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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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The Power Report (Part 1): Cho is Oza Challenger; 38th Kisei: Yamashita Wins A League; Iyama Draws Even in Meijin

Monday September 23, 2013

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

Cho is Oza Challenger: In the final to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta for the 61st Oza title, held on September 12, Cho U 9P (B) defeated Yuki Satoshi 9P by 2.5 points. Last year Cho (right) missed out on qualifying for the Honorary Oza title when the challenger, Iyama Yuta, beat him 3-0. He now has a chance to take revenge. If he won back the title, it would be his eighth Oza title, so he could aim at securing the honorary title by winning it ten times in total. The title match will start on October 24.

38th Kisei: Yamashita Wins A League: Yamashita Keigo Meijin (left) won the A League of the 38th Kisei tournament before having to play his final game when Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P defeated Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P in the last fourth-round game on September 12. Taking black, Yamashiro Hiroshi won by 1.5 points. That put both players on 2-2 and so both are out of the running. In my previous report, I wrote that a number of players were still in the running in the A League, but I had forgotten that there is no play-off in a Kisei league. If Kiyonari had beaten Yamashiro and then won his fifth-round game while Yamashita lost his, then Kiyonari would have won the league; in any tie, Yamashita would take priority over other players because of his higher ranking. Yamashita will meet Murakawa Daisuke 7P in the play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta Kisei.

Iyama Draws Even in Meijin: The second game in the 38th Meijin title match was just as one-sided as the first, but this time it went in favor of challenger Iyama Yuta (right). On move 59, Yamashita Keigo Meijin made a misreading in a capturing race: he thought that he could get a one-approach-move ko, but it was actually a two-approach-move ko, that is, he would have had to play two extra moves before it became a real ko for him. There’s a big difference, and he was unable to recover from this setback. Black resigned after 162 moves. The third game will be played on September 25 and 26.
Tomorrow: King of the New Stars; Japan’s 15th Nong Shim Cup Team; September Promotions

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The Power Report: Yamashita Off to Good Start in Meijin Defense; Mukai to Challenge for Women’s Honinbo Title; Japanese Players Eliminated from Samsung Cup; Young Players Gain Honinbo Seats and Promotions; 38th Kisei Leagues: Murakawa Wins B League; Akiyama to Challenge for Tengen; Women’s Meijin League; Iyama’s Successive Title Matches

Thursday September 12, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent

Yamashita Off to Good Start in Meijin Defense: The first game of the 39th Meijin title match was held at its regular venue, the luxury traditional hotel and restaurant of the Chinzanso in Tokyo. Challenging the Meijin, Yamashita Keigo, was Iyama Yuta, the monarch of Japanese go, who was not only after revenge for losing the Meijin title to Yamashita two years ago but also seeking to become the second player to hold the Triple Crown of Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo. The Meijin title match always starts in September, which is when the weather starts to cool down a little after the usually unbearable summer but which is also typhoon season. In fact, the weather in Japan this September has been very turbulent, with record rainfalls and unfamiliar tornadoes ripping through residential areas. The opening day of the game was not an exception, with a violent thunderstorm at dawn. The players were insulated from the weather, of course, but the game was not. With move 32, Yamashita made an aggressive cap that he later recognized was a bit of an overplay. It was redeemed only by a badly timed cut made by Iyama on move 53 that turned out to be more of an overplay. The ensuing fight eventually dragged in half a dozen groups, with the focus on a large capturing race. This looked bad for Iyama, but instead of being obstinate, that is, going all out to capture Iyama’s group, Yamashita cleverly engineered a large-scale trade that gave him a win. Iyama was forced to resign after 172 moves. This was an uncharacteristic loss for Iyama, with a miscalculation of the balance of the trade thrown in later in the game on top of his earlier overplay. However, a best-of-seven gives him plenty of time to make a comeback. The second game will be played on September 19 & 20.

Mukai to Challenge for Women’s Honinbo Title: Mukai Chiaki 5-dan will make her third challenge for the Women’s Honinbo title and her sixth challenge overall to women’s triple crown holder Xie Yimin. So far she has been frustrated by Xie’s fighting strength, which is unmatched among women players in Japan, but Mukai is clearly the number two player here, so competing with Xie is her destiny. She will surely be encouraged by her success early this year: although Japan took only third place in the 2nd Huading Cup in late April, Mukai won all three of her games and helped Japan to a rare team win over China. In the play-off to decide the challenger, held on August 29, Mukai (W) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by resignation. She previously challenged for this title in 2010 and 2011, losing 0-3 and 1-3 respectively.

Japanese Players Eliminated from Samsung Cup: A report on the opening round mini-tournament that starts off the Samsung Cup has already appeared in this journal. Here are the details of the Japanese players’ results. There were two seeded players in the main tournament, Takao Shinji and Yuki Satoshi, who were joined by Komatsu Hideki, winner of a seat in the veterans’ section of the qualifying tournament. In the first round, the Samsung Cup is divided into eight groups of four players; they play each other until a player qualifies for the second round with two wins or is eliminated with two losses.
Game 1 (Sept. 3). Komatsu (W) d. Eric Lui (USA) by resig.; Gu Lingyi 5P (China) (B) d. Takao by resig.; Gu Li 9P (China) (W) d. Yuki by resig.
Game 2 (Sept. 4). Fan Yunruo 4P (China) (W) d. Takao by resig.; Chen Yaoye 9P (China) (B) d. Komatsu by resig.; Liao Xingwen 5P (W) d. Yuki by resig.
Game 3 (Sept. 5). Yi Se-tol 9P (Korea) (B) d. Komatsu by resig.

Young Players Gain Honinbo Seats and Promotions: Every year there is a radical turnover in the Honinbo League: four players out of eight lose their seats, compared to only three out of nine in the Meijin League and four out of twelve in the Kisei Leagues. That means, in theory, that there’s a little more scope for new young stars to make their debut in this league. That’s certainly how things have turned out this year, with two teenagers and two veterans joining the 69th league. The first three of the play-offs for the places up for grabs were held on August 29. Kono Rin 9P, who recently came very close to taking the Gosei title from Iyama Yuta, defeated Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (B) by 1.5 points. At 32, Kono qualifies as one of the veterans. The other veteran is Sakai Hideyuki 8P, aged 40. Taking white, Sakai beat his fellow Kansai Ki-in player Imamura Toshiya 9P by 7.5 points. Sakai has played in eight Meijin leagues, but this will be his first Honinbo league. The third player to win a seat on the 29th was Yo Seiki 3P (right). The 18-year-old Yo (B) beat Han Zenki 8P by 8.5 points. Yo is a player who has been attracting attention as a possible future star for the better part of a year now. Born in Taiwan on July 6, 1995, he became a professional at the Taiwanese Qiyuan (Ki-in), reaching 2P, but then switched to the Kansai Ki-in, where he started out as a 1-dan in 2009. He quickly established himself as a worthy successor — and now a rival — to the Kansai Ki-in’s top young player, Murakawa Daisuke 7P (born on December 14, 1990). Yo has been sweeping all before him this year, winning 18 games in a row before losing in the semifinals of the Tengen tournament (see our previous report). He has also reached the final of the 38th King of the New Stars tournament. In the second round of the current NHK Cup, he scored a very impressive win over Cho U, impressive especially because of how strongly he fought back after incurring a slight disadvantage in the opening. Already some go reporters are talking of him as a future rival to Iyama, and not in the very distant future, either. Yo set a new record by becoming the youngest player to win a seat in the Honinbo League; the previous record was 20 years two months, set by Iyama. The latter’s record for any league — 17 years ten months in the Kisei Leagues — remains intact. The final play-off for a league seat was held on September 5; Ida Atsushi 4P beat Cho Sonjin 9P, so he also makes his league debut. He is almost as young as Yo, having been born on March 15, 1994 and if his game had been held before Yo’s, he would have temporarily held the record. A member of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in, that is, the Central Japan Headquarters, Ida has also attracted attention as an up-and-coming player. One of the advantages of winning a seat in a league (or a title) for a young player is gaining an automatic promotion (it usually takes effect the next day). When Iyama won the Agon Kiriyama Cup at the age of 16 in 2005, he went from 4P to 7P, then to 8P for becoming the Meijin challenger in 2008, then to 9P for winning the Meijin title the following year. Ko Iso also went from 4P to 7P when he won a place in the Meijin League in 2005. Ri Ishu and Uchida Shuhei have also won such promotions in recent years. In a sense, they are a bonus attached to a more substantial achievement than a mere promotion. In any case, Yo is the first player in Japan to jump four ranks, so he has another record.

38th Kisei Leagues: Murakawa Wins B League: Two games were played in the B League last week. Murakawa Daisuke 7P of the Kansai Ki-in, who already had the sole lead, put himself in an unassailable position by beating Kono Rin 9P. Every other player already has at least two losses, so Murakawa wins the league regardless of the results in the final round. He will meet the winner of the A League in a play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta Kisei; in that league Yamashita Keigo has a slight edge, but Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P, Yoda Norimoto 9P, Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P, and Kobayashi Satoru 9P are all still in the running (Cho U is the only one completely out of the running).
(September 5) Hane Naoki (W) defeated Cho Chikun by resignation; Murakawa Daisuke (B) d. Kono Rin by resig.

Akiyama to Challenge for Tengen: Akiyama Jiro 9P (right) will have a crack at chipping a segment out of Iyama Yuta’s quintuple crown. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 39th Tengen title, held on September 9, Akiyama (B) defeated Yamashita Keigo Meijin by resignation and so gets to make his first title challenge. Akiyama has long been considered a promising player, but his most notable achievement so far has been appearing in three successive Kisei leagues (34th to 36th). He has an image of being one of the younger players, so it’s a bit of a surprise to find that he is already 35. This is finally his chance to break out of the pack. The title match starts on October 21

Women’s Meijin League: One game has been played in the 26th Women’s Meijin League since our last report. On September 5, Chinen Kaori 4P (B) beat Mukai Chiaki 5P by 2.5 points. With two losses, Mukai falls behind the pace. Joint leaders, both on 3-0, are Kato Keiko 6P and Suzuki Ayumi 6P.

Iyama’s Successive Title Matches: In our previous report, we mentioned that Iyama Yuta (right) would set a new record by playing in all the top-seven title matches this year. That is true, but actually he has played in all top-seven title matches since last year’s Oza and his run will continue to next year’s Kisei title match, so he is already guaranteed to set a record of appearing in ten title matches in a row. If Iyama wins the ongoing Meijin title match, he will become the second player after Cho Chikun to hold the big triple crown of Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo. Cho did this four times, in 1983 and 1996 to 1998.

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The Power Report: Summer Round-up from Japan (Part 3): Kisei Leagues Update; 8th Samsung Cup Qualifying Tournament; 26th Women’s Meijin League Starts; Murakawa to Battle Shida in Agon Kiriyama Cup Final; Yamashita Keigo or Akiyama Jiro to be Tengen Challenger: Yashiro Kumiko Promoted

Wednesday August 28, 2013

E-Journal Japan Correspondent John Power catches us up on go events in Japan and international events in which Japanese players took part. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Kisei Leagues Update
July 25: (A League) Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (W) d. Yamashita Keigo Meijin by 3.5 points. (B League) Murakawa Daisuke 7P (B) d. Takao Shinji 9P by 1.5 points; Mizokami Tomochika 8P (W) d. 25th Honinbo Chikun by resig.
August 8: (B League) Takao Shinji 9P (W) d. Mizokami Tomochika 8P by resig.
August 15: (A League) Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) d. Cho U 9P by 1.5 points; Yamashita Keigo Meijin (W) d. Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig.

To review the state of the leagues, Yamashita Keigo, on 3-1, will win the A League if he wins his final game. The previous Kisei, Cho U, has dropped to 1-3,
so he has to worry about keeping his place. The B League is lagging a little
behind. Murakawa Daisuke, on 3-0, has the sole lead; next is 25th Honinbo Chikun on 2-1.

8th Samsung Cup Qualifying Tournament: The Samsung Cup has become the most diversified of the international tournaments, offering seats to players in various categories through the large-scale qualifying tournament: general (which could be interpreted as meaning purely on strength), senior, female, and world. The number of seats at stake in these sections respectively was 14, 2, 2, and 1. Only one of the 30 Japanese players who made the trip to Seoul to compete was successful: Komatsu Hideki 9P (aged 46), who won a place in the senior section for the second year in a row. The qualifying tournament was held in Seoul from August 2 to 7. Komatsu had to win five games in a row to get into the main tournament. The seeded players from Japan are Takao Shinji and Yuki Satoshi. The opening round, a complicated double elimination, will be held from September 3 to 5.

26th Women’s Meijin League Starts: The new Women’s Meijin League has got under way and first round and the first two games in the second round have been played. (25 July) Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) d. Okuda Aya 3P by 1.5 points; Ishii Akane 2P (W) d. Mukai Chiaki 5P by resig. (August 1) Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) d. Yoshida Mika 8P by half a point; Kato Keiko 6P d. Chinen Kaori 4P by forfeit.
(August 8). Kato Keiko 6P (W) d. Ishii Akane 2P by resig.

Murakawa to Battle Shida in Agon Kiriyama Cup Final: Two new stars will battle it out in the final of the Agon Kiriyama Cup: Murakawa Daisuke 7P of the Kansai Ki-in (aged 22) and Shida Tatsuya 6-dan of the Central Japan branch (Nagoya) of the Nihon Ki-in (also 22). In the semifinals, held on August 19, Murakawa (W) d. Cho U by resignation and Shida (B) defeated Ichiriki Ryo 3-dan by half a point. The final will be held in Kyoto on October 5.

Yamashita Keigo or Akiyama Jiro to be Tengen Challenger: The semifinals of the 39th Tengen title were held on August 22. Yamashita Keigo Meijin (B) beat Cho U 9P by resignation and Akiyama Jiro 9P beat Yo Seiki 3P, also by resignation. The winners will meet in the final to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta. Cho U has had a terrible summer: he missed a chance to challenge for the Meijin title, he dropped out of the running in the Kisei league, and he lost in the Tengen and Agon Kiriyama Cup semifinals. Not so long ago, when he was winning three or four titles every year, he looked a certainty to challenge the record for most titles won, but now his prospects don’t look nearly as good. The record, 72 titles, is held by Cho Chikun (25th Honinbo Chikun); Cho U is in sixth place with 38.

Yashiro Kumiko Promoted: Ms. Yashiro Kumiko was promoted to 6P (90 wins) on July 12.

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