The "Cosmic" Go Player

Takemiya Masaki (1951-) is one of the better-known Japanese professional Go players of the 20th century. His career peaked during the period 1985-1992, during which time he won many titles, including the Meijin, Honinbo, Judan and the Fujitsu Cup.

He first achieved fame at the young age of 15, by which point he was already a 5-dan (see dan level). At this time, he won several games against 9-dan professionals (the highest rank available), earning him the nickname 9-dan Killer.

What he is most famous for, however, is his unique style, which he calls Natural Style, but is more commonly known in the Western world as Cosmic Style (due to the translation of one of his books into French, with the title "Le Go Cosmique").

The conventional wisdom in Go is that it is easiest to make territory in the corners and on the sides. There is a proverb that "There is no territory in the center," because you would need four walls to enclose it, as opposed to two in the corner or three on the side of the board. Takemiya rejects this, and plays in a way that emphasizes the center, building enormous moyos (territorial frameworks) there, while allowing his adversaries to take secure territory in the corners.

The reason Takemiya is one of my favorite professionals, however, is his advice to amateurs learning to play Go. Many people claim that Go is a mathematical game, one requiring logic, deep reading and calculation. Although no one can deny that there are these aspects to the game, Takemiya insisted that it is very important to trust one's instincts, and "play moves that please." There is a lot of wisdom to this, because Go is a game of pattern, and the human subconscious is very good at recognizing patterns. If you play a certain move because it feels good, and suffer an agonizing defeat each time, it will soon cease to feel good. To become truly good at Go requires one to find a balance between rigorous analysis and this sort of "feeling" for good play.

Though past his prime, Takemiya is still active on the professional Go scene in Japan, having competed, for instance, in the 2002 Judan title match with O Rissei. Due to his unique style, which has not faded with age, his games are a favorite among amateur Go players around the world.