Hon’inbō Shūsaku

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Hon’inbō Shūsaku.

Hon’inbō Shūsaku (jap. 本因坊 秀策; native 桑原 虎次郎, Kuwabara Torajirō; * 6 June 1829 (traditional: Bunsei 12/5/5) in Innoshima, Bingo Province (present: Innoshima-Tonoura, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture), Japan; † 3 September 1862 (Bunkyū 2/8/10) in Edo (present: Tokyo))[1] was a Japanese go player.

The Shūsaku opening, which he invented (and named after him), was still played into the 20th century.


Hon’inbō Shūsaku was born under the name Kuwabara Torajirō, the son of the merchant Kuwabara Wazō(桑原 輪三), and learned Go from his mother when he was five. At 7, he was discovered by the lord over Mihara Castle, Asano Tadahiro, who assigned Torajirō as a teacher to Abbot Hōshin(葆真) of the Buddhist temple Hōsen-ji.[2] In 1837, on Asano’s recommendation, he joined the famous Hon’inbō Go school in the capital city of Edo, receiving its 1st master’s degree(dan) two years later at age 11.[1][2] Upon his coming of age at 15, he shed his childhood name of Torajirō and took his adult name of Shūsaku.[2] In 1846, at the age of 17, he played against the grandmaster Genan Inseki, who was the head of the Inoue school. He won this game with a move that is still known today as mimiaka no myōshu(耳赤の妙手, “master move of the red ears”), because Inseki’s ears turned red.[1][2]

In 1848 he received the 6th dan and was appointed successor to the head of the Go school, Hon’inbō Shūwa (1820-1873),[1] whose daughter Hana(花) he married.[2] The following year he participated for the first time in the Oshirogo, the Shōgun’s go tournament in his presence, where he won 19 consecutive victories until his death.[1][2] This was one of the main reasons why he was dubbed “The Invincible”. The latter partly because he almost never lost with Black. However, in Shūsaku’s time the komi rule didn’t yet exist, which allows White to add points to his score at the end of the game. So he could often hold the advantage of the first move with Black until the end of the game.

Hon’inbō Shūsaku died in 1862 at the age of 33 in the wake of a cholera epidemic.[1][2]


Even today – 150 years after his death – professional Go players and amateurs replay many of his games to learn from them.

In the manga Hikaru no Go, one of the main characters is the ghost Sai, who had previously accompanied Shūsaku.

On June 6, 2014, a Google Doodle commemorated his 185th birthday.[3]


Web links

Commons: Hon’inbō Shūsaku– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. a b c d e f 本因坊秀策.In:朝日日本歴史人物事典 at Retrieved June 6, 2014 (Japanese).
  2. a b c d e f g 尾道出身棋士「本因坊秀策」の紹介.尾道市囲碁のまちづくり推進協議会 (“ Go Support Association Onomichi”), accessed June 6, 2014 (Japanese).
  3. Honinbo Shusaku and the Go Advantage with Black.Retrieved April 5, 2016.