by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Iyama to challenge for two more titles: At present, Iyama (right) has four titles — Kisei, Meijin, Honinbo, and Gosei – but he is making a determined effort to retrieve the glory days of his sextuple crown. All he has to do is to win back the two titles he lost towards the end of last year. His campaign is running smoothly and last week he won the play-offs to decide the Oza and Tengen challengers.
First of all, the final of the 63rd Oza tournament was held at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on Monday, September 7. Iyama (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P of the Kansai Ki-in by resignation after 157 moves (left). This earned him a rematch with Murakawa Daisuke Oza, also of the Kansai Ki-in, who took the title from him last year. Murakawa showed tenacity in recovering from a 1-2 deficit to win two games in a row. Yo Seiki has been securing excellent results recently, regaining his Honinbo League seat immediately after dropping out and reaching the best eight in an international tournament, the LG Cup, but if you want to take a title in Japan, virtually the only way to do so is by defeating Iyama Yuta. Interviewed after the game, Iyama commented: “Since losing in the Oza match last year, the desire to return to the same stage has been one of the major factors motivating me. I hope to make a better showing than last year.”
Later in the same week, on Thursday, September 10, the play-off to decide the Tengen challenger was held at the same venue (games are usually played on the home ground of the higher-ranked player). Taking white, Iyama forced Yuki Satoshi 9P (Kansai Ki-in) to resign after 228 moves (left). Yuki was also strongly motivated for this game, as he had won the title in 2010, but lost it to Iyama the following year. He actually got off to a slightly superior start, but slipped up in the early middle game (right). Iyama now has a big opportunity to regain his sextuple crown, but he is looking further ahead than that. After the Tengen game, he commented: “I’m happy that the link to my goal of winning seven crowns has not been cut.” To keep this possibility open, Iyama has to make sure he keeps winning in the Judan tournament while fighting three title matches. The Oza title match starts on October 20 and the Tengen three days later.
Kisei Leagues: The final game in the S League of the 40th Kisei tournament was played at the Nihon Ki-in on September 10. Playing white, Takao Shinji Tengen beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig. The place in the league are: 1. Yamashita Keigo (4-1); 2. Murakawa Daisuke Oza (3-2); 3. Yoda Norimoto 9P (3-2); 4. Takao (2-3); 5. Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (2-3); 6. Kobayashi (1-4). The top four players keep their seats, but actually Takao is not yet assured of staying in 4th place. If the winner of the B or C League were to become the challenger, Takao would be bounced out. At that point, Yamashita would remain in the league, but the loser of the title match would take the number one seat in the S League, so Takao would also drop to the A League. This is yet another permutation in the complicated tournament system the Yomiuri Newspaper came up with.
Previously we reported that Kono Rin 9P had won the A League in the sixth round. In his last game, Kono (B) beat 25th Honinbo Chikun by 8.5 points, so he finished the league undefeated on 7-0. The game was played on September 10. On September 17, the play-off between the winners of the B1 and B2 Leagues was held. Yamada Kimio 9P (B2 winner) (W) beat Awaji Shuzo 9P by 8.5 points. Yamada thus earned a place in the tournament to decide the challenger. He is guaranteed a place in the A League next year. From the B1 League, Awaji (first on 5-2) and Ryu Shikun 9P (second on 4-3 — thanks to being ranked number one, he pipped the other three players [out of eight] who also finished on 4-3) will be promoted to the A League. They will be joined by So Yokoku 9P, who was second in the B League. Second place in the A League was also decided on September 17 when Ichiriki Ryo 7P (B) beat Cho Riyu 8P by resig. Ichiriki earns a place in the S League.
Tomorrow: Kyo Kagen wins two junior titles; Women’s Meijin League; Iyama ekes out narrow win in Meijin