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 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 League) 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 year.
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