American Go E-Journal » Japan

The Power Report: Iyama Increases Lead in Honinbo; Yamashita Closer to Becoming Meijin Challenger

Friday June 6, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Iyama Increases Lead in Honinbo Title Match: Iyama Yuta (right) is now just one win away from defending his Honinbo title. In the third game of the 69th title match, played at the Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort in Abashiri City, Hokkaido, on June 4 and 5, Iyama (B) beat Ida Atsushi by resignation after 201 moves. Iyama had one minute left and Ida 18 minutes.
The game started with an innovation by Ida. After making a small-knight approach move to a star-point stone in the top right corner on move 6, answered by Iyama with a knight’s-move enclosure, Ida invaded on the 18-3 point (instead of the usual 17-3, that is, the 3-3 point). Iyama didn’t know what to do, so he switched elsewhere, for a while, but later there was complicated fighting linked to this move that continued for a large part of the game.  On the first day, there was a trade on the left side that seemed reasonable for Ida, and many observers thought that he had made the better start. On the second day, however, Ida seemed to miscalculate after launching an attack on Black; Iyama settled his group satisfactorily and took the lead. Ida started a ko fight, but was unable to catch up. In the end, Iyama had an unshakeable lead of ten points on the board, so Ida had to resign.
In this game, Iyama showed what a skillful all-round player he is: he attacks well, defends well, and does everything in-between well. Ida is now down to his last chance. The fourth game will be played on June 18 and 19.

Yamashita Closer to Becoming Meijin Challenger: Three games in the 39th Meijin League were played on June 5. Yamashita Keigo (B) beat Yuki Satoshi by resig.; Cho U (B) beat Ko Iso by half a point; and Hane Naoki (B) beat Ryu Shikun by 1.5 points. Yamashita (left) has maintained his two-point lead over the rest of the field, so he is edging closer and closer to a return match with Iyama Yuta Meijin. He just has to win one of his last two games, which are with Cho U and Murakawa Daisuke, to win the league outright. Both Cho U and Kono Rin have just two losses, so they still have an outside chance of making a play-off.

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

The Power Report (Part 2): Iyama Extends Lead in Honinbo Title Match; Fujisawa and Okuda Reach Final of New Women’s Tournament; Promotions

Monday June 2, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Iyama Extends Lead in Honinbo Title Match: Ida Atsushi is an aggressive player and Iyama Yuta’s philosophy is to always look for the strongest move, so the 69th Honinbo best-of-seven is proving to be an exciting title match. The second game was held in the Old Inn Kaneyu, a traditional building that is nationally registered as a Tangible Cultural Asset, on May 25 and 26. Taking black, Ida set the tone of the game early when he chose an attacking move with Black 39 rather than a defensive one. If his move worked, he would swallow up a white group that was trying to reduce his main potential territory, but if it failed that territory would be ruined. Ida followed up with more attacking moves, so his play was consistent, but his 45th move was “probably an overplay,” according to Takao Shinji. Iyama (right) needed to secure a second eye for a cut-off group, but he counterattacked for over 50 moves before doing so. By the end of the fight, he had split Black into two weak groups in the centre while he had only one weak group. The pressure finally got to Ida on move 91, a mistake that overlooked a brilliant counter by White. Thereafter, Iyama took control of the game and, as usual, ratcheted up the pressure instead of coasting to a win on territory. Ida resigned after White 182. This game is full of brilliant tesujis accessible to players of all levels, so if you have access to it on the Net we recommend you play through it. Perhaps the highlight is a three-step hane by Iyama that gives Black a double atari, but ironically one that helps White more than Black. After the game, Ida consoled himself with the reflection that he was at least getting more used to two-day games. However, I can’t help wondering if he is using his time allowance effectively. In both games, Iyama was in byo-yomi, being down to his final three minutes, whereas Ida had 70 minutes left in this game and 55 minutes left in the first game.Two sidelights: This was the first time a Honinbo game was held in Aizu Wakamatsu for nearly half a century, the predecessor being the second game of the 20th title match between Sakata Eio Honinbo and Yamabe Toshiro. At the party held on eve of the game, Iyama was presented with a cake in a surprise celebration of his 25th birthday. He looked after his present himself. The third game, scheduled for June 4 and 5, is going to be a test of Ida’s mettle. To avoid being forced to a kadoban, he will have to beat Iyama with White, not an easy task.

Fujisawa and Okuda Reach Final of New Women’s Tournament: Few things would make Japanese go fans happier than to see Fujisawa Shuko’s granddaughter Rina (left) develop into a top player. She is already showing signs of potential, having reached the final of a new women’s tournament, the Aizu Central Hospital Cup. As the name shows, this tournament is sponsored by a hospital in Aizu Wakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture, the region which suffered the heaviest earthquake damage three years ago. The director of the hospital is a keen go player, and in an interview he said that at one time 20 of the doctors on the staff were go players who often held their own tournaments. His aim in sponsoring the tournament is to help raise the level of Japanese women so that they can compete better internationally. Most of the tournaments with regional sponsors that we report on are minor events, without substantial prize money, but this tournament is a serious affair. First prize is seven million yen, the top prize for a women’s tournament, and the final will be a two-day game June 26 and 27, which is a first for a women’s tournament. All 62 women players at the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in took part in preliminary rounds held during late January and early February to select seven finalists for the main tournament. Dual title-holder Xie Yimin was seeded in the eighth place. The quarterfinals and semifinals were held at the Konjakutei Inn in Higashiyama Hot Spring in Aizu Wakamatsu City on May 24 and 25. Results follow.
Quarterfinals (May 24): Fujisawa Rina 2P (B) defeated Xie Yimin, Women’s Meijin & Kisei, by 2.5 points; Mannami Nao 3P (B) d. O Keii 2P by resig.; Okuda Aya 3P (B) d. Koyama Terumi 6P by 5.5 points; Ishii Akane 2P (B) d. Kato Keiko 6P by resig.
Semifinals (May 25): Fujisawa (W) d. Mannami by resig.; Okuda (B) d. Ishii by resig.

Promotions: To 4-dan: Terayama Rei (50 wins); To 3-dan: Ito Masashi (40 wins); To 2: dan: Takagi Junpei (30 wins)

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

The Power Report (Part 1): Cho U Eliminated from Oza; Ichiriki Wins O-kage Cup; Kono to Challenge Again for Gosei; Kisei Leagues

Sunday June 1, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Cho U Eliminated from Oza: Cho U seems to have an affinity with the Oza tournament and has played in the title match six years in a row, winning it four times, then losing the last two matches to Iyama. Altogether, he has won this title seven times, but his good run has come to an end. In the first round of the final section of the main tournament (the round of 16), Cho (B) lost to Murakawa Daisuke 7P by half a point.

Ichiriki Wins O-kage Cup: The O-kage (literally “gratitude”) Cup is a tournament for players 30 and under sponsored by O-kage Alley, a street of tourist-related shops (many of them recreations of Edo-period buildings) in the street leading to Ise Shrine, which is one of the two most important Shinto shrines in Japan (the other being Izumo Shrine). The 5th Cup was held on May 15 and 16, with 16 young players taking part. Ichiriki Ryo (left), last year’s winner, followed up his victory in the Globis Cup the previous week with another victory. In the final, he beat Seto Taiki 7P (B) by resignation. This is the 5th minor title that the 16-year-old Ichiriki has won. Both these players will represent Japan in an international version of the title scheduled for the autumn.

Kono to Challenge Again for Gosei: Kono Rin 9P (right) will try to improve on his 2-3 loss to Iyama Yuta in last year’s Gosei title match. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 39th title, Kono (B) beat Cho Riyu 8P by resig. The title match will begin on June 26. Cho missed out on his first chance to challenge for a title, but he should be back. Aged 32, Cho seems to have improved recently and he is enjoying good results. Born in Taiwan, Cho makes a big contribution to Japanese go by acting as a coach to young players in the national team; he often escorts Japanese representatives to international tournaments.

Kisei Leagues: All the games in the first round of the 38th Kisei A and B Leagues were played within the month. The A League got off to a start on May 22 and the first round of the B League was completed. The last game in the A League was played the following Thursday.
Results: (May 22) (A League) Takao Shinji Judan (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by 3.5 points; Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P by resig.; (B League) Cho Chikun (25th Honinbo Chikun) (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9P by resig. (May 29) Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resig.
Tomorrow: Iyama Extends Lead in Honinbo Title Match; Fujisawa and Okuda Reach Final of New Women’s Tournament; Promotions

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

Nihon Kiin to Celebrate 90th Birthday With Special Summer Camp

Thursday May 22, 2014

In celebration of the 90th birthday of Nihon Kiin, a special summer go camp will be held in Tokyo August 26 through September 4.  Included in the camp are daily pro instructions in separate dan and kyu sections, playing in the largest Japanese amateur tournament — the Takara Shuzou Cup, where the 1000+ participants will all receive special commemorative prizes — and visits to the Honinbo title ceremony, to Kamakura, site of the Go Seigen-Kitani jubango, and to Yugen no ma, the legendary tatami playing room adorned by a Kawabata calligraphy (right).  The camp fee is between JPY 50 to 55K (about $500); housing starts at ~$40 a night.  The camp is recommended for players 10 kyu and up, including high dans.  For further information and registration forms, contact igf@usgo.org.
- photo by John Pinkerton

Categories: Japan
Share

The Power Report (Part 2): Iyama Makes Good Start In Honinbo Title Defense; Kisei B League Starts

Wednesday May 21, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Iyama Makes Good Start In Honinbo Title Defense: The difference in experience seemed to be a big factor in the opening game of the 69th Honinbo title match, which was held on May 14 and 15. Though still only 24 (until May 24), Iyama Yuta Honinbo (right) has already played in eleven best-of-sevens (and won seven of them). In contrast, Ida Atsushi 8P, at 20, was playing in his first title match and was the youngest player ever to challenge for the Honinbo title.

One advantage for Ida (left) is that this is the first time that Iyama has faced an opponent younger than himself in a title match, so he will now know how his seniors felt. The opening game was played in Ida’s home town of Suzuka in Mie Prefecture, so he also had the overwhelming support of the fans on the spot. The game was actually played in the Tsubaki Okami Yashiro, a Shinto shrine, in a building called the Sanshuden, which had just been renovated as a training center. This game was held to celebrate the upcoming official opening of the hall on May 18. The arrangements for an event like this are made many months in advance; Ida was a complete dark horse in the Honinbo league, so city officials had no way of knowing that a local player would be starring.

Ida drew white in the nigiri. The game started with his taking profit in three corners, letting Iyama build a moyo. Ida made an invasion on the right side and had to fight hard to settle his group. However, he then had to switch to another invasion at the top before he had made the side group completely alive. Iyama made a clever placement on the side that set up a double attack on the two groups and he was able to kill the one at the top. Ida was forced to resign after 197 moves.

The main impression from this game is of Iyama’s greater skill in fighting, but Ida seemed to improve round by round in the Honinbo league, so we can expect him to adapt rapidly to two-day games. His play with black in the second game, scheduled for May 25 and 26, will give an indication of how his challenge
will fare.

Kisei B League Starts: The first two games were played in the 39th Kisei B League on May 15. Murakawa Daisuke 7P (W) scored an upset half-point win over Yoda Norimoto 9P and Kobayashi Satoru 9P (B) beat Cho Riyu 8P by resignation. The A League starts on the 22nd.

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

The Power Report (Part 1): Yamashita Increases Lead In Meijin League; Ichiriki Wins New International Tournament

Tuesday May 20, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Yamashita Increases Lead In Meijin League: Yamashita Keigo (right) hasn’t played a game in the 39th league since our last report, but his lead has opened up to two wins because of a loss suffered by Cho U. In a game played on May 8, Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) picked up his first win in the league by beating Cho by half a point. Cho drops back to 3-2, putting him in a three-way tie for second with Hane Naoki 9P and Ryu Shikun 9P. Yamashita is on 5-0, so he has a two-game cushion, which makes him an even better bet for challenger than he appeared to be in the Honinbo league. On the same day, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke by resig. Murakawa slips to 1-4 and now will have a tough job keeping his place.

Ichiriki Wins New International Tournament: Japan had its best result in an international tournament for 17 years when its representatives took first and second place in the Globis Cup World Igo U-20. The official name notwithstanding, the tournament is open to players 20 and under (there is some confusion, as the Nihon Ki-in’s HP defines it as “under 20,”but the  Chinese player Lian Xiao turned 20 on April 8 ). At any rate, 16 top young players from Japan, China, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Europe, North America, and Oceania took part. The time system is NHK-style, that is 30 seconds per move plus ten minutes’ thinking time in one-minute units. The first round consists of four double-elimination mini-tournaments (similar to the opening round of the Samsung Cup). Four players compete in each, playing until they have two wins, thus qualifying for the quarterfinals, or two losses, thus being eliminated. The tournament was held from May 9 to 11.

Globis is a Japanese venture-capital company that also provides educational services in business and management. It runs its own university, the Graduate School of Management, Globis University, and the main force behind its sponsorship is the college president, Hori Yoshito, a keen go player.

Because of their outstanding results recently, the players from Korea and China were considered the favorites, especially Lian Xiao 7-dan of China, who won the 15th Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off with Japan last December. Local fans were surprised and pleased, therefore, to see two of the Japanese representatives make the final. One was Ichiriki Ryo (left), who was recently promoted to 7-dan for winning a place in one of the current Kisei leagues; the other was Kyo Kagen 2P, a Taiwanese-born player, who has been doing very well this year (he is top of the most-wins list at present, with a 23-4 record, including 17 wins in a row; Ichiriki is in second place with 20-2).

Both Ichiriki and Kyo qualified quickly for the quarterfinals with two straight wins; one of the players falling by the wayside with 1-2 was Ida Atsushi, who is now challenging for the Honinbo title. Ichiriki beat Na Hyeon 4P of Korea in the quarterfinals and Lian Xiao 7P of China in the semifinals; Kyo first beat Li Qincheng 1P, then Xia Chenkun 3P, both of China. In the final, Ichiriki (black) beat Kyo by resignation after 155 moves. In the play-off for third place, Lian beat Xia. First prize is worth 3,000,000 yen (close to $30,000), second 500,000, and third 200,000.
Tomorrow: Iyama Makes Good Start In Honinbo Title Defense; Kisei B League Starts
photo (bottom left): Ichiriki Ryo 7 dan plays Kyo Kagen 2 dan at the 1st GLOBIS Cup; photo courtesy Go Game Guru

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

Wired Magazine on “The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win”

Tuesday May 13, 2014

“Rémi Coulom is sitting in a rolling desk chair, hunched over a battered Macbook laptop, hoping it will do something no machine has ever done.” So begins Alan Levinovitz’s thorough report on the current state of computer go in Wired Magazine – The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win – published May 12. Levinovitz covered this year’s UEC Cup, the computer Go tournament held each March that rewards two finalists with matches against a “Go sage” in the Densei-sen, or machine-versus-man matches. The Wired report covers the history of computer go, name-checking Einstein, Turing and Nash, includes an excellent explanation of the game’s branching problem and explains how the development of Monte Carlo Tree Search enabled the latest breakthroughs in computer go, in which Coulom’s Crazy Stone program won the first Densei-sen last year against Japanese professional Yoshio “The Computer” Ishida. American-born pro Michael Redmond — a regular EJ contributor — makes an appearance in the report as the commentator at the UEC Cup. Levinovitz does a good job demystifying computer go, as well, writing that the view that go is “the final bastion of human dominance over computers” is “deeply misguided.” Levinovitz points out that “computers can’t ‘win’ at anything, not until they can experience real joy in victory and sadness in defeat, a programming challenge that makes Go look like tic-tac-toe. Computer Go matches aren’t the brain’s last stand. Rather, they help show just how far machines have to go before achieving something akin to true human intelligence.”
photo: Remi Coulom (left) and his computer program, Crazy Stone, take on grandmaster Norimoto Yoda. Photo: Takashi Osato/WIRED. Thanks to the many EJ readers who quickly spotted this report and passed it along. 

Categories: Go Spotting,Japan,World
Share

The Power Report (Part 2): Kono and Yuki Secure Kisei League Places; Japanese Team Plays in Chinese League; Yamashita Keeps Sole Lead in Meijin League

Monday May 5, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Kono and Yuki Secure Kisei League Places: The remaining two vacant seats in the 39th Kisei Leagues were decided on April 21. In the play-offs, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig. and Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) beat Mizokami Tomochika 8P by resig. Kono (right) has made an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league; this will be his 7th Kisei league in a row. He has kept his seat in the Honinbo League and is playing in the current Meijin League, so he is one of only two players (the other is Yamashita Keigo) to be a member of all three leagues. Yuki will be playing in his ninth Kisei league and reappears after a five-year gap; he made an unsuccessful challenge for the 29th Kisei title. Incidentally, he played this game three days after losing the Judan title, so it seems he has not been crushed by this reverse.

Japanese Team Plays in Chinese League: This year, too, a Japanese team competed in the Chinese league. Known as the China-Japan Friendship team, it was composed of Ida Atsushi 8P, Yo Seiki 7P, Yo Chito 2P, and Kyo Kagen 2P; apart from Ida, these players were all born in Taiwan. The team played in the C League and took 5th place out of 22 teams. The league was held in Hangzhou City from April 21 to 29; the Japanese team scored two wins, four draws, and one loss, giving it eight points (out of a possible 14). The top three teams are promoted to the B League. Ida, who will launch his challenge to Iyama Yuta for the Honinbo title in mid-May, scored 4-3, Yo Seiki 2-5, Yo Chito 3-4, and Kyo an impressive 7-0.

Yamashita Keeps Sole Lead in Meijin League: With a win over Ryu Shikun 9P on May 1, Yamashita Keigo (left) remained the only undefeated player in the 39th Meijin League. He is now 5-0. Ryu’s loss meant that he dropped out of second place. Cho U 9P has won his fourth game and, with 3-1, is now in sole second place. Yamashita is the favorite, but he also led the Honinbo League throughout only to stumble right at the end.
Recent results:
(April 14) Yamashita (W) beat Kono Rin 90 by 3.5 points.
(April 24) Cho U (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P by 2.5 points.
(May 1) Yamashita (W) beat Ryu by resig.; Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

The Power Report (Part 1): Takao Makes Comeback as Judan; Iyama Sets New Prize Money Record; Computer versus Yoda

Sunday May 4, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Takao Makes Comeback as Judan: Six years after he last won a top-seven title, Takao Shinji 9P (left) has made a comeback, taking the Judan title from Yuki Satoshi with a win in the final game of the 52nd title match. Takao started off well in the best-of-five, winning the first game by half a point, but then the title holder fought back with his own half-point win, then took the lead in the third game. Takao saved his first kadoban in the fourth game, then won the deciding game. Below are details of the games played since my last report.
The third game was played at the Kuroyon Royal Hotel in Omachi City in Nagano Prefecture on April 10. Omachi, a town set at the foot of the Japan Alps, calls itself ‘the Alps igo village’ and actively promotes the game among its citizens. The Kuroyon Royal Hotel has hosted a game from the Judan title match for 21 years in a row. The game featured complicated fighting, but was evenly poised in the late middle game. Instead of taking some profit on move 158, Takao chose to attack an isolated black group. However, this backfired on him: Yuki found a clever tesuji to secure life and at the same time took the lead on territory.
The fourth game was held at the Kansai Ki-in in Osaka, Yuki’s home ground, on April 17. Playing with white, Yuki focussed a little too much on building thickness in the opening, letting Takao take the lead in territory. Yuki did his best to use his thickness to harass Black, but he missed his best opportunity to attack a weak black group. With no scope to create complications, Yuki resigned after Black 169.
The final game was played on Takao’s home ground, the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo, on April 21. In the nigiri to decide colors, Takao drew black. In the middle game, he played riskily because he thought he was behind, but that actually gave Yuki the chance to make a powerful attack, which really did put Takao behind. However, Takao managed to set up a double attack on two white groups. Yuki saved one of them, but slipped up with the other, missing the only move that would have saved it. He resigned after 167 moves.
This is Takao’s 13th title. Incidentally, he broke the monopoly of the top seven titles enjoyed by Osakan players since Iyama won the Meijin title in October last year.

Iyama Sets New Prize Money Record: Not surprisingly, considering he set a new record by winning six of the top seven titles, Iyama Yuta (right) also set a new record for most prize money won in one year. Often there is quite a big gap between first and second in this list, with the top player sometimes making twice as much as the next player; not so in 2013: Iyama earned over four and a half times as much as Cho U. Below is the list of the top ten (amounts are in yen). Note that these sums do not include income from teaching etc.
1. Iyama Yuta: 164,613,000 (about $1,600,000)
2. Cho U: 35,241,200
3. Takao Shinji: 30,846,000
4. Yamashita Keigo: 30,630,200
5. Kono Rin: 23,210,192
6. Xie Yimin: 14,582,100
7. Hane Naoki: 14,052,431
8. Kobayashi Satoru: 11,134,600
9. Mizokami Tomochika: 10,973,600
10. Shida Tatsuya: 10,420,500

Computer versus Yoda: Games between computers and professionals seem to be popular these days. In February, the program Zen played a series of 9×9 games and got within half a point of its professional opponent in one of them. On March 21, Yoda Norimoto 9P played two four-stone handicap games against Zen and another program, CrazyStone. Yoda beat Zen by resignation, but lost to CrazyStone by 2.5 points (Black gave a komi of half a point). In the UEC Cup, a computer-go tournament, held just before this, Zen had taken first place and CrazyStone second. Yoda’s comments after the games implied that he benefited from familiarity with Zen’s style of play, whereas he knew nothing about CrazyStone.

Tomorrow: Kono and Yuki Secure Kisei League Places; Japanese Team Plays in Chinese League; Yamashita Keeps Sole Lead in Meijin League

Categories: Japan,John Power Report
Share

Wang Chen Wins 2014 World Students Go Oza

Monday April 14, 2014

Wang Chen, one of the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ who rule China’s amateur rating list, won the 12th World Students Go Oza Championship, held in late February in Toyko.

Wang (right) defeated Ken (Kai Kun) Xie of New Zealand, Japan’s Yamikumo Tsubasa, Go Risa, also from Japan, and Chung Chen-En of Taiwan. Yamikumo, Go, and Chung did not lose to anyone else, so they finished as part of the four-way tie for runner-up. Tie-breaking points put Yamikumo second, Chung third, and Go fourth. Taiwan’s Hu Shih-Yun also lost only one game and came in fifth. The opponent she lost to was the USA’s Maojie Xia, who had played the two Japanese and finished a highly commendable sixth.

Viktor Ivanov (Russia, 9th place) and Kwan King-Man (Hong Kong, 10th place) matched Maojie Xia by winning two games apiece, and although Yanqi Zhang (France, 12th place) won only once, the opponent she beat was Zhou Shiying, the Chinese female player. At both the reception and the awards ceremony, officials in the All Japan Students Go Association, which handled all the organizational work (drinking party included), remarked on the rising level of play in countries outside the Far East.
- based on a more extensive report on the IGF news feed, which includes complete results and clickable game records.

Categories: Japan,World,Youth
Share