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The Power Report (Part 1): Yamashita Wins Kisei A League; Iyama Defends Gosei Title; Iyama Makes Good Start in Meijin Defense

Monday September 8, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Yamashita Wins Kisei A League: There are no play-offs in the Kisei Leagues, so there is an built-in bias towards upholding the status 2014.09.08_Yamashita Keigo quo. When Yamashita Keigo 9P (right) scored his fourth win in the fourth round of the A League, he won the league. In theory, Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P and Kono Rin 9P could both draw level with him on 4-1 after the fifth round if Yamashita loses, but Yamashita is ranked higher, so they can’t catch him.
In the B League, the top-ranked player, Murakawa Daisuke 7P, on 3-0, is the only undefeated player; he also needs only one more win to win the league, so a repeat of the play-off between him and Yamashita to decide the Kisei challenger looks quite possible.(August 28) (A League) Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. (B 2014.09.08_Iyama-YutaLeague) Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) beat Cho Riyu 8P by resig.
(September 4) (A League) Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by 2.5 points.

Iyama Defends Gosei Title: For the second year in a row, the Gosei went the full distance, though the course of the match was a little different. Last year, Kono Rin won the first two games and Iyama Yuta the next three. This year, in the 39th Gosei, Kono won the opening game again, but Iyama (left) won the next two before Kono evened the score in the fourth game. The fifth game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 29. When the players drew for colors (nigiri), Kono drew black. Kono took the early lead, but he played too tightly at crucial points in the middle game and allowed Iyama to get back into the game. Immediately after this, however, Iyama made one of his rare blunders, a mistake in timing that allowed Kono to win outright a capturing race that should have become a sente seki for Iyama. After the game, Iyama commented that he could well have resigned at this point, but ironically Kono slipped up soon afterwards, making a number of mistakes in what was some very complicated fighting with both players out of time. Iyama took the lead again and this time held on to it. Kono resigned after 220 moves. After the game, it was hard to tell from the players’ expressions who was the winner. Kono recovered his composure very quickly whereas Iyama looked unhappy for quite a while about his bad play. He commented that he had been outplayed by Kono in both this and the previous year’s matches and that he would have to do better in the upcoming Meijin title match. However, a win is a win, and Iyama has not only maintained his sextuple crown but also kept alive the dream of a grand slam next 2014.09.08_Kono-Rinyear.

Iyama Makes Good Start in Meijin Defense: The first game of the 39th Meijin title match was held at the Hotel Chinzanso in Tokyo on September 4 and 5. Taking white, Iyama Yuta Meijin won by resignation after 212 moves. Both he and the challenger Kono Rin 9P (right) were down to their final minute of byo-yomi. Kono, fresh from his narrow loss to Iyama in the Gosei title match, played positively in the opening, and Iyama admitted later that he had been a little dissatisfied with his position after the opening fight. To make up his lost ground, he launched an aggressive invasion of Kono’s moyo that brought the game back to even. Iyama then took the lead in the middle game when Kono made some moves that were not quite the best. In desperation, Kono set up a ko but did not have enough ko threats to win it, so he had to resign. This game shows how sharp Iyama’s perception is in the middle game: if the opponent slips up even a little, he will take advantage of it. The second game will be played on September 18 and 19.

Tomorrow: Members of the New Honinbo League; Korean Teen Wins Bingsheng Cup; Takao Becomes Tengen Challenger; Obituary: Hoshikawa Nobuaki 9P; Sasaski Promoted to 9P

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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Rui Naiwei Joins Lee Sedol, Park Junghwan & 13 Others for Samsung Knockout Round

Sunday August 31, 2014

Xiao Zhenghao 8P and Rui Naiwei 9PPlayers from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. gathered in Qingdao, China on August 26-28 for the group2014.08.31_Round-of-16-players-19th-Samsung-Cup stage of the 19th Samsung Cup. However, the stand-out competitor was Chinese player Rui Naiwei 9p (left), the only female player make it through to the next, or knockout, stage. Rui is one of only two women to ever make it to the knockout phase of the Samsung; she’s not only done so seven times, but made it to the quarter finals in the 5th and 6th Samsung Cups. This year, she is already off to a good start with two wins against Taiwan’s Xiao Zhenghao 8p (left). Rui will join Park Junghwan 9p, Lee Sedol 9p, and the 13 other knockout finalists in Daejeon, Korea on October 14-16 to compete for this year’s quarter finals. For more information on this year’s Samsung Cup including photos, game records, and pairings for the next round, visit Go Game Guru.
–Annalia Linnan, based on a longer article by Go Game Guru; photos courtesy Go Game Guru

Gu-Lee Jubango Round 7 Broadcasts Tonight

Saturday August 30, 2014

Game 7 in the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango will take place Sunday, August 31 in Lhasa. Live online coverage is being provided by Go Game Guru’s An Younggil 8p on Baduk TV Live starting at midnight, Sunday morning (9pm 8/30 PST), and by Myungwan Kim 9P on Pandanet starting at 10pm EST (7pm PST). The score currently stands at 4-2 in Lee’s favor so this will 2014.08.29_jubangobe a critical match for Gu. Already down two games, Gu’s back would really be against the wall if he loses this round, as he’d have to win three straight games just to tie. “Let’s see how Gu Li will do,” Kim tells the E-Journal. “As a go fan who wants to enjoy more exciting games, I support Gu Li for this next game.” Click here for the latest version of Pandanet and here to read more about the match on Go Game Guru. You can also check out GGG’s commentary on Round 6 here.

Categories: Japan,Korea,World
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The Power Report: Iyama Takes Lead, Then Kono Catches Up In Gosei Title Match; Kono Doing Well In Other Tournaments; Lee Se-Dol Wins TV Asia Cup; Fujisawa Rin To Make First Challenge; 27th Women’s Meijin League; Promotions

Tuesday August 26, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Iyama Takes Lead, Then Kono Catches Up In Gosei Title Match: The third game of the 39th Gosei title match was held at 2014.08.26_gosei_rd-03-iyama-konothe Nagaoka Grand Hotel in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, on August 11. This was three weeks after the second game, which is a long gap for a best-of-five. Playing black, the challenger Kono Rin 9-dan (right, in photo) seemed to have a slight advantage when he won a ko and killed a white group fairly early in the game (before move 100), but he made a couple of slack moves later that cost him his chance to wrap up the game. Worse, he made an overly aggressive answer to a white invasion and ended up on the wrong side of a losing capturing race. He resigned on move 204. The fourth game was held on Iyama’s home ground, the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, on August 25, but that didn’t help him. Playing white, Kono forced a resignation after 224 moves. I don’t have any information about the course of the game. The deciding game will be played on Kono’s home ground, the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, on August 29.

2014.08.26_tv-asia-cup-konoKono Doing Well In Other Tournaments: Regardless of whether or not he takes the Gosei title, Kono Rin (left) is the in-form player at the moment in Japan (see the TV Asia Cup report below). As of August 23, his win-loss record was 42-12, a winning record of nearly 78%. He has the most wins by a comfortable margin. On August 4, he won the play-off to become the Meijin challenger, as reported earlier. On August 13, he beat Yoda Norimoto 9-dan in the semifinal of the 40th Tengen tournament, so there is a good chance he will be making yet another challenge to Iyama;  taking white, he won by 6.5 points. (His opponent in the final will be Takao Shinji, who beat Ichiriki Ryo in the other semifinal on August 21.) He has also reached the semifinal of the 21st Agon Kiriyama Cup.

Lee Se-Dol Wins TV Asia Cup: Lee Se-dol (right) had not won an international title for a while, but he is ahead in his ten-game match 2014.08.26_tv-asia-cup-kono-leewith Gu Li and he offered more evidence, if it should be needed, that he is still a force to be reckoned with by winning the 26th TV Asia Cup. In the final, he beat Kono Rin (left, in photo at right). Kono had encouraged Japanese fans by beating the player currently ranked number one in the world, Pak Jung-hwan of Korea, in the semifinal, but he was outmatched by Lee in the final. This is the third time Lee has won this title and the first time for six years. This year the tournament was staged in Beijing.
Full results: Round 1, Game 1 (August 16). Lee Se-dol 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Tao Xinran 5-dan (China) by resig. Round 1, Game 2 (August 16). Kono (B) beat Li Qinchang 1-dan by 1.5 points. (Though just a 1-dan, the 15-year-old Li won the Chinese qualifying tournament telecast on CCTV.) Round 1, Game 3 (August 17). Pak Jung-hwan 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9-dan (Japan) by resig. Semifinal 1 (August 17). Lee (B) beat Iyama Yuta by 2.5 points. Semifinal 2 (August 18) Kono (B) beat Pak by resig. Final (August 19). Lee (W) beat Kono by resig.

Fujisawa Rin To Make First Challenge: The pairing in the play-off to decide the challenger to Mukai Chiaki for the 33rd 2014.08.27_womens-honinbo-okuda-fukisawaWomen’s Honinbo Title was the same as in the final of the new women’s tournament the Aizu Central Hospital Cup: Fujisawa Rina (right) vs. Okuda Aya (left). The result was the same: a win for Fujisawa. The game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 21; taking white, Fujisawa forced a resignation. Fujisawa is bidding to become the female Iyama Yuta, as she is rewriting the record book for youth landmarks. She will be exactly 16 when the first game of the title match is played on October 8 (birthday September 18); the previous youngest challenger was Xie Yimin at 17 years 10 months.

27th Women’s Meijin League: Two games were played in the first round of the 27th Women’s Meijin League on August 21. Kato Keiko 6-dan (B) beat Chinen Kaori 4-dan by 1.5 points and Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, (B) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan by 4.5 points.

Promotions: To 9-dan: Mizokami Tomochika (200 wins); To 4-dan: Kanazawa Makoto (50 wins); To 2-dan: Fujimura Yosuke (30 wins).

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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Remembering Sasaki Tadashi 8P

Sunday August 17, 2014

A large crowd of somber friends shared memories of a great teacher at a memorial held last Friday evening for Sasaki Tadashi 8P, who2014.08.17_Sasaki-memorial-service died last month at 51 (In Memoriam: Sasaki Tadashi 8P 7/28 EJ & The Power Report 7/30 EJ). Players loved the bubbly humor underneath Sasaki sensei’s stoic exterior. Teaching never seemed like work to him, such was his love of the game. Players will also remember him for Baseball Go and his way of comparing territory to countries. During simultaneous games he would give away stones for komi when students made mistakes, and ask for it back when they made good moves. Sasaki sensei brought a lightness to go in the US, and he will be missed.
- Solomon Smilack; photo by Phil Straus

Iwamoto North America Foundation for Go Takes Next Step

Monday August 11, 2014

Further details of the Iwamoto North America Foundation for Go (INAF) were announced Saturday during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 US Go Congress. “Go builds strong ties between people and countries,” said Nihon Kiin Chairman Norio Wada (left). “This is an exciting and encouraging next step,” said AGA President Andy Okun. INAF is a nonprofit corporation formed by Nihon Kiin in collaboration with the American Go Association (Nihon Kiin & AGA Ink Deal for Iwamoto North America Foundation  11/25/2013 EJ). The official start date will be October 24, when the Foundation’s first Board Meeting is held in Tokyo.  The missions of INAF are to foster, promulgate, and develop the game and culture of go in North America, according to the vision and wishes of the late Japanese go master, Iwamoto Kaoru. It will provide grants to support such promotional activities for go as teaching events, cultural exchanges, educational activities in schools, and public awareness programs in North America, including the establishment of a new East Coast Go Center.
photo: Nihon Kiin President Norio Wada and CEO Masaki (far right), along with the three North American Board Members of INAF: Andrew Okun (center), David Weimer (left), and Thomas Hsiang (second from right). They’re holding a fan inscribed “Each day is a life” by Yoda Norimoto 9P. photo by Chris Garlock

The Power Report: Hashimoto Enters Hall of Fame; Celebratiing Go Seigen’s 100th Birthday; Fujisawa Rina Reaches Women’s Honinbo Play-Off; 27th Women’s Meijin League Starts; Kono Rin to Challenge for Meijin Title; 39th Kisei Leagues

Saturday August 9, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Hashimoto Utaro Enters Hall of Fame:At a meeting of the Go Hall of Fame committee on August 18, Hashimoto Utaro (1907-94) was chosen from among eight candidates to be this year’s inductee. Hashimoto (right) is best known for winning the 2nd, 5th, and 6th Honinbo titles and for leading the Kansai Ki-in to independence in 1950. He also won a number of other titles and played in the first Kisei title match in 1977.

Celebrating Go Seigen’s 100th Birthday: A party to celebrate Go Seigen’s 100th birthday was held at the Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in central Tokyo on July 23. It was attended by 400 guests, including many top go players, but unfortunately Go’s health did not allow him to be present. Instead, he sent a video message, which was read out by Ogawa Tomoko 6P. It went: “Thank you for celebrating my 100th birthday. The fact that I am still alive means that there’s a role for me to play, so I will do my best. I believe from my heart that go is useful for world peace. Everyone, please enjoy go.”

Go (left) is currently living in a retirement home with nursing provided in Odawara, where he has made his home in recent decades. This year, as in past years, he visited the venue of the Kisei title match game played in nearby Atami in a wheelchair and met the players.

The party featured an audiovisual presentation of Go’s career, amounting to a history of the middle half of 20th century Japanese go, as he was the central figure on the go scene. Cho U 9P and his wife Kobayashi Izumi 6P then gave a commentary on the first game of the Go Seigen/Kitani Minoru jubango. Next, Yoshihara Yukari 6P played a game on black (no komi) with 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun (Cho won), with commentary by Otake Hideo, Honorary Gosei, and Rin Kaiho, Honorary Tengen.

Fujisawa Rina Reaches Women’s Honinbo Play-Off: In the second semifinal of the 33rd Women’s Honinbo tournament, held on July 28, Fujisawa Rina (right), holder of the Women’s Aizu Cup, defeated Suzuki Ayumi 6-dan (W) by resignation. She will meet Okuda Aya 3P in the play-off to decide the challenger to Mukai Chiaki. Okuda was her opponent in the Aizu Cup. Fujisawa is still only 15, but she has made rapid progress since becoming a pro in 2010.

27th Women’s Meijin League Starts: The first game in the 27th Women’s Meijin League was played on July 28. Mannami Nao 3P (B) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resig.

Kono Rin to Challenge for Meijin Title: All the games in the final round of the 39th Meijin League was held on July 31. After six rounds, Yamashita Keigo had been two points clear of the field, but he missed his first chance to win the league when he lost to Cho U in the seventh round. However, in the eighth round he was still the only player in a position to win the league outright. The only other contenders were Kono Rin (left) and Cho U, who both had two losses and who were playing each other. Taking black, Yamashita lost to Murakawa Daisuke 7P by 6.5 points. Kono (W) beat Cho U by resignation, so he ended up in a tie with Yamashita. In the other games, Takao Shinji Judan (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by 4.5 points and Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) beat Ryu Shikun by resignation. After the top two, the places in the league were: Cho (5-3), 3rd; Takao (5-3), 4th; Hane (4-4), 5th; and Murakawa (3-5), 6th. Ryu (3-5), Yuki (2-6) and Ko Iso 8P (2-6) lost their places (Ko had a bye in the last round). The play-off was held at the Nihon Ki-in on Monday, August 4. Kono took revenge for his loss to Yamashita in the fifth round; playing black, he won by half a point after 250 moves. At the age of 33, Kono will now make his first challenge for a big-three title. The first game will be played on September 4 and 5, by which time the Gosei title match, in which Kono is tied one-game each with Iyama Yuta, will be over. As mentioned in our previous report, Kono had a nineteen-game winning streak this year. He is one of the few players to appear in all three leagues this year, and he also tied for first in the previous Meijin League (he lost the play-off to Iyama). Kono’s main success to date is winning the Tengen title three times; he has also won the Ryusei title once, the JAL New Stars title once, and the NEC Cup twice. He seems to be enjoying some of the best form of his career, so he should prove a redoubtable opponent for Iyama.

39th Kisei Leagues: One game was played in the B League on August 7. Yoda Norimoto 9P (W) beat Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, by 4.5 points. Yoda is now 3-1, in second place after Murakawa Daisuke 7P (3-0). Cho drops to 1-3, so he is in danger of losing his place.

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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The Power Report: Cho Chikun Wins 73rd Title; Meijin League; Kono’s Winning Streak Ends At 19; Iyama Catches Up In Gosei Title Match; Kisei Leagues; Obituary: Sasaki Tadashi

Wednesday July 30, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Cho Chikun Wins 73rd Title:
The final of the fourth Igo Masters Cup was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on July 12. Taking black, 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun (right) defeated Kobayashi Satoru 9P by 6.5 points to win this title for the second time. This is Cho’s 73rd title, so he extends his Japanese record. Incidentally, this was the 59th game between these two; Cho now has a lead of one over Kobayashi.

Meijin League: Kono Rin (left) won his seventh-round game, so he stays in a tie for second with Cho U 9P. Kono and Cho play each other in the final round, so, if Yamashita loses, the winner will meet him in a play-off to decide the challenger.
(July 11) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Ryu Shikun 9P by resig.; Murakawa Daisuke 7P (W) beat Yuki Satoshi 9P by resignation.

Kono’s Winning Streak Ends At 19: A loss, to Murakawa Daisuke 7P, in the quarterfinals of the 62nd Oza tournament on July 17 was Kono Rin’s first since mid-April. His record of 19 successive wins is the best winning streak so far this year.

Iyama Catches Up In Gosei Title Match: In the second game of the 39th Gosei title match, played in the Hokkoku Newspaper Hall in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, on 20 July, Iyama Yuta (B) defeated Kono Rin 9P by resignation after 151 moves. This gave him revenge for his loss of the first game in 129 moves. Kono perhaps lost the game because of pessimistic positional judgement:  he believed that the result of the first big fight was unfavorable for him — the players following the game disagreed — so he made a deeper invasion than he would have otherwise. Iyama attacked aggressively and killed a large group. The third game will be played on August 11.
By the way, I need to correct a mistake I made in my report on the first game. I wrote that Kono suffered straight losses last year, but I was confusing this title match with the 2012 Tengen title match, which Kono did lose 0-3. In the 2013 Gosei, he won the first two games, then lost the next three.

Kisei Leagues: The first third-round game in the A League was played on July 11. Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resig. This was Hane’s first win after two losses. Ichiriki drops to 0-3; he is having a tough initiation in league play. On July 17, Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji Judan by resignation. More games played on July 24 clarified the lead. In the A League, Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. Kono (2-1) suffered his first loss, so Yamashita (3-0) is the sole undefeated player. In the B League, Murakawa Daisuke 7P (B) beat Yuki Satoshi by resignation. Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) (2-1) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P (2-1) by 1.5 points, so Murakawa (3-0) is the sole undefeated player. It looks as if we might see a replay of last year’s play-off between Yamashita and Murakawa. The latter’s continued success shows that he is close to joining the top group of tournament players in Japan.

Obituary: Sasaki Tadashi
Sasaki Tadashi 8P died of acute leukemia on July 20. Born on May 28, 1963, Sasaki (right) was a disciple of Sakata Eio, 23rd Honinbo. He became 1-dan in 1980 and reached 8-dan in 2001. Sasaki was very active as a teacher and was well known in Japan. He was also working on a biography of his teacher. According to an obituary article in Go Weekly by his friend the go journalist Akiyama Kenji, Sasaki had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage two years ago; ironically, he was visiting a hospital at the time, so he got prompt treatment. Recently he held a party to celebrate his complete recovery. At such parties, guests are usually given a little present, and Sasaki’s showed his sense of humor, being a hand towel with a picture of a spider’s web on it. He was planning to take a group of disciples to the US Go Congress this year. Akiyama wrote that he first met Sasaki 40 years ago when he was in elementary school. Sasaki introduced himself by handing over a name card detailing his position as an insei. Akiyama thought that this was a bit over the top for an elementary-school pupil, but there was a good reason for it. When returning home late from insei games or watching professional games, Sasaki would often be stopped by policemen and scolded for being out so late, so the name card was his defense. photo by Brian Allen

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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In Memoriam: Sasaki Tadashi 8P

Monday July 28, 2014

Sasaki Tadashi 8P of the Nihon Ki-in passed away on July 20 at just 51. Sasaski, who visited the United States many times doing teaching games and workshops, had attended most of the U.S. Go Congresses over the last few years and had planned to attend this year’s in New York City.  His death was a shock his many American friends and fans. “It’s terrible news,” said AGA President Andy Okun.  “His teaching was always sharp, but full of humor as well, and his company warm and enjoyable.” “Mr. Sasaki was a big supporter of the Seattle Go Center and an enthusiastic hiker,” added Brian Allen of the Seattle Go Center. “We always enjoyed his visits to the Northwest.” Plans for a memorial ceremony at the Congress will be announced soon.
- photo of Sasaki playing Andrew Jackson at the  2011 US Go Congress, posted on Sasaki’s Facebook page.

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You Go, Girl! Reaching Out to Japan’s Youth With Trendy Magazine

Tuesday July 22, 2014

Here’s an unusual stratagem for hooking new players in Japan: a free go-themed girls’ magazine with topics such as extreme go and finding your dream go-playing soul-mate. According to a recent report on RocketNews24, Goteki magazine explores such things as defining an “Igogirl” (black or dark-brown hair, a natural make-up style and enjoys getting presents) and the four species of Igomen (Yuru Fuwa Shikkari Igomen, Cabbage Roll Igomen, Chara Maji Igomen, and Ora Ama Igomen) as well as a handy love map to determine which Igomen you’d fall for. There are also some sexy photo spreads (right) featuring high level go players like Akihiko Fujita. Noting that manga and anime have been used in the past to introduce less popular activities like basketball and soccer to Japanese youths with relative success, the report concludes that we’ll know if this latest effort works “when we see Igogirls walking around with dark hair and sakura-pink dresses.”
- Thanks to Jonathan Thomas of the Mohawk Valley Go Club in Utica, NY for passing this along, via Richard Moseson

Categories: Japan
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