News from the American Go Association

December 30, 2004


Kato Masao, 9P died today at 57, three weeks after an operation for a brain tumor. Known as “the killer” in his early years, thanks to his uncompromising aggressiveness and bloodthirsty appetite for opponents’ groups, Kato became known in his later, calmer years as the half-point endgamewinner. While continuing to compete in major tournaments, Kato this year was elected director of the Nihon Ki-in, and President of the International Go Federation.
      Born March 15, 1947 in Fukuoka, Japan, Kato became a disciple of Kitani Minoru in 1959. He entered the Honinbo League when he was just 4-dan (a record) and became the challenger for this title in 1969 when he was 5-dan (another record). He lost the title match to Rin in the first of eight 2nd places in titles over the next eight years, finally breaking his jinx in 1976 by winning the 1st Gosei. Kato quickly made up for lost time by taking an astounding 14 titles in the next four years.
      In 1979 Kato swept the Honinbo, Judan, Tengen, Oza and Kakusei titles and continued to win at least a title a year through 1990. In 1987 Kato held four titles: Meijin, 10 Dan, Gosei and Oza. He defended the Oza Title eight straight years (eleven titles total), 10 Dan Title four straight years (five titles total) and won the NHK Cup in 1988 and the NEC Cup in 1991. Kato regained the Oza Title in 1993 and was twice the winner of the Oteai top section. Despite fierce competition from players less than half his age, he won the Honinbo title in 2002and the Agon Cup in 2003, a feat rarely accomplished by players in their 50s these days. He won a career total of 47 championships, with over 1,200 game wins, second only to Rin Kaiho 9P. Winner of KIDO magazine‘s “Most Outstanding Player” award six times, Kato also won the Shusai Award five times.    
      “A major light in the world go community has gone dark today,” said American Go Association President Mike Lash. “Kato Masao sensei was an inspiration and shining example to go players around the globe and he has been taken from us far too soon.” Lash extended the AGA‘s deepest condolences to Kato‘s family, fellow professionals, the Nihon Ki-in and the International Go Federation.
      Kato had been elected Chairman of the Nihon Ki-in Board of Directors last June, the fifth active go player to serve in this post, following Segoe Kensaku, Iwamoto Kaoru, Hasegawa Akira, and Sakata Eio. Unlike the others, though, who were essentially in the pre-retirement stages of their playing careers, Kato was still a top contender. At this year‘s General Meeting of the International Go Federation (IGF), held before the 25th World Amateur Go Championship in Kurashiki, Kato was also elected President ofthe IGF.
      Two translations of Kato‘s booksintroduced Western go players to the delights of attacking groups and the mysteries of the Chinese Opening. In “Attack and Kill” Kato explains the techniques necessary to kill large groups, and in “The Chinese Opening,” he provides a complete analysis of this popular fuseki. Both are available fromKiseido at
      Pictures of Kato Masao are available at
      We‘re honored to present two of Kato‘s games here (see attached files); the final round of the 1976 Gosei and the first game of the 2003 Honinbo. Both feature the tough, sharp play Kato was known for and provide a glimpse of his enormous talent.
      Our thanks to,, MasterGo, and The Go Players Almanac for reports, games and biographical information included in this report. Edited by Chris Garlock and Bill Cobb with special thanks to Yonghe Zhang, Chuck Robbins and Gordon Fraser.

2004.12.30 KATO 1976 Gosei.sgf; 2004.12.30 KATO 2003 Honinbo.sgf

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