American Go E-Journal

‘KILLER OF GO” SAKATA EIO DIES AT 90

Saturday October 23, 2010

The legendary Sakata Eio 9P died Thursday, October 21 at the age of 90. Perhaps best-known in the West as the author of the indispensable Killer of Go, Sakata — nicknamed “The Razor” — became a professional go player in 1935. In his first title match — the 1951 Honinbo – Sakata was under pressure to win the title back for the Nihon Ki-in and though he won the first three matches, Hashimoto Utaro fought back and won the final four games to keep the Honinbo title. Afterwards, Sakata went on to win a couple of small titles which were the start of a meteoric run of major wins in which he won almost all of the titles in Japan except the Honinbo. In 1961 he once again challenged for the Honinbo, this time winning and taking it from Takagawa Kaku, who had held the title for nine straight years straight. Sakata then captured the Meijin in 1963, making him the first player to simultaneously hold both titles, which at the time were the biggest titles in Japan. Sakata’s strongest year was 1964, when he won 30 games, lost just two and held seven major titles: Meijin, Honinbo, Nihon Ki-in Championship, Asahi Pro Best Ten, Oza, Nihon Kiin#1, and NHK Cup. Sakata’s professional career waned in 1965, when he lost the Meijin to 23-year-old Rin Kaiho. Sakata challenged two years in a row but could not win the Meijin back and though he then lost the Honinbo to Rin as well, Sakata went on to win many other titles, including the Judan and Oza. In addition to Killer of Go, Sakata’s books in English include Modern Joseki and Fuseki, The Middle Game of Go, and Tesuji and Anti-Suji of Go. In his LifeIn19x19 memory of Sakata’s 1986 visit to the U.S. Go Congress, Keith Arnold recommends “the late Nakayama’s essay regarding a game between Sakata and Shuko – a wonderful game and a wonderful story that truly makes you feel like you are in the room with him. The moment when he exclaims in frustration ‘This shows how hopeless I am at go’ and his genuine anger when the players at the next board burst out in laughter is priceless. As was he.”
- Chris Garlock, adapted from Wikipedia

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