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Kisei is Japanese title for Go Sage (or Go Saint). The first person called Kisei was Kanren?, a Buddhist high priest in the 9-10th centuries, who taught go to Japanese emperors. (He was inducted to Nihon Ki-in Hall of Fame in 2016.) Following Kanren, the term was conferred to Honinbo Dosaku and Honinbo Jowa. Then after the publication of Zain Danso, Jowa's infamous intrigues were revealed and the title was informally stripped from him and given to Honinbo Shusaku. Later, Go Seigen was called the 'Showa era Kisei' for his overwhelming successes in his 10-game matches.
In 1976, the Kisei go tournament was established. As per normal, Japanese big title conventions, anyone attaining the Kisei title a) five or more years in a row, or b) ten or more years in all, was conferred the title Honorary Kisei (although no one has yet attained the latter b) feat).
In China, the term Qisheng is equivalent to Japan's Kisei and was applied to several ancient players, predating the Japanese word.
The Kisei Go Tournament, established in 1976, is the most prestigious big title of the Japanese professional Go scene. It has been sponsored since its inception by the Yomiuri Shinbun. The winner's prize is ¥43,000,000 currently, making it the richest yearly Go tournament in the world. (The international Ing Cup has a higher purse depending on the exchange rates, but held only once per four years).
Due to the importance of the Kisei as one of the "big three" titles in Japan (along with the Honinbo and Meijin), there are several paths of automatic rank advancement through it in the Nihon Ki-in new promotion system. Qualifying for the Kisei league warrants a promotion to 7-dan, winning the league to challenge for the title promotes to 8-dan, and finally winning the title itself gives an immediate 9-dan promotion.
As with each of the three Japanese big titles, the previous year's title holder is challenged by the winner of a league. Entry to the league is gained through a series of preliminary tournaments. The title is decided in a best of seven match, where each player is given eight hours of thinking time over a two day period.
From the 40th edition, preliminaries include more league-type formats, S (former Kisei league), A, B and C leagues. See Kisei League Format for the new format.
The title Honorary Kisei is given to those players who have previously won the Kisei title five years in a row (or, ten years in all). Such a player can use the title on retirement or at the age of 60. Currently, this includes Fujisawa Hideyuki, Kobayashi Koichi and Iyama Yuta.
Winners and Runner-ups
The title match usually starts in January.
See also the Challenger League crosstables.
Game 1 Locations in Foreign Countries
The first game of the title match was often held in a foreign city as a way of promoting Go worldwide. The game in Seoul 1985 was the first major title game in a foreign country. 2014 saw the last of Kisei game abroad (as of 2022).
9th 1985 Seoul, South Korea Lotte Hotel 11th 1987 Los Angeles, California, USA New Otani Hotel 12th 1988 Honolulu, Hawaii, USA Kaimana Beach Hotel 13th 1989 New York, New York, USA Hotel Kitano 14th 1990 Dusseldorf, Germany Hotel Nikko Dusseldorf 15th 1991 Sao Paulo, Brazil Caesar Park Hotel 16th 1992 Sydney, Australia Hotel Nikko Darling Harbour 17th 1993 Hong Kong Hotel Nikko Hong Kong 18th 1994 Shanghai, China Garden Hotel 19th 1995 Atlanta, Georgia, USA Hotel Nikko Atlanta 20th 1996 Amsterdam, Netherlands Hotel Okura Amsterdam 21st 1997 Honolulu, Hawaii, USA Ihilani Resort & Spa 22nd 1998 Hong Kong Grand Hyatt Hotel 23rd 1999 Paris, France Japanese Culture Centre 25th 2001 Taipei, Taiwan Hotel Royal Taipei 26th 2002 London, England, UK Montcalm Hotel Nikko 28th 2004 Seattle, Washington, USA Fairmont Olympic Hotel 30th 2006 Berlin, Germany Intercontinental Hotel 32nd 2008 Sao Paolo, Brazil ??? 34th 2010 Taipei, Taiwan ??? 38th 2014 Alcala de Henares, Spain ???
 Source: Honinbo Jowa - Sage or Scoundrel by John Fairbairn