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75th Anniversary of the Atom Bomb Game

August 6, 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  Our generous benefactor, Mr. Kaoru Iwamoto 9p, was almost killed by this bomb.  His Honinbo championship game with Mr. Utaro Hashimoto was moved at the last moment to the outskirts of Hiroshima, about 10 kilometers upwind from the center of the destruction. The blast disrupted the beginning of the last day their three-day game, but nobody in the playing room was badly hurt, so they set up again and finished.  Only later, as they walked to their host’s house, did they get the terrible news of what happened as refugees came streaming from the center of Hiroshima.

Iwamoto Sensei’s wartime experiences motivated him to continue to share and teach the game of Go as a pathway for international understanding.

Back in 1926, he was one of the Japanese pros who encouraged the Chinese prodigy Wu Qingyuan to come to Japan.  Mr. Wu, better known as Go Seigen, became one of the strongest players of the 20th Century.  After the war, which ended in 1945, Iwamoto Sensei devoted a lot of his efforts to teaching and outreach. He still played tournament Go, successfully defending his Honinbo title in 1947, and playing in tournaments until the mid 1970’s, but that wasn’t his only focus. For example, in the 1970’s, James Kerwin of Minnesota, the first western pro in the Nihon Ki-in, was one of Iwamoto’s students.  

Iwamoto Sensei’s success in the Tokyo real estate market in the 1980’s allowed him to expand on his ability to teach and share Go internationally by endowing Go Centers in Seattle, New York, Sao Paulo, and Amsterdam. Thanks to Iwamoto Sensei’s generosity, Seattle has had a Go Center for 25 years. We were happy to have him visit us in 1995 and 1996.  Mr. Iwamoto passed away in 1999, after 97 years.

The other player in the Atom Bomb Game, Mr. Hashimoto, also helped the Seattle Go Center significantly, if indirectly. He was the founder of the Kansai Ki-in, the professional Go association in the region of Japan around Osaka. The Kansai Ki-in has sponsored many trips by the professional Ryo Maeda to Seattle. Mr. Maeda is one of our favorite teachers.

Like Iwamoto Sensei, the Seattle community seeks to promote the crucial necessity of international understanding through its beautiful yearly memorial to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb victims. “From Hiroshima to Hope” generally uses floating lanterns at Green Lake — except that this year, it is a virtual event. To find links, go to Hiroshima to Hope.

You can see the Atom Bomb Game below if you are viewing this post on the news page, rather than the front page. It is the 3rd Japanese Honinbo, title match #2.  Mr. Iwamoto had black.  (Mr. Hashimoto won the game; Mr. Iwamoto eventually won the championship.)  The last move before the atomic bomb blast was 106, which was played at the end of the 2nd day, Aug 5.  The game was long form – each side had 13 hours. That is why it took three days. On the third day the players had just finished setting up and replaying the previous days’ moves when the blast came.  This game is displayed on the outside west wall of the Seattle Go Center. In this setting, it is played out to move 74.  There is a detailed analysis of the game in Modern Master Games, Vol. 1, The Dawn of Tournament Go by Rob van Zeijst and Richard Bozulich (Kiseido Publishing)