Iyama closing in on Grand Slam in Judan challenge: The first game of the 54th Judan title was played at the Osaka University of Commerce on March 8. The Judan is the lowest-ranked of the seven open titles, but this year an extraordinary amount of interest is being taken in the title match because it is the last title Iyama Yuta needs to complete an unprecedented simultaneous grand slam, that is, a genuine grand slam. Usually there would be a lot of fan support for the youthful titleholder, Ida Atsushi, who turns 22 on March 16, but probably few people want to see Iyama miss this opportunity to set a new record. Ida got black in the nigiri. In the opening, Iyama played just one stone on the right side before building a position on the left, so the game became a moyo contest. Instead of trying to save his solitary stone,
Iyama switched to invading the top right corner. When he settled his group in sente, he got a good game. Ida later invaded White’s bottom left position; he lived, but White severely harassed his group, taking a definite lead. Ida resigned after 206 moves. The second game was played at the Yu-no-yama Hot Spring Yumoto Green Hotel in the town of Komono in Mie Prefecture on March 23. The first 41 moves were the same as in Game Three of the Korean Myeongin (Meijin) title match, played on January 20 between Park Junghwan (black) and Lee Sedol. Iyama had reviewed the game in a study group and concluded that the opening, in which Black built thickness, was not bad for Black and wanted to try it out in a game. Ida obviously felt that it was playable for White, though he diverged from the Korean game with move 42. In the middle game, the game seemed even, but Ida made two mistakes: playing in the wrong direction with 124, then choosing the wrong hane out of two possibilities with 134. The latter move was labeled the losing move. Ida faces a kadoban, that is, a game that could lose a series, on April 14. Iyama has now won 18 title-match games in a row.
Xie defends Women’s Meijin: The second game of the 28th Women’s Honinbo title match was held at the Osaka University of Commerce on March 9. As has been the recent practice, it was held in conjunction with the Judan title match. Playing black, Aoki Kikuyo 8P forced a resignation after 209 moves, so she evened the score. The third game was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo on March 16. In a tense endgame contest, Xie emerged the victor by half a point, so she defended her title. She has now held it for nine years in a row and it is her 23rd title overall. Xie was also recently named as a Guest Professor at the Heian Jogakuin University (Jogakuin means Women’s Academy), which was the venue of the first game. The university is also known as St. Agnes’ University and is Anglican. A game in the title match has been held at this university for five years in a row. Xie has played in all of them, and on each occasion has given students instruction in go the day after the game. Correction: The first game was played on March 3, not February 28, as given in my previous report.
Cho U wins NHK Cup: The final of the 63rd NHK Cup was telecast on March 20. The finalists were Cho U 9P, who has won this title three times, and Teranishi Rei 4P, who reached the final on his debut in this tournament. Playing with white, Teranishi perhaps took a small lead after a large-scale trade arising from a ko fight, but Cho overhauled him in the middle game. Teranishi resigned after move 211. Cho’s last NHK cup was eight years ago; this is his first title since 2012. Last year Cho moved back to Taiwan with his family, partly to give his children a chance to learn Chinese and partly to try and recover form. He “commutes” to Japan for his tournament games. His NHK win may be a sign that this decision is paying off. Apparently he plans to return to live in Japan this summer.
Tomorrow: Cho Chikun wins 2015 Title Winners Tournament; Takao becomes Honinbo challenger; Recent results