by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
The 5th Electric Sage tournament: This is a tournament in which go-playing computer programs challenge human players. The tournament is organized by the Entertainment & Cognitive Sciences Research Station at the University of Electro-Communications and was held on March 26. The Chinese program FineArt and the Japanese program DeepZenGo both played games with Ichiriki Ryo 7P and both won.
This was the first time that the games were played on even. In the previous four terms, the results had been 50-50 with programs taking four or three stones. FineArt took black against Ichiriki and secured a resignation after 157 moves. DeepZenGo took white and won by resignation after 162 moves. An interesting point came up in the endgame of FineArt’s game. It could have won big by playing a move that would have won a capturing race, but it played a small endgame move that still gave it a win. The program doesn’t “care” what the winning margin is so long as it wins.
Motoki to challenge for Honinbo: All the games in the final round of the 72nd Honinbo League were played on April 6. Three players were still in the running to win the league: Motoki Katsuya 7P on 5-1 and Ko Iso 8P and Hane Naoki 9P, both on 4-2. Motoki was in the best position, as he would qualify for a play-off even if he lost. As it happened, he was matched against Ko. Taking white, he beat him by resignation, so he avoided a play-off. On his debut in the previous league, Motoki (at left) surprised fans by taking second place; this time he improved on that and will make his title-match debut. Becoming the Honinbo challenger also earned him promotion to 8-dan (effective as of April 7).
Hane (B) beat Cho U 9P by resignation; his 5-2 score earned him second place, a big improvement on the previous league, in which he lost his place. Cho ended on 3-4 and lost his place. Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji Meijin by resig. The former took third place with 4-3, and the latter, the number-one ranked player in the league, lost his place with 3-3. The final game was between two players who had already lost their places: Yuki Satoshi 9P (B) beat Mitani Tetsuya 7P by 2.5 points. Yuki ended on 2-5 and Mitani on 1-6.
Motoki, aged 21 (birthday on August 2), is considered one of the contenders in the post-Iyama group, mainly because of his performance in the Honinbo League. He has won one junior title, the 9th Hiroshima Aluminium Cup in 2014. The title match with Iyama will start on May 9. At 21 years eight months, Motoki will be the third-youngest challenger, following Ida Atsushi (20 exactly) and Cho U (21 years three months). Motoki has not yet played any official games with Iyama, but he mentioned that he had lost all of the ten or so unofficial games they had played.
Iyama leads Meijin league: Not surprisingly, in view of his sextuple crown, Iyama Yuta started out as the favorite in the 42nd Meijin League and he has lived up to that billing. After five rounds, he is the only undefeated player; he has already had his bye, so his score is 4-0. His closest rival is Yamashita Keigo, who is on 4-1. The two will play each other in the 7th round, which is in June.
(March 27) Iyama (B) beat Hane Naoki by resig.; Yamashita (B) beat Kono Rin by resig.
(April 13) Iyama (B) beat Kono Rin by resig.; Yamashita (W) beat Cho U by resig.
American Go E-Journal » Columns
The Power Report: The 5th Electric Sage tournament; Motoki to challenge for Honinbo; Iyama leads Meijin league
Wednesday April 19, 2017
by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
The Power Report: Ichiriki wins 2016 Grand Champion tournament; Yo fights back in Judan title match; FineArt wins computer go tournament
Tuesday April 18, 2017
by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Ichiriki wins 2016 Grand Champion tournament: The Grand Champion tournament is a special Tournament for the winners of the previous year’s titles, including the minor ones. Previously, it was known as the Go Tournaments Title Winners Tournament, but the name was changed this year (the fourth term). Actually, the full name is the Minister for Foreign Affairs Cup Minister for Education and Science’s Prize 2016 Grand Champion Tournament. Fifteen players took part, with the format being an irregular knock-out (some players were seeded into later rounds).
The semifinals and finals were held at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Ichigaya on March 18. In the semifinals, which started at 10 a.m.,Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Iyama Yuta by resignation after 236 moves and Ichiriki Ryo 7P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by 7.5 points. The final was played in the afternoon on the stage in the large hall on the second floor of the Ki-in. It was a “public” game, which means that on the same stage Takemiya Masaki 9P and Yoshihara Yukari 6P gave a commentary, using a large demonstration board. Playing black, Ichiriki won by resignation after 251 moves. First prize is two million yen.
Just to mention one noteworthy result from the first round, Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo, beat Takao Shinji Meijin (she lost to Kono in the next round).
Yo fights back in Judan title match: Yo Seiki (Yu Zhengqi) 7P made a bad start in the 55th Judan title match, losing the first game to Iyama Judan on March 7. There was a gap of over three weeks before the second game, played in a pavilion at the Usa Shrine in Usa City, Oita Prefecture, on March 30. The game was plunged almost immediately into fierce fighting that spilled all over the board. Taking white, Iyama (left) completely outplayed Yo (right) and forced a resignation after 160 moves. At this point, it looked as if the match might be a repeat of the previous one between these two, the 64th Oza last year, which Iyama took with straight wins.
The third game was played at the Kuroyon Royal Hotel in Omachi City, Nagano Prefecture, on April 6. Yo (W) beat Iyama by resignation after 204 moves. In their tenth game, Yo finally picked up his first win against Iyama and also his first title-match win. Yo probably gained a lot of confidence from this game; it featured furious fighting all the way, and he managed to outfight Iyama. The next game will be played on April 21.
FineArt wins computer go tournament: The UEC Cup Computer Go Tournament was held on the campus of the University of Electro- Communications on March 18 and 19, with 29 programs from six countries competing. The final was fought between two programs of top professional level, FineArt of China and DeepZenGo of Japan, and was a convincing win for FineArt. The two finalists were chosen to play in the 5th Electric Sage tournament (see tomorrow’s EJ). In-between, DeepZenGo played in the World Go Championship, which has already been reported on in the E-Journal.
FineArt was developed by a team at the top Chinese IT company Tencent and is less than a year old. It plays on a Chinese go server and has a winning record of 75% against professionals. That indicates that it’s not quite as strong as AlphaGo/Master, but even so there has been a dramatic rise in the level of go-playing programs in general. Apparently programmers were stimulated by the success of AlphaGo last year and have strengthened their programs by incorporating the techniques of “deep learning.”
Tomorrow: The 5th Electric Sage tournament; Motoki to challenge for Honinbo; Iyama leads Meijin league
Wednesday March 8, 2017
Episode 2: Honinbo Dosaku 9P v. Kikukawa is the latest in the new series of video commentaries with Michael Redmond 9P and Chris Garlock, Managing Editor of the American Go E-Journal.
In today’s commentary, Redmond and Garlock take a look at a 347-year-old game that not only features the move that Kobayashi Koichi 9P said changed his life, but includes moves that Master — the latest version of AlphaGo — played in its recent 60-win sweep of top professionals. Go history in the making!
Honinbo Dosaku (1645~1702) was by far the strongest player of his time, and is still considered to be one of the strongest players in go history. He made important contributions to go strategy for the opening, laying the foundations for the following golden period of progress for go.
Produced by Michael Wanek and Andrew Jackson
The Power Report: Iyama one win away from defending Kisei; Fujisawa Rina makes good start in Women’s Meijin challenge; Honinbo League
Monday March 6, 2017
Iyama one win away from defending Kisei: The fifth game of the 41st Kisei title match was held at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on March 1 and 2. Playing black, Iyama forced a resignation after 165 moves. That took his score to 3-2, so he is just one win away from defending his title. The game was marked by fierce fighting throughout, so it became a competition in reading. In the end, Iyama brought down a big white group. Incidentally, the game showed the increasing influence of the AI program Master in two places in the opening. Both of the moves in question were played by Iyama, but, although it didn’t come out in this game, Kono is also said to have been strongly influenced by AI go. The sixth game will be played on March 9 & 10.
Fujisawa Rina makes good start in Women’s Meijin challenge: The first game of the 29th Women’s Meijin title match was played at the Arisu Pavilion at Heian Women’s University in Kyoto on March 1. Fujisawa Rina, the 18-year-old holder of the Women’s Honinbo title, is challenging Xie Yimin, holder of the other four women’s titles. Xie has dominated women’s go in Japan for a decade and has picked up 26 titles in the process (more than twice as many as any other woman player). Fujisawa has won just three titles so far, but she has established herself as the number two woman player. The two have met twice in titles match (the 2016and 2015 Women’s Honinbo) and won one each. The Heian Women’s University includes go as a regular subject in its curriculum. It has now hosted the first game of this match for six years in a row and has also appointed Xie as a Guest Professor. Fujisawa drew black in the nigiri. In the middle game, the game seemed to tilt a little in Xie’s favor, but Fujisawa fought back and took the lead, so Xie resigned after move 217. Since this match is a best-of-three, starting with a win is a big advantage. Xie already faces a kadoban. The second game will be played on March 8.
(March 1) Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Yuki Satoshi 9P by 5.5 points; Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. This loss cost Hane his share of the lead. Motoki Katsuya 7P has the provisional lead on 4-1; Hane and Ko follow him on 4-2.
The Power Report: China scores overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup; Promotions; 50th Kido Prizes; Lee Sedol wins exhibition match
Thursday March 2, 2017
China scores overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup: Thanks to seven wins in a row, the best winning streak in this tournament’s history, by their first player, Fan Tingyu, China dominated the first two rounds of the 18th Nong Shim Cup. In the last game of the second round, Korea’s Pak Junghwan finally put a stop to the streak, but both Korea and Japan were down to their last player, while China still had four. The final round started in Shanghai on February 21. In Game 10, Pak (W) beat Iyama Yuta of Japan by resignation. In Game 11, the second Fan on the Chinese team, Fan Yunruo 5P (W), beat Pak by 1.5 points, so China secured a one-sided victory. Win-loss totals were: China 8-1, Korea 2-5, and Japan 1-5. China has now won the cup four years in a row.
To 3-dan: Takahashi Masumi (40 wins; as of Feb. 3); Osawa Kenro (40 wins; as of Feb. 21)
To 9-dan: Onda Yasuhiko (200 wins; as of Feb. 14)
Iyama wins Shusai Prize: On January 31, Iyama Yuta was awarded the 54th Shusai Prize, which honors the outstanding player of the previous year. This is the fifth year in a row he has won it.
50th Kido Prizes: The magazine Kido lives on in the form of the annual Kido Prizes, awarded to the outstanding Nihon Ki-in players of the previous year. The winners for 2016 were chosen on February 13 by a panel of representatives of the go-sponsoring media.
Winners are: Most outstanding player: Iyama Yuta, for winning all top seven titles; Outstanding player: Takao Shinji, for winning the Meijin title; New face: Onishi Ryuhei, for winning the King of the New Stars; Women’s prize: Xie Yimin, for winning four women’s titles; International prize: not awarded; Most wins: Ichiriki Ryo (47); Best winning percentage: Onishi Ryuhei (39-10, 79.59%); Most successive wins: Adachi Toshimasa 4P (15); Most games played: Ichiriki Ryo (66).
Lee Sedol wins exhibition match: Lee Sedol was invited to Japan by the Japanese Shogi Federation to play a ceremonial role at the start of Electric King title match. His job was to “shake the pieces.” As far as I can work out, not being a shogi player, this is the equivalent of the nigiri for deciding black and white in a game. The Nihon Ki-in took advantage of his visit to arrange the Korea-Japan Exhibition Match between Lee and Iyama Yuta. It was played at a Tokyo hotel on February 26. Lee (B) won by resig. after 227 moves. The game started at 5:30 pm and finished at 8:34 pm.
The Power Report: Xie defends Women’s Kisei; 42nd Meijin League; 72nd Honinbo League; Professional Pair Go Championship 2017
Tuesday February 28, 2017
Xie defends Women’s Kisei: The third and deciding game of the 20th Women’s Kisei title match was held in the Ryusei Studio at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on February 6. Taking black, Xie Yimin beat Nyu Eiko 1P by resig. after 161 moves. Both sides fought hard, and the game ended up as a large capturing race, won by Xie. This gave her the match 2-1. This is her fifth victory in a row, so she qualified for the title of Honorary Women’s Kisei (for use when she turns 60). She also has earned Honorary Women’s Honinbo and Meijin titles. This is her 26th title. The 17-year-old Nyu may have failed in her first title challenge, but she pushed Xie hard (the latter won the previous four Women’s Kisei title matches 2-0), so she put up a creditable performance. She will surely be back.
42nd Meijin League: (Feb. 2) Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.; Sakai Hideyuki 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by half a point; Cho U 9P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig. This loss put Murakawa on 2-1, costing him his share of the lead. (Feb. 16) Yamashita (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig. Joint leaders of the league are Iyama Yuta and Kono Rin, who are both on 2-0 (the lead is provisional, as they have both had their byes and have played one game fewer than the other
72nd Honinbo League: (Feb. 2) Motoki Katsuya 7P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points. This win gave Motoki the provisional lead on 4-1, ahead of Hane Naoki and Ko Iso, both on 3-1. (Feb. 9) Hane (W) beat Mitani Tetsuya 7P by resig. This put Hane level with Motoki. (Feb. 16) Takao Shinji Meijin (B) beat Ko Iso by half a point; Cho U (B) beat
Yuki Satoshi 9P by 1.5 points. After starting out with three losses, Takao has now won two games, so his chances of retaining his league place have improved.
Professional Pair Go Championship 2017: Thirty-two top players took part in this tournament, the opening three rounds of which were held at the Nihon Ki-in on February 12. In the semifinals, the team of Fujisawa Rina and Hane Naoki beat Mannami Nao 3P and Yamashita Keigo and Suzuki Ayumi 7P/Cho Chikun beat Okuda Aya 3P/Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P. The final will be played on March 5.
Tomorrow: China scores overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup; Promotions; 50th Kido Prizes; Lee Sedol wins exhibition match
The Power Report: Title-award ceremony for Fujisawa Rina; Ke Jie wins Chinese New Year’s tournament; 41st Kisei title match tied
Monday February 27, 2017
Title-award ceremony for Fujisawa Rina: On January 27, the 18-year-old Fujisawa Rina attended the ceremony for the conferral of the 35th Women’s Honinbo title, held at the Daiichi Hotel Tokyo. Our photo shows her dressed in a furisode kimono receiving a commemorative cup. Her senior Shuko disciple Takao Shinji Meijin gave a congratulatory address, and the ceremony was attended by many young players.
Ke Jie wins Chinese New Year’s tournament: The CCTV New Year’s Cup is a special tournament organized by China’s top TV channel to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The top players from China, Korea, and Japan are invited to compete for a prize of 800,000 yuan (about $116,000). Now in its fifth year, it started out as a domestic tournament but was upgraded to an international one the following year. This year it was held in Beijing from January 29 to 31. The tournament is an irregular knock-out. The players draw lots to see who plays in the first game. The third player plays the loser of that game; the winner then meets the winner of the first game in the final. To win this tournament, you have to win two games; the player drawn into the second game is the only one who, if he loses, doesn’t get another chance. The time allowance follows the NHK format (30 seconds per move, plus ten minutes of thinking time to be used in one-minute units). The tournament is televised live on CCTV’s public sports channel and usually attracts an audience of 1%-plus. That may not sound like much, but it translates into ten million viewers. This year Iyama Yuta of Japan and Ke Jie of China met in the first game; taking black, Iyama won by resignation after 233 moves. In game two, Ke beat Pak Junghwan of Korea (I don’t have the details). In the final, Ke took revenge on Iyama, playing white and securing a resignation after exactly 200 moves. Iyama commented: “I was about four points ahead on the board, so I made an all-out attack, then resigned.” This is Ke’s second successive victory.
41st Kisei title match tied: This year’s Kisei title match is proving to be a hard-fought one and it is now down to a best-of-three. The third game was played at the Yamaya Inn in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, on February 8 and 9. Kono Rin, the challenger, built a lead on the first day taking white and played thickly on the second day in an attempt to wrap up the game. However, Iyama Yuta Kisei fought on with remarkable tenacity and eventually pulled off an upset win by 1.5 points. This gave him a 2-1 lead. In a title match, you have to win your “good” games; often a failure like this could be very costly. The fourth game was played at the Gyokushoen Inn in Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on February 15 and 16. This time Kono returned the “favor,” staging an upset after Iyama had taken the lead. Iyama (white) resigned after 179 moves. The fifth game will be played on March 1 and 2.
Tomorrow: Xie defends Women’s Kisei; 42nd Meijin League; 72nd Honinbo League
Monday February 6, 2017
Yo to challenge for Judan: The first semifinal in the 55th Judan tournament was held on December 26. Imamura Toshiya 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. The second was held on January 9. Yo Seiki (Yu Zhengqi in Pinyin) (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 1.5 points. This was a lucky win for Yo (right). When the micro-endgame started, Yamashita was half a point ahead, but he played an invalid ko threat that cost him a point and a move. This meant that the final to decide the challenger was an all-Kansai Ki-in affair for only the second time in the history of this tournament (the first time was Sonoda Yuichi vs. Yuki Satoshi in the 27th Judan). The play-off was held on January 26 and the result couldn’t have been closer. After 317 moves, Yo edged Imamura by half a point. This gives Yo another crack at an Iyama-held title. The first game will be played on March 7.
Meijin League: The first league games of the new year were played on January 11.
Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Sakai Hideyuki 8P by resig.; Cho U 9P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.
(January 19) Murakawa Daisuke 8P (W) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig.
(January 26). Iyama Yuta (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig. This game was decided in 104 moves. There’s little doubt that Iyama is the overwhelming favorite in the league, though he shares the lead after two rounds with Murakawa.
Honinbo League: The last game of 2016 didn’t make our previous report. On December 22, Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Cho U 9P by resig. On January 11, two games were played. Motoki Katsuya 7P (B) beat Mitani Tetsuya 7P by resig.; Ko Iso 8P (B) beat
Yuki Satoshi 9P by resig. On January 19, Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. Hane’s loss meant there was now no undefeated player in the league. On 3-1, Hane shares the lead with Motoki and Ko Iso. On January 26, Takao Shinji Meijin finally picked up his first win in the fourth round when, taking white, he beat Cho U 9P by resig. Cho is now 2-2.
To 7-dan: Kuwamoto Shinpei (120 wins, as of Dec. 23)
Sunday February 5, 2017
Xie starts well in Women’s Kisei, Nyu catches up: The first game of the 20th Docomo Cup Women’s Kisei title match, a best-of-three, was played at the Hotel Sunrise Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture on January 19. This year the challenger is the 17-year-old Nyu Eiko (left). A disciple of Michael Redmond, who is her mother’s brother-in-law, she became a professional at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in last year. Nyu quickly showed promise and has already represented Japan several times in team tournaments. In the opening game of the title match, Xie Yimin (White, at right), the defending champion, showed the benefit of greater experience and forced a resignation after 154 moves. However, Nyu fought back in the second game, played in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on January 30. Taking white, Nyu forced a resignation after 186 moves. The fate of the title will be decided on February 6.
Cho U wins 900th game: Cho U (right) has become the 25th Nihon Ki-in player to reach the benchmark of 900 wins. In a game in Preliminary C of the 43rd Gosei tournament, played on January 19, Cho (black) beat Kim En 4P by resig. This took his record to 900 wins, 388 losses, 2 jigo, and 1 no-result. At 36 years 11 month, Cho is the youngest player to win 900 games (putting Yamashita Keigo, at 37 years two months, into 2nd place); at 22 years nine months, he is the 2nd fastest (top is Yamashita at 22 years seven months); his winning percentage of 69.9 is the 2nd highest (top is Takao with 70%).
Tomorrow: Yo to challenge for Judan; Honinbo League; Meijin League
The Power Report (1 of 3): Fujisawa wins 29th Women’s Meijin League; Kono makes good start in Kisei challenge, Iyama evens the score
Saturday February 4, 2017
Fujisawa wins 29th Women’s Meijin League: The last league game of 2016 was played on December 22. Suzuki Ayumi 7P (W) beat Sakakibara Fumiko 6P by resig. The final round of the league was held on January 12. Only two players were still in the running for league victory: Fujisawa Rina (below), on 5-0, and Okuda Aya 3P, on 4-1. Okuda needed to win herself and to have Fujisawa lose; there are no play-offs in this league, so, as the higher-ranked player, she would then come first. As it turned out, the gap widened. Fujisawa (W) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8P by 3.5 points (right), so she finished with a perfect 6-0 and won the league. Okuda lost to Suzuki Ayumi 7P (W) by resig., so she ended up on 4-2, which was good enough for 2nd place. In the third game played, Ishii Akane (W) beat Sakakibara Fumiko by resig. This will be Fujisawa’s first challenge for this title. Xie Yimin is a formidable opponent in the Women’s Kisei and has won it nine times in a row. She is aiming to become the first woman player to hold a title for ten years in a row. The first game will be played on March 1.
Kono makes good start in Kisei challenge, Iyama evens the score: Iyama Yuta was immediately under pressure as the 41st Kisei title match got off to a start. For the third time in his last four title matches, he lost the opening game.
The first game was played at the Sagi-no-yu-so, a traditional Japanese inn in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture on January 14 and 15. Holding a title game on Saturday and Sunday is a little unusual, especially playing on a Sunday. The reason was probably that Iyama (right) is even busier than last year, as now he has Meijin League games to fit into his schedule. Iyama drew black in the nigiri, and the game started at 9 am. At first play was peaceful but slow, as each side tried to frustrate the opponent’s plans. With his 32nd move, a shoulder hit on the 5th line, Kono set out to erase Black’s moyo, provoking an attack by Iyama with move 37. Move 39 was the sealed move, played at 4:56 pm.
On the second day, Kono counterattacked and succeeded in linking up his group under attack. Iyama apparently gained a little from this exchange. Iyama had the lead in territory, but Kono bided his time, building thickness, then staked the game on a double attack on two black groups with move 94. Black managed to survive this attack, but during the course of subsequent fighting, Iyama suffered a hallucination that let White cut off and capture seven black stones in the centre. That decided the issue.
Kono: “I was not confident in my prospects when I attacked, but when I captured the seven stones I could see my way to a win. There were also bad points in my play, but I was able to fight all out.”
Iyama: “I didn’t know the correct way to save my center stones. I fought my hardest, so this result can’t be helped.”
The second game was played at the Sasa-no-ya, another traditional Japanese inn, in Kikuchi City, Kumamoto Prefecture on January 22 (another Sunday) and 23. Once again, Kono found himself attempting to reduce a moyo early in the game
(move 19). Later, with 69, Kono switched to White’s top left corner, but Iyama ignored him in favor of splitting Black’s bottom right position into two. This enabled him to capture three stones and take the lead in territory. There was a lot more action after that, with Kono making a fierce attack and playing do-or-die moves, but Iyama took care of his weak groups with precise play and maintained his lead. The game ended after 301 moves, and White scored a win by 5.5 points.
Iyama: “When the centre clash concluded, I realized that I looked like winning by a little. I made a mistake in the first game, so right to the end I focused on not making another.”
Kono: “I was behind in territory, so I thought I had no choice but to fight [at the top]. Perhaps there was a better way to attack in the centre.”
The third game will be played on February 8 and 9.
Tomorrow: Xie starts well in Women’s Kisei, Nyu catches up; Cho U wins 900th game