The Never-ending Road: Chapter 86 – The Center

By Leitbur

Joy to the world, the chapter is out. Let all commence to read!

Staring down at the black stone in the lower left corner, Suyon blinked in surprise. The diagonal, that was certainly not the expected reply. A pincer, or an attachment, even playing away, but the diagonal, it just wasn't used anymore. Not that Suyon wasn't familiar with all the joseki for it, but honestly he'd never seen it played against him in an official match before. Sure for fun, like in a pickup game between friends or during a teaching game someone might play it just to try it out, if for no other reason than to fully understand why it wasn't played.

Yet Hikaru had played it, not only played it in an official game where the fate of his team's victory could hang in the balance. Granted Hikaru had been playing pretty aggressively up until now, but this move was anything but that, it was... surreal. There was nothing wrong with the move itself of course, it was just slow in catching up to the disadvantage of komi compared to other moves such as a pincer.

Sitting back in his chair and raising his finger to his chin, Suyon tried to take it all in. Komi was the only real reason the move wasn't played anymore, but there was one key difference from normal; this was not being played in the opening of the game but more toward the mid-game. Corners didn't usually stay free this long, but more than sixty moves in now it could hardly be seen as the opening. That said Hikaru also hadn't overcome the komi yet in a way that would allow for this sort of move, in fact the current position on the board favored Suyon.

Had it been played in error, an impulse move due to his frustration at how the game was progressing? Lifting his eyes to look at his opponent Suyon blanched as a shockwave of intense passion struck him, a bead of sweat forming on his brow. Yet it was not the same as before. Up until now the intensity had been heated and fierce, but this was different, more measured, focused. No, this move had not been a mistake.

It was intentional, this was Hikaru's strategy to overcome him, just as he'd overcome what must have been his own anger at how this match had occurred. Taking a deep breath, Suyon returned his gaze to the board and pondered the position. Setting aside the unorthodox use of the move it certainly gave Hikaru a number of possibilities, especially if Suyon took the most standard reply and just played somewhere else. Hikaru could play along the bottom edge and set up a strong position from which to attack the stones Suyon had just spent a number of moves positioning in the lower right, or he could jump out to attack the center, or even return to take possession of a large amount of the left side of the board.

Responding had its own perils though as just as standard practice said that Suyon did not need to reply to this move, whether Suyon chose to or not could be academic since the diagonal was strong enough that Hikaru didn't need to reply either. That was the strength of the diagonal.

Reaching for a stone, Suyon placed it down at 8-16, continuing to establish his own position along the lower edge. Now it was time to see how Hikaru would respond. Tightening his fist, Suyon suddenly became aware of the moisture on his hand. His palms were sweating, which settled the matter, whatever had happened early on in this game, the Hikaru he knew and respected, the one he yearned to defeat, had returned.

"Shindo's response at 6-3 was well timed, it really changes his position on the upper edge of the board."

Nodding to Wang, So Chan Wan replied, "Yes, he's forcing Suyon to make a choice between the left edge and the upper edge. Still, I'm not sure Shindo can afford to give up either without a fight, it'll be an uphill battle at the least."

Leaning over the board, Chao Shi added, "I still don't understand why he played the diagonal though, rather slow if you ask me."

"I thought so too," Kurata replied, "but now the more I look at it, there's a lot he can do with it."

"Suyon defended at 4-6!"

Pausing, the group glanced up at the monitor and then Wang reached for a white stone and placed it down on the board and pondered the new position. Off to the side, Kosemura whispered over to Iijima, "What's the deal with this diagonal? Was it a bad move?"

Tilting his head slightly, Iijima answered, "No, it's an old move. Back in the last century it was extremely popular to respond to a low approach that way, but with komi in place just about everyone considers it too slow a response. The joseki Shindo played in particular is known as Shusaku's Diagonal, since Shusaku basically made it the standard in his time."

"Oh, Shusaku! Maybe that's why he played it, Yeong Ha made fun of Shusaku in the last tournament and Shindo was so upset. Then again, if it's not a good move then he messed up."

As Iijima began to reply the door behind him opened and turning oward it he gasped as the figure of Koyo Toya Meijin stepped into the room. From the table where the others had also stopped to look, So Chan Wan said, "Ah Toya-Sensei, you made it I see. Please come in."

"Thank you So-Sensei, I hope you all don't mind if I join you, it's been a long drive from the airport."

"No, not at all," Kurata replied, motioning to the chair next to him. "This is quite the game we have here between Shindo and Suyon. We can replay it for you."

Nodding as he took a seat, Toya turned his gaze to the other two boards on the table as the players began to clear the board in front of him. Interesting, both of those games were progressing quite nicely, but since Kurata had said Suyon was playing Shindo, that must have meant...

"I heard your team did quite well yesterday in the China League Toya-Sensei," Wang interjected. "I believe you'll be playing my team next, don't expect me to go easy on you, I still haven't forgiven you after the way your team beat us last time."

Smiling, Toya nodded. "I wouldn't have it any other way Wang-Sensei." Turning his gaze to the board before him as the first stone was placed again onto the board, Toya continued, "I see you chose to switch board positions So-Sensei, do you mind if I ask why you did so?"

His own eyes focused on the board as he watched Kurata and Wang play out the game, So answered, "I felt it was our best chance to win."

Nodding, Toya replied, "I see. Because of Suyon's rivalry with Shindo I take it?"

"Partly yes," So replied. Truthfully it hadn't been So's idea at all, but given that he'd ultimately agreed to go along with Yeong Ha's plan it was effectively now his, he had to own it, for better or for worse.

"I take it then that my son is playing..."

"Yeong Ha yes."

Nodding again, Toya began to open his mouth to reply when he froze, eyes focused and powerful looking at one stone before him. Pausing, Toya exhaled. "The diagonal."

"Yes Sensei," Kosemura interjected, "We were just discussing it when you walked in, it's quite-"

"Genius" Toya interrupted. "Before it was played I wasn't even thinking about it, but now that I see it there it makes absolute sense." Eyes around the room lifted to look at the former Meijin as his own eyes studied the position. Yes, if he was reading this correctly then Hikaru had quite the deep and sophisticated strategy planned, one that was about to make this game turn around. Not that there was any guarantee that Hikaru could pull it off, and there would be plenty of chances for his opponent to interfere with the strategy. Still, the strategy was there, and it was sound. "The flexibility it gives him in that corner cannot be overstated, especially in such an open area of the board. Suyon's strategy to respond on the lower edge looks smart at first, but I think he might have been better off allowing Shindo that small part and defending the left side. Shindo is likely to play-"

"Shindo played at 3-11!"

Toya nodded. "Yes, there."

"I see, yes..." Kurata replied, "Yes now the left side is threatened in two directions. Once Suyon defends Shindo can play up along the edge and..."

"Unless he chooses to attack, here for example."

As the managers began to discuss in earnest once more, Toya turned his head to the player seated next to him and said, "Pardon me, Wang Shi I believe it is. Would you be so kind as to replay this game here for me, I'd like to see how my son's game has been going please."

Exhaling slightly as his opponent set his white stone down at 4-3, connecting his stones and basically claiming the upper left corner, Yeong Ha gave the slightest smile. The talk about Akira Toya had been warranted for sure, he was playing quite the powerful game, but the talk that he could defeat Yeong Ha was likely exaggerated. Had Akira seen it yet, the plan that was slowly unfolding upon the board?

Akira had done well to take up position in the upper and lower left corners, and while initial position slightly favored Akira, the flow of the game and what would soon come to pass favored Yeong Ha. The palms of his hands had begun to sweat for a moment early on, but it had not come back since. Akira had barred those fangs at him, but so far they'd shown very little bite.

Reaching for a black stone, Yeong Ha set it down at 10-4, thrusting between Akira's two stones on the upper edge. This was the beginning, that one-point jump from earlier was at the moment Akira's strongest claim to the center of the board, a way to cut in from relative safety and eat up the center, allowing him to use his position on the outer edges to maintain a lead. Now though, it was not so easy, he had thrust his stones between them, forcing Akira to respond, and there was only one way he could now.


Watching Akira's fingers leave the board with a new stone at 9-4, Yeong Ha's smile widened as he reached over and poured himself some more tea, bringing the cup to his lips to sip it calmly. He'd blocked, which really was the simplest and logical thing he could have done. It also strengthened his position on the upper side, allowed him to put pressure on Yeong Ha's own position, the four stones that which had been pushing in for influence in the upper left. Yes, it looked like a logical and proper strategy, but just as with life, every moved played, every position taken, something was given back, and the truly great players knew how to take what they were given and allow it to grow.

Setting down his cup and wiping the moisture of the cup from his fingers Yeong Ha reached for his own stone and placed it down at 9-5, cross-cutting the block. Lifting his gaze to his opponent, Yeong Ha watched Akira's eyes move along the board. Did he see it yet, the blow that was about to strike him? All it was going to cost Yeong Ha was those four stones, a small price to pay to claim victory.

Across the board Akira reached for a stone and placed it down at 8-5, putting Yeong Ha's cross-cut into atari. Yeong Ha would extend of course, and Akira would need to pursue, allowing each of them to form a bit of a wall, splitting the central position on the upper side of the board. It wasn't ideal, not in the slightest, but if he could get his wall to extend three or four stones he could turn and attack Yeong Ha's position on the left side, possibly taking almost a quarter of the board.

Klak. Klak.

Certainly it would give Yeong Ha a nice bit of territory in the right center of the board, but not as much as Akira would claim, not with the upper right corner also in Akira's position. That Yeong Ha had allowed him to invade the corner and take it from him had been a mistake, and with three corners now firmly under Akira's control he just needed to extend and diminish, reduce the size of the remaining territory available and see to it that each exchange came out in a draw, allowing him to maintain this lead. Even if Yeong Ha gained a few points here and there it wouldn't be an issue since-


Akira blinked. Yeong Ha had played the hane at 8-7, preventing Akira from extending his wall farther. It was annoying, but not all that problematic. With a cross-cut of his own he could now put the 8-7 stone in atari and continue the wall down, perhaps giving Yeong Ha a couple more points in the process. Taking a stone and cross-cutting at 9-7, Akira watched as his opponent calmly extended to 10-6, putting one of Akira's own stones in atari. He could keep chasing, extend to 10-7 to force another atari and make Yeong Ha extend again but there would be no need. Like the stone that had just been atari'd the stone Akira had just played had never been meant to survive, just a sacrifice to extend his position.

Akira gasped. A sacrifice, but that meant... scanning over the board Akira felt the moisture on his palm begin to form as he played through new sequences. Akira's initial thought that the hane at 8-7 was an attempt to grab a little bit more central territory had been in error, it had a greater purpose. What it had really done was form an extra cut point for Yeong Ha to exploit. The moment Akira played a non-critical move, a simple extension or non-atari threat Yeong Ha would cut back, using his 7-5 stone from earlier to atari Akira's own advancing wall. Akira would connect to defend it but then... Closing his eyes Akira inhaled deeply. No, connecting them would be a waste of time, those stones would already be dead, his entire position on the upper edge would be dead, caught between Yeong Ha's two groups of stones without enough room for an extra eye.

He could defend against it still, connect the cut point and remain alive, put pressure on those four black stones in the upper right and then... Eyes opening wide, breath held, Akira scanned the board again. But if he connected Yeong Ha would extend to 7-7 forcing him to... it would end the same, he'd likely be forced into a battle to keep the upper edge stones alive, one he might win but the cost would be great. No, he had to atari first, and with that extra stone he could maintain life.


Watching as Yeong Ha calmly extended at 8-8, Akira reached out himself and connected at 7-6, sealing off the cut point. Exhaling, Akira reached for his teacup. It wasn't quite over yet, there were a few more pokes and prods that would be sent at his upper group but they were salvageable now so long as he-


Inhaling again, Akira looked at the black stone now sitting at 7-9, his mind racing. Comprehension had struck him just before Yeong Ha had played the stone, this hadn't been about taking the upper edge, it had been about securing the center. The hook that Yeong Ha had just played was capable of keeping his position from extending into the center, and glancing around the board a bead of sweat formed on his forehead. Yes Akira had control of three of the corners, but all of those corners were now boxed out with black walls and groups, effectively creating a large wall around the center of the board.

It was an all too common trap, focusing on regional position without considering global position. All of his thoughts had been on expanding his position in the upper left, in using it to increase his position that he hadn't thought about what else was going on. Even before when he'd invaded the upper right, Yeong Ha had just taken the time to solidify his position in the center, and when they'd battled it out for life on the right edge, once again Yeong Ha had solidified position in the center. Every time Akira had made an attack or a choice, Yeong Ha had taken what was given as a result and used it to slowly strengthen and reinforce the board, and he was about to create a truly massive piece of territory.

There was still some hope to counter it, he could push back and try to maneuver around while Yeong Ha kept his group alive in the upper left, protected it from being squashed between the two groups Akira now had.

Klak. Klak.

Klak. Klak.

Klak. Klak.

Wait, black was playing at 7-10, not 4-6 as he'd thought? He was defending a cut into the center while leaving his four stones in the upper left vulnerable to capture. No, he wasn't leaving them vulnerable, he'd sacrificed them in order to secure this central position. Placing his own white stone down at 4-6, sealing those stones fates now, Akira watched as Yeong Ha played away, pressing his wall on the right side down further, preventing him from trying to hook into the center from the right.

Was it over now? Had Yeong Ha bested him? Taking a deep breath Akira scanned the board with his eyes, looking for an opening, a place to approach. The lower edge was still wide open but if he tried to establish himself there then black would simply play to cut off any central push, surrender a little bit of the lower edge to protect that massive central position and then advance into the lower edge himself.

Closing his eyes, Akira began playing through the positions again, his mind focused, looking for a solution. There were some ways to chip at the center, to try and reduce the size of it now, but whether that would be enough he didn't know. Counting it one way, then another, replace one move with another, recalculate... it seemed like he'd be short. Perhaps attacking another part of his territory, capture a small group to extend his position from. That might work, but that too felt off. What should he do?


The sound of stone on wood echoed in Akira's left ear, and vibrated through the center of his being. Hikaru was sitting next to him, facing off in the First Chair position. The sound of stone on wood again, crisp and confident, Hikaru was playing his style of Go, he was taking the fight to his opponent now. Yes, Hikaru, he was the First Chair, Akira was the Second Chair. He couldn't let Hikaru win all while losing himself, even with an opponent such as this. Hikaru was playing his own style of Go, now Akira would do the same, and that meant only one thing: attack!


Opening his eyes and releasing his stone confidently down at 9-12, straight into the center of Yeong Ha's territory, Akira felt the wave of belief rolling over him once more, washing across the board toward his opponent, a raging storm. This was his Go, aggression, dominance. That stone, he would make it gain life, life in the center of all that huge territory, and if he could not then there was one more advantage to playing there. So far this game Ko Yeong Ha had been taking all that Akira gave him, now to see how he would respond when Akira moved to take all he gave away again.

Smiling as white made the crosscut at 11-3, Waya paused a moment before reaching for his own black stone and placing it down at 12-3, atari on white's most recent stone. When the match had started he'd been confused by the conservative nature Cho had been showing, unsure of what to make of it. He still wasn't entirely sure what it was about, and the more they played the more confused Waya became. As it stood now it seemed more likely that Cho had an identical twin who was less skilled than he was because it felt like a completely different player than he'd watched this morning.

There were things that could help account for that, fatigue from playing another game so soon, overconfidence causing poor play, or just completely misreading the type of player he was facing, but this really had not been the match Waya had come in expecting, or wanted for that matter. What he'd wanted was to go at it swinging hard, trading blows and beating Cho into the ground for the way he'd disrespected Qian earlier, but the way things had been going it felt more like Waya was just picking on his opponent.


Cho had played at 7-5, trying to stretch out his position and perhaps even create a framework for taking a chunk of the center. The last ten moves or so had begun to show some aggression, but it was a desperate aggression. Undoubtedly Cho was seeing what Waya was, that seventy-two moves into the game Waya had him on the brink with control of multiple corners and threatening control of the upper edge. If he didn't get aggressive now and try to take back some of these positions Waya could soon be ahead by thirty or forty points, maybe even more.

The strategy wasn't going to work though, Waya wouldn't allow it to. The fact that this match hadn't been what he'd hoped for didn't matter, his teammates were relying on him to pick up a win, to act as an insurance policy since both of the other matches were tricky match ups. Besides, winning even one of his matches would go a long way toward quieting those who said that Japan's chances of victory rested with their twin-headed monster in the first two boards, that Waya was likely just a sacrifice compared to the talent levels of the Korean and Chinese teams. All he had to do now was wrap this game up.

The simple play would be to reply at 6-4, extending his group along the upper edge toward the corner, but that also would allow Cho to really position himself well in the center if he chose to. Alternatively Waya could challenge at 8-5, then crosscut when Cho blocked him, and attack his position in the center as well as try and extend his position on the left side even more, especially if he could capture that 7-5 stone. There was a risk of course, getting into a battle here could result in him losing his group on the upper edge and allow Cho back into the game. On the other hand if Waya won the exchange the game would essentially be over, whereas if he played the safer move the game would likely play out awhile longer before he could secure a certain victory, allowing for more opportunities for a desperate attempt to pay off.

Ultimately his choice boiled down to a simple question, did he believe he could win the exchange with this opponent, slice him down in one powerful attack or would he be better off parrying his opponent's attacks and leading him along while he solidified his own position? Taking a deep breath and glaring up at his opponent for a moment, Waya grinned. The choice really wasn't that difficult, because the real question was which strategy felt more like himself.

Reaching for a black stone Waya slapped it down at the 8-5 point. Let's go Cho!

Placing his curved index finger to his lips, Yeong Ha pondered the board. At first glance Akira's attempt to invade the center looked less than hopeful, but as the moves had begun to play out a more complicated story was arising. The reality was that unless Yeong Ha allowed it Akira's central stones would die, but that wasn't the problem, it was that Akira was using the threat of the group surviving to invade around the center, pushing in on the left side and taking Yeong Ha's five stone group, but more devastating than that extending down the left side almost completely. Now Akira was doing the same thing on the bottom edge.

It was a very subtle approach, one that Yeong Ha had not attributed to Akira from all the games he'd reviewed from the young pro in preparation for this tournament. A hane here, a cut there, extending down the edge, each move gave Akira a small addition to his territory, and if Yeong Ha ignored or attacked back instead of following and defending Akira could attack the center with the opening provided and threaten life. That couldn't be allowed, if Akira made life in the center then Yeong Ha would lose, and lose badly. No, there was no choice but to continue to defend, to surrender position and territory, likely even the lead at this point, to keep himself in the game.


Crosscutting at 9-17, Yeong Ha reached for his cup of tea, preparing to take a sip. Before the cup could reach his lips however a white stone struck the board.


The cup hovering less than an inch from his lips, Yeong Ha hesitated a moment before setting the cup back down and wiping his palms with a cloth. Damn, yet another little push into the center, and this one was particularly annoying because of the threat it could pose. Unless Yeong Ha replied now Akira would place his three stones in atari and effectively break the wall of the center, flooding in and reducing Yeong Ha's territory by twenty points. It was easy enough to stop, but looking at it more broadly it was part of a slow encircling that with one mistake could allow his opponent to punch in or make life in any number of central positions.


Releasing his black stone at 14-13, atari, Yeong Ha returned his finger to his lip, puzzling out the board. Yes, that was how it worked, Akira would push from that side and then move to secure the right edge, or perhaps push in on the lower right corner. So long as Akira held the initiative things would continue to slowly worsen for Yeong Ha, yet attempting to break that initiative would be quite troublesome since to play away would allow Akira to pounce and secure victory. It was quite vexing indeed.

This was not how he'd seen this game playing out, not at all. Certainly he had not expected Akira to be a pushover, after all he'd been hearing stories about the former Meijin's son long before he'd heard of Hikaru, but Yeong Ha was the superior player, he had been sure of it. The easy excuse would be that he was feeling fatigued from his match against Chao Shi, but that would have been just that, an excuse to hide the truth; right now Akira Toya was outplaying him.

Exhaling as he watched Akira atari his stone at 9-18, Yeong Ha began reading ahead, searching for a way out. There had to be a weakpoint, a place to turn this back to his favor. Those in the Go world knew that Hikaru Shindo and Akira Toya were a fierce two-headed dragon, that it was basically a 1st Chair match on both boards and that even Yeong Ha would be pushed to the brink by such opponents. To the fans back in Korea and around the world it would look and play quite differently. Ko Yeong Ha Ch'eonweon, the titleholder on the verge of taking over the mantle as the top young player in the entire world on his way to be the best period, had lost as the 2nd Chair to the son of Toya Meijin. Not only was he playing as 2nd Chair, but it would show that he wasn't even good enough to win as 2nd Chair, that he wasn't able to beat what Japan's team considered to be its second best young pro.

Feeling the beads of sweat forming on his forehead, Yeong Ha struggled to will them back, finally wiping them away as he fained swiping a lock of hair back into place. Perhaps this had been a mistake switching opponents. The thought that he'd lose to Akira had never really dawned on him, that Akira was considered Hikaru's equal and rival for good reason. All he'd really thought was that he'd given himself a 60% chance of winning against Hikaru, and that his odds would be higher against Akira. That had been in error, he saw that now, and that left two possibilities. Either Akira was much stronger than expected, even stronger than Hikaru, or that Hikaru was even stronger than Akira.

A shiver ran down Yeong Ha's spine at that thought, and for the briefest of moments he pondered what was happening next to him with Suyon. Had he pitted his friend against a true monster, even if that monster was the opponent Suyon had wanted all along? No, he couldn't think about that now, he needed to keep his mind on this game, this formidable opponent. Monster or no, Suyon would have to handle it himself, win or lose, right now Yeong Ha had his own dragon to slay, and he would find a way to do it... somehow.

As the others leaned over the board showing the battles raging on in the first and second board matches, off at the end of the tables Qian Lei sat alone, watching the screen of the third match. Flicking a hair out from in front of her eyes, Qian exhaled as her frown increased; this had not been the match she'd hoped to see. This morning she'd put everything out there, played her best game, outread and outplayed Cho in what had felt at the time like a clash for the ages.

This match before her now was nothing like that one had been. Whether it was from fatigue due to the match earlier or something else Cho was not even recognizable as the same opponent she'd played this morning, and Waya was taking full advantage. What was upsetting her was that while Waya had gotten a full look at the current her, how she was playing and what he might expect tomorrow, Qian wasn't getting a similar look at Waya's current skill. Certainly his moves looked crisper and focused, but how much of that was just Cho's inability to do much in the way of fight back.

"This move by Shindo here, do you think he's looking to..."

Concentration shifting back from the excited comment of Wang to her left Qian focused her eyes on the screen as Waya placed another black stone down. With that move Waya had put the capture race squarely in his favor meaning Cho would need to run and hope to find a way out or lose everything. Even if he could though Waya had cut off the influence that group could create in the center, effectively sealing the game. Cho needed to escape Waya's pursuit long enough to regain control of the capture race if he wanted to stay alive, and reading ahead Qian didn't see a path.

Why knowing just how strong Waya had become meant so much to her Qian did not know, but it did, and it had ever since she'd heard Waya would be playing in the Hokuto Cup this year. Actually, if she was honest it had started before that, shortly after Waya had left China. That nagging voice in her mind saying that if she slacked off Waya would pass her, that if she failed to win this match or read through a problem Waya would surpass her, it just wouldn't go away. The simplest answer was that he'd sparked some sort of rivalry within her, a foreign opponent whom she strove against, but even that didn't feel quite right.

Regardless of the answer, one thing was clear, if she wanted to know how far Waya had come since their last game, she would have to measure it herself. The date and time of that measurement had already been set, a date she was very much looking forward to.

Crosscutting at 4-7, Waya sat back comfortably in his chair and waited. The match was over, his opponent had to know that by now. The battle on the upper edge had moved toward the left corner and the result had remained the same, white's stones were doomed. Even if by some miracle Cho was able to find a means to keep them alive his attempt to take central control had been thwarted. Waya's stones were in a position to make an attack on the center and claim at least some territory there, more than enough to win even if Cho found life, which he wouldn't.


So Cho wanted to keep trying a bit longer, extending at 3-8 down the left edge. In a normal game that would have been a prudent move, but Cho needed something more dynamic and aggressive at this point, not that such a move was there. Once White's group died there was no chance of a comeback, and Team Japan would have its first win of this round.


Extending himself at 5-7, further dooming his opponent, Waya exhaled. He'd done it, he'd been able to win and do his part in this tournament, and now he just had tomorrow... and Qian.



Attempting to make space at the top wasn't going to work either. Cho had to know it at this point, he had to know he'd lost. There was no point in denying the reality of the board, it wasn't even close and winning a small victory by gaining life would be meaningless, all he had to do was look at the board. It was a delusion to think that he might somehow be able to fight back.

Chuckling under his breath, Waya hid a smirk. How many times had he been guilty of that, chasing a futile position out of pure stubbornness and denial? Perhaps he should start taking his own advice, not that he'd ever do that of course, no fun in that.


Cho had extended down the left side, was he planning to drag this out longer, did he think he could lure Waya into some false sense of security and surround his stones? Well time to crush that hope.


Placing his stone into the atari point at 5-5, Waya leaned in slightly, his passion fuming back up as he went on the attack once more. His opponent would have to capture that stone immediately or else his only hope of living by securing Waya's group would end, and once he did Waya would play 6-6, forcing an atari that Cho would have to fill to protect or else again lose it all. Then Waya would play 4-3 and the white stones would be dead in three moves, long before Cho could surround his own central group. Cho had to know this, Waya had the edges, the corners, and now the center, he-"

"I resign."

Though Waya didn't know the words that had been said themselves, the lowering of Cho's head when he spoke them and the complete deflation of the atmosphere surrounding the board told him all that he needed to know. The game was his.

Bowing his head and thanking Cho for the match, Waya leaned back in his chair and glanced up at the ceiling. He'd won, he'd actually won his first 3rd Chair match in the Hokuto Cup on the international stage. All that talk that he didn't matter, his game was Team Japan's throwaway match, what were they going to say now? Well if both Akira and Hikaru won then he supposed it wasn't going to matter how he did, although he had to admit that scenario brought with it another word that sent excitement coursing through his body. Sweep.

Speaking of, it was time to see how his teammates were fairing. Rising from his seat, Waya turned to his left and looked over at Akira's board.

Author's Notes:

Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas. I know it's been awhile since I updated, and you're probably wondering what happened. Well, it seems I might have tempted fate a bit with my last notes. You see, I almost died. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say I was hospitalized over the summer and required surgery or else I would have died. Having that sort of experience, and time to think while sitting in a hospital bed waiting to have surgery and knowing I was otherwise going to die helps to give some perspective and clarity on priorities and what is important. When I woke up after the surgery the doctor kept asking me questions to see if I was thinking clearly and all I did was ask to see my son over and over instead of answering. Eventually they took me back to my room where my son and mother were waiting for me.

The road to recovery has been long, while I am physically fine after the surgery my body would experience massive fatigue for months after while working or doing other activities. This made writing difficult, but I also have found a newfound desire to spend as much time as possible with my son after facing the real possibility of what his life would be like if I had not made it.

I am pretty much back to normal now, but I still plan on prioritizing my son over everything else. I've gotten him into Queen music lately (my son plays the drums and wants to be Roger Taylor now) and we play a game where I play the beginning of a Queen song and he has to try and name it. My son has asked me to put a parody of a Queen song into this story actually similar to how I did with the Major General's Song back in Chapter 46, so we'll see.

Now that it's over I can tell you that Waya's match was based on the 30th Gosei Tournament match between Cho Chikun and Yamashita Keigo, played on 1-27-2005.

No questions this week, so I'll just say that I intend to keep going and with my energy back I hope to update more frequently than this last chapter took. I was determined to get this chapter finished by Christmas and have one last chapter this year.

Next chapter we will finish the Japan vs. Korea match, and I promise no cliffhangers, you will know who won.