by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Ichiriki wins 7th O-kage Cup: The final section (last four rounds) of the 7th O-kage (Gratitude) Cup, a tournament for players aged 30 and under, was held on the bank of the Isuzu River and at the Alley Ki-in in Ise City in Mie Prefecture on May 14 and 15. The sponsors are a group of tourist-trade shops (many of them recreations of Edo Period buildings) in Gratitude Alley, the street leading up to the Ise Shrine (later in the month, this area was the site of the G7 summit).
The players who made the final, Ichiriki Ryo 7P and Anzai Nobuaki 7P, are fellow disciples of So Kofuku 9P. Anzai is the older, 30 to Ichiriki’s 18, and won the 2nd and 3rd terms of this tournament, but Ichiriki has recently developed into one of the top players of the post-Iyama generation. Taking black, Iyama beat Anzai by resignation after 183 moves and won this title for the thirdtime in a row. First prize is three million yen.
The level of competition was quite high, as the 16 players in the final section included two former holders of top-seven titles, Murakawa Daisuke, who wonthe Oza title, and Ida Atsushi, the previous Judan, the second-place-getter in
the Honinbo League, Motoki Katsuya 7P, and women’s triple crown-holder Xie Yimin. As it happened, all these players were eliminated in the first round.
Iyama close to defending Honinbo title: The challenger Takao Shinji 9P made a good start in his challenge for the 71st Honinbo title, winning the opening game, but nothing has gone well for him since.
The second game was played at the Honkoji Temple in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture on May 23 and 24. Iyama turned the tables from the first game. Playing white, he attacked severely and seized the initiative, then fended off Takao
’s attempts to get back into the game. Early in the game there was a spectacular trade that gave Takao a large area but also gave Iyama a lot of ko threats. Iyama made good use of them to secure a large territory of his own. Still fighting continued, with Iyama making an unexpected but severe invasion. Takao was ahead in territory, but Iyama’s constant attacking paid off. An unusual feature of this game was that Iyama twice made a tortoise-shell capture; it’s rare for one to appear in a pro game, let alone two. It’s proverbially worth 60 points, twice as much as a ponnuki. Late in the middle game, Takao made a last-chance attack on a white group, but Iyama found a clever move to settle it and nursed his lead to the end. Takao resigned after 230 moves. Incidentally, the 24th was Iyama’s birthday (he’s now 27); he gave himself a good birthday present.
The third game was played the Old Ryotei Kaneyu in Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture on June 2 and 3. (“Ryotei” is a term for a traditional Japanese inn; here “Old Ryotei” has been incorporated as part of the name. This inn is a palatial building made completely of wood; it has been registered with the government as a “tangible cultural property.”) In contrast to the second game, the players made a solid and steady start. Inevitably a fierce fight started in the middle game, with a ko attached. Iyama played strongly and forced Takao to resign after 207 moves.
The fourth game was played in the Olive Bay Hotel in Saikai City in Nagasaki Prefecture on June 13 and 14. This was the most fierce game of the series so far, with fighting starting early in the opening. Playing white, Iyama cut a large group into two and killed both parts of it. Takao resigned after move 128. The game finished at 2:44 pm on the second day, Takao had two hours 33 minutes of his time left and Iyama had one hour 48 minutes left.
The fifth game will be played on June 29 and 30.
Murakawa becomes Gosei challenger: The play-off to decide the challenger for the 41st Gosei title was held on May 18. Murakawa Daisuke 8P (W, right) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points, becoming the Gosei challenger for the first time. This gave Murakawa revenge for losing the play-off to decide the Kisei challenger to Yamashita three years in a row. He will be the second player to try to put a dent in Iyama’s septuple crown. The title match will start on June 25.