Encountering Rin Kaiho, The Doubly-Bent Waist


At 23, he became the Meijin title holder, the youngest ever in Japan Go history. His moves were turtle-like paced. plain and slow. well, not exactly. Perhaps "elephant-like paced" is more appropriate. We all know not to mess around with elephants, of course, particularly, those that do not give up. I do not know how "doubly-bent waist" is related to "not giving up easily". But anyway, that is also his nickname.

Rin Kaiho is his Japanese name, or is the name that westerners are familiar with. His original Chinese name actually is Lin2 Hai3 Feng1, where Lin is a common Chinese last name, Hai stands for ocean, and Feng for mountains.

In person, I have seen Lin three times in my life. The first time was when he advanced to 8 dan, and paid a visit back to Taiwan, a little island and his birthplace, where he was brought up until the Go genius, Wu Qing Yuan, played him a 6-stone handicapped game, discovered Linís precocious Go talent, and recommended Lin to go abroad, attending Nihonkin for further Go studies.

Lin offered the privilege of playing a 3-stone handicapped game to a promising youngster named Chen Han Bing. My rough estimate is that Chen at that time was about AGA 6 dan. Lin played his first move at the only empty corner at the 3-4 position. Chen answered at 5-4, and thereafter a corner opening named ďmonsterís swordĒ ensued.

At that time, this monsterís-sword opening was fashionable. Cats and dogs in the Go community all liked to play it. It was also a tricky one, as there were a great number of possible variations. After a long series of moves, Chenís big juicy dragon was captured. I do not remember if the game continued after Chenís loss at the corner. I only remember that Chen lost the game, and was visibly sad, with tears streaming down on his cheeks. Lin patted Chenís shoulders, trying to console him. The audience, including me, applauded, partly for Lin's kind sensitivity, and partly for the tesuji he played.

The second time I saw Lin was when he paid a visit in 1968, or 1969, to the campus of National Taiwan University where I was studying for a mechanical engineering bachelor degree. He used a big Go board to explain to a roomful of audience a tournament game he had just finished playing with Mr. Otake. Lin and Otake were within a few years in age, and were rivals in competing for several titles for a long period of time. Obviously, the game Lin chose to replay for the audience was one which he won. :)

At that time, I belonged to the University Go club. The visit was conducted in the daytime. So I had to skip a few classes. Not only did I meet Lin, but also I had the privilege of handing him a wet towel to wipe the sweat from his face. Personally handing a towel to a Meijin title holder? Wow!! Definitely worth the class skipping.

The third time when I saw Lin was in 1975. The place was San Francisco Go club. He and a group of Japanese pros came to the U. S. and stopped over San Francisco. See the photo. I was about AGA 4 dan at that time. Lin could give me 5 stones and wipe me out from the board in no time.

At the moment of writing, Lin remains active in playing competitive games, and is able to retain his positions in a few round robins (to become challengers for Titles). Rarely, however, is he seen to win games any more from much younger tough active players. After all, Go is a game that requires strenuous brain exercises, as physical sports require strenuous bodily exercises. Thus, being old constitutes a disadvantage in Go game playing. [sigh...]

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