An insei in Cho Chikun's Dojo (1997-1998)

The Dojo is just across the street from Cho sensei's house. In the weekend it is also a Go-club for amateurs. It is not a big place, and only some of the students live inside the "Go Saloon" in a different room. It's traditional that students live in the house of the teacher but at the time and today too only few students are actually Uchi-deshi (house-student). In any case each of the students was given a job to do around the Go-Saloon. One of the more pleasant ones was to walk with Cho sensei's dog during the lunch break.

The study group

The studying schedule was very strict. It was written on a piece of paper nailed to one of the walls in the Dojo. It was something like this:

  • 09.00-12.00  morning study
  • 12.00-15.00  lunch break
  • 15.00-18.00  study
  • 18.30-19.00  dinner
  • 19.00-21.00  study

They were playing games in a league with each other and studying games all day: all the recent kifu (game records) and also they had access to a large library with books and pro games.

The league was important. Each participant had to play a number of games against the others. The weaker ones had the opportunity to play more games. There were two types of games: "long ones" with 1 minute per move and "hayago" quick games with 10 seconds per move. There was no basic time so in fact all games were fairly quick. Sometimes they would play 10 games on one day.

The league had a simple rating system based on winning percentages, and of course it used a handicap system. The handicap system for the long games was very interesting. It was not based on handicap stones alone, but also on time. For each rank difference the stronger player got 10 seconds less in time and then a reversed komi: no komi, - 3 komi, - 5 komi, - 8 komi, and only after the time and komi handicap were not possible handicap stones would be used.

In the hayago games of course the time could not be reduced further, but otherwise the same system was used.

Cho sensei was playing too in this league but only against the pro players and only fast games. Of course he was always the number one player on the rating list.

The students

At that time Kim Kwang-suk had already returned to Korea and Mitani Tetsuya was not studying anymore at Cho sensei's place. Kin Shujun, 4 dan was there, as was Matsumoto Takehisa, 2 dan, who was later promoted to 3 dan in that period.

There was Tsuruyama Atsushi, the number one insei. He had just missed becoming a pro that year, he lost in the playoff. He could play on even terms with his fellow pro students, so he was already quite strong.

Then, besides Dragos, there were two more insei students, Miyamaoto-kun and Murakami-kun. They were just a bit stronger than him. Dragos lost to Miyamoto in the final Iosen game and thus lost the chance to play in the Honsen. In the insei league they had similar results, going up to first group just to go down again next month. At the time there were 2 groups in insei league. The first one with 20 players and the second one with the rest, up to around 60 inseis. Both Miyamoto and Murakami stopped being insei. Murakami went back to college. He was around 13 in those days. He might try to become a pro later on.

Cho sensei would usually come in the afternoon. He was watching the study and play but he didn't comment much on the play. He used to analyse some games during weekends. Usually when the insei had some questions there were plenty of other people who could answer them, especially Kin who was already a 4 dan pro.

Dragos Bajenaru studied as an insei from 1997 to 1998. He quickly made it to the A class group. He played in the preliminary for the professional selection (the Iosen), but lost in the final round, and thus did not get the chance to play in the main tournament (the Honsen).

From december 1997 he started attending the study group of Cho Chikun. He went there almost every working day until his return to Europe in August 1998. He was recommended by Kobayashi Chizu sensei (his teacher in Japan and the person that he owes a lot to for inviting him there and supporting him for the whole period).

In 2002 Dragos visited Japan again for the World Pair Go Championship. He met his fellow students again. In his own words: "It was very nice to meet them there, especially because we had had no contact for such a long time. That is because I cannot write Japanese and they do not understand English..."

This page is based on an interview I had with Dragos on 2003-01-24 after I found some pictures of the Cho Chikun Dojo on his homepage.

Murakami Fukashi came fourth in the 2002 Honsen.

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