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The Power Report (1 of 2): Takemiya and Kikuchi receive awards; World Go Championship results; Fujisawa defends Women’s Meijin; Ichiriki wins NHK Cup

Friday April 12, 2019

by John Power, Japan Correspondent of the E-Journal

Takemiya and Kikuchi receive awards: 
Every year awards are presented by the Agency for Cultural Affairs honoring persons and bodies who have made significant contributions to Japanese culture. This year the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Awards for 2018, as they are called, were given out at a ceremony held on March 18 and for the first time go players were included. Takemiya Masaki 9P, who, as the great exponent of cosmic or center-oriented go, has been one of the most popular Japanese professionals over the last four decades, was recognized for his success in local and international tournaments. Also receiving an award was Japan’s top postwar amateur player, Kikuchi Yasuro, who has made major contributions to spreading go. As a player, he won many Japanese amateur championships and also won the World Amateur Go Championship. He has held posts in a number of organizations, including one that is active in popularizing go amongst children. He is probably best known for founding the Ryokuseien Go School, whose most famous graduate is Yamashita Keigo. He will turn 90 on August 20. Kumasu Ken’ichi, a maker of traditional go and shogi boards, also received an award. Three honorees in the go world may sound good, but actually awards were handed out to 86 individuals and three organizations. If that many people get awards every year, it’s a little strange go has had to wait so long.

World Go Championship results: A report on this tournament was given on March 20 in the ejournal. Some time has passed, but, for those interested, here are details of the results.
(March 18) Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (B) beat Jiang Weijie 9P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Cho U 9P (Japan) by resig.; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (B) beat Liao Yuanhe 7P (China) by resig.; Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Yu Changhyuk 9P (Korea) by resig.
(March 19) Ke (B) beat Iyama by resig.; Park (W) beat Shin by resig.2019.04.12_WomMei Fujisawa
(March 20) Park (B) beat Ke by 1.5 points.
First prize is 20,000,000 yen (about $180,000).

Fujisawa defends Women’s Meijin: The third game of the 31st Women’s Meijin title match was held at the headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 22. Fujisawa drew white in the nigiri and won by resignation after 282 moves, so she defended her title 2-1. She won this title for the third year in a row. Xie Yimin remains in her unaccustomed state of having no title to her name.

Ichiriki wins NHK Cup: The final of the 66thNHK Cup was telecast on March 24. The finalists were Iyama Yuta, Quintuple Crown, who was bidding for his third successive cup, and Ichiriki Ryo 8P, who was hoping that this would be third time lucky. Ichiriki lost the 62nd final to Ida Atsushi in 2015 and the 64thfinal to Iyama in 2017. The latter is part of a 2019.04.12_66nhk_1lopsided record against Iyama of six wins to 18 losses. Ichiriki, aged 21, is often spoken of as the top player of the post-Iyama generation; fittingly, he beat two other top players of that generation on his way to the final: Yo Seiki in the quarterfinals and Kyo Kagen Gosei in the semifinals. As usual, the opening showed the influence of AI go in various places. Ichiriki (white) did well in the early fighting and took the initiative, but the lead then changed hands a number of times. Iyama took the lead, thanks to a slip by Ichiriki, but his policy of always playing the strongest move backfired, letting Ichiriki back into the game. To save a group, Iyama had to resort to a gote seki, which meant that Ichiriki scored a success. In turn, the latter chose the strongest move: instead of solidifying territory with a safety-first move, he made a strong attack on a black group. There were more twists and turns, but in the end the game was even on the board, so Iyama resigned after move 182. This is Ichiriki’s second title win against Iyama, following the 25thRyusei final in 2016. In “fast” games (defined as two hours and under), he now has a lead of 4-1 against him. First prize in the NHK Cup is 5,000,000 yen (about $46,000). Both players will represent Japan in the 31st TV Asia Cup.

Tomorrow: Murakawa wins second Judan game; Kono leads Meijin League; Change at top of Nihon Ki-in board

 

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Kono to challenge for Honinbo title

Thursday April 11, 2019

The second game in the play-offs to decide the challenger to Honinbo Monyu, otherwise known as Iyama Yuta, for the 74th Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on April 10. Kono Rin (W) beat Shibano Toramaru by 1.5 points after 294 moves. Kono will be making his first challenge for the Honinbo title. Kono won the 31st to 33rd Tengen titles (2005 to 2007), the Agon Kiriyama Cup once, the Ryusei twice, the JAL New Stars once, and the NEC Cup twice, for a total of nine titles. This will be his fifth title match with Iyama Yuta. He lost the 39th Meijin (2014) 2-4, the 41stKisei (2017) 2-4, and the 38th (2013) and 39th (2014) Gosei, both 2-3. He always picks up two wins.
- John Power

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The Power Report: Honinbo League ends in three-way tie; playoff April 10

Tuesday April 9, 2019

by John Power, Japan Correspondent

Honinbo League ends in three-way tie; playoff April 10: The big news is that there’s a three-way tie in the Honinbo League and the deciding game will be played on April 10; I’ll report the result as soon as I hear it. Here’s the result of the last game in the sixth round. On March 21, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. This was Yamashita’s third loss, so 2019.04.09 Honinbo leagueit put him out of the running to win the league.

The final round of the 74th Honinbo League was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on April 4. Following the lead of the Meijin League, all the games in this round were played on the same day. As this round started, four of the eight members of the league were still in the running to become the challenger: Hane Naoki 9P, on 5-1, and three players on 4-1, Kono Rin 9P, Ichiriki Ryo 8P, and Shibano Toramaru 7P. If he won, Hane would clinch the challengership, but if he lost there would a play-off: Kono and Ichiriki were playing each other, so there would be a least one other player on 5-2.

The results:
Yamashita Keigo (B) beat Hane by resig.
Shibano (W) beat Ko Iso by resig.
Kono (W) beat Ichiriki by 1.5 points.
Yo Seiki 8P (W) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by resig.

The result was that Shibano, Hane, and Kono ended in a tie and qualified for the play-off. Usually only the two higher-ranked players in a multiple tie make the play-off, but Hane and Kono had the same rank. They played each other on April 8, with Kono (B) winning by resignation. Hane either had the sole lead or shared the lead nearly all the way in the league, but he stumbled at the end. Kono’s win continues his superb form: his record this year is 13-1.

Kono will now play Shibano on April 10. The latter was seeded into the second stage of the play-off because of his higher ranking in the league. At the other end of the league, there are no play-offs for retaining your place. Yamashita, Yo, and Ichiriki all finished on 4-3, but Yamashita’s number one ranking gave him priority over the other two. This was a tough result for Ichiriki: one game made the difference between tying for first and losing his place in the league.

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The Power Report: Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin; Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go; Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League; Kono leads 44th Meijin League; Promotions & retirements

Thursday March 21, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.03.21_womens meijin 2

Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin
In recent years, the first game of the Women’s Meijin title match has been linked with the first Judan game, being held at the same venue, the Osaka University of Commerce, on the following day. This year it featured yet another title-match clash, the eighth, between Fujisawa Rina, holder of three women’s titles, and Xie Yimin 6P, who has had no title to her name since she lost the Women’s Honinbo to Fujisawa last December. She has memories of this title, as she held it for nine years in a row, so she will be hoping to make a comeback. Fujisawa actually had the better start, but Xie caught up by living inside White’s sphere of influence, then took the lead by reducing White’s main territory. Fujisawa resigned after 241 moves.
The second game was played in the Arisu Pavilion on the campus of Heian Jogakuin University (also known as St. Agnes’ University) on March 14. Fujisawa (black) beat Xie by resignation after 189 moves. Xie took the initiative in the opening, but Fujisawa made a successful attack in the middle game and drew level with her. At the end, Xie slipped up in time trouble, so Fujisawa took a big lead. Up to this loss, Xie had won nine games in a row. The third game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in on March 22.

Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go
The final of the Professional Pair Go Championship 2019 was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 3. Taking white, the pair of Fujisawa Rina and Ichiriki Ryo beat Osawa Narumi and Kyo Kagen by resignation.

Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League2019.03.21_Honinbo League
This is one of the closest leagues in memory, with six players still in contention after five rounds; after three games in the sixth round, that number has been reduced by only one. These days, according to a new rule, only the top two players in a multiple tie qualify for the play-off, but in an earlier decade there was a five-man play-off, so it was like a mini-tournament in its own right.
With two wins since our last report, Hane Naoki 9P has improved his score to 5-1, giving him the sole lead. If he can beat Yamashita Keigo in the final round in April, he will be the challenger. Still in the running if he slips up are Shibano Toramaru 7P and Ichiriki Ryo, both on 4-2, and Yamashita and Kono Rin 9P, both on 3-2. One of these four players, though, will lose his place in the league, joining Ko Iso and Anzai Nobuaki. Actually, at this point Hane is the only player immune from demotion. For the first time, all of the games in the final round will be held on the same day, April 5, at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo with a public commentary being held from 6 to 9 p.m. (to be extended if necessary).
Recent games:
(Feb. 11) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig. This was Yo’s second loss, so he fell behind Shibano and Kono (both on 3-1 at this point).
(Feb. 21) Hane Naoki (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.; Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 7P by 3.5 points.
(March 7) Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by 3.5 points.
(March 14) Hane (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P by resig.; Shibano Toramaru (B) beat Yo Seiki 8P by resig.

Kono leads 44th Meijin League2019.03.21_Meijin League
After three and a half rounds, Kono Rin, on 4-0, is the only undefeated player, so he has a theoretical chance of playing in two best-of-sevens this year. His March 14 win detailed below is also his 13thwin in a streak that began last December. The Go Weekly report on the league went off topic in an interesting aside. The reporter wrote that if you were to publish a new book on josekis, the star point would probably take over half the space, as recently star-point variations have evolved a lot and become remarkably complicated. A novel variation appeared in the Kono v. Murakawa game.
Recent results:
(Feb. 21) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by resig.; Mutsuura Yuta 7P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke by resig. At this point, Kono, on 3-0, was the sole undefeated player.
(March 7) Shibano Toramaru 7P (W) beat Son Makoto 7P by resig.
(March 14) Kono Rin (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by 2.5 points.

Promotions  
To 9-dan: Komatsu Fujio (200 wins, as of Feb. 26)
To 8-dan: Sano Takatsugu (150 wins, as of March 5)
To 2-dan: Kuwabara Shun (30 wins, as of March 15)

Retirements
Kusunoki Teruko 7P will retire as of March 31. Born on September 3, 1939, she became 1-dan in 1956 and reached 7-dan in 1984. She won the Women’s Honinbo three years in a row and five times overall and the Women’s Kakusei two years in a row. She is one of the three Honda sisters; her oldest sister, Sugiuchi Kazuko 8P, is still active at the age of 92. The second sister, Honda Sachiko 7P, aged 88, retired in 2000.
Yoshida Harumi 1P will also retire at the end of this month. Born on November 28, 1957, she became a disciple of Iwamoto Kaoru 9P and became a professional in 1981.

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The Power Report: Ueno & Xie join C League; Iyama defends Kisei title; Yu repeats in Senko Cup; Iyama makes good start in Judan

Wednesday March 20, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno & Xie join C League
The Kisei qualifying tournament had a big day on February 14, with seven play-offs for seats in the C League, which is a five-round Swiss System. Places in the other leagues are decided by promotions and demotions within the leagues, but 16 players drop out of the 32-player C League, giving a lot of chances to the participants in the massive “First Tournament,” as the qualifying tournament is called.
Two woman players were vying for a place on the above date, with mixed results. Fuijisawa Rina lost to Hirose Yuichi 3P, but Ueno Asami beat Hashimoto Yujiro 9P. She will be the second woman, after Suzuki Ayumi 7P, to make the C League. (By the way, this was her seventh win in a streak that started last year.)
On February 21, Xie Yimin 6P (W) beat Otake Hideo 9P by resig. and also gained a seat in the C League.

Iyama defends Kisei title 2019.03.20_43kisei7 Iyama defends
Iyama Yuta defended the 43rdKisei title but not before being given a scare by the tenacious challenger Yamashita Keigo. After four games, Iyama had a 3-1 lead, so the match seemed as good as over. But Yamashita had other ideas.
The fifth game was held at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on February 27 and 28. The game was a kadoban for the challenger, so he was under a lot of pressure. Playing white, Iyama sacrificed a small group in return for outside thickness, and Yamashita seemed dissatisfied with his opening, judging by the fact that he declined to 2019.03.20_43kisei6 Yamashitamake what looked like an advisable reinforcing move and instead played aggressively in an attempt to counteract White’s thickness. However, Iyama made an overplay in the ensuing center fight, so Yamashita was able to pull off an upset. He won by 6.5 points. With his Judan title defense due to start soon, Iyama, must have been disappointed to let slip this chance to reduce the burden on himself.
The sixth game was held at the Kagetsuen inn in the town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture on March 7 and 8. This was the second kadoban for Yamashita. Starting in the opening, he played an aggressive, attacking game with white and turned the game into one large confused fight. Iyama is at home in this kind of game, so Yamashita was unable to turn it in his favor. However, right at the end he was able to put a large black group into ko and pull off an upset. White won by 6.5 points after 250 moves. Iyama will regret not being able to hang on to the lead, but the mutual aggression made this a very entertaining game.
Yamashita had finally drawn level with Iyama; usually the player catching up has better momentum, so there seemed to be a good chance of Iyama’s being dethroned. The final game of the series was played at Ryugon, a Japanese inn in the city of Minami (south) Uonuma in Niigata Prefecture on March 14 and 15. Yamashita drew black in the nigiri. This was yet another fierce fighting game, with Yamashita making an all-out attempt to capture a large white group. However, he made a mistake in timing, losing two points by failing to make a forcing move. After this slip, he began playing erratically, so Iyama was able to seize the initiative. In the end, he won by 6.5 points, the same margin as in the sixth game.
This is the seventh year in a row that Iyama has won the Kisei title. One more defense and he will match Kobayashi Koichi’s record of eight in a row. He has maintained his quintuple crown. It is his 55thtitle and his 45thtop-seven title, the latter extending his record.

Yu repeats in Senko Cup2019.03.20_Senko Tsukuda Choi Yu Hei
The Senko Cup World Go Strongest Woman Player Tournament 2019, to translate the name literally, was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo from February 22 to 24. It is the only international professional women’s tournament sponsored by a Japanese company. The inaugural tournament was held last year and was won by Yu Zhiying 6P of China. She again demonstrated overwhelming strength and repeated as champion. This year she defeated Choi Jeong 9P of Korea in the final. First prize is 10 million yen (just under $90,000). Full results are given below.
Round 1 (Feb. 22). Yu (China) (B) beat Mannami Nao 4P (Japan) by resig.; Tsukuda Akiko 5P (Japan) (W) beat Nataliya Kovaleva 5D (Russia) by resig.; Choi (W) beat Nyu Eiko 2P (Japan) by resig.; Hei Jiajia 7P (Chinese Taipei) (W) beat Ueno Asami 2P (Japan) by resig.
Semifinals (Feb. 23). Yu (B) beat Tsukuda by resig.; Choi (W) beat Hei by 2.5 points.
2019.03.20_Judan1 Murakawa IyamaFinal (Feb. 24). Yu (B) beat Choi by 3.5 points. Play-off for 3rd place: Hei (W) beat Tsukuda by resig.

Iyama makes good start in Judan
The 57th Judan best-of-five title match got off to a start on March 5. It was played on the campus of the Osaka University of Commerce. The challenger, Murakawa Daisuke 8P, was playing in his fifth top-seven title match, his opponent in each case being Iyama Yuta. So far, he had succeeded just once, winning the Oza title from him in 2014, but losing it back to him the following year. As he put it last year before his unsuccessful challenge for the Judan title, Iyama is “an extremely large barrier that you can’t avoid.”
Iyama Yuta played positively and took the initiative. Murakawa launched a fierce attack late in the game, but Iyama countered forcefully in rescuing a group under attack and prevented an upset. The second game will be played on March 29. Murakawa has now lost 13 games in a row to Iyama, all in title matches.

Tomorrow: Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin; Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go; Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League; Kono leads 44th Meijin League; Promotions & retirements

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The Power Report: The amazing career of 9-year-old Nakamura Sumire

Tuesday March 19, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.03.19_Sumire with parents

Back on January 5, this journal carried a report about Nakamura Sumire, who had been granted 1-dan rank at the Nihon Ki-in at the age of nine. When she makes her pro debut in April, she will be exactly ten years old, making her the youngest professional ever in Japan. She gained her 1-dan diploma under a new system in which the Nihon Ki-in can award professional status to promising young players without making them wait to gain the rank through insei competition. The aim, presumably, is to accelerate their development by exposing them at a younger age to professional competition. No one at the Nihon Ki-in has commented on the obvious risk of a premature promotion: the player may be discouraged and suffer a setback if he or she is not equal to the challenge.

During the press conference, Kobayashi also expressed his gratitude to the Kansai Ki-in for all the assistance they had given to Sumire and for letting the Nihon Ki-in “poach” her.

Here are a few more details about her career so far. Nakamura was born into a go family: her father is Shinya 9P and her mother, Miyuki, is a strong amateur who is also a go teacher. Early on, Sumire showed an interest in go, so her mother taught her the game when she was three. She immediately started playing in children’s tournaments. When she lost, she asked her mother how she could win and, on her advice, started studying go two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. In 2015, aged exactly 6, she won a tournament for preschoolers, the 4th Watanabe Kazuyo Kids Cup. At this time, she was already amateur 4-dan. She then started playing in all-Japan tournaments for children and for female players, with good results. However, when she was seven, she started studying go more seriously, so she mainly stopped appearing in amateur tournaments. One exception was in July last year when she played in a tournament organized by Pandanet, the Ladies Tournament, and won it, including a win over a player who had twice won the All-Japan Women’s Amateur Championship. When she was eight, she became an insei at the Kansai Ki-in. She also underwent training in Korea last year from May to December, entering the famous go school of Han Jongjin and becoming a trainee (“kenkuyuusei,” = insei) at the Korean Kiwon. (Apparently she first visited Korea when she was seven, though I don’t have details. Reading between the lines, it may be that her father has more confidence in Korean professional training than in Japanese.) The number of trainees is limited to 108, so you have to win a place through a qualifying tournament. She quickly learned Korean and would interpret for her parents. Apparently she won a children’s tournament in Korea, but, again, I don’t have details.

In the Nihon Ki-in’s press conference, Kobayashi Satoru 9P, who is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, described the new system for discovering youthful talent. It is called the Young Stars Special Promotion System for Recommended Players and in principle applies to elementary-school children. Kobayashi: “We made this system, modeled on a Korean system, to solve the problem of Japan’s having fallen behind in world go.” The decision to found it was formally made on December 8. Soon after Sumire became the first candidate. The decisive factor in the decision to award her 1-dan status was her good performance in a test game with Cho U Meijin played on December 13. Taking black and receiving a reverse komi of six points, she secured a jigo (draw). This game was published in the February 11 issue of Go Weekly. According to the commentator, Ichiriki Ryo, she had a lead in the middle game, but lost points in the endgame. This performance is quite close to 1-dan level. Every year Go Weekly organizes games between the players who are about to debut as new professionals; the handicap is black, with no komi, and the results are mixed.

Actually, Nakamura may find things easier playing low-ranked professionals when her career starts in April because she has been put through the wringer in a number of tough teaching/demonstration games. Below is an update on these plus a report on a “temporary” police force promotion.

On January 6, the day after the Nihon Ki-in held a press conference to announce her debut, Sumire played a “public commemorative game” with Iyama Yuta at a go festival in Higashi (East) Osaka City. This was a reward for winning the elementary schoolchildren’s tournament at this festival the previous year. The press conference the day before had attracted a lot of attention, being widely reported on TV, so there was a major media presence at the festival. Taking black with no komi, Sumire played positively and took the lead, but fell behind after an overplay in the middle game. However, the game was 2019.03.19_Police Chief for a daysuspended after move 170 as the time allotted for it had expired. (It’s quite common for special games like this not to be played to a conclusion.) Iyama had played her at the same festival a year earlier; he commented that he was astonished by her improvement in the interval and added that she was stronger than he was at nine.

On January 12, Sumire acted as Chief of Konohana Police Station for a Day. Konohana is the area in Osaka City where her elementary school is located. Police stations in Japan often ask celebrities to act as a kind of honorary police chief for a day as a publicity measure. Sumire wore a down-sized policewoman’s uniform and a sash with the words Konohana Police Chief on it and attended an “investiture” ceremony and an event designed to raise awareness of swindling, a very common crime these days. She was of course the youngest person ever to act this role in Konohana; it’s unlikely there have been many younger “police chiefs” in Japan. This request by the police reflects the great public interest Sumire’s promotion has attracted. (A Net search for Nakamura Sumire, Konohana Police Chief for a Day or just for her name will locate lots of photos.)

Later in January, Sumire visited Seoul with her family, one reason being for her and her family to express their gratitude to people there who had helped with her training, especially Han Jongjin, who runs one of the top go schools. About 50 members of the Japanese and Korean media attended a press conference held on the 22nd. The next day she played a commemorative game with Choi Jeong 9P, the world’s number one or number two woman player. The game was played in a TV studio in the basement of the Korean Kiwon. Sumire was outplayed by Choi and resigned after 180 moves. In a commentary in Go World,Motoki Katsuya 8P commented that Sumire seemed to be quite familiar with the latest patterns played in international tournaments. In the middle game, Sumire got into trouble with over-aggressive play.

Sumire is quite popular in Korea. A week after the above game, she visited Korea again at the invitation of the go channel K Baduk to play another commemorative game, this time with the “emperor” of Korean go, Cho Hunhyun. The game was played on January 30 and telecast on February 3. Playing black with no komi, Sumire lost this game too.

Finally, as part of its regular series pitting debutant pros against senior players, Go Weekly arranged for Sumire to play a game with Hei Jiajia 7P (formerly known as Joanne Missingham) of Taiwan. Hei visited Japan for the Senko Cup (see our report tomorrow). This game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on February 20, with Sumire taking black with no komi. According to Fujisawa Rina, who did a commentary for Go Weekly, Sumire was ahead in the middle game but made an overplay that let Hei stage an upset. Sumire resigned after 228 moves. Kobayashi Satoru commented that in content this was the best of the series of games for Sumire. He predicted that she would be appearing in women’s title matches in three years’ time, but Fujisawa Rina amended that to “one or two years’ time.”

Study time: According to her family, Sumire studies go six hours a day during the school year and nine hours a day in the holidays. When asked what was her favorite TV program in a press conference, her parents answered that there was no TV in their home.

Media attention: Recently shogi has been attracting a lot of attention in the media thanks to the exploits of Fujii Sota, who has been rewriting the record book, including starting his career with 29 successive wins. (I wrote a couple of reports on him for the E-Journal, the later one being in the July 19, 2017 issue.) Sumire has been attracting similar interest, with all the above games and the one-day police chief event being widely reported on prime-time TV. Japanese TV loves to show celebrities shedding tears, and they made a lot of a reputation Sumire had for crying when she lost. However, perhaps she’s matured, because she didn’t cry after any of the losses detailed above. Someone in her family said that because she respected these players, she didn’t get upset when she lost.

It’s now only a couple of weeks until she makes her professional debut. Even non-go players will be following her career with keen interest.

Tomorrow: Ueno & Xie join C League; Iyama defends Kisei title; Yu repeats in Senko Cup; Iyama makes good start in Judan

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The Power Report: Another Ueno makes pro; Yang wins LG Cup; China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup

Monday March 18, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Another Ueno makes pro
Following older sister Asami’s successful defense of her Women’s Kisei title, related in my previous report, there was more good news for the Ueno family when younger sister Risa qualified as professional 1-dan. Risa took first place in the 2019 women’s tournament for qualification as a professional with a score of 7-1. The tournament concluded on February 8. She will be 12 years nine months old when she starts her career on April 1, which makes her the fourth youngest ever at the Nihon Ki-in. She will make her debut along with the ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire. Her success has also attracted a lot of attention and a press conference was held on the 15th. Like her elder sister (who is 17), she is a disciple of Fujisawa Kazunari 8P, so Fujisawa Rina could reproach her father for creating yet another rival.
Thanks to the example of her older sister Asami, Risa learnt go at the age of four and became an insei in the second year of elementary school. Asked if she respected her older sister, she answered: “M’m, I guess so . . . We’d probably quarrel, so we almost never play with each other.”
There are various routes to professional shodan, with Nakamura Sumire’s path being the newest one (see article below), and two other female players also qualified as 1-dan. They are both from the Central Japan or Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in and both were recommended for promotion by the insei instructor. Takao Mari (aged 17) and Hane Ayaka (aged 16) both scored 9-3 in a league for the top four inseis. Takao actually took first place because of her higher ranking. Hane is the third daughter of Hane Naoki 9P and Shigeko 1P. Her style is aggressive, in contrast to her father, and, like Fujisawa Rina, she is a third-generation professional.

Yang wins LG Cup2019.03.18_Yang Dingxin
The best-of-three final of the 23rd LG Cup was an all-Chinese affair, with Shi Yue 9P (aged 28) playing Yang Dingxin 7P (aged 20; at right). Game One (Feb. 11) was won by Shi (B) by resig., but Yang bounced back, winning Game Two (Feb. 13) by resig. and Game Three, for which he had white, also by resig. First prize is 2019.03.18_NongShim Iyama L Park300,000,000 won (a little over $264,000).

China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup
The third and final stage of the 20th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Seoul, but it was over very quickly. In Game 10, played on Feb. 18, Park Junghwan 9P, the last player for Korea, beat Iyama Yuta 9P, the last player for Japan. Park had black and won by resig. The next day, however, China’s second player, Dang Yifei 9P, (B) beat Park by 1.5 points, giving China an overwhelming victory. Scores were: China 8-1; Korea 2-5; Japan 1-5. First prize is 500,000,000 won (nearly $441,000).

Tomorrow: The amazing career of 9-year-old Nakamura Sumire

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The Power Report: Kido Prize winners announced; Top prize-money winners in 2018; Iyama wins 56th Shusai Prize, Ishida wins Okura Prize

Sunday March 17, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Kido Prize winners announced
The 52nd Kido Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony scheduled for March 26. They are awarded to the top Nihon Ki-in performers of 2018 in various categories and are named after the predecessor of the magazine “Monthly Go World.” They were selected by a committee of go journalists on February 5.
Most outstanding player: Iyama Yuta, quintuple crown. Iyama has now won this prize for seven years in a row.
Outstanding players: Cho U (won the Meijin title), Kyo Kagen (won the Gosei title)
New Star: Ueno Asami (won a women’s title in her second year as a pro)
Women’s Prize: Fujisawa Rina (won three women’s titles)
International prize: Shibano Toramaru (for beating Ke Jie in the Japan-China Ryusei play-off)
Most wins: Shibano Toramaru (46-23)
Best winning percentage: Fujita Akihiko (83.67%)
Most successive wins: Koike Yoshihiro (19)
Most games played: Shibano Toramaru (69)

Top prize-money winners in 2018
As usual, Iyama was far ahead of anyone else. His income dropped by ¥13,000,000 from last year owing to his loss of two titles from his septuple crown, but it’s considered a major achievement to top one hundred million yen. There’s a big drop to the next player in the list, but Ichiriki is doing well when you consider he’s also a university student. This year only one woman player made the top ten compared to two last year.
1. Iyama Yuta: ¥146,960,000 (about $1.3 million) (top for the eighth year in a row, clearing one hundred million yen for the seventh year in a row)
2. Ichiriki Ryo 8P: ¥51,617,199 (2nd for second year in a row)
3. Cho U: ¥41,519,000
4. Yamashita Keigo: ¥32,838,813
5. Shibano Toramaru: ¥22,266,400
6. Fujisawa Rina: ¥21,897,900
7. Kyo Kagen: ¥20,288,300
8. Kono Rin: ¥18,696,277
9. Hane Naoki: ¥12,746,400
10. Motoki Katsuya: ¥12,485,000

Iyama wins 56th Shusai Prize, Ishida wins Okura Prize
Both these prizes were decided on February 12. The Shusai Prize is awarded to a player with outstanding results in the previous year and who has a promising future. For the seventh year in a row, it went to Iyama Yuta, which is a new record.
The 48th Okura Kishichiro Prizes were awarded to three amateur players who have played a prominent role in spreading go and to Ishida Yoshio, otherwise known as 24th Honinbo Shuho.

Tomorrow: Another Ueno makes pro; Yang wins LG Cup; China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup

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The Power Report: Murakawa to challenge for Judan; Park wins NY’s Cup; Honinbo League; Meijin League: Iyama falters

Friday February 22, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.02.22_57judan Murakawa

Murakawa to challenge for Judan: 
The play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta for the 57th Judan title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on January 31. It matched Takao Shinji 9P, who was aiming at a comeback as Judan after a gap of four years, and Murakawa Daisuke 8P (right) of the Kansai Ki-in, who was aiming at making his second successive challenge. The two players seemed to be evenly matched, as past results were 6-6. Murakawa drew black in the nigiri and won the game by resignation after 173 moves. He will be hoping to improve on his performance last year, when he was unable to take a game off the titleholder. He did beat Iyama 3-2 in the 62nd Oza, which so far is the only top-seven title he has won. He commented that his style has changed since last year, through his study of AI go. The title match starts on March 5.

Park wins NY’s Cup: The 7th CCTV New Year’s Cup is an invitational tournament 2019.02.22_Shibano (R) loses to Parkfounded by the Chinese TV channel to commemorate the Chinese New Year. This year the world’s number one and number two, Park Junghwan 9P of Korea and Ke Jie 9P of China, were joined by Shibano Toramaru 7P of Japan, who was standing in for Iyama Yuta, who was too busy with title games to take part. The tournament is an irregular knockout, with the players drawing lots to decide who plays in the first game. The loser of that game meets the third player, with the winner going on to the final. The loser of the second game is the only one who doesn’t get two chances. Park, who in recent months, has regained his former position as the world’s top-rated player, stumbled in the opening game but resurfaced in the final and took revenge. Games are played by the NHK format, and first prize is 800,000 yuan (about $118,000). Park also won this tournament last year.
(Jan. 31) Ke (B) beat Park by 1.5 points.2019.02.22-honinbo-league
(Feb. 1) Park (B) beat Shibano by resig.
(Feb. 2) Park (B) beat Ke by 7.5 points.

Honinbo League: No one has an unbeaten record in the 74th Honinbo League, so six of the eight players are probably still in contention. Having played one more game and scored 4-1, Ichiriki Ryo 8P is doing well, but of the three players on 3-1, two are ranked higher than he is. Those two, Yo Seiki 8P and Shibano Toramaru 7P, will clash in the 6th round in March.
Most recent result:
(Jan. 31) Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by resig.2019.02.22-meijin-league

Meijin League: Iyama falters: With only two and a half rounds out of nine in the 44th Meijin League played, it’s early days yet, but it’s beginning to look tough for Iyama Yuta to become the challenger. In his third game, with new star Shibano Toramaru, he suffered his second loss. One consolation for him, though, is that only one player is undefeated. That’s Kono Rin, who will play Suzuki Shinji in his third-round game. If the other members of the league cooperate by beating each other, Iyama may yet have a chance.
Recent results:
(Feb. 7) Shibano Toramaru 7P (W) beat Iyama Yuta by 1.5 points; Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by half a point.

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The Power Report: Kisei: Yamashita evens score, Iyama takes lead again; Fujisawa Rina attains historic goal; World Go Championship preliminaries; Ueno Asami defends Women’s Kisei

Monday February 18, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.02.18_43kisei2 Yamashita

Kisei: Yamashita evens score, Iyama takes lead again: The second game of the 43rd Kisei title match was played at Yumeminato Tower in Sakaiminato City, Tottori Prefecture, on January 21 and 22. The name of the tower translates as Dream Port Tower; it is a sightseeing facility with an observation deck (details can be found on the Net under the English or the Japanese name). The key to this game was the opening: Yamashita Keigo (right), who had white, took advantage of a slack move by Iyama Kisei to seize the lead and was able to rebuff Iyama’s attempts to get back into the game. Black resigned after 164 moves. It’s unusual for Iyama, who usually starts slowly and carefully, to fall behind on the first day.
The third game was played at the Olive Bay Hotel in the city of Saikai in Nagasaki Prefecture on February 2 and 3. Taking white, Iyama won by resignation after 252 moves. Iyama seemed to take an edge in the opening; Yamashita attacked aggressively, but Iyama kept control of the game. Yamashita eventually managed to start a large ko, but didn’t have enough ko threats to win it.
The fourth game was played at the Former Tanaka Residence in Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture, on February 13 and 14. The venue is a house with a Western wing built in 1921 and a Japanese wing built in 1934. It was designated a cultural treasure in 2006. Taking black, Iyama won by resignation after 183 moves. Yamashita will face his first kadoban in the fifth game, scheduled for February 27 and 28.

Fujisawa Rina attains historic goal: Fujisawa Rina reached a goal that has long been a target for women players. In a 2019.02.18_Fujisawa Maingame in the first round of the main tournament (a knockout) of the 45th Tengen title, played on January 21, she became the first woman professional to win a game in the final section of a top-seven title. Playing white, she beat Takahashi Masumi 3-dan by resig. Starting with Honda Sachiko in 1979, ten women players had reached the final section, called “the main tournament,” a total of 12 times, but had lost in the first round each time. For Fujisawa, the 13th time was “third time lucky”; she had reached the main tournament in the 43rd and 44th Gosei tournaments. Four more wins and she will be the challenger. Incidentally, the number of seats in the main tournament varies according to the tournament from 16 to “around 32” (which means that some players may be seeded into the second round of the knockout).

World Go Championship preliminaries:  The international preliminaries for the thirdWorld Go Championship were held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo from January 25 to 29. Eight-nine players vied for the three seats in the eight-player main tournament that were at stake.
The senior preliminary was won by Yu Chang-hyeok 9P of Korea, who beat Yuki Satoshi 9P (Japan) in the final. Incidentally, Jimmy Cha (Cha Minsu) played in this preliminary; as far as I know, this is his first international appearance for some time. The gener2019.02.18_Ueno defends WKiseial preliminary was split into two sections, both of which were won by Chinese players: Jiang Weijie 9P and Liao Yuanhe 7P. The eight-player tournament will start on March 18.

Ueno Asami defends Women’s Kisei: As the current women’s number one, Fujisawa Rina looked like a tough challenger for the 17-year-old Ueno Asami (left), but the titleholder had other ideas. The second game of the 22nd Women’s Kisei title match was held in the Ryusei Studio at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on January 28. Taking black, Ueno forced Fujisawa to resign after 243 moves. The game featured fierce fighting from start to finish, but Ueno showed that her surprise victory in this title last year was no fluke. Xie Yimin is still going strong, so the Japanese women’s go world looks like entering a period of three strong rivals.

Tomorrow: Murakawa to challenge for Judan…

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