First of the firsts

This is partly by way of announcing that Coffee-Break Go will take a short break of its own. The GoGoD team will be in Korea, one presenting a paper again at the 4th International Conference on Baduk and the other representing Britain in the 1st Korean Prime Minister's Cup for amateurs from all around the world.

Obviously the PM's Cup is a new event, but that is not what we will write about here. Rather, it sparked recollection of a much earlier event. The story may be new to you, but there are elements unknown to us where you may be able to help. And to fill those coffee-break moments there is also a commented game.

The scene is Japan in early 1955. The New Year's issue of Kido announces that the Nihon Ki-in plans to host the 1st International Tournament. Although heavyweight support is waiting in the wings, the task seems to fall mainly to Dr. Mitamura Tokushiro and American Robert Gillooly.

Gillooly had apparently gone to Japan specifically to study go. Although far from the first foreigner to take an interest in the game, he was assumed to be the first to be a go student and was made much of in the go press.

Mitamura was a professor of medicine at Tokyo University. He had also formed the Igo Bunkakai (Go Cultural Society) in 1954 with a colleague, Prof. Araki Naomi. He published at his own expense the typewritten Go Journal in English. Unusually for Japanese of those days, he was proficient in foreign languages (German was a requirement for medical students) and was in close contact with European players such as Felix Dueball and Bruno Rueger.

Mitamura and Gillooly did manage to create a tournament that eventually took place at the Nihon Ki-in from 6th to 9th November 1955. What seems to have been lacking was a major sponsor. The event was therefore rather small - just five players and all people who just happened to be in Tokyo.

Gillooly was one player, obviously representing America. He was 2-dan. A German 3-kyu
Fischer, left, against Gillooly
called Jakob Fischer was the sole European. Beyond "Germany for go, France for judo", the Japanese were not then aware of much European interest in their still poor nation. China (which then meant the Nationalists) had Zhou Xuecai 2-dan to bat for them. South Korea had a chap called Kim Yeong-weon. He was 2-dan also. Finally, Japan put up a Dr Shimizu Kentaro, a brain surgeon who seemed to have won some recent renown for curing the "blind girl of the Palace Bridge." He was 3-dan.

With the exception of Shimizu's, these grades all seem to have been bestowed after the
Kim, left, plays Zhou. while Shimizu,
back right, chats to Mitamura
event, but it is not entirely clear how the event progressed. It was an all-play-all, with one player sitting out each round, but it seems to have been at least partly with handicaps. Fischer seems to have taken five stones from Shimizu, for example. But there were even games and the komi in these was 5 points. That is interesting because this was plumb in the middle of the period when arguments raged over the right komi. One group claimed 4.5 favoured Black. The other side seemed to agree but said 5.5. would favour White. A compromise was reached with some tournaments having exactly 5 points (and that is why the Meijin began with a 5-point komi).

Difficult compromises were required at another level. Embassies were invited and had to decide who to send. The Germans sent their Cultural Attaché, which was a plus in status terms, but he scored minus points for being over six foot tall, for that was duly noted in the report. The Americans sent the deputy head of their Labour section, while the Chinese just sent a junior from their cultural section. The Koreans seem not to have been involved at this level.

The Japanese were led by the Chairman of the Nihon Ki-in, Tsushima Juichi, who had served in government posts considerably higher than the diplomatic guests, but more importantly who had served also in Europe and the USA. He was also president of the Japanese Tennis Association, but we have no record whether strawberries and cream were served here.

The welcoming speech was made by Segoe Kensaku, who, if not by grade, was in stature the senior go player of the time. After that a message of support was relayed from Go Seigen, who apologised for being away from Tokyo to play in his 10-game match with Takagawa Kaku in West Japan.

At the end Fischer was the winner with supposedly 2½ points (the figures don't add up). Gillooly and Shimizu tied for second also on 2½ points, Kim had 2 and Zhou had 1. Fischer was given the Tsushima Cup, while Gillooly was awarded a plaque by the Asahi Shinbun for best non-handicap score.

The game between Gillooly and Shimizu was broadcast overseas on short-wave radio on 13th November. (More details of that, and of the players, would be welcome).

This was heavy stuff for just five contestants. More officials than players! In a sense it went nowhere. There was no 2nd term. In fact, the eventual follow-up was another 1st International Tournament in October 1963, also at the Nihon Ki-in. The difference seems to be that in 1963 foreign players were actually invited from abroad. But the 1955 event was a fruitful seed. The Nihon Ki-in and Tsushima in particular were always looking for ways to expand overseas interest. Gillooly himself seems to have helped develop go once back in the USA and, we think, reached 3-dan.

The Korean Prime Minister's Cup this October is obviously on a completely different scale - 68 countries and some amateurs' strengths bordering on professional. But it can also been seen as standing on the shoulders of giants.

As a tribute to Gillooly we append a game he did not win but which merited comments by Murashima Yoshinori 7-dan. Murashima, who you may recall kindly signed T. Mark's diploma (Item 44), was one of the unsung propagators of go - he was editor of Kido at this point.


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