The early years

Born July 23, 1956 in Seoul, Korea. Student of Kitani 9 dan from 1962. Professional shodan 1968; 2 dan 1968; 3 dan 1969; 4 dan 1970; 5 dan 1971; 6 dan 1973; 7 dan 1975; 8 dan 1978; 9 dan 1981.

Co-student of the Kitani School, Kobayashi Koichi, is 4 years older and the main rival from the start. They compete in the minor tournaments for young professionals, and usually Kobayashi beats him. But Cho does better in some of the major tournaments. From the same school are Takemiya, 5.5 years older and Ishida and Kato, resp. 8 and 9 years older, with huge successes in this period. Not to mention Otake, 14 years older, already a well established top player.


Cho was Kitani pupil No. 36 and joined 1962-08. He arrived in Japan on the first of August 1962 at Haneda airport with his uncle Cho Nam'ch'eol and Cho Shoen (elder brother) where he was met by Mr and Mrs Kitani, Kobayashi Chizu, Kitani Reiko.

One day after arriving in Japan, 2nd August 1962, there is a '100-dan' party for the Kitani school. Cho, taking 5 stones, beats Rin in a game played at that party. There was a huge crowd but he was quite unfazed and took the game very seriously, arms folded and thinking for a long time. Eventually someone had to go up and nudge him into playing quickly.

In those early days he was different from other students at the Kitani school because he had to go, at his parents' wishes, to the Korean School in Tokyo and for a time he lived not with Kitani but with his brother. His elder brother spoiled him rotten, giving him a piggy back to lessons, etc. As the youngest and smallest at the Kitani school he was also rather spoilt by Mrs Kitani, despite her efforts to treat all children equally. Inevitably Cho became a bit of a devil. On one early occasion, during a holiday visit to Meiji Jingu [shrine], he lost himself in the crowds. As he knew no Japanese he could not be called on the PA system. Fortunately his brother had the wit to climb a tree and was luckily able to spot him.

On one trip with Kitani to Kobe where they were put up by one of Kitani's rich patrons, Cho stared in wonderment at a huge picture of a tiger. The patron asked if he liked it, the boy said yes, and the patron said he could have it. Kitani intervened and said he could have it only if he reached 1-dan by age 10. In fact he made 1-dan at 11, but as soon as he did, Mrs Kitani phoned the patron and he said: I know what you're phoning for, it's on its way. Apparently that picture still graces Cho's home.

Games: [1962] [1965] [1966]


Go review 1968-5 features the Insei game against Azuma Michihiko that earns Cho his promotion to sho-dan. There are 13 other games by Cho from that early 1968 Insei tournament (source: Micha).

Cho wins almost all the Oteai games in 1970-71. Unfortunately, the Kido Yearbooks did not give a single Oteai game by Cho from this period. I have been lucky to get about 80% of all Oteai games from another source.

  • 1968: professional shodan and 2 dan in the same year
  • 1969-11-14: becomes 3 dan
  • 1970-10-16: becomes 4 dan
  • 1971: 5 dan

Games: [1968] [1969] [1970][1971]


Both the Kido Yearbook and the Go Review start giving information about this rising star. Three games from this year are to be found in the Kido yearbook.

  • Loses 4th New Faces Tournament (Tokyo Channel 12 TV) final to Kobayashi. The game was televised on July 24th.
  • Final of the Prime Minister Cup lost against Kobayashi.
  • Beats Kano, Hashimoto S. and Kajiwara in Asahi Pro Best Ten Tournament. Then loses to Rin.

Games: [1972]. Total score this year is 30-6.


Again not yet many games in this year, even in the 1974 Kido yearbook there is only one game.

  • Wins the 5th New faces (Channel 12 TV) Tournament from Hane Yasumasa, 8d (he beat Takagi in the semi-final and Kawamura in the QF)
  • He won 2nd prize in the 5d+ section of the Oteai with a 7-1 score (83.75 point average).
  • Promotion to 6 dan

Games: [1973]. Total score this year is 30-11.


The major achievement is to become the challenger for the 22nd Nihon Kiin Championship. After beating the veteran player Sometani Kazuo 8d (born 1912), he takes on Kato, Ishida and Rin. His win against Ishida is in Takemiya style, just one week after Ishida became Meijin-Honinbo.

  • Kojima knocks him out of the Honinbo preliminaries in the first round.
  • Becomes challenger for the 22nd Nihon Kiin Championship, after beating Sometani Kazuo 8d, Kato, Ishida and Rin.
  • Takes the 10th place in the 11th Asahi Pro best Ten. First round win against Honda 9d in 108 moves, then loses to Rin Meijin by a big margin (these games were in fact played in the end of 1973). In the games for 9-10 place wins against Fujisawa Shuko, then loses to Ohira.
  • In the 18th Prime Minister Cup only wins the first game. This cup goes to Kobayashi.
  • Wins the 6th New faces (Channel 12 TV) Tournament, final against Kobayashi Koichi.
  • The total score for this year is 33 won, 9 lost.
  • Special Merit Prize by Kido magazine.

Games: [1974]. Total score this year is 33-9.


Kido said he was then the No. 1 young player. He was powerful and he was acquiring poise as an emerging star. He was also strong in the endgame, but evaluation of his true strength had to await his appearance in the major tournaments.

The first challenge for a major title almost succeeds. Cho is 2-1 up in the 22nd Nihon Kiin Championship title match against Sakata, and leading by about 10 points in game 4, when he makes a crucial mistake. He resigns and is more upset than everybody has ever seen him. Rin thought that he could have fought on: the game was not yet lost. In the 5th game he does not have a chance.

But he takes his revenge by taking the 12th Pro Best Ten Title, 3-0.

  • Reaches round 2 of the Honinbo Preliminary. Win against Takagi 7d, but then loss against Shimamura 9d.
  • In the Judan, losses against Kato and Sakata. The first game against Kato has to be replayed because of a triple ko.
  • Loses the 22nd Nihon Kiin Championship Title 2-3 against Sakata.
  • Beats Kada and Miyashita in the first Tengen league, before losing to Ohira.
  • Wins the 12th Asahi Pro Best Ten against Kato (Apr. 10, 21 and May 1st) . Before meeting Kato he has to beat Rin, Fujisawa Shuko, Takagawa and Sato Sunao (all 9 dan) Cho thus becomes the youngest title holder ever (in Japan).
  • Does not get very far in the 5th All Japan First and the 19th prime Minister Cup, both second round losses.
  • Loss against Otake in the 7th Channel 12 TV Tournament. Also no success in the 7th New Faces tournament of the same channel, loss against Kobayashi (who else?). They're hardly new faces anymore.
    Scores 2-2 in another TV tournament (NTV).
  • 7 dan (around Oct. 75).
  • On Dec. 28, Kitani dies.
  • Total score of 39-16 in the year.

Games: [1975]. Total score this year is 39-16-1.


  • According to Go Review Cho Beats Fujisawa Shuko 2-1 in the Asahi Top Eight Players Tournament. (Jan. 22, 29 and Feb. 5). I found the games in the Kido magazine, there is no mention of the tournament in any Kido Yearbook. So it seems it has been held only once.

There is a big change in the titles system in 1976, the Asahi Pro Best Ten and Top Eight Players tournaments disappear. The Kisei and the Gosei are new tournaments. So Cho is unlucky, he cannot defend his first two titles. The Nihon Kiin Championship disappears too and, merged with the Kansai Kiin Championship becomes the Tengen. New tournaments need to be won -- like the Oza title that he wins in the end of this year.

  • Earns himself a place in next years 2nd Meijin League by beating Kajiwara, Kudo and Ishida A. in the preliminaries. However fails to get into the Honinbo League.
  • Reaches only round 2 of the Tengen.
  • The challenger for the first Gosei-match is determined in a little 5 player tournament. Cho scores (1-3) only.
  • Reaches semifinal of 20th Prime Minister Cup.
  • Reaches only round 2 of the 1st Shinjin-O.
  • Four wins in a row to reach the Oza match (Fujisawa H., Takemiya, Rin and Kato).
  • Beats Otake 2-1 in the 24th Oza title match (Nov. 18, 25 and Dec. 9).
  • Reaches the Final of the 15th Judan Playoff, which is lost to Sakata. But most of that is already 1977.
  • 1977: Kido prize 1976 for highest number of wins (46-18) and prize for technique.

Games: [1976]. Total score this year is 46-18.



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