YY?: Cho's style has been known as "soft wind (breeze) and quick spear," poetically crafted by a Korean Go critic Park ChiMoon, while he once was affectionately nick-named as a "swallow" by his fellow players. The descriptions emphasize his graceful, light footed tendency that delivers a quick and often fatal thrust like a spear when attacking. It is somewhat comparable to Muhammad Ali's self-description of "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
He is also known for his ability to "shake." As he detects inferior positions of his own, he tries to "shake" the outcome by engaging in ultra-aggressive, complicated moves, and he tries to psychologically "shake" the opponent. In this sense, "shaking" means an attempt or an ability to wage fierce, unpredictable, often very complicated, all out battles toward the end of a game.
In the era of Yi ChangHo, his style has changed to accentuate battles and tough in-fighting. Perhaps it was necessary to cope with Yi ChangHo's superior calculation and deep reading which are overbearing in usual positional exchanges and then the endgame.
As he was hopelessly outgunned by Yi by the mid 90's, the change in his style took place. His relative strength to Yi lies in his intuition and therefore quick reading for which he has been often called "the most talented player" by many Korean and Japanese players. The attempt to maximize his relative strength led him to creating fog of war situations wherein intution and quick reading often are more useful than calculation ability and deep reading. Then Cho can knock out Yi without having to go through the positional struggles and the much dreaded endgame of Yi's. In so doing, he has earned another nickname, "God of War", reflecting the change in style.
Cho HunHyun is notorious for "soliloquies" during the match. It is more or less murmuring to himself while reading, calculating, and contemplating a next move. The substance of his murmuring often is his own self-critique and the assessment or bantering regarding the trouble he is digging himself into. In a final match of a World Go competition, Yoda Norimoto even wore earplugs or earcovers while playing Cho -- Cho won the title over Yoda Norimoto.
choreck: I have been watching Cho Hunhyun's recent games and seen that he lost quite a large percentage of games. Something wrong with his play or this is a result of something else?
YY?: His age is generally thought to be the culprit of the recent decline. That is, he does not seem to be able to sustain the high level of concentration over the entire course of game. He often makes simple mistakes. He shows the lapse of judgment and calculation, as well.
His game is very delicate and even precarious in use of speed. Speed can kill yet may backfire if not played with great care as speed necessarily mean rather thin deployment. He simply cannot afford to make such mistakes in order to win consistently playing his style.
In my opinion, he needs to modify his style and approach a little to accommodate aging and its effects. His game is highly entertaining and awe inspiring, yet it is only effective when he can sustain very high level genius and perfectionism. And, his age does not allow him to be so perfect any longer.
He needs to learn to play thicker (and necessarily slower in pace which I strongly doubt he likes at all) so that he can absorb mistakes and rebound back.
John F.: Thanks, YY. Cho's now dropped out of the top 20 in Korea, which is pretty sensational. Age must be a factor (I speak from experience!) but could I ask for your view on whether his extra-curricular activities (Tygem, etc) are not also a factor. He seems to be involved in quite a few arguments which must sap his energy.
Also, the reference to "soliloquies" and murmuring. According to Japanese sources these are actually Japanese folk songs - any view on that?
valerio: I made a basis for a new page (you can correct or delete the page). The List of Cho Hunhyun titles is incomplete and some names are wrong.