by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
72nd Honinbo League: The first round in the new league was completed on October 20 when Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P by resignation. Two games in the league were held on November 3. Ko Iso (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig., and Cho U (B) beat Mitani Tetsuya 7P by resig. On 2-0, Cho holds the provisional lead, but Motoki Katsuya 7P and Hane Naoki 9P, who are on 1-0, could catch up.
Ichiriki evens score in Tengen: Autumn is a season that called on all of Iyama Yuta’s power of endurance, as he was being attacked on three sides. In the Meijin title match, he had his back to the wall. Most of Iyama’s title matches have been played with older players like Takao, who was 39 (at the start of the Meijin title match) to Iyama’s 27. However, the other two title matches are both against younger players, the 21-year-old Yo Seiki in the Oza and the 19-year-old Ichiriki Ryo in this match. The younger generation is gradually making its presence felt, so Iyama v. his juniors will surely soon become the main pattern in title matches. Already for a few years Ichiriki has been viewed as the top teenager in Japan
and recently his promise has been converted into concrete results (see my report on his winning the Ryusei). This title match would be his biggest test so far.
The first game of the 42nd Tengen title match was played at the Kashikojima Hojoen inn in Shima City in Mie Prefecture on October 21. The challenger drew white, and the game became a contest between Ichiriki’s attack and Iyama’s survival skills. In the middle game, Iyama landed a fierce counterpunch, backed up by deep reading, and at one stroke secured the lead. Ichiriki resigned after Black 139.
This was Iyama’s fourth successive win over the three title matches he was engaged in. He seemed to have recovered from his slump in the first half of the Meijin title match.
The second game was played at the Otaru Asari Classe Hotel on November 11, with Ichiriki playing black. The game was fiercely competitive, starting with a ko fight in the opening. Iyama made a miscalculation late in the middle game and resigned after 205 moves. Ichiriki evened the score and showed he posed a threat to Iyama’s sextuple crown.
Iyama increases lead in Oza: The result of the first game of the 64th Oza title match was given in my previous report, but I have some more details below. Challenging the 27-year-old Iyama was the 21-year-old Yo Seiki (Yu Zhengqi in Pinyin), the top player of his age group (low 20s) not only at the Kansai Ki-in but in Japan as a whole. Yo, who had black, acquitted himself very well, and the lead seesawed back and forth during some fierce fighting. After the macro endgame, the spectators all thought that Yo had the lead, but Iyama unleashed a devilish move that made the game tilt in his favor. He picked up a win by 1.5 points after 283 moves. The time allowance is three hours per player: both players were down to their last minute of byo-yomi (to which the last five minutes are allocated). Yu was satisfied that he had been able to go toe to toe with Iyama, but he will have to win games like this if he wants to take a title.
The second game was played at the Naka-no-bo Zuien inn, on November 7. Taking black, Iyama forced a resignation after 169 moves. Once again, Yo played well, and Iyama commented that he was quite worried in the middle game. In an interview after the game, he said: “With correct play by White, I might have collapsed.” The third game will be played on the 18th of this month.
First of four reports. Tomorrow: Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo; Takao wins Meijin title, breaks Iyama’s monopoly