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The Power Report (3/4): Cho U doing well in Kisei knock-out; Women’s Meijin League; Kobayashi Satoru wins 1,100 games

Tuesday November 15, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Cho U doing well in Kisei knock-out: Until he was 30, Cho U 9P was winning titles at the same rate as Cho Chikun,
but then he was dethroned at the top player by Iyama Yuta. In recent years, he has not featured in title matches. He thought that a change of scenery might improve his form, so he returned home to Taiwan for a while with his wife, Kobayashi Izumi, and their two children. Another motive was to have his children learn Chinese. He has since returned to Japan (I don’t have any dates) and seems to have recovered something close to top form. At present, he is doing very well in the Kisei knock-out tournament that follows the leagues. On October 24, Cho, the winner of A League, defeated Yuki Satoshi 9P, the B League winner; taking white, Cho won by resig. On October 31, Cho, playing black, beat Yamashita Keigo 9P, who came second in the S League, by 5.5 points. That earned him a place in the “best-of-three” knock-out final. In the first game, played on November 10, Cho beat Kono Rin 9P, the winner of the S League, by half a point. The second game will be played on November 14; if Cho wins, he wins the final 2-0; if Kono wins, he will become the challenger to Iyama Kisei because the winner of the S League is given a one-win advantage.

Women’s Meijin League: Two games were played in the 4th round of the 29th Women’s Meijin League on October 2016.11.14_womens-meijin27. Aoki Kikuyo 8P (B) beat Sakakibara Fumiko 6P by resig.; Kato Keiko 6P (W) beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig. Both Aoki and Kato improve their scores to 2-2.
On November 7, Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo, (W) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig. and kept the sole lead on 5-0. Fujisawa has just one more game to play, against Aoki Kikuyo 8P. Even if she loses it, only one player has a chance of beating her: Okuda Aya 3P, who is ranked no. 2 to Fujisawa’s no.3. Okuda has played fewer games and is on 2-1. If she wins her next three games and Fujisawa loses hers, Okuda’s high rank will give her victory, but the odds very much favor Fujisawa. On November 10, Suzuki Ayumi 7P (W) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resignation.

Kobayashi Satoru wins 1,100 games: On November 3, Kobayashi Satoru 9P secured his 1,100th win by beating Ohashi Naruya 7P in the first round of the 42nd Gosei title; Kobayashi had white and won by resignation. With 574 losses and 1 jigo, he has a winning percentage of 65.7. He is the 11th Nihon Ki-in player to reach this landmark; at 57 years six months he is the 7th youngest, and, at 42 years seven months, the 6th quickest. His winning percentage is the 6th best. He has won ten titles, including the Kisei.

Promotion
To 3-dan: Shibano Toramaru (40 wins; as of October 21)

Third of four reports. Tomorrow: International tournaments

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The Power Report (2/4): Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo; Takao wins Meijin title, breaks Iyama’s monopoly

Monday November 14, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo: The fourth game of the 35th Women’s Honinbo title match was held at the2016.11.14_Fujisawa Rina wins game 4 Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on October 24. Playing black, Fujisawa defeated the titleholder Xie Yimin by resignation after 147 moves. Fujisawa played positively from the opening on and held on to the initiative, but it was not clear to the spectators how she could wrap up a win. The game ended early when Fujisawa found a deadly technique for killing a corner white group. The players following the game in the anteroom had expected a ko, but Xie’s teacher, Ko Mosei 9P, suddenly exclaimed: “It’s unconditional [death]!” He added: “[If this happens,] it’d be beautiful.” Sure enough, that was how Rina played. Though his disciple lost the game, Ko seemed happy at Fujisawa’s fine play. After losing the first game, Fujisawa won three in a row to regain the title she first won two years ago. At present, she seems to be Xie’s only real rival. This victory perhaps made up for her bitter experience last year, when she won the first two games but lost the next three to Xie. Xie may have lost this title, but she still has four women’s titles to her name. (Note: in Taiwan, her name is Romanized as Hsieh I-min.)

Takao wins Meijin title, breaks Iyama’s monopoly: After starting with three straight losses, Iyama Yuta had clawed his way back into contention with wins in the fourth and fifth games in the 41st Meijin best-of-seven. In view of his bad record in the past against Iyama, Takao Shinji 2016.11.14_takao-41meijin7_09probably found this an ominous development. The sixth game was played at the Imaiso, a traditional inn in the town of Kawazu, Kamo County, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 26 and 27. Takao turned 40 on the first day of the game, but he didn’t get a birthday present from Iyama. Taking black, Iyama dominated the game and forced a resignation after 185 moves. Takao is known for his fondness for thickness, but in this game centre thickness built by Iyama played a part in his win. Takao was also handicapped by an oversight he made near the end of the game, so he resigned early. Finally, Iyama had drawn even in the title match.
The statistics were now slightly in his favor. This pattern of one player winning the first three games and the other the next three had come up in Japanese go ten times previously, and the player staging the recovery had won the seventh game six times. On the other hand, in the most recent five cases, the player who won the initial three games made a comeback and took the seventh four times. Go reporters like these kinds of statistics, but probably the players themselves don’t pay much attention to them.
The seventh game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture on November 2 and 3. The nigiri was held again, and Iyama drew black. As usual, Takao built thickness on the first day, then on the second day developed it into a vast moyo based on the top left. Next, he succeeded in reducing Black’s moyo and took the lead. He then parried Iyama’s attempts to catch up by playing thickly and maintained a small lead until the end. White won by 2.5 points after 251 moves.
Takao made a comeback as Meijin after a gap of nine years; he had won the title just once, in the 31st term, and at the same time held the Honinbo title. This success was all the more welcome for Takao because he lost two Meijin challenges to Iyama 0-4. He has now won 15 titles.2016.11.14_41meijin7_11

Iyama lost his septuple crown after holding it for a little over half a year — 197 days, to be exact; he lost his monopoly of the top three titles, the Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo, after 1113 days — he won ten successive top-three title matches. He held the Meijin title for three years in a row and earlier held it for two terms; he needs another five wins to qualify for an honorary Meijin title.
The three vacant seats in the new Meijin league have been decided. On November 3, playing black, Sakai Hideyuki beat Uchida Shuhei 7P, who had dropped out of the 41st league, by half a point. Sakai returns to the league after a gap of three years. On November 7, Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by 1.5 points. Hane regained his place immediately after dropping out of the previous league. On November 10, Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Hirata Tomoya 7P by half a point.
Yo will make his debut in the league. Hirata played in the previous league, but just missed out on regaining his place. He played an adventurous opening, with his first move on the 15-5 point and his third move on the 9-5 point, but Yo kept his nerve. The Kansai Ki-in has three players in the upcoming league: Murakawa Daisuke, Sakai, and Yo. The first round will be played in December.

Second of four reports. Tomorrow: Cho U doing well in Kisei knock-out; Women’s Meijin League; Kobayashi Satoru wins 1,100 games

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The Power Report (1/4): 72nd Honinbo League; Ichiriki evens score in Tengen; Iyama increases lead in Oza

Sunday November 13, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2016.11.13 Honinbo-league

72nd Honinbo League: The first round in the new league was completed on October 20 when Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P by resignation. Two games in the league were held on November 3. Ko Iso (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig., and Cho U (B) beat Mitani Tetsuya 7P by resig. On 2-0, Cho holds the provisional lead, but Motoki Katsuya 7P and Hane Naoki 9P, who are on 1-0, could catch up.

Ichiriki evens score in Tengen: Autumn is a season that called on all of Iyama Yuta’s power of endurance, as he was2016.11.13_tengen1 iyama being attacked on three sides. In the Meijin title match, he had his back to the wall. Most of Iyama’s title matches have been played with older players like Takao, who was 39 (at the start of the Meijin title match) to Iyama’s 27. However, the other two title matches are both against younger players, the 21-year-old Yo Seiki in the Oza and the 19-year-old Ichiriki Ryo in this match. The younger generation is gradually making its presence felt, so Iyama v. his juniors will surely soon become the main pattern in title matches. Already for a few years Ichiriki has been viewed as the top teenager in Japan
and recently his promise has been converted into concrete results (see my report on his winning the Ryusei). This title match would be his biggest test so far.
The first game of the 42nd Tengen title match was played at the Kashikojima Hojoen inn in Shima City in Mie Prefecture on October 21. The challenger drew white, and the game became a contest between Ichiriki’s attack and Iyama’s survival skills. In the middle game, Iyama landed a fierce counterpunch, backed up by deep reading, and at one stroke secured the lead. Ichiriki resigned after Black 139.
This was Iyama’s fourth successive win over the three title matches he was engaged in. He seemed to have recovered from his slump in the first half of the Meijin title match.
The second game was played at the Otaru Asari Classe Hotel on November 11, with Ichiriki playing black. The game was fiercely competitive, starting with a ko fight in the opening. Iyama made a miscalculation late in the middle game and resigned after 205 moves. Ichiriki evened the score and showed he posed a threat to Iyama’s sextuple crown.2016.11.13_64ouza2_05

Iyama increases lead in Oza: The result of the first game of the 64th Oza title match was given in my previous report, but I have some more details below. Challenging the 27-year-old Iyama was the 21-year-old Yo Seiki (Yu Zhengqi in Pinyin), the top player of his age group (low 20s) not only at the Kansai Ki-in but in Japan as a whole. Yo, who had black, acquitted himself very well, and the lead seesawed back and forth during some fierce fighting. After the macro endgame, the spectators all thought that Yo had the lead, but Iyama unleashed a devilish move that made the game tilt in his favor. He picked up a win by 1.5 points after 283 moves. The time allowance is three hours per player: both players were down to their last minute of byo-yomi (to which the last five minutes are allocated). Yu was satisfied that he had been able to go toe to toe with Iyama, but he will have to win games like this if he wants to take a title.
The second game was played at the Naka-no-bo Zuien inn, on November 7. Taking black, Iyama forced a resignation after 169 moves. Once again, Yo played well, and Iyama commented that he was quite worried in the middle game. In an interview after the game, he said: “With correct play by White, I might have collapsed.” The third game will be played on the 18th of this month.

First of four reports. Tomorrow: Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo; Takao wins Meijin title, breaks Iyama’s monopoly

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The Power Report: New Honinbo league starts; Kono wins first Agon Kiriyama Cup; Iyama makes good start in Oza; International tournaments

Thursday October 20, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

New Honinbo league starts: The 72nd Honinbo League got off to a start on October 6. Hane Naoki is back after a gap of four terms, so for the first time in a while the “the four Deva kings” (the others are Yamashita Keigo, Cho U, and Takao Shinji) who dominated Japanese go in the first decade of this century are together. In the opening games, Cho U 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. and Motoki Katsuya 7P (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9P by the same margin. Another game was played on October 13. League newcomer Mitani Tetsuya 7P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.

Kono wins first Agon Kiriyama Cup: The final of the 23rd Agon Kiriyama Cup was held at Shakasan Daiboji 2016.10.19_23agon_Kono vs Chikuntemple, the Kyoto headquarters of the Agon Buddhist sect, on October 8. Taking white, Kono Rin 9P beat 25th Honinbo Chikun (Cho Chikun) by half a point after 220 moves. Cho had taken the lead in the middle game, but Kono played relentless endgame and pulled off an upset. This is Kono’s ninth title and his first Kiriyama Agon Cup. The play-off with the holder of the Chinese Agon Kiriyama Cup, Ke Jie 9P, will be held in Kyoto in December. Incidentally, this was the first clash between Kono and Cho for a title. First prize is five million yen.

Promotion
To 3-dan: Mutsuura Yuta (40 wins, as of October 14)

Iyama makes good start in Oza
        The first game of the 64th Oza title match was held at the Westin Hotel Osaka on October 17. Taking white, Iyama beat Yo Seiki 7P by 1.5 points. The second game will be played on November 7.

International tournaments
China wins Jastec Cup: This tournament was founded in 2012, but this is probably my first report on it. The full name is the Jastec Cup International New Stars Igo Tournament. It is open to eight-player teams, including two women players, from China, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan. It’s an all-play-all team tournament, so a lot of games are played. It was held at the Belle Salle Iidabashi hall in Iidabashi in Tokyo from September 23 to 25. The sponsor, Jastek, seems to be one of the leading software companies in Japan.
        Results were as follows:
Round 1 (Sept. 23) Japan 4 Korea 4, China 8 Chinese Taipei 0
Round 2 (Sept. 24) Japan 4 Chinese Taipei 4, China 5 Korea 3
Round 3 (Sept. 25) Japan 4 China 4, Korea 5 Chinese Taipei 3
1st: China; 2nd: Korea; 3rd: Japan; 4th: Chinese Taipei
Prizes: 1st: 1,000,000 yen; 2nd: 500,000; 3rd: 300,000; 4th: 200,000

2016.10.19_18th_noshin Ichiririki (L) YSTNong Shim Cup: Ichiriki’s biggest win
        Ichiriki Ryo 7P is very busy this year, as he is studying at Waseda University. He attends classes by day (five 90-minute classes on his busiest day) and goes to the Nihon Ki-in at night. His hectic schedule is not affecting his play, however: he has just won his first open title (see previous report) and is about to challenge Iyama for the Tengen title.
        Ichiriki is also often chosen to represent Japan in international tournaments. Last year, he got his country off to an excellent start in the Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup with three wins in the opening round. This year also he made a good start in the 18th Nong Shim Cup, beating Lee Sedol in the opening game. Taking white, he edged Lee by half a point. Actually Ichiriki played solidly at the end because he miscounted and thought he was 1.5 points ahead. This is probably the biggest win of his career. This time, however, he didn’t get a winning streak, as he lost to China’s Fan Tingyu, who went on to win three in a row. The opening round was held in Jilin Province in China. Results:2016.10.19_18th_noshin4 Cho U right
Game 1 (Sept. 27) Ichiriki 7P (Japan) (W) beat Yi Sedol 9P (Korea) by half a point.
Game 2 (Sept. 28) Fan Tingyu 9P (China) beat Ichiriki by resig.
Game 3 (Sept. 29) Fan (W) beat Lee Tonghoon 9P (Korea) by resig.
Game 4 (Sept. 30) Fan (B) beat Cho U 9P (Japan) by resig.
        Fan is 20, just one year older than Ichiriki. When he was 16, he won the Ing Cup. The venue for the opening round was a little out of the way: a Nong Shim factory (Nong Shim is a Korean company) located in China near the borders with North Korea and Russia. The visiting players first stayed a night at Incheon in Korea on the 25th, then flew to Yuanji Airport in China on the 26th. From there it was a three-hour bus ride. The factory makes mineral water, using the local White Mountain Water.

Samsung Cup semifinalists
        As is more and more often the case these days in international go, Chinese players dominated the 21st Samsung Cup, with three of them making the semifinals. However, they are joined by an ominous figure: Lee Sedol, the top player of
the 21st century. The second round and the quarterfinals were held on October 4 and 6. Pairings in the semifinals will be Tuo Jiaxi 9P (China) vs. Fan Yunruo 5P (China) and Yi Sedol 9P (Korea) vs. Ke Jie 9P (China). The semifinals, which are best-of-three matches, will be held in Taejon City, Korea from October 31.

China wins Gratitude Cup
        This tournament is the international version of a domestic tournament for younger players (30 and under) (see my report around June 21). It is open to five-player teams from China, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan and the international version was held for the third time this year. Teams are made up of three male and two female players. The venue was the Temple & Shrines Hall, Ise City, Mie Prefecture. Results follow.
Round 1 (Oct. 14). China 4 Korea 1, Japan 3 Chinese Taipei 2
Round 2 (Oct. 14). China 4 Japan 1, Korea 4 Chinese Taipei 1
Round 3 (Oct. 15). China 5 Chinese Taipei 0, Korea 5 Japan 0
Play-off for 1st (Oct. 15). China 3 Korea 2
Play-off for 3rd (Oct. 15). Chinese Taipei 3 Japan 2
        Prizes are quite substantial for a junior tournament like this. First: 4,500,000 yen; 2nd: 1,500,000 yen; 3rd: 1,000,000; 4th: 750,000. There are also individual prizes for players with three (300,000) or four (500,000) wins.

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The Power Report: Iyama fights back in Meijin; Ichiriki wins Ryusei; Kisei updates; Fujisawa takes lead in Women’s Honinbo; Women’s Meijin League; Onishi wins King of the New Stars

Tuesday October 18, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2016.10.18_41meijin4 Iyama

Iyama fights back in Meijin title match
        Iyama Yuta faced a very important game in Game 4 of the 41st Meijin title match: his first kadoban (literally, a “corner game,” that is, a game that could lose a series). For the first time ever in his career, Iyama (right) had suffered successive losses at the beginning of a title match. Another loss would cost him not only the Meijin title but also put an end to his septuple crown after a little over half a year.
        The fourth game was played on October 4 and 5 at the Takarazuka Hotel, Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture. Taking black, Iyama executed a large-scale sacrifice maneuver that enabled him to take the lead in the middle game.  When White
 resigned after 181 moves, Black was over ten points ahead on the board.
        The fifth game was played at the Atami Sekitei inn in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 12 and 13. Taking white, Iyama won a closely-fought game by 3.5 points. With this win, Iyama seems to be coming out of his recent slump.
 However, he faces another kadoban in the sixth game, scheduled for October 26 and 27. Before then, Iyama’s Oza and Tengen defences will start, so he is going to be very busy.

Ichiriki wins Ryusei:  The Ryusei is a fast-go TV title run by an irregular system but culminating in a standard 16-player knock-out. The final of the 25th tournament was played between Iyama Yuta and Ichiriki Ryo 7P and telecast on September 26. During the opening and early middle game, Iyama (B) built a lead, but Ichiriki played a  do-or-die move that triggered an upset. Iyama resigned after White 200. This was Ichiriki’s first win in a non-age-restricted tournament. He was 19 years one month old when the game was played (his birthday is June 10), so he became the youngest player ever to win this title. The previous record of 20 years two months was set by Iyama. This will give Ichiriki some momentum for his Tengen challenge to Iyama. First prize is 6 million yen.

Kisei updates
        First, here are two results in the S League of the 41st Kisei tournament I neglected to include in my previous report. On September 15, Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P and Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yoda Norimoto 9P by resig. As a result, Ichiriki lost his share of the lead. On 4-1, Kono regained the sole lead. 
        The final game in the S League was played on September 29. Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig. This was Takao’s first win to four losses, so it didn’t do anything for him except save some face, but it knocked Murakawa out of the running for first. Kono won the league outright, so he goes straight into the final “best-of-three” to decide the challenger. If Murakawa had won the above game, he would have won the league, as his higher ranking (#2) would have beaten Kono (#5). There was a three-way “tie” among Yamashita Keigo, Murakawa, and Ichiriki Ryo on 3-2, but league rankings meant that they came, respectively, second, third, and fourth. Yamashita’s second place secures him a seat in the knock-out tournament, so a fourth successive Kisei challenge by him is possible; he will need to win three games in a row.
        Takao and Yoda Norimoto lose their places in the S League. On October 3, the first game in the knock-out section was played. The B League winner Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) beat the C League winner Shida Tatsuya 7P by 1.5 points. The game was played on Yuki’s home ground, the Kansai Ki-in. The next game will be between Yuki and the winner of the A League, Cho U.

2016.10.18_35jhon3-02 RinaFujisawa takes lead in Women’s Honinbo
        The second game of the 35th Women’s Honinbo title match was played at the Izanro Iwasaki, a traditional Japanese inn in Miasa Hot Spring, Tottori Prefecture on September 26. Fujisawa Rina (B, left) won by resig. after 191 moves. Unlike the first game, in which Xie killed a large group, this game featured small-scale fighting. Fujisawa made a good strategic decision in the middle game when she sacrificed five stones. Rina: “I thought that if I saved the stones the neighbouring white positions would get too strong.”
        The remaining games of the match are held at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo. The third game was played on October 3. In the middle-game fighting, Xie took a bit of a lead, but Fujisawa played tenaciously and was able to overta
ke her. Black resigned after White 222.
        Last year Fujisawa Rina lost this title to Xie Yimin when she lost three games in a row after winning the first two. This time she started off with a loss, but recovered to take the next two. Can she now improve on last year’s performance?2016.10.18_35jhon3-03 Rina (L)

Women’s Meijin League
        Fujisawa Rina has maintained her unbeaten record in the 29th Women’s Meijin League by winning her fourth-round game. Her closest rivals are Okuda Aya 3P on 2-1 and Suzuki Ayumi 7P on 1-1.
(September 29) Ishii Akane 2P (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig.
(October 13) Fujisawa Rina 3P (B) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resig.; Kato Keiko 6P (B) beat 2016.10.18_King New Stars Onishi rightSakakibara Fumiko 6P by 7.5 points.

Onishi wins King of the New Stars
        The second game in the 41st King of the New Stars title match was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on September 30. Taking black, Onishi Ryuhei 2P (right) beat Taniguchi Toru 2P by resig. after 227 moves. As in the first game, Onishi staged an upset late in the endgame. At 16 years six months of age, he becomes the youngest player to win this title. He is just in the second year of his career and was making his first appearance in the King of the New Stars.

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The Power Report (2): Fujisawa Leads in Women’s Meijin; King of the News Stars begins; Agon Kiriyama Cup; Good Start for Chen in Bailing final

Monday September 26, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Fujisawa has sole lead in Women’s Meijin: A key game in the first half of the 29th Women’s Meijin League took place at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on September 22. In a clash between the joint leaders, Fujisawa Rina 3P (B) beat Okuda Aya 3P by 1.5 points. Fujisawa improved her score to 3-0 and has the sole lead. However, she is only halfway to the goal. Of the seven league members, three have already played three games, but three have played only one. Fujisawa has an edge, but all seven players are still in the running.

King of the News Stars begins: The first game in the best-of-three final of the 41st King of the New Stars tournament2016.09.26_King New Stars Onishi right 2016.09.26_Onishi Ryuheiwas played at the Kansai Ki-in headquarters in Osaka on September 22. Onishi Ryuhei 2P (aged 16, at left) (W) of the Nihon Ki-in beat Taniguchi Toru 2P (aged 20) of the Kansai Ki-in by half a point. This was a regrettable loss for Taniguchi: he held the lead for most of the game, but missed all his chances to wrap up a win. In the end, he suffered an upset loss by the narrowest margin. The second game will be played on September 30.

Agon Kiriyama Cup: The final of the 23rd Agon Kiriyama Cup will feature a clash between two veteran players: Cho Chikun (60) and Kono Rin (35). Cho previously won the 9th Cup; Kono reached the final of the 21st Cup, but lost to Iyama Yuta. In the semifinals, Cho beat Murakawa Daisuke and Kono beat Yamashita Keigo. Unfortunately, the founder of the tournament, Kiriyama Seiyu, died on August 29 at the age of 95. He founded the Agon sect of Buddhism in 1978 and has been a strong supporter of go in Japan and China.

Chen makes good start in Bailing final: The best-of-five final in the 3rd Bailing Cup started in Yunnan Province in China on September 22. The 19-year-old Ke Jie 9P was the favorite, as he is China’s number one and he won the previous Bailing Cup, but his compatriot Chen Yaoye 9P, who is all of 26, has made an excellent start, winning the first two games. Chen had black in the first game and won by resignation; in the second game, played on the 22nd, Chen secured a resignation after 178 moves. The match will resume in December.

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The Power Report (1): Honinbo Monyu; Takao sweeps to 3-0 lead in Meijin challenge; Yuki wins Kisei B League play-off

Sunday September 25, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2016.09.25_Monyu Iyama's title name

Honinbo Monyu: When he won the Honinbo title for the fifth year in a row this year, Iyama Yuta qualified for the title of eternal Honinbo, though he can use it only afterhe turns 60 or retires, whichever comes first. At the title award ceremony, held at the Ritz Carleton Osaka hotel on September 9, Iyama unveiled the name he will assume: Monyu. The “mon” is a less common reading of the character “bun,” which means “writing” or “literature” and is part of the word “bunka,” meaning “culture;” the ”yu” is from his given name of Yuta. He will be known as “26th Honinbo Monyu.” Iyama mentioned that he consulted Okawa Teishin, the abbot of the Jakkoji Temple in Kyoto, which is the source of the name Honinbo. The character for “bun” has family significance for Iyama, as it was part of the name of his grandfather, who taught him to play go. Okawa also gave a speech at the award ceremony and mentioned another good association: “mon” is part of the name of the bodhisattva Monju, who is known as the “receiver of wisdom.”

Takao sweeps to 3-0 lead in Meijin challenge, sextuple crown in danger: The second game of the 41st Meijin title match was held at the Kakujoro, a 2016.09.25_Meijin 3 Takaotraditional Japanese inn, in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture on August 14 and 15.
Playing black, Iyama Yuta set up a large moyo. Takao made an invasion, so the game became a contest between Iyama’s attack and Takao’s shinogi (ability to save a group under attack). In the end, Takao secured his group and took the lead. Iyama resigned after 236 moves. Iyama had made a bad start to the title match with two losses. In the past, he had played 17 best-of-sevens and 18 best-of-fives, but this was the first time he had lost the first two games. However, worse was to come. The third game was played at the hotel Thousand Pine Trees: The Numazu Club in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture on September 20 and 21. Taking white, Iyama played aggressively, but Takao keep his cool and fended off the attack, building a lead in the middle game. In a desperate attempt to catch up, Iyama embarked on a shinogi strategy, taking profit and leaving a weak group for the opponent to attack. However, he was unable to narrow the gap; when Iyama resigned after Black 169, he was about ten points behind on the board. Takao seems to be in his best form for a while. He has a bad record against Iyama in the past and must be very pleased to make such a good start. He needs just one more win to make a comeback as Meijin after a gap of a decade (he beat Cho U in the 31st title match and became Meijin Honinbo). The fourth game will be played on October 4 and 5.

Yuki wins Kisei B League play-off: In the play-off between the winners of the 41st Kisei B Leagues, Yuki Satoshi
9P (W), winner of the B2 League, defeated Cho Chikun 9P, winner of B1, by resig. The game was played on September 19. Yuki earns a place in the irregular knock-out (“paramasu”) tournament to decide the challenger; he will need to win five games in a row to make the title match. At present, this is how the knock-out looks. Shida Tatsuya 7P, C League winner, plays Yuki, B winner; the winner will played Cho U, A League winner; the winner will play either Yamashita Keigo 9P or Kono Rin 9P, second in S League; the winner will play either Kono or Murakawa Daisuke 8P, first in S League. The latter will start the nominal “best-of-three” with a one-game advantage, so he will need only win to become the challenger (although it’s called a “best-of-three,” three games can never be played: the first-place getter just needs to win the first or second game; the second-place winner can become the challenger only by winning the first two games).

Tomorrow: Fujisawa has sole lead in Women’s Meijin; King of the News Stars begins; Agon Kiriyama Cup; Chen makes good start in Bailing final

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The Power Report (2): Cho U wins Kisei A League; Yo to challenge for Oza title; Xie makes good start in Women’s Honinbo defence

Thursday September 15, 2016

Cho U wins Kisei A League: So Yokoku 9P was a little unlucky in the Kisei A League. He had won six games in a row and held the lead all the way (enjoying the sole lead in the 5th and 6th rounds), but he lost his final game to Cho U 9P on September 8 (taking black, Cho won by resignation). That left them tied on 6-1, but there is no play-off in the Kisei Leagues. Cho was ranked 4th to So’s 7th, so Cho won the league. He gets a seat in the irregular knock-out tournament to decide the challenger.

Yo to challenge for Oza title: A week after the Tengen challenger was decided, another play-off between a veteran2016.09.15_64oza_fin_end01 player and a new star was held and resulted in a win for the latter. On September 8, the 21-year-old Yo Seiki 7P of the Kansai Ki-in beat Takao Shinji in the play-off to decide the 64th Oza challenger. Taking white, Yo had white and secured a resignation after 190 moves. He commented that he was inspired by Ichiriki’s success. Yo had a frustrating history in play-offs, having lost to Iyama Yuta both in the Oza play-off last year and in the Judan play-off the year. As that shows, Yo played a crucial role in giving Iyama the opportunity to secure his Grand Slam. The first game of the Oza match will be played on October 17.
The Oza and Tengen challenges are perhaps signs that the post-Iyama generation is getting ready to move up. Before Iyama, the go scene was dominated by the “four stars of the Heisei era.” Of the four, Cho U and Hane Naoki haven’t
challenged for a while, but2016.09.15_35FHon Xie (R) Yamashita and Takao had been doing a good job of holding back the younger players (except for Murakawa Daisuke). There could be big changes in the make-up of the tournament scene in the next few years.

Xie makes good start in Women’s Honinbo defence: The first game of the 35th Women’s Honinbo title match was held at the Kashoen, a Japanese-style inn, in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture on September 13. The challenger is Fujisawa Rina 3P. Playing black, Xie (right) forced a resignation after 151 moves. The second game will be played on September 26.

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To 3-dan: Fujimura Yosuke (40 wins)

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The Power Report (1): Takao makes good start to Meijin challenge; Ichiriki to challenge for Tengen; Women’s Meijin League; New Star Li wins TV Asia; Honinbo League places

Wednesday September 14, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2016.09.14_41meijin1 Takao wins

Takao makes good start to Meijin challenge: Takao Shinji 9P has already improved on his performance in his Meijin challenge last year. The first game of the 41st title match was held at its usual venue, the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, on August 30 and 31. Playing black, Takao showed exemplary shinogi (living with a weak group) skills in weathering a fierce 2016.09.14_41meijin1_01attack by Iyama Yuta Meijin. When the dust settled, he had a lead of about ten points on the board. Iyama missed his best opportunities to complicate the game and resigned after 207 moves. In view of Takao’s past record against Iyama, it’s too soon to say he has an edge, but he has certainly made the series more interesting for fans. The second game will be played on September 14 and 15.
At the party on the eve of the game, the players gave bouquets to Cho Chikun, who was the referee for the game. Having turned 60 on June 20, Cho is now entitled to use his Honorary Meijin title, though there’s a conflict with his title of 25th Honinbo Chikun. Cho said to the audience: “Wouldn’t you like to see a game to decide who’s stronger, the ordinary Meijin or the Honorary Meijin?” The audience cheered, but, needless to say, this game is not happening soon.

Ichiriki to challenge for Tengen: Ichiriki Ryo 7P has become the second teenager to challenge for one of the top seven open titles. The first was the player whom he will be challenging. The play-off to decide the challenger for the 42nd Tengen title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on September 2. Playing white, Ichiriki beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points.
The title match with Iyama Yuta Tengen will start on October 21. Ichiriki will be 19 years four months old when the match starts. The holder of the Tengen and all the other top-seven titles is Iyama Yuta, who challenged for the 33rd Meijin title when he was 19 years three months old. Ichiriki commented: “One of my major goals was to challenge for a title while I was still a teenager, so I’m relieved to have pulled it off.”
There is a group of up-and-coming teenagers at the moment, but Ichiriki was probably the first of them to attract attention when he won a seat in the Kisei League at the age of 16 years nine months (still a record for any league). At 17, he became the youngest player to win the King of the New Stars title and came second in the NHK Cup, and in the same year he also won an international tournament for young players, the Globis Cup. This year he entered the College of Social Studies at Waseda University. A number of university students have turned professional after doing well in university tournaments, but this is the only case I can think of of someone entering university after already establishing himself as a top player. The go writer Akiyama Kenji claimed a while back in his column in “Go Weekly” that Ichiriki was a mathematical prodigy. According to Akiyama, someone had said to Ichiriki that he was barely a quarter of the age of the player he had played that day. Ichiriki asked when the player was born, thought for a couple of seconds and then said he was exactly 24.65% (or whatever) of the player’s age. Akiyama tested him for his article, but didn’t explore the ramifications of this talent.

Women’s Meijin League: One game in the second round of the 29th Women’s Meijin League was played on September 1. Okuda Aya 3P (B) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8P, the previous challenger, by half a point. This is her second win, so Okuda shares the lead with Fujisawa Rina 3P (Aoki is 1-1 and all the other players are 0-1).

Li wins TV Asia: new star for China: The TV Asia Cup is a tournament for the TV go champions of China, Korea, and Japan. This year the 28th Cup was hosted by Japan and held at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo from September 2 to 4. Unfortunately, for the host country, its representatives were eliminated on the first day, so the tournament became Korea vs. China. Korea probably was the favorite, as it fielded the world’s number, Park Junghwan, and this century’s number one, Lee Sedol (seeded as last year’s winner). However, it was two teenagers who made it to the final: Shin Jinseo 6P of Korea and Li Qincheng 2P of China. The seventeen-year-old Li beat the 16-year-old Shin and became the youngest player to win this title. He also won the junior tournament, the 3rd Globis Cup, this year, so this is his second international title. His win earned him promotion to 9-dan. That may be a new record for the youngest 9-dan (Ke Jie became 9-dan at the age of 18 last year). Results follow:
(Sept. 2) (Round 1) Li (B) beat Cho U 9P (Japan by resig.; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (b) beat Terayama Rei 4P (Japan) by resig.; Shin (B) beat Mi Yuting 9P (China) by resig.
(Sept. 3) (Round 2) Li (B) beat Yi Sedol 9P (Korea) by resig.; Shin (W) beat Park by resig.
(Sept. 4) (final) Li (B) beat Shin by resig.

Honinbo League places: We have already reported that Ko Iso and Yuki Satoshi have won places in the upcoming 72nd Honinbo League. They will be joined by Hane Naoki 9P and Mitani Tetsuya 7P. Hane (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig. on September 5; Mitani (B) beat Shibano Toramaru 2P by resig. on September 8. Mitani will be making
his debut in the league. If the 16-year-old Shibano had won their game, he would have set a new record for winning a league place just two years after becoming a professional.

Tomorrow: Cho U wins Kisei A League; Yo to challenge for Oza title; Xie makes good start in Women’s Honinbo defence

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The Power Report: Ichiriki grabs share of Kisei S League lead; Oza challenger: Takao or Yo; New Honinbo League; Start of new Women’s Meijin League; One thousand wins to Hikosaka; Tengen challenger: Yamashita or Ichiriki; Veterans dominate Agon Kiriyama Cup

Sunday August 28, 2016

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2016.08.28_Ichiriki-Ryo-99x150

Ichiriki grabs share of Kisei S League lead: A key game was played in the Kisei S League on August 18. Playing white, Ichiriki Ryo 7P (right) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig. In the third round, Kono had taken the sole lead, but this win gave Ichiriki a share of the lead. It also helped out Murakawa Daisuke 8P, who had shared the lead with Kono in the second round. All three are on 3-1.

Oza challenger: Takao or Yo: Takao Shinji is doing badly in the Kisei S League, but he is doing well in other tournaments. Besides becoming the Meijin challenger, he has also reached the play-off to decide the challenger for the 64th Oza title. In the semifinal, held on August 15, Takao (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. His opponent in the play-off is Yo Seiki 7P, who beat Yamashita Keigo in the other semifinal, held on August 18. Taking white, Yo won by resig. If anything, Yo will be more determined to win the play-off than Takao, as he has missed a number of opportunities recently. Last year he lost the Oza play-off to Iyama Yuta, who went on to take the title. Yo also lost this year’s Judan play-off to Iyama, giving the latter his chance to try for a grand slam. Yo will be hoping for third time lucky.

New Honinbo League: Two of the four vacant seats in the 72nd Honinbo League have been decided. On August 18, Ko Iso (W) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 7P by resig.; on August 25, Yuki Satoshi 9P (B) beat Cho Sonjin 9P by resig.

Start of new Women’s Meijin League: The first round in the 29th Women’s Meijin League has been completed and 2016.08.28_Womens Meijinone game in the second round has been played. Results are given below.
(August 11) Fujisawa Rina 3P (B) beat Sakakibara Fumiko 6P by 19.5 points.
(August 18) Aoki Kikuyo 8P (B) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resig.; Okuda Aya 3P (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig.
(August 25) Fujisawa Rina (W) beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig. For the time being, Fujisawa has the sole lead on 2-0.2016.08.28_Hikosaka Naoto

One thousand wins to Hikosaka: On August 18, Hikosaka Naoto 9P (right) became the 19th Nihon Ki-in player to reach the landmark of 1,000 wins. He had 544 losses, 3 jigos, and 1 no-result for a winning percentage of 64.8. At 54 years 5 months, Hikosaka is the 10th oldest to reach this mark. It took him 40 years 4 months, which is the 10th quickest. His winning percentage is the 10th highest.  Hikosaka won the Judan title in 1998 and came fourth in the 11th Fujitsu Cup in the same year. He has played in the three leagues once each.

Tengen challenger: Yamashita or Ichiriki: The semifinals in the 42nd Tengen tournament were held on August 22. Yamashita Keigo (B) beat Kyo Kagen 4P by resig. and Ichiriki Ryo 7P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke, also by resig.

Veterans dominate Agon Kiriyama Cup: The go press in Japan has been making much of a number of strong teenagers who have emerged in the last couple of years. However, the older generation is not moving aside graciously for them. The line-up in the 23rd Agon Kiriyama Cup semifinals illustrates this. The pairings are: Cho Chikun (aged 60) v. Takao Shinji (aged 39) and Yamashita Keigo (aged 37) v. Kono Rin (aged 35). That’s an average age of nearly 43. It’s hard to imagine this happening in Korea or China. The semifinals were played on August 25. Cho (W) beat Murakawa by resig. and Kono (W) beat Yamashita by 1.5 points.

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