Kisei rules and system
The Kisei tournament is sponsored by the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun, which does not have the oldest pedigree in go sponsorship but certainly the grandest. Top prize is 33 million yen.
The title holder is challenged in January-March by a challenger who is the winner of a complex year-long qualification system designed to give lower ranked players their moments of glory. (The winner also became the title holder in the first term).
Players at each of the nine dan grades play a knockout among themselves. The number of rounds obviously varies but is usually six or seven. The winners of the 1- to 6-dan events and the runners-up in the 7- and 8-dan events then join together in another knockout tournament. (This stage has been handled differently in the past. The 1-dan winner played the 2-dan winner; the winner of that game played the 3-dan winner, and so on up the chain. This was called the Paramas system).
The winner of this knockout, the top places in the 9-dan events and the 8-dan and 7-dan winners go forward to yet another knockout where they join various seeds - winners of other major tournaments and the former Kisei and challenger.
The composition of the seeds depends on who holds which title, but as an example, the 23rd Kisei featured the Fujitsu, Oza, Judan and Tengen champions. The semi-finalists of this knockout, called the Strongest Players Challenge, play a best-of-three final to determine the challenger.
In the final (best-of seven) each player has 8 hours thinking time over two days. Each game of the final is played in a different city. In all other games thinking time is 5 hours each. Komi has always been 5.5 points.
The word Kisei means Go Sage and has traditionally been regarded as a supreme accolade for a go player. It goes back almost 2,000 years to Han times in China (as Qisheng; Korean: Kiseong).
In Japan the first Kisei was Honinbo Dosaku (1645-1702). Honinbo Jowa (1787-1847) was regarded as a Go Sage by some, but lost the accolade when his political shenanigans were exposed. Honinbo Shusaku (1829- 1862) is currently ranked with Dosaku as the only two historical Go Sages.