by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Four-way tie in Meijin League: With only one round to go, four players share the lead in the 40th Meijin League, so there is a strong possibility of the league ending in a tie. The four players are Kono Rin 9P, Yamashita Keigo 9P, Takao Shinji Tengen, and Ko Iso 8P, who are all on 5-2 (I overlooked Yamashita in my previous report when I wrote there were three players with two losses). Recent games: (June 25) Kono Rin (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Oza by resig.; Cho U 9P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. (July 2) Takao Shinji (B) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by half a point. (July 3) Yamashita Keigo (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig.
In the final round, to be played on July 30, Kono plays Cho U, Yamashita plays Ko Iso, Takao plays Murakawa, Hane plays Kanazawa, and So has a bye. Only Yamashita or Ko Iso has a chance of winning the league outright; there could also be a two-way or three-way tie. If Ko is part of a three-way tie, however, he will miss out, as only the two higher-ranked players qualify for a play-off. Hane and Kanazawa have already lost their league places.
Iyama makes good start in Gosei title defense: The first game of the 40th Gosei best-of-five title match was played at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on June 26. Yamashita is making his third challenge to Iyama Yuta this year; he’s probably sick of the sight of Iyama, but with the latter holding four titles, beating him is the quickest way for Yamashita to make a comeback as a titleholder. As usual with these two, fighting started early and didn’t let up. Yamashita, playing white, acquitted himself well in the middle game, building thickness to counter Iyama’s territory. However, just when the game looked like it was entering a tight endgame contest, Yamashita suffered a hallucination (on move 156) that cost him a large group. He resigned after Black 171. There is a break of nearly a month before the next game, which will be played in Kanazawa City on July 20.
Iyama defends Honinbo title: The fifth game of the 70th Honinbo title match was played on July 29 and 30, so Yamashita had a break of just two days to recover from his loss in the Gosei title match. The venue was the Hotel Hankyu Expo Park in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, so it was home ground for Iyama. Playing white, Iyama went for territory, letting Yamashita build a moyo. He then set out to live inside the moyo. By white 76, he had parried Black’s attack; when he occupied a key point with 82 he felt that he was ahead. However, he left Black with scope to invade his territory, his plan being to reduce Black’s large center while harassing the invader. However, Iyama slipped up in the ensuing fight, missing a chance to kill Black’s group. That let Black get a ko, but his best ko threat was setting up an attack on the white group that had settled itself inside Black’s moyo earlier. When White finished off the ko and also rescued this group, Black had to resign. The game lasted exactly 200 moves. A generation or two ago, Takagawa lamented that he would have won many more titles but for the existence of Sakata Eio. Perhaps Yamashita may feel the same way about Iyama, he has won just one out of six big-three title matches with him. Nonetheless, he will surely be doing his best to become the Meijin challenger. Once again, Iyama has extended his quadruple crown. This is his 29th title and his 11th big-three title. He has just turned 26 (May 24), so he is roughly four years ahead of the title-winning pace of Cho Chikun and Cho U. He is in 9th place in the all-time list in Japan, six titles behind Rin Kaiho and Yoda Norimoto.
O Keii wins Aizu Central Hospital Cup: The final of the 2nd Aizu Central Hospital Cup was held at the Konjakutei inn in Aizu Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 2 and 3. O Keii 2P (W) beat Xie Yimin 6P by one and a half points. O is the daughter of O Rissei 9P, three-time Kisei winner, and older sister of O Keiko 1P (Kansai Ki-in). She is a member of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in. This is O’s first title and it comes in her third year as a pro. She is already 28, so she made a late debut, though she is making up for that now. The game didn’t make this week’s issue of Go Weekly, so I don’t have any details yet.