by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Iyama wins second Tournament of Champions: This is a tournament for all the title-winners of the previous year, plus one player selected by the votes of fans. The winner is awarded the Prime Minister’s Cup and the Minister of Education’s Prize (actually a shield). The format is the same as the NHK Cup, that is, ten minutes per player plus ten minutes of thinking time to be used in one-minute units. The first two rounds are played on the Net, and the semifinals and final are played in person at the Nihon Ki-in. The final is a public game, being played on stage before an audience with a commentary being given simultaneously on stage. (In the tournament list given in Go Weekly, this is only tournament with no cash prize mentioned. Perhaps the players play just for the glory.)
This year, the first two rounds were played on January 26. Listing the results will serve as a review of 2014 tournament go. In the first round, Ichiriki Ryo, King of the News Stars and winner of the Globis Cup and O-kage (Gratitude) Cup, beat Yo Seiki, winner of the Yucho (the post office bank) Cup; Motoki Katsuya, winner of the Hiroshima Aluminium Cup, beat Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo and winner of the Aizu Central Hospital Cup; Takao Shinji, Tengen & Judan, beat Ida Atsushi, selected by fan vote; Yuki Satoshi, NHK Cup-winner and Kansai Ki-in Number One, beat Xie Yimin, Women’s Meijin and Kisei; Kono Rin Ryusei beat Hane Naoki Okan; Murakawa Daisuke Oza beat Cho Chikun, winner of Masters Cup; Iyama Yuta, Kisei, Meijin, Honinbo, Gosei, winner of Agon Kiriyama Cup and the first term of this tournament, was seeded into the semifinals.
In the second round, Motoki beat Ichiriki, Takao beat Yuki, and Kono beat Murakawa. The semifinals and final were held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya on March 29. The semifinals were played in the morning; Iyama (W) beat Kono by resig. and Takao (W) beat Motoki by resig. Actually Iyama started badly in the middle-game fighting against Kono, leading Kobayashi to predict an imminent resignation, but Iyama managed to pull off an upset. The afternoon final fittingly matched the two most successful players in top-seven titles last year: quadruple title-holder Iyama vs. dual title-holder Takao. Iyama drew black in the nigiri and killed a large white group, forcing Takao to resign after 157 moves. The commentary on the same stage was given by Kobayashi Satoru 9P and Yoshihara Yukari 6P (earlier they covered the morning games as well). There’s an art to giving commentaries in the presence of the players (who can’t see the demonstration board, of course). Usually the commentators avoid mentioning black or white and instead hold up a black or white stone to show the audience which side they are talking about. However, Iyama joked later that he owed his win to occasionally catching Kobayashi’s comments.
Iyama wins 500th game: A win over Murakawa Daisuke Oza in Round 1 of the Tengen tournament on April 2 was Iyama Yuta’s 500th official win as a professional. He has lost 191 games, so his winning percentage is 72.4%. He is the 100th player to win 500 games and, at 25 years ten months, the third youngest; his winning percentage is the 11th highest. (The youngest player to reach this landmark is Cho U at 25 years five months and the best winning percentage was 76.3, posted by Yamashita Keigo.)
Yamashita becomes Honinbo challenger: Three players were in the running as the 70th Honinbo League entered its final round, held on April 2: Yamashita Keigo (at right), Cho U and Ida Atsushi. However, only Yamashita could win the league outright. Last year he slipped up at the end, losing to Ida Atsushi and letting him force a play-off, which Ida won. This year Yamashita made no mistake: he beat Cho U and topped the league with a score of 6-1. Ida also lost his final game, so Yamashita ended two points clear of the field. Yamashita lost the Honinbo title to Iyama Yuta in 2012, so this will give him a chance to take revenge. The title match will start on May 13. It will be the sixth best-of-seven between these two players; so far, Yamashita has won only one. So far this year, his record is an excellent 12 wins to four losses; since he has just lost a best-of-seven match, the Kisei, that means he hasn’t lost a game to anyone besides Iyama.
Results in the final round:
Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Cho U 9P by resig.
Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by resig.
Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Ryu Shikun 9P by resig.
Mimura 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P by resig.
Placings in the league: 1st: Yamashita, 6-1; 2nd: Ida, 4-3; 3rd: Cho U, 4-3; 4th: Kono Rin, 4-3
Losing their places are: Yo (4-3), Mimura (3-4), Takao (2-5), and Ryu (1-6). Yo can count himself a little unlucky: he won his final game, but to keep his place he needed Kono to lose, as there’s no play-off for fourth place (Kono was rated higher).