American Go E-Journal

The Power Report (3): Fujii Sota sets new record

Wednesday July 19, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal«Šû^‘΋ǂðU‚è•Ô‚é“¡ˆäŽl’i‚

Fujii Sota sets new record
In my report at the end of May, I took the liberty of writing about a shogi debutant who was making waves. First he set a record by becoming the youngest player, at 14 years two months, to qualify as a shogi professional. That earned him some attention in the media, but the attention became a media frenzy when he started playing games and didn’t lose. I wrote the previous report when he reached 19 successive wins, the seventh-best in shogi. On June 28, he matched the previous record of 28, set in 1987, then on June 29 he broke it, scoring his 29th win over the only other teenaged shogi professional, Masuda Yashiro 4P (aged 19), who won the King of the New Stars title last year. By this time, the media had become obsessed with Fujii. A hundred reporters turned up at the Shogi Hall to see the above-mentioned games start. Throughout the day (both games lasted over 11 hours), TV provided a stream of updates. The game was the lead-off item on news programs, even while it was still in progress and they switched to live coverage when it ended. The daytime “wide shows,” usually devoted to colorful crimes and scandals, hired shogi professionals to give commentaries. (Newspapers printed extras for both the 28th and 29th games. There were also two Net broadcasts, with a combined audience of 11 million.) It felt as if the whole nation shared the disappointment when Fujii finally suffered a loss in his 30th game.

è´ä?Å^ì°à‰élíiǙÇQÇVòAèüFujii’s success sparked a shogi boom, especially among young children, who flocked to join shogi classes. Go has never experienced coverage like this, and apparently it surpasses the media attention earned by Habu Yoshiharu’s Grand Slam on 1996 (as in go, a simultaneous grand slam has been achieved only once).

Fujii was born on July 19, 2002, so he turns 15 next month. The previous record for a debutant was 11 successive wins. Before Fujii go has the upper hand, with Hiroe Hiroyuki 9P winning his first 12 games in 1983 (he was 16). He is followed by Yoda Norimoto (aged 11) and Mizokami Tomochika 9P (aged 15), and Ida Atsushi 8P, all with 11 (they were all 1-dan, of course). By coincidence, Fujii’s new record of 29 successive wins is the same as the go record, set by Sakata Eio in 1963-64. The content is not the same, however. The average rank of Fujii’s opponents was 5.77 (by the way, the win over Habu Yoshiharu I mentioned in my previous report was not part of the streak; it may have been an unofficial game, but I can’t find it). Sakata’s opponents included the elite of the contemporary go world.

I’m not trying to carp about Fujii’s record. As a go player, I followed the Fujii saga with amazement and the purest envy. As far as I know, Iyama’s grand slam last year, garnered just a minute or two on the news.

Closing note: One program has a segment devoted to shogi terms that had passed into general speech and threw in a few go terms for good luck. Unfortunately, their diagram for “dame” (in the sense of worthless points) was completely wrong.

photo (top right): Fuji playing Kato Hifumi, at 77, the oldest active shogi player. First game of the winning streak. Kato retired around the time Fujii set his record. Out with the old, in with the new. He was the previous youngest shogi pro.

Categories: Japan,John Power Report