by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Iyama defends Tengen title: The third game of the 42nd Tengen title was held at the Munekata Yurix, a leisure complex, in Munekata City, Fukuoka Prefecture on December 1. After the challenger Ichiriki Ryo 7P leveled the series with a win in the second game (November 11), there was a gap of just under three weeks. Iyama (black) felt that he had fallen behind a little in the opening, so he decided to let Ichiriki build a moyo, his plan being to stake the game on living after invading it. The game was actually decided by hectic fighting in the centre. Ichiriki resigned after move 163.
The fourth game was played at the Hotel New Awaji in Sumoto City, Hyogo Prefecture on December 12. Taking white, Iyama (right) won by resignation after 188 moves. Facing a kadoban, Ichiriki played boldly, setting up a large moyo. Iyama tried to cut it down to size and the game was decided by a ko fight in the centre. Iyama gave up a group in return for winning the ko, but he secured the lead.
This is the last title match of the year, so Iyama ends the year with six out of the seven top titles. He will be just as busy next year defending his sextuple crown and he will be the favorite to become the Meijin challenger.
Judan Best Four: The semifinalists in the 55th Judan tournament have been decided. Yamashita Keigo 9P meets Yo Seiki 7P in one semifinal and Imamura Toshiya 9P plays Hane Naoki 9P in the other. Incidentally, Yo beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P in the quarterfinals.
Takao wins 3rd Over 40 Quick Go Tournament: This is a relatively new tournament for middle-aged professionals. It’s in its third year, but this could be my first report on it. As readers of this page will know, Takao Shinji (left) turned 40 during the Meijin title match; since he played in the tournament, the name should read “Over 39” or “40 and over,” but the Japanese name reads “Over 40 haya-go tonamento,” so this is not a mistranslation. The Nihon Ki-in likes the sound of “over 40,” although, presumably, aware of the inaccuracy. (“U20” is used in tournament names in the same way.) In the preliminary, the time allowance is ten seconds a move; according to Takao, this was quite an ordeal for him — not just playing but also pressing the clock within the time. He couldn’t help feelingly keenly how much he had slowed down in reading speed since his youth, though he still won his way through. In the main tournament, the NHK format is followed (30 seconds per move plus 10 minutes thinking time in one-minute units).
The semifinals and final were held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on December 6. In the final, Takao (B) beat Kato Atsushi 9P by resignation after 121 moves. This was the first time a current titleholder played in the tournament. First prize is 500,000 yen (close to $43,000).
To 8-dan: Kanazawa Hideo (150 wins, as of Dec. 2)
To 3-dan: Onishi Kenya (40 wins; as of Nov. 25)
The winter qualifying tournament for professional 1-dan was completed on Nov. 19. The top two players in the 16-player Swiss System tournament were Shibano Ryunosuke (aged 19) and Seki Kotaro (aged 15). Shibano is the older brother of Shibano Toramaru 3-dan (aged 15), who has already attracted a lot of attention since becoming a pro in summer last year. Ryunosuke was an insei like Toramaru, but ran into the age limit two years ago. This year he entered university and intended to give up his professional ambitions if he failed this time. Last year he became the youngest player to win the Amateur Honinbo tournament; he took first place in the qualifying tournament with a score of 12-3 (he lost his first three games), so he can finally set about trying to catch up with his younger brother.
Bonus: Power Pictured: “I had someone on Facebook ask if we could get a picture of John Power to include in the report some day,” writes Steve Colburn. “They’re interested to see who does Japanese reporting for us.” photo: John Power with Pair Go’s Mrs Taki at the 2016 Pair Go World Cup in July 2016; photo by Chris Garlock