by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Lead changes in 40th Meijin League: A game in the 40th Meijin League was played on a Monday, May 4, instead of the usual Thursday. Cho U 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Oza by 2.5 points, thus scoring what was only his second win in five games. Murakawa dropped to 3-3 and will probably have to focus on keeping his league place rather than on becoming the challenger. An important game was played on May 7 between the two players who were close on the heels of the provisional leader of the league, Ko Iso 8P. Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. Kono (right) improved his score to 4-1 and shares the lead with Ko. Yamashita dropped to 3-2. On May 21, Takao (W) beat Ko Iso by resig. This completed the sixth round. The lead is now shared by Kono and Takao, who are both on 4-1. For the first time since the league began, Ko Iso has dropped out the lead or a share of it, but on 4-2 he is well placed if the above two falter; he hasn’t played either of them yet, so he doesn’t have to rely on other players to drag them down. Yamashita is next on 3-2.
Kisei S League starts: The S League is at the top of the pyramid of five leagues in the revamped Kisei tournament, and its winner has the best chance of becoming the Kisei challenger, as he gets a seat in the play-off and an automatic one-game lead as well. The first two games were played on May 7. Murakawa Daisuke Oza (left) started the week badly (see Meijin League report above), but did better here. Playing white, he beat Takao Shinji by 4.5 points. In the other game, Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig. The other players in the six-man league are Yamashita Keigo and Yamashiro Hiroshi. I was planning to report in detail only on the S League, but there was an interesting game in the A League on the 4th. Veteran player Kono Rin 9P (W) beat the up-and-coming new star Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resignation. On 2-0, Kono shares the lead in the eight-player A League with Cho Riyu 8P.
Cho U moves to Taiwan: Cho U 9P has revealed that he is moving to his homeland of Taiwan this month, though he will remain a member of the Nihon Ki-in and keep playing in Japanese tournaments. The reason is his dissatisfaction with his results in recent years; he is hoping that a change in environment will bring about an improvement in his play. Many top players have come to Japan from Taiwan (Rin Kaiho, O Rissei, and O Meien, just to mention three), but this is the first time a top player has taken the reverse course. Cho is 35, an age at which even a top player usually sees a falling off in his results, but Cho is obviously not prepared to accept this. His inspiration may be Cho Chikun, who won his second triple crown (Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo) at the age of 40. Cho U came to Japan at the age of ten and in 2009 became the first player to hold five top-seven titles simultaneously. He has seats in the top three leagues (though in the A League in the 40th Kisei, not the top S League), but he hasn’t won a title since losing the Kisei title in 2013. In an interview in the Yomiuri Newspaper, he said: ‘I can’t show [go fans] games of which I am ashamed. I think that changing my environment will have a positive effect on my go.’ A brief news item in Go Weekly stated that Kobayashi Izumi was taking a break from tournament play after her game on May 14 so that her children could study in Taiwan. Cho’s desire to see his children master Chinese is obviously an additional motive for moving back to Taiwan. It’s a bit unfortunate that Kobayashi Izumi (aged 37), who just made a comeback to active play last year, once again has to sacrifice her own career for her family.
Yamashita to challenge Iyama Gosei: Yamashita Keigo is doing his level best to make a breach in Iyama’s quadruple-crown citadel. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 40th Gosei title, held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo on May 18, Yamashita (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. The game lasted 194 moves. Yamashita has won the Gosei title once, way back in 2000 (the 20th Gosei); in 2008 he unsuccessfully challenged Cho U, losing 1-3. This will be the third title match this year between Yamashita and Iyama; it is only the third time two players have played three top-seven matches against each other in the same year. Moreover, the Gosei is only the fourth title match of the year, so the two could well set a new record (Yamashita is still in the running to become the challenger in the Meijin and Tengen tournaments). The first game of the title match will be played on June 26.