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The Power Report (Part 3): Second Round Of Nong Shim Cup Starts; Severe Penalty For Lateness; Obituary: Oka Mitsuo; Promotion: Yo Chito

Wednesday December 4, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Second Round Of Nong Shim Cup Starts: Japan has made a bad start in the second round of the 15th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup, which is being played in Pusan, Korea. In Game 5, played on December 2, Kang Tong-yun 9P of Korea (W) defeated Kono Rin 9P by resignation. Japan has yet to score a win, and only Yuki Satoshi 9P and Cho U 9P are left.

Severe Penalty For Lateness: Unfamiliarity with Tokyo trains cost Arakaki Shun 9P of the Kansai Ki-in nearly one half of his time allowance in a game at the Nihon Ki-in on November 21. Arakaki got on a train going the wrong way on the Yamanote loop line and so was 27 minutes late. According to the rules, the time a player is late is tripled and deducted from the time allowance. With the one minute Arakaki actually spent on his first move thrown in, that meant that he lost one hour 22 minutes out of three hours on his first move. Not surprisingly, he lost the game.

Obituary: Oka Mitsuo
Oka Mitsuo 7P died on November 19. Born on August 10, 1932, Oka became a disciple of Segawa Yoshio 9P. He turned professional in 1962 and reached 6-dan in 1978. He retired in 1998 and was promoted to 7-dan.

Promotion: Yo Chito
Yo Chito was promoted to 2-dan on November 29. The fifteen-year-old Yo made his international debut recently as a member of Japan’s Nong Shim Cup team.

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The Power Report (Part 2): Newcomer Makes Good Start In Honinbo League; Ichiriki Wins Young Carp Tournament; 26th Women’s Meijin League; Aoki vs. Ishii In Women’s Kisei Play-Off; Mukai Finally Beats Xie; Hane Defends Okan Title

Tuesday December 3, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Newcomer Makes Good Start In Honinbo League: Three players are undefeated after two rounds in the 69th Honinbo League. Two of them are heavyweights, Yamashita Keigo 9P and Kono Rin 9P; the surprise is that the third is league newcomer Ida Atsushi 7P (right). Born on March 15, 1994, Ida started out the year as a 4-dan, but jumped to 7-dan when he won a Honinbo seat. He is a member of the Central Japan (Nagoya) branch of the Nihon Ki-in. Ida’s second win came on November 14, when, playing white, he beat Yuki Satoshi 9P by resig.

Ichiriki Wins Young Carp Tournament: The 8th Hiroshima Aluminium Cup Young Carp Tournament, open to Nihon Ki-in players 30 and under and 6-dan and under, was held on November 16 and 17. It was won by the sixteen-year-old Ichiriki Ryo 3P (left). Playing white in the final, he defeated Fujita Akihiko 4P, holder of the King of the New Stars title, by resignation.

26th Women’s Meijin League: In a game played on November 14, Chinen Kaori 4P (W) beat Okuda Aya 3P by 2.5 points. This extended Chinen’s score to 3-1, bringing her level with Suzuki Ayumi 6P.  The league leader is Kato Keiko on 4-1. In another game, played on November 20, Yoshida Mika 8P picked up his first win by beating Ishii Akane 2P; Yoshida had black and won by resignation.

Aoki vs. Ishii In Women’s Kisei Play-Off: In the semifinals of the 17th Women’s Kisei tournament, held on November 18, Ishii Akane 2P (B) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by resignation and Aoki Kikuyo 8P (W) beat Konishi Kazuko 8P, also by resignation, so Ishii and Aoki will meet in the play-off to decide the challenger to Xie Yimin.

Mukai Finally Beats Xie: Mukai Chiaki (right) has finally succeeded in a title challenge to Xie Yimin. In the fifth game of the 32nd Women’s Honinbo title match, held at the Nihon K-in in Tokyo on November 27, Mukai (B) beat Xie by resignation after 251 moves. This was an impressive win for Mukai, as she spent a large part of the game under severe pressure. She made a reducing move that was a little too deep, and for the next 100 moves or so a large group of hers was harried and harassed by Xie. Spectators thought that Xie would win, but Mukai found a brilliant move that secured a link with another group. Xie is the one known for staging upsets in tough positions, but here she was on the receiving end. This win earned Mukai her first title after six unsuccessful challenges, five of them to Xie. The latter is now reduced to two titles.

Hane Defends Okan Title: The Okan or Crown title decides the top player at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in. The 54th title match (just one game) was held on November 29. Hane Naoki (B) defeated the challenger, Nakano Hironari 9P, by resignation after 237 moves. This is Hane’s tenth Okan title. His father, Hane Yasumasa, also won it four times; as far as I know, this is the only case of two players in the same family winning the same title.

Tomorrow: Second Round Of Nong Shim Cup Starts; Severe Penalty For Lateness; Obituary: Oka Mitsuo; Promotion: Yo Chito

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The Power Report (Part 1): All-Chinese Final In LG Cup; Yamashita To Challenge For Kisei Title; Iyama Defends Tengen Title; Cho U Picks Up First Win In Oza Title Match, But Iyama Defends; Iyama Reaches Judan Semifinals

Monday December 2, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

All-Chinese Final In LG Cup: The quarterfinals and semifinals of the 18th LG Cup were held in Inch’eon City in Korea on November 11 and 13. Chinese players had dominated the tournament so far, taking six of the eight quarterfinal places, but for once Japan had done better than Korea, with Takao Shinji and Iyama Yuta taking the other two places. However, this was as far as their luck held out, as they were both eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Quarterfinal results, Nov. 11: Chen Yaoye 9P (China) (B) defeated Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) by resignation; Tuo Jiaxi 3P (China) (B) d. Takao Shinji 9P (Japan) by 4.5 points; Li Zhe 6P (China) (W) d. Xia Chenkun 2P (China) by resig.; Zhou Ruiyang 9P (China) (B) d. Li Qincheng 1P (China) by resig.
Semifinal results, Nov. 13: Tuo (B) d. Li by resig.; Zhou (B) d. Chen by 4.5 points. The final is scheduled for February 10, 12, and 13. photo: 18th LG Cup semifinalists, from left: Li Zhe 6 dan, Tuo Jiaxi 3 dan, Zhou Ruiyang 9 dan and Chen Yaoye 9 dan; photo courtesy GoGameGuru

Yamashita To Challenge For Kisei Title: The play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta for the 38th Kisei title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on November 14. Playing white, Yamashita Keigo 9P forced Murakawa Daisuke 7P to resign after 144 moves. Yamashita has won the Kisei title five times, first in 2003 and then from 2006 to 2009. This will be his chance to seek revenge for his loss of the Meijin title to Iyama this year. The first game will be played in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid, in Spain on January 11 & 12. With a first prize of 45 million yen (nearly $440,000 USD), the Kisei is Japan’s richest title.

Iyama Defends Tengen Title: The third game of the 39th Tengen title match was held at the Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima City, Saga Prefecture on November 28. Iyama Yuta (W) defeated Akiyama Jiro 9P by resignation after 176 moves, so he defended his title with straight wins. This is his third successive Tengen title; he now has a winning streak of nine wins in the Tengen.

Cho U Picks Up First Win In Oza Title Match, But Iyama Defends: Games Two and Three in the 61st Oza title match were held in quick succession at the Saryo Soen inn in Akiu Hot Spring, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. It’s quite unusual to hold two games from a title match in a row at the same venue outside Tokyo; it was made necessary, of course, by Iyama Yuta’s crowded schedule. The second game was played on November 19; taking black, Iyama won by resignation after 243 moves. This gave him a 2-0 lead over the challenger, Cho U 9P. It looked as if the match might end very quickly, as the third game was played on the 21st, with only one day’s break. However, Cho (right) played a masterly game with black and forced a resignation after just 161 moves, making the series a lot more interesting. This was the fourth time two games have been played in a row like this and the first time the wins have been shared. The fourth game was played at the Sanyoso inn in Izu-no-kuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture on December 2. Taking black, Iyama won by resignation after 221 moves, so he defended his title with a 3-1 score. This is his second successive Oza title and it maintained his current tally at six of the top seven. He has also taken his overall tally to 22, which is even with O Rissei and Hane Naoki in 13th place.
The Oza title match was the last of the tournament year. This is the first year since 2001 that Cho U has failed to win a title. Iyama has proved to be his nemesis, but he is too good a player not to make a comeback. Incidentally, Iyama’s six first prizes and his TV Asia win have earned him 152.5 million yen $1.5 million USD). Various match fees and game fees have to be added to this, so his final total should be a new record by a big margin.

Iyama Reaches Judan Semifinals: The significance of this news item is that Iyama is keeping alive his chances of becoming the first player ever to win a genuine grand slam, that is, all seven titles in one year. To do so, he needs to become the Judan challenger and then to win it after defending his Kisei title at the beginning of next year. Iyama’s opponent in the semifinal is Mizokami Tomochika 8P. The other semifinal matches Hane Naoki against Takao Shinji.

Tomorrow: Newcomer Makes Good Start In Honinbo League; Ichiriki Wins Young Carp Tournament; 26th Women’s Meijin League; Aoki vs. Ishii In Women’s Kisei Play-Off; Mukai Finally Beats Xie; Hane Defends Okan Title

CORRECTION:  The Kisei first prize of 45 million yen has been updated to reflect that it’s worth nearly $440,000 USD, not the $300,000 originally reported.

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The Power Report (Part 2): Precise Counting At The Spicy Noodles Cup; Yuki Satoshi Breaks Losing Streak To Win Seat In New Meijin League; Kyo Wins Nakano Cup; Globis To Sponsor New International Tournament:

Saturday November 16, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Precise Counting At The Spicy Noodles Cup: According to an article on the fourth game of the Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup (full details of the opening round given in my previous report), there was some precise counting going on. At the end of the game, Fan Tingyu (right), who had won three games in a row, and Kang Tongyun were engaged in a half-point ko fight. Fan calculated that he had one fewer ko threat and that losing the ko would lose the game by half a point, so he resigned. If the game had continued, four ko threats (and replies) and four ko captures were the only moves remaining, apart from filling a few dame points, so the game was very close to being finished anyway, but Fan decided not to waste further time. Apparently it’s not unusual for Chinese players to resign half-point losses, but that shows a lot of confidence in your counting. photo courtesy EGC2014

Yuki Satoshi Breaks Losing Streak To Win Seat In New Meijin League: Yuki Satoshi (left) had a horrible time in the last two Meijin Leagues, losing sixteen games in a row (the losing streak actually started three leagues ago), but he ended his bad run with wins in the last two rounds of the 38th league. Nothing daunted, Yuki will be back to try his luck again in the upcoming 39th league. In the play-off for a seat, held on October 31, he defeated Cho Sonjin 9P (W) by resignation. This will be his fifth Meijin league in a row. The other two play-offs were held on November 7. Ko Iso 8P (B) defeated Ichiriki Ryo 3P by 3.5 points and Ryu Shikun 9P (B) beat Nakano Hironari 9P by 6.5 points.

Kyo Wins Nakano Cup: The Nakano Cup is a privately sponsored tournament founded by the late Nakano Koji. Although he died in 2004, he had made financial provision to keep the tournament going. The 10th Cup was won by 15-year-old Kyo Kagen 1-dan, a Taiwanese player who became a professional earlier this year.

Globis To Sponsor New International Tournament: Globis, a Japanese corporation that specializes in education and training for business, has founded a new international tournament for young players. It will be for players under 20 and will get under way next spring and have a first prize of three million yen. Sixteen players will take part: six from Japan, three each from Korea and China, and one each from Chinese Taipei, Europe, North America, and Oceania.

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The Power Report (Part 1): Honinbo League’s Second Round Nearly Completed; Xie Catches Up In Women’s Honinbo Title Match; Big Week Coming Up; Three Promotions And A Retirement

Monday November 11, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Honinbo League’s Second Round Nearly Completed: The first round of the 69th Honinbo League was completed on the last day of its specified month of October. In the fourth game, Cho U 9P (B) defeated Sakai Hideyuki 8P by resignation. Three of the four games in the second round were played on November 6. Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Cho U by resig.; Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Sakai Hideyuki by resig. and Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig. Yamashita and Kono lead the league with two wins each. Takao and Cho are 1-1; Ida Atsushi 7P is 1-0; Yuki Satoshi 9P is 0-1; and Yo and Sakai are both 0-2. When he set a new record by winning a place in the league at the age of 18, Yo Seiki (right) was hailed as a coming star, but he has had a tough initiation into top-level play.

Xie Catches Up In Women’s Honinbo Title Match: In the fourth game of the 32nd Women’s Honinbo title match, Xie Yimin faced a kadoban (a game that might lose a series) for the first time ever in this title. Xie had black and played steadily, forcing the challenger Mukai Chiaki to resign after 189 moves. That means that the title will be decided in the fifth game on November 27.

Big Week Coming Up: There are some big games coming up this week. In the third round of the LG Cup, scheduled for November 11, Iyama Yuta will play Chen Yaoye of China and Takao Shinji will meet Tuo Jiaxi, also of China. The semifinals follow on the 14th. Back in Japan, the play-off to decide the Kisei challenger, between Yamashita Keigo and Murakawa Daisuke, will be held on the 14th.

Three Promotions And A Retirement: A win by forfeit on October 31 secured Kato Tomoko a promotion to 6-dan with 90 wins as a 5-dan. The promotion took effect the following day. Born in 1969, Kato won the Women’s Honinbo in 1992, the Women’s Meijin in 1995, the Women’s Strongest Player in 2000, and the Women’s Kakusei in 2001. Wins on November 7 earned Fujita Akihiko a promotion to 4 dans (after 50 wins) and Takeda Yoshinori a promotion to 2-dan (after 30 wins). Both promotions took effect on November 8. Kawamoto Noboru 9P, born in 1941, retired as of October 31. He was a disciple of Masubuchi Tatsuko 8P, became 1-dan in 1961 and 9-dan in 1989. He won the 8-dan section of the 9th Kisei tournament in 1984.
Tomorrow: Precise Counting At The Spicy Noodles Cup; Yuki Satoshi Breaks Losing Streak To Win Seat In New Meijin League; Kyo Wins Nakano Cup; Globis To Sponsor New International Tournament 

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The Power Report (Part 2): Iyama Starts Well In Tengen And Oza Title Defences; China Makes Good Start In Nong Shim Cup; Mukai Takes Lead In Women’s Honinbo

Monday November 4, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama Starts Well In Tengen And Oza Title Defences: There’s no rest for Iyama: he had almost no time to bask in the glory of winning the Meijin as he was immediately engaged in two more title matches. There are no signs yet that the accumulated fatigue from continuous top-level play is affecting his play; to the contrary, he now has seven wins in a row in title-match games. The first game of the 39th Tengen title match was held in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture, on October 21, with the challenger, Akiyama Jiro 9P (right), making his title-match debut. The two haven’t played each other much, and so far Akiyama had a good record against Iyama of 3-1; he won the first three games they played, starting in 2008, then Iyama picked up his first win in the Kisei League in 2010. Iyama, playing white, won the opening Tengen game, but things didn’t go smoothly. Akiyama made a bad start in the opening, but in the middle game he landed what Go Weekly described as “an astonishing counterpunch” and upset Iyama’s lead. However, Iyama hung on and managed to pull off his own upset, forcing Akiyama to resign after 146 moves.

Iyama again had little time to rest before meeting Cho U’s challenge in the 61st Oza title match. The first game was played in the Westin Hotel Osaka on 24 October. Taking white, Iyama secured a resignation after 268 moves. The second game will be played on November 19.

The second game of the Tengen title match was played at the Oe Honke inn in Kitami City in Hokkaido on October 28. Iyama (B) won by 3.5 points after 321 moves. The third game is scheduled for November 28.

China Makes Good Start In Nong Shim Cup: The first round of the 15th Nong Shim Spice Noodles Cup was held in Beijing in late October. Fan Tingyu 9P (aged 17, at left) made a good start for China by winning three games in a row before losing to Korea. Results were as follows:
Game 1 (October 22). Fan (B) defeated Yo Chito 1P (Japan) by resignation.
Game 2 (October 23). Fan (B) d. Ch’oe Ch’eol-han 9P (Korea) by 6.5 points.
Game 3 (October 24). Fan (W) d. Anzai Nobuaki 6P (Japan) by resig.
Game 4 (October 25). Kang Tongyun 9P (Korea) (W) d. Fan by resig.
The experiment of giving two seats to junior players did not work out for Japan this time, but they have surely gained valuable experience. The second round will be played in Pusan, Korea, from December 2 to 7.

Mukai Takes Lead In Women’s Honinbo: The third game of the 32nd Women’s Honinbo title match was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on October 29. Playing black, Mukai Chiaki 5P won by 3.5 points after 280 moves. This gives Mukai a 2-1 lead in the title match, so she needs just one more win to win her first title. This is the first time that the title holder, Xie Yimin 6P, has fallen behind 1-2 in a Women’s Honinbo defence. The fourth game will be played on November 8.

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The Power Report (Part 1): Iyama’s New Records; Kato Loses Sole Lead In Women’s Meijin League; Start Of 69th Honinbo League

Sunday November 3, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama’s New Records: As reported previously (Iyama Yuta Achieves Rare ‘Triple Crown’ with 38th Meijin Victory 10/19) Iyama Yuta won the fifth game of the 38th Meijin title match, played on October 16-17, taking the title from Yamashita Keigo with a 4-1 score. Iyama did very well to win four games in a row after losing the opening game of the best-of-seven, though Yamashita did make a gift of the third game. By making a comeback as Meijin after an absence of two terms, Iyama not only won his 20th title, he also became the second player to win the Big Triple Crown of Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo. As usual, he set a record as the youngest so far (age 24 years four months). As the same time, he reassembled his sextuple crown, with the Meijin replacing the Judan. Since there was a gap, this counts as the second time he has held a sextuple crown.

The previous player to hold the Big Triple Crown is Cho Chikun or 25th Honinbo Chikun. He first achieved the feat in 1983 at the age of 26 years eight months and he maintained it for just over four months, from March 18 until July 28, 1983. He repeated the feat in 1996 (at the age of 40 years four months), and this time he held on to the top three titles for the better part of three years, that is, from November 8, 1996 to July 6, 1999. The first time Cho achieved this success, he also held the Judan title; holding the top four titles simultaneously might seem to be still a goal for Iyama, but actually the Judan has been downgraded to the number seven title, as the sponsors reduced the prize money from 15 to seven million yen. Iyama’s six titles are the top six, so he has far surpassed Cho.

More trivia (this information all comes from the October 28 issue of Go Weekly): Cho won the Big Triple Crown 14 years 11 months after becoming a pro to Iyama’s 11 years six months. Iyama is the third player to hold the Kisei and Meijin simultaneously (the third is Kobayashi Koichi) and the eighth Meijin-Honinbo. Iyama has now won six big-three titles to Cho’s 29 ? here, at least, he has a long way to go. Finally, it’s worth noting that this is the first time Osakan players have held all the seven top titles. It’s the first time Tokyo has been shut out.
For all five game records from the 38th Meijin, check out GoGameGuru’s 10/18 post, 
Iyama Yuta completes Japanese trifecta with 38th Meijin victory, where there are also more photos.

Kato Loses Sole Lead In Women’s Meijin League: Just one week after taking the sole lead in the 26th Women’s Meijin League, Kato Keiko 6P let it slip. In the official chart for the league, as published in Go Weekly, the game in which she beat Suzuki Ayumi on October 10, is listed as her November game, and the game with Mukai Chiaki 5P described below is given as her October game (she was playing in successive weeks to open up time for maternity leave in November), though it was played later, on October 17. Taking black, Mukai won by 7.5 points. Another game was played on October 24. Chinen Kaori 4P (B) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resignation.

Start Of 69th Honinbo League: The first game of the new Honinbo League was played on October 17. Taking white, Kono Rin 9P defeated Yuki Satoshi 9P by resignation. Two more games were played on October 24. In a match-up between favorites, Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) defeated Takao Shinji 9P by resignation. In a game between teenagers, Ida Atsushi 7P (Black) beat Yo Seiki 7P by 2.5
points.
Tomorrow: Iyama Starts Well In Tengen And Oza Title Defences; China Makes Good Start In Nong Shim Cup; Mukai Takes Lead In Women’s Honinbo

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The Power Report: Iyama Increases Lead in Meijin; Women’s Honinbo Title Match Tied; Yamashita Wins Ryusei After Final Replayed; Kisei Leagues Concluded; Murakawa Wins Agon Kiriyama Cup; Women’s Meijin League

Monday October 14, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama Increases Lead in Meijin: Iyama Yuta Kisei (right) now needs only one more win to regain the Meijin title. In the fourth game, played at the Agora Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa in Fukuoka City on October 9 and 10, Iyama (W) beat Yamashita Keigo Meijin by resignation after 196 moves. Yamashita lost further ground after his disastrous blunder in a winning position in the third game. What stood out in the fourth game was Iyama’s skill at shinogi, that is, rescuing a weak group without incurring a disadvantage. Go reporters covering the game used the term “attacking shinogi,” and Iyama proved that it was not an oxymoron. For much of the middle game, Iyama had a large eyeless group that was subject to attack. Yamashita made leaning attacks on other white groups to build thickness for attacking the weak group. Instead of saving it directly, Iyama took even more profit in neighboring areas but in a way that offered indirect assistance to his large group. When the crunch came, he cleverly secured two eyes for his forty-stone group. Way behind on territory, Yamashita had no choice but to resign. This whole battle was fought by Iyama under time pressure, as he went into byo-yomi on move 80. The fifth game will be played on October 16 and 17.

Women’s Honinbo Title Match Tied: Two games have already been played in the 32nd Women’s Honinbo best-of-five title match. The challenger, Mukai Chiaki 5P, made a good start by winning the opening game, but the defending champion, Xie Yimin 6P (left), fought back to even the series in the second game. The first game was played at the Kashoen Inn in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 2. Mukai, taking black, defeated Xie by resignation after 143 moves. Xie played a little slackly in the middle game and let Mukai cut off and kill a large group. The second game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya in central Tokyo on October 7. Mukai secured a slight advantage in the middle game, but Xie was able to stage an upset. She won by 3.5 points after 274 moves. There are some interesting statistics for Xie’s seven Women’s Honinbo title matches (including this one). She has a minus record in the opening game, having won only three out of the seven. However, she has never lost the second or third game. Mukai will have to break this pattern to take the title. The third game will be played on October 29.

Yamashita Wins Ryusei After Final Replayed: Between his Meijin games, Yamashita Keigo (right) found time to play the final of the 22nd Ryusei tournament. However, once was not enough. His opponent was Kono Rin, and the game ended in a no-result because of a triple ko (Yamashita had black). Incidentally, the referee who adjudicated the game as a no-result was Michael Redmond 9P. In the replay, held on the same day, Yamashita again drew black and forced a resignation after 177 moves. First prize is six million yen
Kisei Leagues Concluded: All the fifth-round games in the 38th Kisei Leagues were played on October 3, but the only suspense involved was the question of which players would keep their places, as the league winners had been decided in the fourth round. The results were as follows. A League: Yamashita Keigo Meijin (W) defeated Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P by 1.5 points. Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) d. Kobayashi Satoru 9P by 2.5 points. Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (B) d. Cho U 9P by 1.5 points. B League: 25th Honinbo Chikun (W) d. Murakawa Daisuke 7P by resig. Takao Shinji 9P (B) d. Kono Rin 9P by resig. Mizokami Tomochika 8P (W) d. Hane Naoki 9P by resig. Yamashita and Murakawa had already won their respective leagues. In the A League, Cho U and Kiyonari lost their places. Cho U, the immediate past Kisei, was able to win only one game. In the B League, Kono and Mizokami lost their places.

Murakawa Wins Agon Kiriyama Cup: The final of the 20th Agon tournament was held at the Kyoto headquarters of the sponsoring Agon Buddhist sect on October 5. The 22-year-old Murakawa Daisuke 7P of the Kansai Ki-in was matched against Shida Tatsuya 6P, also aged 22, of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in. Both players had won minor titles, but whoever won this game would take a new step in his career. Playing black, Murakawa beat Shida by 3.5 points after 246 moves. The prize money is ten million yen, which is the sixth-highest in Japan. Murakawa will represent Japan in the play-off with the winner of the Chinese version of this title.

Women’s Meijin League: Two games in the 26th Women’s Meijin League were played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on October 10. Okuda Aya 3P, the previous challenger, scored her first win when she beat Yoshida Mika 8P (W) by resignation. The other game was between the joint leaders of this year’s league, Kato Keiko 6P and Suzuki Ayumi 6P, who were both on 3-0. Playing black, Kato won by 2.5 points, so she now has the sole lead; however, if she later loses a game she may be handicapped by her number five ranking in the league. This game was originally scheduled for November, but it was brought forward a month, as Kato is due to have a baby next month.

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The Power Report: Iyama Takes Lead In Meijin; Fujita Wins King Of The New Stars; Mukai Scores First Win In Women’s Meijin League; Most Wins; New Professional Couple

Wednesday October 2, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Iyama Takes Lead In Meijin, Thanks To Blunder By Yamashita: The third game of the 38th Meijin title match was held at the Takarazuka Hotel in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture on September 25 and 26. Takarazuka City is known as the home of the famous all-female theatrical troupe, the Takarazuka Troupe, but to Iyama Yuta it is probably more familiar as the home of his teacher Ishii Kunio. Not that Iyama would have visited Ishii very frequently, as his home is a two-hour journey from Ishii’s home. Iyama was not a live-in disciple; instead he played teaching games with Ishii on the Net.  Even so, Yamashita Keigo was making his first visit to Takarazuka, so Iyama held the home-ground advantage.

This doesn’t seem to count for much in go, as fans don’t get to cheer players on (at best, they sometimes quietly watch the first few moves of title games). In a game marked by small-scale fighting, Yamashita, playing white, took the advantage and, further helped by a rare misreading by Iyama, he set up a winning position. As usual, Iyama did his best to complicate the game, and in the middle of a ko fight Yamashita made a terrible blunder, playing a ko threat that filled in one of his own liberties. He needed to play another move immediately to save six of his stones that his mistake had put into jeopardy, but he chose to retake the ko. Iyama immediately ceded the ko and took the six stones. This gave him a narrow win by 1.5 points.

Fortunately for Yamashita, he has two weeks to recover from the shock of this setback. The fourth game will be played on October 9 and 10. He will have to win two games in a row to secure the lead he should have had at this point.

Fujita Wins King Of The New Stars: Fujita Akihiko 3-dan has won his first title with straight wins. In the second game of the 38th King of the New Stars title match, played on September 26 at the Kansai Ki-in in Osaka, he defeated Yo Seiki 7-dan (White) by resignation after 181 moves. Yo did not show the strength expected from his recent successes of winning a place in the Honinbo league and his winning streak of 18 games. Because of his promotion to 7-dan for winning the Honinbo seat, he won’t get another chance to win this title. With this win, Fujita extended a winning streak of his own to 15 games.

Mukai Scores First Win In Women’s Meijin League: On September 26, Mukai Chiaki 5P (W) defeated Okuda Aya 3P by resignation in a third-round game in the 26th Women’s Meijin League. Mukai is now 1-2 and Okuda 0-2. Suzuki Ayumi 6P and Kato Keiko 6P, both on 3-0, lead the league.

Most Wins: With the tournament year three-quarters gone, this may be a good time to see who is racking up the wins in Japan. Kono Rin has a slight lead in the following list, which is dated as of September 27 and is for Nihon Ki-in players (though I have added Yo Seiki).
1. Kono Rin 9P (right): 33-17
2. Iyama Yuta Kisei: 31-16
3. Takao Shinji 9P: 30-17
4. Ichiriki Ryo 3P: 25-4
5. Yo Chito 1P: 23-3
6. Yo Seiki 7P: 22-4
7. Cho U 9P: 22-18
9. Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P: 21-12

New Professional Couple: There’s been another marriage among go professionals (I reported earlier on the June  4 marriage of Suzuki Ayumi 6P and Rin Kanketsu 7P). On September 20, Mukai Chiaki 5P married Sugimoto Akira 8P. As far as I know, they are the 17th go couple.

Correction: I made a mistake with the name of the Taiwanese player on Japan’s Nong Shim team. It is Yo Chito, not Cho Chito. (His name in Chinese is Yao Zhiteng.)

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The Power Report (Part 2): King of the New Stars; Japan’s 15th Nong Shim Cup Team; September Promotions

Wednesday September 25, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

King of the New Stars: Yo Seiki (right), the first player in Japan to jump from 3-dan to 7-dan, was considered the favorite in the 38th King of the New Stars title match, but the first game of the best-of-three was taken by his opponent, Fujita Akihiko 3P (aged 21 to Yo’s 18). The game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya on September 17; taking white, Fujita won by resignation. The second game will be played on the 26th.

Japan’s 15th Nong Shim Cup Team: Japan’s Nong Shim Cup team was decided by a different system this year. As usual, the top players were seeded, but two places were filled through a qualifying tournament for younger players. The seeded players are Yuki Satoshi 9P, Cho U 9P, and Kono Rin 9P. Cho will be playing on the Japanese team for the first time since 2004, as a restriction that was imposed on players representing countries of which they are not citizens has been lifted. Cho is the only member of the Japanese team who has won an international title, whereas the Korean and Chinese teams each have four current or former world champions. In the qualifying tournament, eight players who have been chosen as members of the national team competed in two mini double-knockout tournaments. The winners were Anzai Nobuaki 6P (aged 28, at left) and Cho Chito 1P (aged 15). Anzai has some accomplishments already, notably reaching the final of this year’s Tengen tournament, but Cho was a dark horse who has been a professional for less than a year. Though not uncommon in Korea and China, this will be the first time a 15-year-old has played for Japan. Like Cho U, Cho Chito was born in Taiwan.

September Promotions: To 3-dan: Obuchi Kotaro (at right, son of Obuchi Norito 9P); Ms. Mannami Nao (both with 40 wins); To 4-dan: Suzuki Shinji (50 wins).

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