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AUG 20, 2013

Striving to Overcome Adversity, Part 7: My Third Son’s Last National Elementary School “Go” Tournament

By Yoshito Hori

Back in 2010 my three eldest sons were featured in a two-hour NHK TV program as “Japan’s strongest Go-playing three brothers.” Since then the oldest has finished elementary school, the second son also graduated, and my third son became the last of the famed “three brothers” (there are actually five Hori brothers but in the world of Go they are known as the “three brothers”—I hope my fourth and fifth boys will rise to the challenge). I have written regularly about my children’s Go challenges since the essay titled Striving to Overcome Adversity, Part 1: Personal Development in an Affluent Environment (in Japanese only). Their challenges are ongoing.

The three boys consistently remade the glorious Go-tournament history of their school, Kudan Elementary: 1) Six consecutive-year winner of the Tokyo district tournament, and 2) Two-time winner of the national tournament and among the best eight for five years in a row. Prior to that, no school had won the national title three times.

This year’s national tournament was the sixth consecutive one for both Kudan Elementary and my third son, who has competed in this tournament since he was a first-grader. It was also his last challenge as an elementary school player. The following are my Tweets covering the event live.

[Day 1: Sunday, July 28]
It’s the time of year again to wear the Kudan Elementary Go Team T-shirt. The National Elementary School Team Go Tournament kicks off today, starting with the qualifying rounds. Will Kudan Elementary make it to the final round six years in a row? I am accompanying the team as their cheer leader!

Last year’s winner, the Kudan Elementary team. Apparently their reputation has preceded them and the team is the subject of much media coverage. They are shown here being interviewed by Igo and Shogi Channel. However, they cannot be complacent. The first round finished with a narrow 2-1 win against the team representing Fukui Prefecture. Buckle down for the next match, Kudan!

【National Elementary School Team Go Tournament Update】 Kudan Elementary wins 3-0 against the Nagasaki team in the second round. In the third round, Kudan expects to face the winner of the match between the Gunma and Saitama teams. Winning the third round will take Kudan Elementary to the final round for the impressive sixth consecutive year. The national tournament, where prefectural champions meet over a two-day period, is the Go equivalent of Koshien high school baseball.

Scene from the National Elementary School Team Go Tournament held at Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association). Each team consists of three players. The venue is silent except for the occasional click of the stones being placed on the board and the noise of the game clock. Quiet battles of intellect unfold.

【National Elementary School Team Go Tournament Update】 Kudan Elementary wins the third round of the preliminaries 3-0. With this the team achieves the feat of advancing to the nation’s top eight for the sixth consecutive year, following their sixth consecutive victory in the Tokyo district tournament. My third son has been on the team on all occasions. These records are not likely to be broken easily. I am overjoyed, and wish the players the best of luck tomorrow!

The final rounds await tomorrow. The best eight include two teams from Tokyo, two from Nagoya, and one each from Kyoto and Kawasaki. In addition to these big city teams, teams from Isesaki and Maibara have also proceeded to the top eight.
@Nihonkiin_pr: 
News: National Elementary and Junior High School Team Go Tournament now down to the best eight teams(in Japanese only)

[Day 2: Monday, July 29]
Day 2 of the National Elementary School Team Go Tournament has begun. Only the clicking sounds of the stones and the sound of the game clocks break the silence. The unique battle of intellect has started. Parents in the audience must not utter a word. We pray silently as we look on with bated breath. Go, Kudan, go!

【National Elementary School Team Go Tournament Update】First match of the final rounds. Kudan Elementary takes a narrow victory at 2-1! A very grueling round indeed. Not good for your heart. Next up is the semifinals. Our team is up against the Kanagawa Prefecture team in a bid to proceed to the finals. Today’s Sankei Shimbun carried a photo and mention of my third son. My thanks to the newspaper for sponsoring the tournament.

【National Elementary School Team Go Tournament Update】 Kudan Elementary makes it to the finals after winning 3-0! Now there is only the final round between them and their second consecutive national tournament victory. We are now going into the lunch break. In the final round our team faces the winner of the Tokyo against Kyoto match.

The final round has begun. It turned out to be Tokyo against Tokyo, like it was five years ago when Kudan Elementary took its first national tournament victory. Kudan defeated the same team 2-1 back in June at the Tokyo district preliminaries. We’ll wait and see how the final round turns out. Do your best, Kudan!

【National Elementary School Team Go Tournament Update】 Kudan wins! Hurrah! It was a smashing 3-0 victory. For Kazuto, my third son, this means avenging his personal defeat in the Tokyo tournament. Congratulations to the team on their second consecutive victory, and to my third son for his third victory! This brings his elementary school Go career to a very successful conclusion.

The Kudan Elementary team giving media interviews following their tournament victory. The three sixth-graders are classmates. The championship trophy behind them is being inscribed with the letters “Kudan Elementary School” for the third time. The winning prize includes free airline tickets as well as a year’s supply of Aquarius sports drink. Congratulations!

The award ceremony has begun following Kudan Elementary School’s victory. This is the sixth time I have attended this ceremony. There are four more years until my fifth son finishes elementary school, so I look forward to attending the ceremony for as many more years. Excuse me for the deluge of doting-parent entries!

By the way, the winner of the junior high school division of the tournament was Kaisei Junior High. Finalists included top-achieving schools such as Azabu and Nada. Regular junior high finalists in the six years of the tournament that I have seen include Junior High School at Komaba, University of Tsukuba and Komaba Toho Junior High School in Tokyo, Makuhari Junior High School in Chiba and Rakunan Junior High School in Kyoto. Naturally it seems, academically distinguished schools have strong Go players.

Congratulations, Kudan Elementary!
News: Kudan Elementary (Tokyo) and Kaisei Junior High (Tokyo) take the tournament trophies [10th National Elementary and Junior High School Team Go Tournaments] July 29 (in Japanese only)

So, this is how the “Strongest Go-playing three brothers,” made history in elementary school Go. My responsibility as parent is to make sure my fourth and fifth sons carry the baton so as to become known as the “Strongest Go-playing five brothers.” As I have written in my “Striving to Overcome Adversity” essays, adversity enables growth. Without it humans cease to grow.

If you hold your children dear, give them challenges; if you don’t, spoil them. Children only develop when given affectionate challenges. Go is a very useful tool for achieving this.

I believe so because playing Go is inseparable from defeat. The agony of losing a game could drive even a grownup to tears. Only those who overcome defeat and train their intellect and mind can become strong Go players. The will to endure training, the ability to concentrate in a win-or-lose situation, a deep game philosophy—these aspects have to be mobilized continuously for two to three hours daily. That is very demanding. But overcoming the ordeal brings results, which is where the sense of achievement and joy lies. Once you experience this, you will in subsequent life be able to repeat the successful experience of setting goals, sustaining efforts toward goals, and achieving them. It is for this reason that I want to keep on giving my fourth and fifth sons opportunities to learn this through Go.

Not being as attentive as one likes to be toward the fourth and fifth children is among the frustrating things about being a parent of five children. I know this is not a valid excuse. I want to do as much as I can for them as a parent. If you hold your children dear, you must keep on giving them challenges.

Advance by overcoming adversities and develop a strong mind!


July 30, 2013
Written at home 
Yoshito Hori