Meijin tournament system
The Meijin tournament is now sponsored by the newspaper Asahi Shinbun. It was previously sponsored by the Yomiuri Shinbun, but after a dispute with the Nihon Ki-in over funding, the Yomiuri switched to the Kisei tournament and their version of the Meijin, which ran from 1962 to 1975 - when it was the most important tournament - is now referred to as the Old Meijin.
Top prize is 28 million yen.
The title holder is challenged each Autumn by a challenger who is the winner of a nine-man all-play-all league. The bottom three in the league are demoted. Entry to the league is via preliminary tournaments held in three stages. The Third Preliminary comprises three separate knockouts, and the winners of each take one of the vacant league places.
Ties for first place are resolved by a playoff (between the two top ranking players if there are more than two tied). Ties for demotion places are decided according to previous performances in the tournament.
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 Meijin (Mingren in Chinese, Myeongin in Korean) derives from Chinese and denotes a Master of something esoteric, such as medicine. In go it was famously first applied to Honinbo Sansa by the military ruler Oda Nobunaga at the end of the 16th century. Since then it became the lifetime title of the senior player of the age, and was equivalent to 9-dan. The last lifetime Meijin was Honinbo Shusai who died in 1940 after bequeathing his titles to the Nihon Ki-in. The first 9-dan who was not a Meijin emerged in 1949 (Fujisawa Kuranosuke).
Honinbo Shusai is the subject of the novel "Meijin" by Nobel prize winner Kawabata Yasunari (translated by Edward Seidensticker as "The Master of Go"). It is a slightly fictionalised account of Shusai's famous last game against young star Kitani Minoru. It can be seen as an elegiac comment on the passing of the old ways in Japan.
The format of the tournament sponsored by the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun was similar but the komi was 5 points, White winning jigo (ties). A win by jigo was classed as less than other wins, and this affected the outcome of the first term which was decided by a 13-man league.