by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent
January in Japan: I failed to submit a report last month, so I would like to make up for it with a review of the first month of professional go in Japan this year.
Kato to Challenge for Women’s Meijin: Kato Keiko 6P (right) hung on to her lead in the 26th Women’s Meijin League and will challenge Xie Yimin for the title. In the final round, held on January 9, she beat Okuda Aya 3P (W) by half a point to end up on 5-1, one point clear of the field. The match starts on March 5. Actually, this was Kato’s first game for three months. As mentioned in an earlier report, she took the winter off to have her second child. This is Kato’s first title match for six years (she lost the 20th Women’s Meijin title to the challenger, who was Xie Yimin). She won the title the previous term and the 10th Strongest Woman Player title in 2008. She is married to Mizokami Tomochika 8P.
Other results in the final round: Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, (W) beat Yoshida Mika 8P by resig.; Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by 3.5 points. Mukai and Suzuki, both on 4-1, took 2nd and 3rd places respectively. The other player to keep her place in the league was Chinen, on 3-3. Okuda (1-5), Yoshida (2-4), and Ishii Akane 2P (2-4) all dropped out.
Yamashita Leads In Honinbo League: A win over Yuki Satoshi at the end of last year gave Yamashita Keigo (left) a share of the lead with Kono Rin in the 69th Honinbo League; both were on 3-0 and were the only undefeated players. However, in the fourth round, played in January, Yamashita beat league newcomer Yo Seiki while Kono lost to Cho U, so Yamashita now has the sole lead. The other league newcomer, Ida Atsushi, shares second place with Kono and Cho U. Games played since my last report are given below.
(26 December) Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Yuki Satoshi Judan by resig.
(January 9) Ida Atsushi 7P (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P by half a point.
(January 16) Cho U 9P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by half a point; Sakai Hideyuki 8P (B) beat Yuki Satoshi by resig.
(January 23) Yamashita (W) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig.
Meijin League: Three of the four games in the second round of the 39th Meijin League were played on January 9. At this point, Kono Rin (right) has the provisional lead with 2-0, but the winner of the fourth game, between Yamashita Keigo and Takao Shinji, will draw even with him.
(January 9): Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.; Cho U 9P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P by resig.; Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Yuki Satoshi Judan by resig.
Iyama Misses Shot at Grand Slam: Recently, with Iyama Yuta (left) holding six titles, there had been a lot of speculation about whether he would become the first player to score a genuine grand slam of the top seven titles, that is, holding them all concurrently instead of cumulatively. In the past, players have not been able to maintain a big tally of concurrent titles for very long because of the wear and tear of constant title matches, so if Iyama is going to have a try at it, the sooner the better. This year he seemed to have a good chance, as he had reached the play-off to decide the challenger for the only top-seven title he didn’t have, the Judan, and his opponent was a player, Takao Shinji, against whom he had a very good record. The play-off was held on Iyama’s home ground, at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, on January 23. The game was a difficult one, with a series of swaps, but Takao, playing white, prevailed by 5.5 points. Takao gets a chance to win back the title that he lost to Cho U in 2009. To keep the dream alive, Iyama will have to try again next year, but he must first defend all his titles this year. There is no precedent in Japan for such a long winning streak in title matches. The first game of the title match between Takao and Yuki Satoshi Judan will be played on March 4.
Chisato Cup: This is a special tournament being held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Chisato corporation, which makes uniforms, helmets, and various other work-related items. Participants were 16 young players recommended by the sponsor. First prize is two million yen. The time allowance is the same as for the NHK Cup, that is, 30 seconds per move plus ten minutes extra time in one-minute units. The first two rounds were held on January 17th and the following players have reached the semifinals: Suzuki Shinji 4P, Hirata Tomoya 3P, Kimoto Katsuya 2P, and Fujisawa Rina 2P. Fujisawa is the granddaughter of Fujisawa Shuko. The semifinals and final will be held on March 1 and 2.
Xie Defends Women’s Kisei: On her previous challenge, two years ago, Aoki Kikuyo 8P managed to take the Women’s Kisei title from the Xie Yimin (right) , the top woman player in Japan. Xie regained the title last year, but Aoki was back again as challenger. This time she did not do so well, however, and Xie has defended her title with straight wins. The first game was played on January 23; taking white Xie forced a resignation. In the second game, played on January 30, Xie had a different color but the result was the same, a resignation by Aoki. Actually, Aoki had the better of it for most of the first game; after a severe attack, she had a large enemy group at her mercy, but she failed to deliver the coup de grace. This is Xie’s 17th title.
In January every year there are a number of promotions for the top prize-money winners of the previous year among players from 1- to 6-dan. The following promotions became effective on February 1.
To 7-dan: Shida Tatsuya (only the top 6-dan is promoted); To 6-dan: Kawada Kohei, Ohashi Naruya; To 5-dan: Tajima Shingo, Sakamoto Yasuo; To 4-dan: Ichiriki Ryo, Muramatsu Hiroki; To 3-dan: Kimoto Katsuya, Adachi Toshimasa; To 2-dan: Kikuchi Masatoshi, Onishi Kenya.
There were also two promotions by the cumulative-wins system. Shimoji Gensho (120 wins) earned promotion to 7-dan as of December 26. With 50 wins, Ms. Makihata Taeko was promoted to 4-dan as of January 31. (Usually the date of the promotion is the day after the game that secured it, as the details have to be confirmed by the Ki-on office.)
Tomorrow: Iyama Leads 3-0 in Kisei Title Match; Kisei Game One Trivia; Yamashita and Cho U Share Lead in Meijin League; Shi Yue Wins New Year’s Tournament; A Promotion and a Retirement