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The Power Report (2): Na of Korea wins 29th TV Asia; King of the New Stars; Promotions

Wednesday September 20, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.09.20-TV Asia winner Na

Na of Korea wins 29th TV Asia: The TV Asia tournament is a fast-go tournament for the winners and runners-up in the NHK Cup, China’s CCTV Cup, and Korea’s KBS Cup. They are joined by the previous winner if he (not yet she) is not one of the above. The tournament rotates among these three countries and this year was held in the Sun Lake Hotel in Pinghu City, Zhejiang Province on September 15~17. Results were as follows:
(Sept. 15): Round 1, Game 1) Lee Sedol 9P (Korea) beat Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) by resig. Game 2) Ichiriki Ryo 7P (Japan) (W) beat Zhang Tao 6P (China) by resig.
2017.09.20-Shibano Toramaru(Sept. 16): Round 1, Game 3) Na Hyeon 8P (Korea) (W) beat Li Jianhao 7P (China) by 4.5 points. Semifinal 1) Lee Sedol (B) beat Li Qincheng 9P (China, 2016 winner) by resig.
(Sept. 17): Semifinal 2) Na (B) beat Ichiriki by resig. Final: Na (B, at right) beat Lee Sedol by resig. after 184 moves.
This is Na’s first win in this tournament. Lee missed out on a fifth win. Just for the record, China has won this tournament eight times to ten times each for Japan and Korea. First prize is 2,500,000 yen (about $22,700).

King of the New Stars: The first game of the 42nd King of the New Stars best-of-three title match was held at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on September 18. Shibano Toramaru 7P (W, left) beat Son Makoto 5P by resig. The second game will be played at the same venue on October 2.

Promotions
To 7-dan: Kyo Kagen (for winning a place in the Kisei S League)
To 2-dan: Ito Kenryo (20 wins, as of Sept. 8)
Photos courtesy of the Nihon Ki-in

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The Power Report (1): Iyama evens Meijin Score; Iyama and Yamashita advance in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues completed

Tuesday September 19, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.09.19-Meijin 2 Iyama looks happy

Iyama evens Meijin Score:
The second game of the 42nd Meijin title match was held at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, which is located in Bunkyo Ward, on September 12 and 13. The highlight of the game was a fierce fight that started on the first day. A large trade followed in which Iyama (W, right) took most of the top and Takao threatened to take most of the bottom. However, his moyo was too big. Iyama succeeded in breaking into it, so Takao resigned after White 146. This evens the score at 1-1. The third game will be played on September 21 and 22.

Iyama and Yamashita advance in Samsung Cup: The opening round of the 22nd Samsung Cup (officially, the Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Cup World Go Masters) 2017.09.19-Samsung Iyama wins 3rd gamewas held at the Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Global Campus in Goyang City, Gyeonggi Province on September 5 to 7. The “campus” is actually one of a number of training camps the Samsung group owns, and facilities rival those of a five-star hotel. The 1st round takes three days to play as it consists of eight double-elimination mini-leagues. There are four players in each league, and the top two players advance to the round of 16. The condition is two wins, which means a score of 2-0 or 2-1. Two Japanese players, Iyama Yuta and Yamashita Keigo 9P, scored 2-1 and made it to the next round. They were joined by seven Korean and seven Chinese players, including Ke Jie 9P and Lee Sedol 9P. The third Japanese representative, Komatsu Hideki 9P, who won a seat in the qualifying section for senior players, was eliminated with 1-2. The next round will be held on September 25.

Kisei leagues completed: The last games in the S League of the 42nd Kisei tournament were held recently. On September 7, Ichiriki Ryo 7P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig. and Cho U 9P (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig. Ichiriki had already won the league in the previous round, 2017.09.19-Yamashita (R) wins third gamebut making a clean sweep of the league was undoubtedly satisfying. Cho’s win made sure that he kept his place. An important game was held on September 9 between Yamashita Keigo 9P and Murakawa Daisuke 8P. The winner would take second place in the league and, more important, gain a place in the irregular knockout to decide the challenger; the loser would lose his league place and drop to the A League. Taking black, Yamashita (right) won by 2.5 points. The final order in the S League is: 1st, Ichiriki, 5-0; 2nd, Yamashita, 3-2; 3rd, Cho U, 3-2; 4th, Kono Rin, 2-3; dropping out: Murakawa on 2-2 and So on 0-5.

Two key games in the A League were played on September 7. Takao Shinji 9P and Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan in Pinyin) 4P were tied on 5-1. However, Takao was ranked number one and Kyo, as a newcomer to the league, was equal last, so to win the league Kyo needed not only to win his game but also to have Takao lose. The latter just made it: taking black, he eked out a half-point win over Yoda Norimoto 9P, so he won the league. Kyo (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. Although he missed qualifying for the knockout, Kyo earned a consolation prize: promotion to the S League. The top two players go up, so he will be joined by Takao – except if Takao becomes the challenger and wins the Kisei title, in which case Iyama would join Kyo in the S League. The S League promotion carried with it a promotion to 7-dan.

The play-off between the winners of the two B Leagues was held on September 14. Yo Seiki 7P (W), winner of B2, beat Shida Tatsuya 7P, winner of B1, by resig. This is how the final knockout looks: C League winner Motoki Katsuya 8P vs. Yo Seiki; the winner to play Takao; the winner to play Yamashita; the winner to meet Ichiriki in the final “best-of-three”. The quotes are there because three games will never be played. Ichiriki starts with a one-win advantage, so he needs only one win; his opponent can’t drop a game, so he has to win two straight. That won’t be easy: on current form, Ichiriki could claim to be the number three player after Iyama and Takao.
TOMORROW: Na of Korea wins 29th TV Asia; King of the New Stars; Promotions
Photos courtesy of the Nihon Ki-in

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Power Report (3): Takao makes good start in Meijin title match; Women’s Meijin tournament gives up league; Promotions

Friday September 8, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.09.06_Takao wins Meijin 1

Takao makes good start in Meijin title match: 
The first game of the 42nd Meijin title match was held at the Conrad Osaka, a Western-style hotel in Kita Ward, on August 30 and 31. Unusually for a Japanese title game, the players were seated at a table. The big interest in this series is whether Iyama will achieve his second grand slam. He has kept all his other six titles, usually winning the title matches 2017.09.06_end of Meijin 1 Iyama Leftcomfortably, but there is no guarantee he will get another chance like this. His opponent, Takao Shinji Meijin (right), will be just as determined to defend his title, one big factor in his motivation being his age: having turned 40, he can’t count on many more chances to win a big-three title.
Iyama (left) drew black in the nigiri. Not surprisingly, the game featured continuous fighting that got more and more complicated as the game went on, making it impossible to summarize it. Takao made a very skillful sacrifice that seemed to give him the initiative in the center. He successfully parried desperate attempts by Iyama to catch up and ended up with a half-point win. The second game will be played on September 12 and 13.

Women’s Meijin tournament gives up league: The pairings for the 30th Women’s Meijin tournament were published in the latest Weekly Go issue, and it was announced that the seven-player league system adopted for the 21st to the 29th terms had been abolished. The final section of the tournament will revert to the standard knock-out format with 16 participants. The reason is that will give more players a chance to become the challenger.

Promotions
To 3-dan: Onishi Ryuhei (40 wins, as of August 22), Kikkawa Hajime (as of September 1)
To 2-dan: Oomote Takuto, Otake Yu (30 wins, both as of August 25)

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Power Report (2): Xie to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ichiriki to challenge for Oza and Tengen; DeepZenGo wins computer tournament

Thursday September 7, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Xie to challenge for Women’s Honinbo: 
She may have lost some titles to Fujisawa Rina recently, but there is no doubt that Xie Yimin (reverting to Pinyin spelling) remains one of the top two women players in Japan. In the final of the 36th Women’s Honinbo tournament, held on August 17, Xie (W) beat Yoshihara Yukari 6P by 5.5 points, so she has a chance to wrest back one of her lost titles. The title match starts on September 27 and features the same pairing for three years in a row.

Ichiriki to challenge for Oza and Tengen: Ichiriki Ryo made his debut in top-seven title matches when he challenged Iyama Yuta for2017.09.06_Oza chall Ichiriki left Shibano R the Tengen title last year. He won the second game but lost the match 1-3. This year he has earned himself two chances to take revenge.
First, in the play-off to decide the challenger for the 65th Oza title, held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 25, Ichiriki (B, at left) beat Shibano Toramaru (right) by 1.5 points. The senior player (Ichiriki turned 20 in June) prevailed over the junior one. If Shibano had won, he would have become the youngest player to challenge for a top-seven title. (By the way, after this result the two shared first place in the most-wins list, Shibano with 33-8 and Ichiriki with 33-9.) The first game of the title match will be played on October 20.
On August 31, the play-off to decide the challenger for the 43rd Tengen title was held at the Nihon Ki-in and it pitted Ichiriki against the 38-year-old Yamashita Keigo. This was the same pairing as last year, and the result was the same, a win for the younger player. Taking black, Ichiriki won by 4.5 points. The first game will be played on October 11.

DeepZenGo wins computer tournament: A new tournament, the Zhongxin Securities Cup World Electric Brain Go tournament, has been founded in China to decide the world’s top go-playing program, and the 1st Cup was held in Ordos in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in China, on August 16 and 17. In the final, the Japanese program DeepZenGo, often referred to just as Zen, beat CGI of Chinese Taipei. With the retirement of AlphaGo, DeepZenGo can claim to be the world’s top AI go program, but in the preliminary round it actually came third, losing to both CGI, which was top with 5-1, and Absolute Art, the to Chinese program, which was 4-1. These losses led Kato Hideki, the main programmer of Zen, to make some changes in its settings, and that secured success in the final round. (Zen beat Absolute Art in the semifinal.)

Tomorrow: Takao makes good start in Meijin title match; Women’s Meijin tournament gives up league; Promotions

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The Power Report (1): Hsieh and Iyama pair win Pair Go tournament; Ichiriki wins Kisei S League; Youngest member ever of Honinbo League

Wednesday September 6, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.09.06_pair-go

Hsieh and Iyama pair win Pair Go tournament: The Pair Go World Championship Stars Tournament 2017 was held at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo, on August 12 and 13 and was won by the pair of Hsieh Yimin and Iyama Yuta, representing Japan. In a sense, this tournament is a successor to the Pair Go World Cup 2016 Tokyo, which was held in Shibuya last year and was a great success with go fans. It is actually in two parts. The first part, the Stars Tournament, was a mini-knockout tournament in which two pairs from Japan and one each from Korea and Chinese Taipei took part. The winners are to play the winning pair from last year’s World Cup in the second part of the tournament, called the Masters Match, in October.

The luck of the draw saw the two teams from Japan play each other in the first round. The pair of Hsieh Yimin 6P (spelling is a mixture of two romanization systems but follows the Nihon Ki-in HP) and Iyama Yuta 9P (B) beat the pair of Fujisawa Rina 3Pand Hane Naoki 9P by resig. In the other first-round game, Choi Jeong 7-dan and Park Jeonghwan 9-dan (W) from Korea beat Hei Jia-jia 7P (also known as Joanne Missingham) and Chen Shih-yuan 9P of Chinese Taipei by resig. In the final, Hsieh and Iyama (B) beat Choi and Park by resig. First prize was ten million yen. Hsieh and Iyama will meet the World Cup-winning pair of Yu Zhiying 5P and Ke Jie 9P in the Masters Match. Hei and Chen (B) beat Fujisawa and Hane by 5.5 points in the play-off for 3rd place.

Like last year, a competition in solving life-and-death problems was also held. The four human pairs competed against the Pandanet life-and-death AI program Panda Sensei in solving five problems. The time allowed for the super-difficult problems was ten minutes each. Panda Sensei won easily, like last year, with four correct solutions in the fastest time. Choe and Park came second, with one correct solution, and Hsieh and Iyama third (they solved the same problem, but the Korea pair was a little faster). What is notable, however, is that Panda Sensei was unable to solve one problem.

(Even in Japan, some fans commented that the winning team above is only half Japanese, as Hsieh is Taiwanese, but it has long been established that players can represent the country of their professional affiliation.)

Ichiriki wins Kisei S League: Two games in the S League of the 42nd Kisei tournament were held on August 10. Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig. and Murakawa Daisuke 8P (W) beat Cho U 9P, also by resig. As a result, there were four players on 2-2, namely, 2017.09.06_Honinbo league Kyo left Shibano rightKono, Yamashita, Murakawa, and Cho U, which meant that Ichiriki Ryo 7P, on 4-0, became unbeatable with one round still to be played. The other league member is So Yokoku 9P, who is on 0-4. Ichiriki secures a place in the play-off to decide the challenger; he needs only one game in the best-of-three, so he has a good chance of meeting Iyama in the title match.

Youngest member ever of Honinbo League: The four vacant places in the 73rd Honinbo League have been decided. Two of the final play-offs were held on August 17. In one, Kobayashi Satoru 9P (B) beat Terayama Rei 5P by resig.; in the other, Ida Atsushi 8P (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by half a point. Kobayashi will play in his fifth Honinbo League and Ida in his fourth.
The third place was decided on August 31. Playing black, Yo Seiki (Yu Chengqi) 7P beat Yoda Norimoto 9P by 2.5 points. This will be Yo’s fourth Honinbo League.
The last place was decided on September 4, when Shibano Toramaru 7P (right) beat Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 4P (game details not yet available to me). At 17 years nine months, Shibano is the youngest player to win a seat in the Honinbo League. He has been a pro for three years exactly, so he is also the quickest. (The record for all leagues is held by Ichiriki Ryo, who got into the Kisei League aged 16 years nine months. The new league starts in October; many fans will be looking forward to Shibano’s debut, as he is not only the strongest high-teen player in Japan but also has an aggressive, individualistic style.
Tomorrow: Xie to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ichiriki to challenge for Oza and Tengen; DeepZenGo wins computer tournament

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The Power Report: Iyama sweeps Meijin League; Iyama’s winning streak ends; Ichiriki maintains lead in Kisei S League; AlphaGo book recommendation

Monday August 7, 2017

Iyama sweeps Meijin League: The final round of the 42nd Meijin League was held on August 3. The challenger had already been decided in the previous round, so the “grand finale” of the league may have been lacking in drama, but for the players hovering between demotion and retaining their league places, there would have been plenty of suspense in the day’s play.2017.08.07_iyama-42gosei
In his final game, Iyama Yuta was matched against Yo Seiki 7P, who needed to beat him to retain his place. As it turned out, Iyama demonstrated overwhelming strength in their game and won easily, so he finished with a perfect 8-0 record and Yo, who scored 3-5, will have to start over again in the final preliminary round. Iyama finished three points clear of the field. Usually the margin is just one point or, occasionally two; I can’t recall anyone else winning by three points. What’s more, he had already established this lead in the second-last round. Iyama is really head and shoulders ahead of other players in Japan. What is striking in the Meijin League chart is how little the status quo changed: the new players are out and there’s only one change in the placings from 1 to 6.
The first game of the match with Takao Shinji Meijin will be played on August 30 and 31.
Final-round results: Iyama (B) beat Yo by resig.; Cho U 9P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.; Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Sakai Hideyuki 8P by resig.; Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig. Players to drop out are Hane, Sakai, and Yo.

Iyama’s winning streak ends: In a game in the Agon Kiriyama Cup played on July 31, Iyama Yuta lost by 1.5 points to Yamada Kimio 9P (B) so his winning streak came to an end on 16.

Ichiriki maintains lead in Kisei S League: One game in the S League of the 62nd Kisei tournament was played on August 3. Ichiriki Ryo 7P (W) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig. That took Ichiriki to 4-0 and continued the sole lead he has enjoyed since the second round. In the fifth and final round he will play Kono Rin, who, on 2-1, is the only other player still in the running. League ranks will affect the outcome, as 2017.07.30_invisible-coverthere is no play-off in the Kisei leagues. If Kono beats Yamashita Keigo in this round, then beats Ichiriki in the final round, then, as the number one player, he will win the league. At this point, Cho U also has only one loss―he is also on 2-1―but, at #5, he is outranked by both Kono and Ichiriki (#4).

AlphaGo book recommendation: In a recent edition of the E-Journal (“Invisible” collects 78 AlphaGo games), there appeared a notice about the publication of “Invisible,” the first book devoted to the games between the AI program AlphaGo and human players. I would like to recommend the book. Its core is the 60-game winning streak set up by AlphaGo, playing as Master, but it also includes other games played at the Go Summit in China. I had the opportunity to proofread about half of these games before publication and it was a real pleasure. Apart from the extraordinary interest of the games themselves, I enjoyed the lucid and instructive presentation by the author, Antti Tormanen. The layout is excellent and the commentaries are clear and accessible. They focus on the innovations of AlphaGo and its dramatic divergences from established professional theory. To look at it another way, these elements of the games constitute the contributions AlphaGo can make to go theory, though it may be a while before its theoretical advances can be fully digested by mere mortals. This book makes a good start in print to that process. In passing, here are two points, among others, that struck me. Very early in the game, AlphaGo plays moves based on its ability to calculate. For example, it plays reducing moves or makes sacrifices that it’s difficult to see human players emulating―they can imitate the moves, but can they make calculations extending to the end of the game while still in the opening? Secondly, it has no ego: it’s content to win by one point and sees no need to crush the opponent. Here, perhaps, humans may not wish to emulate it.
A pdf version of Invisible is available online here or email info@hebsacker-verlag.de for details on the hardcover version.

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The Power Report: Iyama defends Gosei title, becomes Meijin challenger, extends winning streak

Tuesday August 1, 2017

Iyama defends Gosei title, becomes Meijin challenger, extends winning streak: Last week Iyama Yuta extended a winning streak2017.08.02_Iyama (L) defends Gosei he started on April 13 to 16 games. That indicates that this report won’t include any Iyama failures.
The second game of the 42nd Gosei title match was held in the Miyajima Hotel Makoto in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, on July 19. Taking black, Iyama played “steadily” and secured a resignation after 145 moves. “Steadily” was the word used by the Go Weekly reporter, but to me the game seemed very complicated. In a kind of trade, Iyama gave up a large group for the chance to attack and eventually kill a big group and a small one. Having lost the first two games, Yamashita Keigo, the challenger, was now faced with a kadoban.
The third game was played at the Hotel Nikko Kumamoto in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture, on July 25. Playing white, Iyama forced Yamashita to resign after 206 moves and defended his title with straight wins. This was another game in which fierce fighting started early and spilled all over the board. Yamashita pushed Iyama hard but was unable to prevail. This is Iyama’s sixth successive Gosei title, equally the Gosei record set by Otake Hideo and Kobayashi Koichi,  and his 45th overall. First prize is 8,000,000 yen (at 110.63 yen to the dollar, about $72,313).
2017.08.02_meijin42_league12On July 28, Iyama met Murakawa Daisuke in the eighth round of the 42nd Meijin League (left). The game was played at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka. Iyama had won all his games so far and was leading the league on 6-0. On 4-2, Murakawa was the only other player still in the running with Iyama, but he needed to win his final two games and not only beat Iyama himself, but also have him lose to Yo Seiki in the final round. If that happened, the two would meet in a play-off to decide the challenger. That turned out to be just a dream. Taking black, Murakawa played positively, launching a surprise attack on Iyama early in the game. He seemed to have good momentum in the middle game, but Iyama found a chink in his armor and forced him to resign after 146 moves.2017.08.02_Kobayashi Satoru wins Fume killer
Since losing the Meijin title to Takao Shinji about eight months ago, Iyama has done everything right, defending his other six tiles without being put under severe pressure. He can now aim at securing his second grand slam, which would be a first in board games in Japan.
Unlike the other rounds, all the games in the final round of the Meijin League are played on the same day, which is August 3 this year. This is to heighten the drama and to encourage fan interest―“If A beats B, and C loses to D, etc.”―but this year the only suspense will be whether or not Iyama finishes the league with a clean slate. The first game of the title match will be played on August 30 and 31.

Kobayashi Satoru wins Masters’ Cup: The final of the 7th Fume-killer Igo Masters Cup was held in the TV studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on July 22. After a long (266 moves) and fierce fight, Kobayashi Satoru 9P (B) beat Cho Chikun, Hon. Meijin, by half a point. Kobayashi (right) won this title for the second time after a gap of four years. It is sponsored by an insecticide company and first prize is five million yen. This title is open to players 50 and older who have won a top-seven title. Other senior players who have done well in the prize-money-winning list take part in a qualifying tournament for seats in the main tournament. The time allowance is one hour, with the last five minutes allotted to byo-yomi. There was a standing-room-only crowd at a public commentary given in the large hall on the second floor of the Nihon Ki-in.

2017.08.02_Shibano ToramaruShibano wins first title: One of the brightest prospects at the Nihon Ki-in is Shibano Toramaru 3P (left). Commentators have been impressed by his individualistic style and flair for fighting. Shibano won a seat in the final of the 26th Ryusei Cup, where he was matched against another young star, Yo Seiki 7P (Yu Cheng-ch’i) of the Kansai Ki-in. Playing black, Shibano won the game by resignation. He set a couple of speed records. At 17 years eight months, he became the youngest player to win the Ryusei title, breaking the record Ichiriki Ryo set last year of 19 years one month. Second, he was the fastest to win a title in which all professionals could participate, winning the Ryusei two years 11 months after become a professional. Iyama Yuta set the previous record when he won the 12th Agon Kiriyama Cup three years six months after becoming a pro. This victory also earned Shibano promotion to 7-dan (as of August 1). This set another record, as he was the fastest to 7-dan; the previous record was set by Sakai Hideyuki, who made it in three years four months.

Promotion
To 5-dan: Terayama Rei (70 wins, as of July 28)

Interesting stats: Some interesting players are featuring in the statistical contests this year. Below is the picture as of the end of July.
Most wins
1. Shibano Toramaru: 30 wins 6 losses
2. Ichiriki Ryo 29-8
3. Fujisawa Rina: 27-13
4. Iyama Yuta 26-7
5. Kyo Kagen 4P: 24-5
6. Otake Yu 1P: 21-6; Mutsuura Yuta 3P: 21-9; Mukai Chiaki 5P: 21-10
9. Terayama Rei 5P: 20-7; Motoki Katsuya 8P: 20-8; Xie (Hsieh) Yimin: 20-12; Yamashita Keigo: 20-13
One point of interest is the presence of three female players in the top 12. They are probably getting a bit of a boost from the recent proliferation of women’s titles.

Successive wins
Iyama Yuta: 16 (hasn’t lost a game since April 13).
Shibano Toramaru also had a wining streak of 16 games that came to an end during July.

Correction: In my account of the Senko Cup in my last report, I forgot to mention the location of the venue for the semifinals and finals. They were held at the Akekure inn in the town of Higashi Omi in Shiga Prefecture.

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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.

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The Power Report (2): Komatsu wins Samsung seat; Fujisawa wins Senko Cup; 42nd Kisei tournament; Yoda scores 1,100 wins

Tuesday July 18, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.07.18_Komatsu Hideki

Komatsu wins Samsung seat: The international preliminary tournament for the 22nd Samsung Cup was held in Korea from June 28 to July 3. Twenty-seven players from Japan took part in the various categories. The only successful player was Komatsu Hideki 9P (right), who scored five successive wins in the Senior division and gained a seat in the main tournament. He was also successful in the preliminary in 2012 and 2013. The main tournament begins on September 5. Seeded for Japan are Iyama Yuta and Yamashita Keigo.

2017.07.18_Rina wins SenkoFujisawa wins Senko Cup: The semifinals in the 2nd Senko Cup were played in Akekure (Dawn and Dusk), a high-class Japanese inn, on July 14. Xie Yimin (B) beat Nyu Eiko 1P by 4.5 points and Fujisawa Rina (W, left) beat Mukai Chiaki 5P by 3.5 points. The final was played on July 16 at the same venue. Taking white, Fujisawa Rina made a blunder, but she fought on and recovered and in the end won by 2.5 points. She won this title for the first time and now has four women’s titles. Overall, she has now won six titles and is still only 18 (her birthday is on September 18).

42nd Kisei tournament: The first game in the third round of the S League was played on July 6. Cho U 9P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by half a point. The other two games were played on July 13. Kono Rin 9P (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig. and Ichiriki Ryo 7P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig. After three rounds, Ichiriki, as the only undefeated player, has the sole lead. Two players are on 2-1: (in order of rank) Kono and Cho U. Yamashita and Murakawa are on 1-2 and So is on 0-3. In a game in the A League, played on June 29, Yoda Yorimoto (W) beat Kyo Kagen by 2.5 points (see next item). Kyo still has the provisional lead on 5-1, but he has the lowest rank, that is, equal 7th in an eight-player league. Yoda and Takao Shinji Meijin are tied on 4-1 and, being more highly ranked, are threats to Kyo. Cho Chikun on 4-2 is also theoretically in the running for first place.

Yoda scores 1,100 wins: The above win against Kyo was Yoda’s 1,100th as a pro. He has 572 losses, two jigos, two no-results. He is the 12th Nihon Ki-in player to reach this landmark, and his winning percentage of 65 is the 6th best. At 51 years four months, he is the third youngest, and, at 37 years two months, the 4th quickest.

Promotion
To 8-dan: Kanagawa Masaki (150 wins, as of June 20)

Tomorrow: Fujii Sota sets new record

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The Power Report (1): Iyama makes good start in Gosei defence; Fujisawa Rins wins Aizu Central Hospital Cup; 42nd Meijin League

Monday July 17, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.07.17_42gosei1_4

Iyama makes good start in Gosei defence: The first game of the 42nd Gosei best-of-five title match was held at the Matsushima Ichi-no-bo, a mixed Japanese- and Western-style hotel in Matsushima Town in Miyagi Prefecture on June 22. It was one of the events celebrating the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Kahoku Shinpo, a Sendai newspaper belonging to the Newspaper Go Federation, a group of regional newspapers that sponsor the tournament. Taking white, Iyama Yuta (right) held the initiative for much of the game and forced the challenger Yamashita Keigo 9P to resign after 190 moves. This is a good start to Iyama’s attempt to win his sixth successive Gosei title.
The second game will be held on July 19. The gap of four weeks was obviously left to fit in some Honinbo games; by finishing off that title match with straight wins, Iyama earned himself some valuable rest time (each two-day game takes four days when travel time is included).

Fujisawa Rins wins Aizu Central Hospital Cup: Fujisawa Rina 3-dan won the third game of the 4th Aizu Central Hospital Women’s Hollyhock Cup title match to take the title for the second time. Winning it this year shows good timing, as the title has just switched to the challenger system. Fujisawa will meet a challenger in title match next year instead of starting out in the final knockout section of the tournament. The third game was held at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on June 23. Xie Yimin drew black in the nigiri. Xie set up a large moyo, and when Fujisawa set out to reduce it, her invading group came under severe attack. This fight was so big that it decided the game. When Fujisawa cleverly made life for her group, Xie had to resign just 120 moves into the game. This match was a clash between the two players holding all the women’s titles. Xie held the Senko Cup, the Women’s Kisei, and this title, while Fujisawa held the Women’s Meijin and Honinbo titles. With this win, giving her three titles to Xie’s two, Fujisawa established herself as the top woman player.
Prize money for the women’ titles is: Senko Cup: 8,000,000 yen; Hollyhock Cup: 7,000,000; Women’s Honinbo: 5,500,000; Women’s Kisei: 5,000,000; Women’s Meijin: 3,500,000.

42nd Meijin League: In a game held on June 22, Cho U 9P (B) defeated Sakai Hideyuki 8P by 4.5 points. This took Cho’s score to 3-4; as he is ranked #4, his chances of retaining his league seat have improved. On July 10, Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig. and Yo Seiki 7P (B) beat Sakai Hideyuki 8P by resig. As he has a bye in the final rounds, Yamashita has finished his games; on 5-3 he is sure of retaining his place but has no chance of challenging. Yo has improved his score to 3-4, after starting with three losses; his last game is against Iyama Yuta – if he wins that, he has a chance of keeping his place. League leader is Iyama on 6-0, two wins clear of the field.
On July 6, Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. Hane is on 2-5, so this win may have come too late for him to retain his seat. Kono Rin is 3-4, so he has a better chance.

Tomorrow: Komatsu wins Samsung seat; Fujisawa wins Senko Cup; 42nd Kisei tournament; Yoda scores 1,100 wins

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