by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo: The fourth game of the 35th Women’s Honinbo title match was held at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on October 24. Playing black, Fujisawa defeated the titleholder Xie Yimin by resignation after 147 moves. Fujisawa played positively from the opening on and held on to the initiative, but it was not clear to the spectators how she could wrap up a win. The game ended early when Fujisawa found a deadly technique for killing a corner white group. The players following the game in the anteroom had expected a ko, but Xie’s teacher, Ko Mosei 9P, suddenly exclaimed: “It’s unconditional [death]!” He added: “[If this happens,] it’d be beautiful.” Sure enough, that was how Rina played. Though his disciple lost the game, Ko seemed happy at Fujisawa’s fine play. After losing the first game, Fujisawa won three in a row to regain the title she first won two years ago. At present, she seems to be Xie’s only real rival. This victory perhaps made up for her bitter experience last year, when she won the first two games but lost the next three to Xie. Xie may have lost this title, but she still has four women’s titles to her name. (Note: in Taiwan, her name is Romanized as Hsieh I-min.)
Takao wins Meijin title, breaks Iyama’s monopoly: After starting with three straight losses, Iyama Yuta had clawed his way back into contention with wins in the fourth and fifth games in the 41st Meijin best-of-seven. In view of his bad record in the past against Iyama, Takao Shinji probably found this an ominous development. The sixth game was played at the Imaiso, a traditional inn in the town of Kawazu, Kamo County, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 26 and 27. Takao turned 40 on the first day of the game, but he didn’t get a birthday present from Iyama. Taking black, Iyama dominated the game and forced a resignation after 185 moves. Takao is known for his fondness for thickness, but in this game centre thickness built by Iyama played a part in his win. Takao was also handicapped by an oversight he made near the end of the game, so he resigned early. Finally, Iyama had drawn even in the title match.
The statistics were now slightly in his favor. This pattern of one player winning the first three games and the other the next three had come up in Japanese go ten times previously, and the player staging the recovery had won the seventh game six times. On the other hand, in the most recent five cases, the player who won the initial three games made a comeback and took the seventh four times. Go reporters like these kinds of statistics, but probably the players themselves don’t pay much attention to them.
The seventh game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture on November 2 and 3. The nigiri was held again, and Iyama drew black. As usual, Takao built thickness on the first day, then on the second day developed it into a vast moyo based on the top left. Next, he succeeded in reducing Black’s moyo and took the lead. He then parried Iyama’s attempts to catch up by playing thickly and maintained a small lead until the end. White won by 2.5 points after 251 moves.
Takao made a comeback as Meijin after a gap of nine years; he had won the title just once, in the 31st term, and at the same time held the Honinbo title. This success was all the more welcome for Takao because he lost two Meijin challenges to Iyama 0-4. He has now won 15 titles.
Iyama lost his septuple crown after holding it for a little over half a year — 197 days, to be exact; he lost his monopoly of the top three titles, the Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo, after 1113 days — he won ten successive top-three title matches. He held the Meijin title for three years in a row and earlier held it for two terms; he needs another five wins to qualify for an honorary Meijin title.
The three vacant seats in the new Meijin league have been decided. On November 3, playing black, Sakai Hideyuki beat Uchida Shuhei 7P, who had dropped out of the 41st league, by half a point. Sakai returns to the league after a gap of three years. On November 7, Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by 1.5 points. Hane regained his place immediately after dropping out of the previous league. On November 10, Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Hirata Tomoya 7P by half a point.
Yo will make his debut in the league. Hirata played in the previous league, but just missed out on regaining his place. He played an adventurous opening, with his first move on the 15-5 point and his third move on the 9-5 point, but Yo kept his nerve. The Kansai Ki-in has three players in the upcoming league: Murakawa Daisuke, Sakai, and Yo. The first round will be played in December.
Second of four reports. Tomorrow: Cho U doing well in Kisei knock-out; Women’s Meijin League; Kobayashi Satoru wins 1,100 games