by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal
A Good Week for Yuki: The last week of March was undoubtedly one of the best of Yuki Satoshi 9P’s career. On the 23rd, Yuki (right), the top player of the Kansai Ki-in, defeated Takao Shinji 9P in the final of the 8th Daiwa Securities Cup. Taking black, Yuki won by 3.5 points. As of this term, the Daiwa Cup, a tournament played on the internet, was upgraded to an official title, which means two things. First, it was opened to participation by Kansai Ki-in professionals, which gave Yuki his chance. Second, it is now included in the tallies of official titles won by a player. Just for the record, Yuki’s predecessors (in order) are Takao, O Meien, Takao again, Kono Rin for the 4th and 5th cups, and Iyama Yuta for the 6th and 7th (none of these players can include the cup in their official tallies; that makes a difference, especially for someone like Iyama, who, on present form, can be expected to challenge Cho Chikun’s all-time record of 72 titles). First prize is 3 million yen (about $32,000).
The next day, Sunday the 24th, the final of the 60th NHK Cup was telecast on NHK educational TV. Taking white, Yuki defeated Iyama Yuta by 9.5 points to win the NHK Cup for the fourth time and twice in a row for the second time.
This game would actually have been played a week or two before telecasting. Yuki’s win put an end to a losing streak against Iyama of ten games in a row.His last previous win was in the final of the same tournament in 2010, when he won this title for the first time.
Ironically, Iyama had enjoyed much better form in the NHK Cup up to the final, scoring decisive wins over Komatsu Hideki 9P, Mizokami Tomochika 8P, Hane Naoki 9P, and Kono Rin 9P. In contrast, Yuki struggled, almost losing to Kurahashi Masayuki 9P before he pulled off an upset, beating Akiyama Jiro 8P by half a point, and then needing all his patience to prevail in tough games with Murakawa Daisuke 7P and Yamada Kimio 9P. Yuki dominated the final however, as Iyama chose a slightly unreasonable variation early in the game and got a bad result; he admitted later that he wasn’t really in the game after his opening setback.
Both players will represent Japan in the TV Asia tournament, usually played towards the end of spring.
Yuki’s third success was his win in the second game of the 51st Judan title match on the 28th. This evened the series and kept alive his chances of taking his second top-seven title. The game was played in Tamana City in Kumamoto Prefecture. Taking white, Yuki won by 2.5 points. The third game will be played on 4 April.
Takao takes sole lead in Honinbo League: After the first five rounds, only two players were left undefeated in the 68th Honinbo League: Takao Shinji 9P (at left) and Cho U 9P, who are both former Honinbos. The winner of their 6th-round clash, held on March 27, would take a big step towards becoming the challenger to Iyama Yuta Honinbo. Both sides played very fast for such an important game. Cho, in particular, took almost no time on his moves. He seemed to make the better start, but in the middle game Takao made a skilful sacrifice, then took advantage of his superiority in ko threats to start a ko fight that clinched the game. In the end, Cho, who played black, had to resign.
In the final round, Takao plays Imamura Toshiya 9P, who is on 2-4, and Cho plays Yamashita Keigo 9P, who is on 4-2. Whatever happens, Takao will at least make a play-off.
Gu Li Wins Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-off: Cho U played his Honinbo League game on a Wednesday instead of the usual Thursday because he had to play the 14th Agon Kiriyama Cup Japan-China play-off on Saturday, March 30. The extra rest day didn’t help: for the 10th year in a row China won this play-off.
This year it was Japan’s turn to host the play-off. The last international event held in Japan, the International Amateur Pair Go Championship in November 2012, was boycotted by China to show their displeasure with the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, but fortunately Gu Li (right) turned up for this game. Taking white, he won by 4.5 points to score his fourth victory in the play-off. After winning the first four play-offs, Japan has been outclassed in this play-off.
38th Kisei Leagues: The four vacant seats in the upcoming Kisei Leagues have been decided. They have gone to Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (making an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league), 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun, Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P, and Murakawa Daisuke 7P. Murakawa, the top player of his age group at the Kansai Ki-in (he is 23), is making his debut in a league. Kiyonari, also from the Kansai Ki-in is playing in his second Kisei league.
Longtime go writer John Power is a veteran author, translator and compiler of go books and magazines.