou-ji. Game 2 was played at Shiba Park in Tokyo. Game 3 was in Engaku-ji, as were games 4, 6 and 9. Game 5 in Gunma Prefecture. And games 7, 8 and 10 in the Hachiman Shinto shrine in Kamakura.

The starting conditions of the match were tagaisen; since the players were of equal rank: colors alternated, with Kitani winning the nigiri. There was no komi. Unexpectedly, Kitani went 1-5 down over the first six games, and so was subject to beating down. The final four games, beginning 29 December 1940, were therefore played at senaisen, with Kitani taking Black twice, White, then Black. Of those final games, Go Seigen could win only the second, so that with a net score of 4-6 and a win with White Kitani had salvaged some of his reputation.

John Fairbairn has written a book on the ten game match, compiling various commentaries, biographies and historical details.[1]


[1] John F. I have not written a book on any jubango, a term I thoroughly disapprove of. I wrote about the Kamakura Ten-game Match.

Kamakura jubango last edited by on September 20, 2018 - 03:52
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