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The Power Report (1/2): Korea wins Nong Shim Cup; Fujisawa defends 30th Women’s Meijin; Kato & Iyama win Pair Go

Sunday March 18, 2018

by John Power, special Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2018.03.18_19noshin10_1-2

Korea wins Nong Shim Cup:
  The final round of the 19th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Shanghai from February 26 to March 1. Recently, victory in this three-way team tournament had been monopolized by China, but this time they were thwarted by Korea.
To recap, the first Korean player, Shin Min-jun 6P, gave his team a great start by winning all four games in the opening round, held from September 19 to 22. In the second round, held from November 24 to 28, he picked up two more wins before losing to Dang Yifei of China (at right in photo). Dang closed out this round with two more wins, so only two players had any success in the first two rounds.
In the first game of the final round, Game 10, Dang played Iyama Yuta 9P of Japan, who was his country’s last hope. Dang (W) won by resignation, so this was another international failure for Iyama, following on his loss in the LG final. In Game 11, played on February 27, Dang (W) beat Shin Jinseo 8P of Korea by resignation so he extended his winning streak to five games. In game 12 (February 28), Kim Jiseok 9P of Korea (W) scored a dramatic win over Dang by just half a point, so he prevented Dang from matching Shin’s record. In game 13, played on March 1, Kim (B) beat China’s top board, Ke Jie 9P by resignation. This secured Korea its first victory in the Nong Shim Cup since the 14th term without having to call upo2018.03.18_30fmeijin2_2n their top board, Park Junghwan. Korea scored eight wins to three losses, China 5-5, and Japan 0-5. Japan came third for the 12thyear in a row, but it was only the second time it failed to pick up even one win.

Fujisawa defends 30th Women’s Meijin: Recently, most of the women’s title matches have featured Xie Yimin playing Fujisawa Rina, but this year’s Women’s Meijin title match was different, with a member of an older generation trying to make a comeback. The challenger was Yashiro Kumiko (below left), who won a couple of titles over a decade ago, and the defender was Fujisawa Rina, who holds three of the top five women’s titles. The first game 2018.03.18_30fmeijin2_3was played on February 28 in the Arisu Building at the Heian Jogakuin University, an Anglican-linked women’s university also known as St. Agnes’ University. The Arisu Building is a former nobleman’s resident that is on the campus. According to Go Weekly, Fujisawa’s play “overflowed with fighting spirit.” She held the initiative throughout and forced a resignation after 196 moves (she had white). The second game, which was played on the campus of the Osaka University of Commerce on March 7, developed differently, with Yashiro taking the lead. However, she let Fujisawa pull off an upset late in the game and win by 3.5 points. This meant that Fujisawa defended her title with straight wins. Surprisingly, this is her first successful defence, which is not what you would expect of a player who not so long ago held four of the top five women’s titles. First prize is 3,500,000 yen (about $32,000).

Kato & Iyama win Pair Go: The final of the Professional Pair Go Championship 2018 was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on March 4. This is a knockout tournament, with 16 pairs competing. Reaching the final were the Kato Keiko 6P/Iyama Yuta 9P pair and the Suzuki Ayumi 7 P/Ko Iso 9P pair. The latter drew black in the nigiri, but lost a game full of hectic fighting. They resigned after 218 moves.

Tomorrow: Iyama wins first Judan game; 73rd Honinbo League; 43rd Meijin League

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Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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The Power Report (3): Meijin League; Marriage between go players; Kido Prizes; Iyama wins Shusai Prize; Promotions

Wednesday February 21, 2018

by John Power, special Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Meijin League: 
The first game in the third round of the 43rd Meijin League was played on February 1. Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P. Astonishingly, Yo has beaten Takao ten times to just one loss. With the third round almost completed, the only undefeated players are Cho U 9P and Shibano Toramaru; both of them have already had a bye, so their scores are 2-0. Recent results follow.
(Jan. 25) Cho U 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo by resig.
(Feb. 1) Yo Seiki (W) beat Takao Shinji by resig.
(Feb. 8) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(Feb. 15) Shibano Toramaru (W) beat Yamashita by 2.5 points.

Marriage between go players: Go Weekly reported that Mannami Nao 3P (age 32) married Ida Atsushi 8P (age 23) on February 12. Ida is a member of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in; Mannami is going to move to Nagoya. Mannami said: “I want to support Ida 8-dan and look after our household.” It seems she plans to follow the lead of Kobayashi Izumi in subordinating her own career to her husband’s. In her case, it may involve some financial loss, as in recent years she has been the most popular woman professional for commentating jobs etc. at go events.

Kido Prizes: The 51st Kido Prizes were announced in the latest issue of Go Weekly. Winners were as follows:
Most Outstanding Player: Iyama Yuta
Outstanding Player: Ichiriki Ryo
New Stars: Mutsuura Yuta (for winning the Agon Kiriyama Cup), Shibano Toramaru (for winning the Ryusei title)
Woman’s Prize: Fujisawa Rina
International Prize: Iyama Yuta
Most wins: Shibano Toramaru (53)
Best winning percentage: Kyo Kagen 7P (80.3%)
Most successive wins: Iyama Yuta, Shibano Toramaru: 16
Most games played: Shibano Toramaru
The most interesting point here is the appearance of three women in the top ten (five in the top 20, 11 in the top 52). In part, this reflects the fact that players like Xie Yimin and Fujisawa Rina do fairly well against male players, but another factor is the increase in the number of women’s titles. This has also led to a big increase in the prize money available (see list below): the two newest women’s tournaments, the Hollyhock Cup, previously known as the Aizu Central Hospital Cup, and the Senko Cup actually having the most prize money. The former, which has completed four terms, is worth 7,000,000 yen to the winner, and the latter, held twice so far, is worth 8,000,000 yen.

Here are some statistics for 2017.
Most wins

  1. Shibano Toramaru: 53 wins, 13 losses
  2. Kyo Kagen: 45-11
  3. Ichiriki Ryo: 44-20
  4. Iyama Yuta: 42-12
  5. (Ms) Fujisawa Rina: 40-23
  6. Shida Tatsuya 7P: 38-11; Mutsuura Yuta 7P: 38-12
  7. Motoki Katsuya 8P: 36-14
  8. (Ms) Xie Yimin: 34-22
  9. (Ms) Mukai Chiaki 5P: 33-18
  10. Cho U: 30-14; (Ms) Ueno Asami 1P: 30-15; Yamashita Keigo: 30-22
  11. (Ms) Nyu Eiko: 27-23

Best winning percentage

  1. Kyo Kagen: 80.36%
  2. Shibano Toramaru: 80.3%
  3. Iyama Yuta: 77.78%

Most successive wins

  1. Iyama Yuta, Shibano Toramaru: 16
  2. Takei Takashi 7P, Mutsuura Yuta: 13

Most prize money won

  1. Iyama Yuta: \159,814,000 (about $1,480,000)
  2. Ichiriki Ryo: \25,237,300
  3. Takao Shinji: \24,595,000
  4. Fujisawa Rina: \24,049,700
  5. Yamashita Keigo: \21,807,300
  6. Kono Rin: \21,713,400
  7. Motoki Katsuya: \20,977,400
  8. Xie Yimin: \20,472,400
  9. Shiba Toramaru: \18,908,700
  10. Mutsuura Yuta: \16,996,200

Iyama wins Shusai Prize: The 55th Shusai Prize, which honors the outstanding player of the previous year, was awarded to Iyama Yuta. This prize usually goes to the player who wins the top Kido prize; Iyama has received it six times in a row (matching the record of Kobayashi Koichi) and seven times overall (behind Cho Chikun’s nine).

Promotions
The automatic promotions based on prize money won in 2017 were announced recently in Go Weekly. Details follow.
To 2-dan: Ueno Asami Torii Yuta
To 3-dan: Koike Yoshihiro, Yokotsuka Riki
To 4-dan: Tanaka Nobuyuki, Koyama Kuya
To 5-dan: Tsuruta Kazushi, Adachi Toshimasa
To 6-dan: Son Makoto, Numadate Sakiya
To 7-dan: Shiraishi Yuichi
There has also been one promotion by the cumulative-wins system.
To 8-dan: Ri Ishu (150 wins, as of Jan 19)

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The Power Report (1): Murakawa to challenge for Judan; Ueno wins Women’s Kisei; Yashiro to challenge for Women’s Meijin title

Monday February 19, 2018

by John Power, special Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2018.02.19_Murakawa-56jyudan0_1-2

Murakawa to challenge for Judan: The play-off to decide the challenger for the 56th Judan title was held at the Kansai Ki-in in Osaka on January 25. Murakawa Daisuke 8P (right) of the Kansai Kiin, playing white, beat Shida Tatsuya 7P of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in by resignation. Murakawa, who won the 62nd Oza title in 2014, will make his first challenge for the Judan title. Shida missed his chance to make his first top-seven title challenge. The best-of-five with Iyama Yuta will start on March 6.

Iyama defends Kisei title:  The second game of the 42nd Kisei title match was held at the Hachinohe Hotel in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture, on January 25 and 26. After a solid opening, a difficult fight started. Unlike the first game, in which Ichiriki had some chances, Iyama (left), playing black, kept the initiative throughout and secured a resignation 2018.02.19_Iyama-42kisei4_10after 171 moves. This win may have been a little disheartening for Ichiriki, who had now lost 11 games in a row to Iyama (all title games, including the NHK Cup final). The third game was held at the Olive Bay Hotel in Nishiumi City, Nagasaki Prefecture, on January 31 and February 1. The venue is a little unusual: it is a luxury hotel that was originally built as a guest house for the Oshima Shipbuilding Group and is located right next to a shipbuilding yard. This game was marked by complicated fighting among multiple unstable groups that spread from the top through the centre to the bottom. Perhaps the key move was a brilliant sabaki (settling a group) move with which Iyama (white) foiled a fierce attack by Ichiriki (below right); this led to a counterattack by Iyama. In the desperate fighting that followed, Iyama’s sharper play enabled him to seize the initiative. Ichiriki resigned after White 238. He now faced his first 2018.02.19_Ichiriki-42kisei4_11kadoban (a game that can lose a series).

   The usual pattern in a best-of-seven is to alternate breaks of one week and two weeks. So far, however, in this match games were being played once a week. The reason was to free up some time for both players to represent Japan in international tournaments (see reports below). Both players failed in these tournaments, so as far as psychological aftereffects were concerned, conditions were perhaps even. The fourth game was played at the Ofunato Citizens Culture Hall in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture, on 2018.02.19_Xie left, Iyama right-22lg3_2February 15 and 16. Once again, Ichiriki (white) was unable to get an advantage in the middle game, so he staked the game on a large-scale counterstrategy. However, Iyama calmly parried his attack, even letting him bring a dead group back to life, since he could secure a safe territorial lead anyway. Ichiriki continued to go all out, but his play was unreasonable and he had to resign after Iyama killed a large group.

   This was a very disappointing series for Ichiriki. In his first title match with Iyama, the 42nd Tengen at the end of 2016, he had at least won a game, but now he had been shut out in three successive title matches. Becoming challenger for three titles in a row is actually an impressive achievement, but it sets you up for some rough treatment at the hands of the grand slam champion. For Iyama, this was his sixth Kisei title in a row, the second-best run in this title after Kobayashi Koichi (who won the 10th to 17th titles). He had now maintained his grand slam for four months (since winning back the Meiijin title on October 17 last year). This is his 49th title, which puts him in sole fourth place, behind Cho Chikun (74), Sakata Eio (64), and Kobayashi Koichi (60). He is also sitting on a winning streak of 14 games in title matches, so he may challenge his personal record of 18 successive title-match wins. The Kisei prize is 45 million yen (about $416,000). The age of Iyama continues.

Ueno wins Women’s Ki2018.02.19_Yashiro-30fmeijin0_1-2sei: The second game of the 21st DoCoMo Cup Women’s Kisei best-of-three title match was held in the Ryusei studio at the Nihon Ki-in on January 29. Taking black, Ueno Asami 2D, the challenger, forced Xie Yimin to resign after 253 moves. This was her second win, so she dethroned the champion and won her first title at the age of 16 years three months. This set a new record in this title, beating Xie’s 20 years two months, but not threatening the overall record for women’s titles—Fujisawa Rina’s winning the Women’s Aizu Central Hospital Cup (now called the Hollyhock Cup) at 15 years nine months. Ueno’s prize is 5,000,000 yen (about $46,000).

Yashiro to challenge for Women’s Meijin title: The play-off to decide the challenger to Fujisawa Rina for the 30th Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on February 1. Playing white, Yashiro Kumiko 6P (left) beat Izawa Akino 4P by resignation after 200 moves. Yashiro, who is 41, will be making her first challenge for this title. She won the 24th and 25th Women’s Honinbo Titles in 2005 and 2006. The best-of-five match starts on February 28.

Tomorrow: Xie wins LG Cup; Park wins New Year’s Cup; Ida keeps lead in Honinbo League despite loss

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Power Report: Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei; 73rd Honinbo League; 43rd Meijin League; Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka

Wednesday January 31, 2018

Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei: The challenger to Xie Yimin for the 21st Women’s Kisei title is a new face: 2018.01.31_21fkisei1_05Ueno Asami 1P (right), a 16-year-old who became a professional in 2016. She is the second woman 1-dan to challenge for this title recently (the other was Nyu Eiko 1P, who lost 1-2 to Xie last year). Ueno had a good year last year, scoring 30 wins to 15 losses; this challenge will raise her profile. The first game was played at the Hotel Sun Life Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 19. Taking white, Ueno showed that she was not overawed by the occasion or her opponent, the most successful woman player ever in Japan. She was ready to mix it up in scrappy fighting with Xi and secured the lead with a move that took Xie by surprise. The latter did her best to upset Ueno’s lead, but was thwarted by accurate and feisty play by the challenger. Xie resigned after White 186. The next game will be played on January 29.

73rd Honinbo League: On 3-0, Ida Atsushi 8P has the sole lead in the league. His game against Kobayashi Satoru 9P will be the final game in the fourth round. Ko Iso, on 3-1, is in provisional second place. Results since my last report, are given below.
(Dec. 21) Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.
(Jan. 11) Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig.; Shibano Toramaru 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 9P by resig.
(Jan. 18) Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.

43rd Meijin League: The following games have been played in the Meijin League since our last report. The league leader will be the winner of the final game in the second round, between Cho U and Yamashita Keigo, as he will go to 2-0. Everyone else has lost at least one game.
(Dec. 21) Shibano Toramaru 7P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by 2.5 points.
(Jan. 11) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P by resig.
(Jan. 18) Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig.; Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig.

Promotions
To 2-dan: Nyu Eiko (30 wins, as of December 22)
To 8-dan: Ri Ishu (150 wins, as of January 19)

Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka
Shiraishi Yutaka, one of the leading players at the Kansai Ki-in, died of a squamous cell cancer of the right upper lobe of the lung on December 10. Shiraishi was born in Ehime Prefecture on January 14, 1941. A disciple of Sekiyama Riichi 9P, he became a professional in 1956 and reached 9-dan in 1973. He won the 9-dan section of the Kisei tournament in 1976 and 1981, won the Pro-Ama Tournament in 1981, and the 37th Kansai Ki-in Number One Position tournament in 1993. He played three times each in the Meijin and Honinbo tournaments. He retired in 2012.

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The Power Report: People’s Honor Awards confirmed for Iyama and Habu; Lee Sedol wins World Meijin; Iyama makes good start in Kisei defense

Friday January 26, 2018

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

People’s Honor Awards confirmed for Iyama and Habu: At a cabinet meeting held on January 5, it was officially decided to give People’s Honor Awards to go player Iyama Yuta and shogi player Habu Yoshiharu in recognition of two unprecedented achievements. In Iyama’s case, it was getting a grand slam of the top seven titles for the second time; in Habu’s case, it was qualifying for lifetime titles in all the top seven titles (equivalent to an honorary title in go). As I mentioned in my final report for last year, it was announced that the government was “considering” making these awards, so it has now been confirmed. The awards will be given by the prime minister, Abe Shinzo, in a ceremony at the prime minister’s official residence on February 13. (By the way, so far Iyama has qualified for three honorary titles, the Kisei, Honinbo, and Gosei.)

Lee Sedol wins World Meijin: On January 8 and 9, the Dongjun Pharmaceutical Co. Cup: 5th World Mingren Tournament was held at the Yongji Qiyuan in Baoshan in Yunnan Province. Baoshan is a town very close to the Myanmar border and is famous for its go stones. The Yongji Qiyuan (= Ki-in) is an eight-storey building erected in 2016, so go must be prospering in this area. This is an invitational tournament, pitting the holders of the Meijin (= Mingren in Chinese and Myeongin in Korean) against each other. Iyama Yuta Meijin represented Japan and Lian Xiao Mingren China, but the Korean Myeongin title has been discontinued, so the Korean Baduk Association chose Lee Sedol as its representative. Lee repaid the faith shown in him by winning the mini-tournament.

 The tournament followed the usual “irregular” format for a three-player knockout. After drawing lots, Iyama and Lian were paired to play in the opening round on January 8. Taking white, Lian won this game by resignation. Iyama then played Lee in the second round; taking black, Lee won by resignation, so Iyama took third place. In the final, played on the 10th, Lee beat Lian (Go Weekly does not give the details) and took the first prize of 500,000 yuan (about $31,000). The Legend Pair Go tournament was held as a parallel event. This was won by the Korean pair of Yun Yongmin 3P and Suh Bongsoo 9P. The Japanese pair of Yoshida Mika 8P and Otake Hideo 9P came second.2018.01.26_42kisei1_5

Iyama makes good start in Kisei defense: As usual, the honor of starting the official tournament program in Japan fell to the players competing for the Kisei title, though they beat two women players by just a day. The challenger for the 43rd Kisei title is Ichiriki Ryo 7P, who is making his fourth challenge for a top-seven title. The only way to win one of these titles is to overcome Iyama Yuta, as he holds all of them. So far, Ichiriki has been unsuccessful; his best effort was in the 42nd Tengen title match in 2016, when he won the second game, but he has had no luck since, losing the next two games here, and suffering whitewashes in the 65th Oza and the 43rd Tengen title matches at the end of last year. Since he also lost the final of last year’s NHK Cup (the 64th), that gave him nine successive losses to Iyama. Still, his becoming the challenger for three successive titles shows that he is one of the top players in Japan.

   The top-three title matches, with their eight-hour time allowances spread over two days, are a different world from the other title matches, so such a match represents a new challenge but also a new opportunity. Ichiriki also had a break of seven weeks to prepare, though he may have been distracted by university exams in January.

   The first game was played at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo on January 18 and 19, with Otake Hideo, Hon. Gosei, acting as referee. Ichiriki drew black in the nigiri. In the opening, Iyama went for territory and Ichiriki set up a large moyo. As usual these days, there were some moves influenced by AI go-playing programs, such as a 3-3 invasion by White on move six and a shoulder hit against the lower stone in a knight’s-move corner enclosure by Black with move 13. As usual with top-level games, the play was too complex for an amateur such as myself to follow. To summarize briefly, White invaded Black’s moyo with White 40. He came under severe attack but managed to settle his group in sente, so he was able to expand his territorial moyo at the top. At this point, Iyama had the lead. Ichiriki successfully invaded the top territory and perhaps took over the lead here. However, he later played a move that, in the words of the Go Weekly reporter, “lacked subtlety.” Actually, the three-page report in the go newspaper is a little hard to understand. The headlines on the second and the third pages read, “Iyama’s tenacious upset” and “Ichiriki misses his winning chance” respectively, but they are not concretely explained in the text. That’s why I wrote “perhaps” above. It seems that Ichiriki missed the best move in a center fight that concluded the game. The Yomiuri Newspaper commentator So Yokoku 9P identified Black 203 as “the final losing move.” Black resigned after move 240.

   After the game, Iyama commented: “I thought that if Black played correctly in the center the game was no good for me. It was a tough game, but I was lucky.” Ichiriki: “I didn’t know what was correct in the center. I made mistakes in delicate positions that were fatal.” The next game will be played on January 25 and 26.

Tomorrow: Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei; 73rd Honinbo League; Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka

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Power Report (2 of 2): Ueno to challenge for Women’s Kisei; Awards for Iyama and Habu; World Go Championship 2018

Tuesday December 19, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal21fkisei_challenger Ueno

Ueno to challenge for Women’s Kisei:
A fresh face will be challenging Xie Yimin for the 21st Women’s Kisei title early next year. The play-off to decide the challenger was held in the Ryusei TV studio located in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on December 11. Ueno Asami 1P (right), 21 fkisei Okudawho is aged 16 and who qualified as a pro last year, beat Okuda Aya 3P (left); Ueno had black and secured a resignation after 199 moves. She will be just 16 years two months when the title match starts on January 19 and will be the youngest challenger ever. She lowered the record of Nyu Eiko, set last year, by about a year.

Awards for Iyama and Habu: A government spokesman announced last week that the Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, was considering giving People’s Honor Awards to the top go and shogi players Iyama Yuta and Habu Yoshiharu. Going by the timing, it would seem the idea was sparked by a recent achievement of Habu. Earlier this month, he won the Ryuo tournament for the seventh time and so qualified for the title of Eternal Ryuo (also translated as “Lifetime Ryuo”). The wording sounds grander, but this seems to be the equivalent of the “honorary” titles in go. The point was that Habu has qualified for the “eternal” title in all of the top seven shogi titles, an unprecedented feat. The reason for also giving a People’s Honor Award to Iyama was his success in achieving a grand slam of the top seven go titles for the second time.

Iyama (aged 28) and Habu (aged 47) will be the first board-game players (or mind-sport athletes, if you prefer) to win this award. Previously, it has been given to 23 individual athletes in various sports, actors, singers, composers, etc., and to all the members of the women’s soccer team that won the World Cup in 2011. The wording that the government is “considering” making these awards may seem a little funny, but surely the Prime Minister won’t change his mind. An official announcement is expected to follow within the year. The story was the lead-off article on the front page of the December 13 morning Yomiuri Newspaper and also featured on the front page of the afternoon edition. The criterion for the awards is: a person with conspicuous achievements who is widely loved and respected by the people and who have given bright hope to society.(Conditions for the shogi “eternal” title seem slightly easier for some of the titles than for honorary titles in go. They range from five cumulative wins to five wins in a row or ten cumulative wins, the latter being the condition in go. There are actually five variations in the conditions.)

World Go Championship 2018: The Nihon Ki-in has announced that this tournament will be held in March next year. It’s actually the second time: the 1st World Go Championship was held in March last year, but the next one is not being called the “2nd.” Last year, four “players” took part, one of them being the AI program DeepZenGo. First place was taken by Park Junghwan of Korea, 2nd by Mi Yuting of China, 3rd by DeepZenGo, and 4th by Iyama Yuta. Next year, six players will take part: two from Japan, two from Korea, one from China, and one from Chinese Taipei. Note that Korea is not being favored over China. As host country, Japan gets two slots (the host country gets more seats in many international tournaments); Korea gets two because the previous winner, Park, is seeded (as in the TV Asia tournament). The other participants will be: Iyama Yuta and the winner of a qualifying tournament open to the top four place-getters (after Iyama) in the prize-money rankings for Japan; Shin Jinseo 8P for Korea; Ke Jie for China; and Wang Yuanjun 8P for Chinese Taipei. The time allowance will be three hours per player, with the last five minutes being allotted to byo-yomi. Games will start at 10:30 a.m. and there will be no break for lunch. Prizes are: 1st, \20,0000,000 (about $182,000); 2nd, \5,000,000; 3rd & 4th, \2,50,000; 5th & 6th, \1,000,000. Park and Iyama will be seeded into the second round.

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Power Report (1 of 2): Tuo of China wins Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off; Meijin League starts; Honinbo League; Chinese program wins computer go tournament

Monday December 18, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.12.18_19 Agon leftMutsuura

Tuo of China wins Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off: 
The 19th Agon Kiriyama Cup Japan-China Play-off was held at the Westin Hotel in Beijing on December 6. Tuo Jiaxi 9P (aged 26, below left) of China beat Mutsuura 2017.12.18_19agonn TuoYuta 7P (aged 18, at left in photo at right) of Japan. Tuo had black and secured a resignation after 135 moves. This was China’s 1th win in this series (Japan won the first four and Iyama Yuta won the 17th play-off).

Meijin League starts: The first two games of the 43rd Meijin League were played on December 7 and were won by two former Meijins. Cho U 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. and Yamashita Keigo 9P beat Yo Seiki 7P, also by resig. Another former Meijin won the third game, played on Dec. 14: Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.

Honinbo League: The second game in the third round of the 73rd Honinbo League was played on December 7. Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by half a point. One more game was played on December 14. Ida Atsushi 8P (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig. On 3-0 Ida retains the sole lead; Ko is now 2-1, and Motoki and Kobayashi are 1-2.

Chinese program wins computer go tournament: A new tournament for computer go programs, the AI Ryusei Tournament, got off to a start on December 9 and 10. It was held in the UDX Building in front of Akihabara station in Tokyo. Seventeen programs, including four from overseas, took part, with the Igo & Shogi Channel acting as the main sponsor. The tournament is a successor to the UEC Cup, held for ten years by the University of Electro-Communications of Chofu City in Tokyo. FineArt of China, regarded as the favorite as the last winner of the UEC Cup, and DeepZenGo of Japan made the final. Playing white, FineArt won by resignation after 248 moves. It has been developed by the Tencent corporation.

Tomorrow: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Kisei; Awards for Iyama and Habu; World Go Championship 2018

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The Power Report: Nong Shim second stage honors go to China; Ri Ishu wins Young Carp; Xie regains Women’s Honinbo; Honinbo League

Wednesday December 13, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Nong Shim second stage honors go to China: The second stage, in which the fifth to ninth games are played, of the 19th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Busan in Korea from November 24 to 28. The first stage was dominated by Shin Minjun 6P of Korea. He also won the first two games of the second stage, taking his winning streak to six games. However, Dang Yifei of China then took over, winning the next three games, so China staged a recovery. Japan is down to its last player, Iyama Yuta, who will meet Dang in the first game of the third stage, scheduled to start in Shanghai on February 26. Korea has three players left and China two, so Iyama will need to reproduce his good form in the LG Cup if Japan is going to avoid early elimination. Full results for this round follow.
Game Five (Nov. 24). Shin Minjun (W) beat Chen Yaoye 9P (China) by 4.5 points.
Game Six (Nov. 25). Shin (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game Seven (Nov. 26). Dang Yifei 9P (China) beat Shin by resig.
Game Eight (Nov. 27). Dang (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P (Japan) by resig.
Game Nine (Nov. 28). Dang (B) beat Kim Myeonghoon 5P (Korea) by resig.
Remaining players: (Japan) Iyama Yuta; (Korea) Kim Jiseok 9P, Shin Jinseo 8P, Park Junghwan 9P; (China) Dang, Ke Jie 9P

Ri Ishu wins Young Carp:  The main section (the best 16) of the 12th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament was held in the Western Honshu Newspaper Building in Hiroshima on November 25 and 26. This tournament is open to2017.12.13_Wom Hon Xie players 30 and under and 7-dan and under. The finalists this year were two Nihon Ki-in players of Taiwanese birth, Ri Ishu (Li Yixiu) 7P (aged 29) and Yo Chito (Yao Zhiteng) 4P (aged 19). Playing black, Ri, who came second in the first cup, won by 3.5 points. First prize is 3 million yen (about $27,000).

Xie regains Women’s Honinbo: The 36th Women’s Honinbo title match, a best-of-five, went right down to the wire. Xie Yimin, the challenger (right), twice took the lead, but each time Fujisawa Rina (left), the titleholder, caught up. The deciding game was played in the 2017.12.13_Wom Hon Fujisawa_05Special Playing Room on the 7th floor of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on November 29. So far, Black had won every game. The nigiri to decide the colors was held again, and Xie drew black. After a hard-fought game extending to 307 moves, Xie won by 8.5 points. This meant that she took back the title Fujisawa won from her last year. It was the eighth time she had won the Women’s Honinbo and her 27th title overall. After the game, Xie commented: “All the games (in the series) were tough. I made lots of mistakes after going into byo-yomi, so I need to improve here. This year I lost the Women’s Meijin title, the Hollyhook (Aizu Central Hospital) Cup, and the Senko Cup to Fujisawa, so I really wanted to win in the final title match of the year. Not giving up until the end worked out well. I think I was lucky.” Fujisawa is still the top woman player, with three titles, but this win restored Xie to her customary position of multiple titleholder. Fujisawa: “Most of the games in this match were tough. I made lots of mistakes in the final game, so the content was not very good for me. I think your mistakes show your level, so I’ll have to start out from scratch again.” First prize for this tournament is 5.5 million yen (about $51,000), the third-highest of the five women’s titles.

Honinbo League: The first game in the third round of the 73rd Honinbo League was played on November 30. Taking black, Hane Naoki 9P (age 41) beat Shibano Toramaru 7P (age 18) by resig. This was Hane’s first win and Shibano’s second loss, so they are even on 1-2. The only undefeated player is former Honinbo challenger Ida Atsushi 8P on 2-0.

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The Power Report: Obituary: Sugiuchi Masao; Nongshim Cup 2nd Stage dominated by China; Xie regains Women’s Honinbo title

Sunday December 3, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.11.22_sugiuchiforever

Obituary: Sugiuchi Masao
I very much regret having to report the death of Sugiuchi Masao, a player who was a part of 20th-century go history who remained active well into the 21st century, when he acquired new fans as the oldest active professional go player ever.

2017.12.03-SugiuchiSugiuchi died of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital on November 21. He was born in what is now Miyako-no-jo City in Miyazaki Prefecture on October 20, 1920. As a child, he showed talent at go and in 1933 came to Tokyo to become a disciple of Inoue Ichiro 5P. He became professional 1-dan in 1937, but lost about three years of his career to military service during the war. When he returned to the go world in 1946, he became one of the leaders of the younger generation, along with players like Sakata Eio and Fujisawa Hideyuki (Shuko). The peak of his career came when he challenged Takagawa Kaku (Honinbo Shukaku) for the 9th and 13th Honinbo titles in 1954 and 1958; he lost both matches 2-4. He won the Rapid Go Meijin tournament in 1959 and the 7th Igo Championship in 1963. He played in the Honinbo League seven times and in the (Yomiuri) Meijin league five times. He received a decoration from the Japanese government in 1992, and the Nihon Ki-in awarded him the Okura Prize in 2004. His lifetime record was 883 wins, 677 losses, 12 jigo, and two no result. He also served as a director of the Nihon Ki-in, including a term as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Many decades ago, Sugiuchi acquired the nickname of “the god of Go, ” perhaps for his quiet, self-effacing demeanor and his dedication to the game. In his 90s, he became one of the understated wonders of the go world. Although the Nihon Ki-in had introduced a retirement system, which enabled some players to retire as young as in their 50s, he kept playing. His last official game was played on November 2, so his active go career extends to 80 years. This is a record, as is remaining active until the age of 97. He is survived by his wife Kazuko 8P, who is still active at the age of 90, a record for women players. She is now the oldest active professional at the Nihon Ki-in. Her career has lasted 75 years, so she might break her husband’s record. (By the way, a game Sugiuchi played at the age of 95 with the 15-year-old Onishi Ryuhei, then 1P, set a record for the biggest age gap between the players.)

Nongshim Cup 2nd Stage dominated by China: The first round of the 19th Nongshim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in2017.12.03-Dang (L) beats Shin Shenyang City in China from September 19 to 22. It was dominated by Shin Minjun 6P of Korea, who won all four games. In the second round, held in Busan in Korea, he extended his winning streak to six games, but then Dang Yifei of China took over and won the remaining games in the round. Results follow.
Game 5 (Nov. 24). Shin (W) beat Chen Yaoye 9P (China) by 4.5 points.
Game 6 (Nov. 25). Shin (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game 7 (Nov. 26). Dang Yifei 9D (China) (W) beat Shin by resig.
Game 8 (Nov. 27). Dang (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P (Japan) by resig.
Game 9 (Nov. 28). Dang (B) beat Kim Myounghoon 5P (Korea) by resig.
The final round will be held in Shanghai and will start on February 26. Players remaining are Iyama Yuta for Japan, who will appear in Game 10), Dang and Ke Jie for China, and Kim Jiseok, Shin Jinseo, and Park Junghwan for Korea. Based on players remaining, Korea has an advantage, but someone has to stop Dang.

Xie regains Women’s Honinbo title: The fifth game of the 36th Women’s Honinbo title match was held in the Special2017.12.03_Xie left wins #5 hon05_06 Playing Room on the 7th floor of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on November 29. Playing black, Xie Yimin (left) defeated the defending champion Fujisawa Rina by 8.5 titles and regained the title she lost to her last year. She was very relieved to be able to end the year on a good note. In the last year or so, Fujisawa had dominated the women’s titles, winning four to Xie’s one, but this win restored her to her familiar position of multiple title-holder (she already held the Women’s Kisei). Fujisawa is left with the Women’s Hollyhock Cup (sponsored by the Aizu Central Hospital), the Women’s Meijin, and the Senko Cup. This is the ninth time Xie has won the Women’s Honinbo. She and Kusunoki Mitsuko are the only players who have made two comebacks. This is Xie’s 27th title.

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The Power Report: Iyama defends Oza and Tengen titles

Sunday November 26, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2017.11.26_tengen3.IyamaJPG

Iyama defends Oza and Tengen titles: Everything is going well for Iyama Yuta these days, both internationally and domestically. In quick succession, he defended two of his top-seven titles, making sure he ends the year with his Grand Slam intact.

2017.11.26_Oza 3 IrikiOn November 20, the third game of the 65th Oza title match was held at the same venue as the second game (on the 18th, covered in my previous report, published on the 21st), that is, at the Hotel Okura Kobe in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. My description of the second game needs to be revised in light of the Go Weekly report. Apparently Ichiriki (white, at left) took the lead in the opening and in the middle game he built a winning position. However, Iyama made a do-or-die attack that ended in his capturing a large group and pulling off an upset. In the third game, in contrast, it was Iyama (white) who got a good position in the opening (mainly because Ichiriki was burdened with a heavy group). In the middle game, he kept up the pressure on Ichiriki and forced him to resign after 174 moves. This gave him a 3-0 lead, so he defended his title. It is his third Oza title in a row. One rest day may not have been enough for Ichiriki to recover from the shock of letting slip the second game. The fourth game was scheduled to be played in his hometown of Sendai, but he couldn’t take the match that far. The Oza prize is 14 million yen (about $127,000).

The third game of the 43rd Tengen title match was played at the Munakata Yurikkusu, an entertainment/sports/cultural complex in 2017.11.26_oza3 Iyama rightMunakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, on November 24. Playing black, Iyama (right) built central influence in the opening, but Ichiriki attacked his centre group and tried to blockade it. In response, Iyama cut the blockading group into two and tried to surround the centre part of it. Ichiriki came up with a clever answer, so his group was able to break out, but in the subsequent fighting he missed the best sequence. After that, the game went downhill for him. Iyama set up and won two successive ko fights, also killing a white group in the second fight. Ichiriki resigned after Black 171. Iyama’s fighting ability gave him the edge over the challenger. This win made the score 3-0, so he 2017.11.26_tengen3 IchirikiJPGcompleted his Tengen defence just four days after his Oza success. Finishing off both these titles so quickly earns Iyama a lot of extra time for rest and recuperation in December.

Iyama: “In this series, each game could easily have gone either way. I think that in the end I was just lucky.”

Ichiriki (left): “In both the Tengen and Oza matches, I felt a gap between Iyama and me when byo-yomi started.”

The Tengen prize money is 13 million yen (about $118,000). Iyama has now won 48 titles, so he has moved ahead of Kato Masao into equal fourth place with Otake Hideo. It will take him a while to overhaul the players still ahead of him: Kobayashi with 60, Sakata Eio with 64, and Cho Chikun with 74.

Starting with the third game in last year’s Tengen title match, Ichiriki has now lost nine games in a row to Iyama. He has just over seven weeks to regroup before the Kisei title match starts. First of all, he will have to adjust to two-day games.

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