Hikaru is really messed up, and Sai is his a hallucination or alternate personality.His go skills are from being a borderline idiot savant, possibly a mild autism combined with OCD that allows him to see the patterns on the board and advance in skill with surprising speed. Sai is a hallucination that he made up based on a book that referenced Shusaku Hon'inbo and other go prodigies (also why nobody ever saw the blood on the board, and how he noticed the signature was a forgery).
Hikaru and Sai are Calvin and Hobbes.Short, temperamental kid with crazy hair and his tall, serene imaginary friend who helps with his homework and dispenses philosophy. Early on the imaginary friend points out the the girl in the story is the kid's potential romantic interest (resulting in the kid flipping out). The kid and his imaginary friend frequently play games together. So yeah.
Akari is Sayu Yagami.Based on panels where the two characters appear identical. Hikaru no Go is a universe where most or all of Death Note didn't happen (possibly the chief and Light died early in the series, Witness Protection or marriage accounting for the name change, or, less likely, the universe of the Death Note pilot chapter). Sai is a shinigami who was less interested with being a Chessmaster like Ryuk than he was a literal Go Master, and hid his Death Note in the Go board found at the start of the series. Hikaru could see Sai not because he was destined to be a professional-skill go player, but because he happened to pick up the board first. Hikaru's grandfather, and likely many people since Hon'inbo Shusaku, also were trained in go by Sai, but never showed the same talent and relinquished ownership of the Death Note, retaining only the skills they could remember from having played in tournaments.
Hikaru is the reincarnation of Honinbo Shusaku.Shusaku regretted not playing Go for himself, so he reincarnated as someone who would never give over their life to Sai. That's why Hikaru's a prodigy, and why he could see Sai. He was already fairly good at Go (letting Sai play through him must have resulted in some rub-off), and he had already known Sai before. That could also explain why Sai's departure hurt him so much-he was losing Sai for the second time.
Yumi Hotta is Tsugumi OhbaBoth Hikaru no Go and Death Note had a premise of an Ordinary Highschool Student in a perfectly ordinary real world setting, who then becomes the center of the plot after some involvement with supernatural forces. The protagonists of both stories are highly regarded by people around him and both have a "genius rival" they must defeat. Both have a devoted female who they don't really care for. Hikaru's personality is also very similar to Taro Kagami from Death Note's Pilot arc, especially in the early chapters when he was still in elementary school (Taro was around the same age when we were first introduced to him).