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The Janice Kim Files: On Ranks

Monday April 9, 2018

by Janice Kim 3P2018.04.08-janiceKim

When I was a student at the Korean Baduk Academy, I was firmly ensconced in the “B League” at 6 “gup”, or “kyu”. The way the ranking system worked is that a 6 kyu would give a 5 kyu only three points of komi for White, rather than 5.5 or 6.5 points. It then went no komi, 3 points reverse komi, then 6 points, then 9 points reverse komi. The two-stone handicap gap was considered so big, you didn’t get there until a 6 kyu was playing against a 1 dan (that’s 1 dan pro). Clearly one rank did not equal one stone.

The general go-playing population, even in Korea, didn’t know or use this kind of system. At best, you’d see the strongest players say something about being “1 gup.” There was whispering that there was such a thing as an amateur dan, but it was hard to confirm the rumor, unless you met someone who had “Amateur 4 Dan” or something like that printed on a business card. This was a signal that this person might do something completely bizarre in Korean society, like sit in a seat of honor at a banquet. Also that this person had no intention of ever exceeding this rank. Or else his family owned the banquet hall, and was paying for the whole shebang.

That’s why “gup” doesn’t exactly translate to “kyu.” Basically, strap in to your seat if the person says he or she is any “gup”. This is reminding me of when I was introduced as a “Korean 3 dan pro” to Yoda 9 dan at a banquet. He looked mildly interested, perhaps concerned, until someone whispered, “Not one of those Korean 3 dan pros.” Note that being female had nothing to do with it, it just had to be established I was not Lee Sedol, who was also 3 dan pro at the time.

On my visa renewal application, there’s a question in English, “What is your purpose for being in Korea?” I painstakingly write out “Professional Baduk researcher” in my childish Korean script. My aunt sees this, scowls, and crosses it out. Then, in her easy way, she fits in a neat sentence that I’m learning how to play. I’m almost incapable of saying or writing anything in Korean now. This is an utter disaster when anyone, naturally, assumes that I can communicate or translate from Korean to English or vice-versa. Imagine translating this into Korean. You’d have to cross the whole thing out, and say “She’s struggling to explain an existential crisis.”

It was so hard, during the peak of the AlphaGo phenomenon, to talk about things. For example, one did not want to tearfully start screaming, “You don’t understand how big a two-stone handicap gap is, that’s not even something we ever did!” when somebody started suggesting handicaps for pros against AlphaGo. Don’t get me started on winning percentages, like people of a certain skill level couldn’t just be relied on to calculate their reverse komi or whatever in a game, and play sub-optimally to win. Or like AlphaGo had invented something novel in not caring about the size of the win, or altering the strategy depending on the situation.

So there I am on the bus, which could preface a significant chunk of my entire waking life in Korea. Somebody is looking at me with my nose in my life and death book, and announces, “That’s easy.” I’m startled. Is it possible that I’m missing something obvious? I thought it was really hard. “Black lives”, my seat mate says. Well, yes. It says that right on the problem. But how?

Sensing my confusion, my seat mate starts turning pages. “Black lives. Black lives. White lives.” Then he hits one of my game records stuck in the pages of the book, where I’ve dutifully recorded my rank as “6 gup”. He smiles, looking at the shape of the finished game, which now suddenly looks pretty silly, with large territories like empty continents on a flat earth. “Black loses.”

I’m suddenly furious. When we get to my stop, I insist, practically pulling on the man’s sleeves, that he get off at the same stop, and accompany me to the Korean Baduk Association building. There I crush him in a game, in the most stupid and mindless way possible. He apologies profusely, and runs, literally runs, for the door.

The 6 gup, full of ego and self-doubt, crushes this nice man, guilty of nothing more than trying to be helpful to the young girl looking at a go book on the bus. The 3 dan teaches this man how to play go, but he already knows how. There is a game-changing difference between them. Like a 2-stone handicap.

Here’s a link to the Blue Oyster Cult song “Shooting Shark.” The lyrics are funny, especially if viewed entirely in a go context. I picked a video that didn’t have inappropriate content, although G-d knows anyone can write anything in the comments.

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The Empty Board: Philosophical Reflections on Go

Tuesday April 3, 2018

by William Cobb2018.04.03_P1230835-tri-tone

“Go is like life.” It’s a common claim—and true. But go is also like death. Every game comes to an end and every player eventually plays their last game. Is that a bad thing? With individual games, even if you lost, you always made some good moves and there’s always next time. But what about that final game? Does the fact that it’s inevitable mean that playing is a waste of time? Of course not. Each game is an end in itself. You don’t have to play forever for them to be one of the best parts of life. The same goes for all of life’s games. The fact that they come to an end and there is no continuation does not undermine the enjoyment or the significance of life. A lot of people seem to be confused about that.

photo by Phil Straus

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Pennsylvania first to host AGA State Go Championship

Tuesday March 6, 2018

The Penn Go Society has announced the first Pennsylvania State Go Championship, part of the American Go Association’s new system of state championships around the country (click here for details). The Pennsylvania championship will be held April 28-29 in Philadelphia, PA, with five rounds over two days, handicap and open divisions, and over $1000 in prizes.

Pre-registration is required; deadline is April 24th. The tournament will be held on the 8th floor of the Wharton Student Life Center (2401 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103). Email tournaments@penngosociety.org for more info.

The tournament director will be Jason McGibbon; games will be AGA rated and Japanese byo-yomi time setting (45 min main + 5 x 30 byo-yomi). Check-in on Saturday and Sunday will be from 9:30AM-10AM. The first round on both days will begin at 10:15AM. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided, and many restaurants are within easy walking distance of the venue. The official State Championship title is reserved for Pennsylvania residents, but non-PA residents are eligible to play and win prize money.

 

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Chess blogger Michael Bacon posts on go

Monday March 5, 2018

Chess blogger Michael Bacon — the “Armchair Warrior” has recently published some posts on go, including “AlphaGo and the Hand of God,” “The Surrounding Game” and “Weiqi (Go) Versus Chess.” In addition to being well-written, thoughtful – and sometime provocative — explorations, Bacon’s posts are well-illustrated with photos and videos. 2018.03.03_armchair-warrior-screengrab

“AlphaGo and the Hand of God’ is about the “AlphaGo,” documentary,  which Bacon calls “poignant,” adding that “While watching the movie the thought crossed my mind that what I was watching was a watershed moment in the history of mankind, analogous to Neal Armstrong’s ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’”

In “The Surrounding Game,”Bacon reminds readers that not only was Edward Lasker – attributed in the film as the source of a famous quote about go – an International Master, not a Grandmaster, as identified in the film, but that there is a dispute about the quote itself, with some attributing it to former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, a distant relative. However, Bacon clearly likes the film, which follows the lives of several top American players, Ben Lockhart and Andy Liu, competing to become the first Western professional. “Despite their diverging paths, Ben and Andy face the same question: is a lifetime dedicated to Go truly worth living?”

And in “Weiqi (Go) Versus Chess”, Bacon contrasts chess and go in politics, popularity and player personalities. Noting that “Chess appeals to people who like to attack and who savor the win over the process,” Bacon says that go “is a game of patience and position. It appeals to very bright people who don’t expect to win quickly but who are willing to earn success one small step at a time. GO players enjoy the process as much as the win.” He also argues that “AlphaGo has done for the game of Go in America what Bobby Fischer did for the game of Chess when he defeated the World Chess Champion, Boris Spassky, in 1972… In a very short period of time the game of Go will be unrivaled, leaving all other board games in its wake.” Further, he suggests that “It could be that the people of the planet are moving away from the brutal, war like, mindset of a war like game such as Chess and toward a more cerebral game such as Go.”

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The Power Report (1): Murakawa to challenge for Judan; Ueno wins Women’s Kisei; Yashiro to challenge for Women’s Meijin title

Monday February 19, 2018

by John Power, special Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2018.02.19_Murakawa-56jyudan0_1-2

Murakawa to challenge for Judan: The play-off to decide the challenger for the 56th Judan title was held at the Kansai Ki-in in Osaka on January 25. Murakawa Daisuke 8P (right) of the Kansai Kiin, playing white, beat Shida Tatsuya 7P of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in by resignation. Murakawa, who won the 62nd Oza title in 2014, will make his first challenge for the Judan title. Shida missed his chance to make his first top-seven title challenge. The best-of-five with Iyama Yuta will start on March 6.

Iyama defends Kisei title:  The second game of the 42nd Kisei title match was held at the Hachinohe Hotel in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture, on January 25 and 26. After a solid opening, a difficult fight started. Unlike the first game, in which Ichiriki had some chances, Iyama (left), playing black, kept the initiative throughout and secured a resignation 2018.02.19_Iyama-42kisei4_10after 171 moves. This win may have been a little disheartening for Ichiriki, who had now lost 11 games in a row to Iyama (all title games, including the NHK Cup final). The third game was held at the Olive Bay Hotel in Nishiumi City, Nagasaki Prefecture, on January 31 and February 1. The venue is a little unusual: it is a luxury hotel that was originally built as a guest house for the Oshima Shipbuilding Group and is located right next to a shipbuilding yard. This game was marked by complicated fighting among multiple unstable groups that spread from the top through the centre to the bottom. Perhaps the key move was a brilliant sabaki (settling a group) move with which Iyama (white) foiled a fierce attack by Ichiriki (below right); this led to a counterattack by Iyama. In the desperate fighting that followed, Iyama’s sharper play enabled him to seize the initiative. Ichiriki resigned after White 238. He now faced his first 2018.02.19_Ichiriki-42kisei4_11kadoban (a game that can lose a series).

   The usual pattern in a best-of-seven is to alternate breaks of one week and two weeks. So far, however, in this match games were being played once a week. The reason was to free up some time for both players to represent Japan in international tournaments (see reports below). Both players failed in these tournaments, so as far as psychological aftereffects were concerned, conditions were perhaps even. The fourth game was played at the Ofunato Citizens Culture Hall in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture, on 2018.02.19_Xie left, Iyama right-22lg3_2February 15 and 16. Once again, Ichiriki (white) was unable to get an advantage in the middle game, so he staked the game on a large-scale counterstrategy. However, Iyama calmly parried his attack, even letting him bring a dead group back to life, since he could secure a safe territorial lead anyway. Ichiriki continued to go all out, but his play was unreasonable and he had to resign after Iyama killed a large group.

   This was a very disappointing series for Ichiriki. In his first title match with Iyama, the 42nd Tengen at the end of 2016, he had at least won a game, but now he had been shut out in three successive title matches. Becoming challenger for three titles in a row is actually an impressive achievement, but it sets you up for some rough treatment at the hands of the grand slam champion. For Iyama, this was his sixth Kisei title in a row, the second-best run in this title after Kobayashi Koichi (who won the 10th to 17th titles). He had now maintained his grand slam for four months (since winning back the Meiijin title on October 17 last year). This is his 49th title, which puts him in sole fourth place, behind Cho Chikun (74), Sakata Eio (64), and Kobayashi Koichi (60). He is also sitting on a winning streak of 14 games in title matches, so he may challenge his personal record of 18 successive title-match wins. The Kisei prize is 45 million yen (about $416,000). The age of Iyama continues.

Ueno wins Women’s Ki2018.02.19_Yashiro-30fmeijin0_1-2sei: The second game of the 21st DoCoMo Cup Women’s Kisei best-of-three title match was held in the Ryusei studio at the Nihon Ki-in on January 29. Taking black, Ueno Asami 2D, the challenger, forced Xie Yimin to resign after 253 moves. This was her second win, so she dethroned the champion and won her first title at the age of 16 years three months. This set a new record in this title, beating Xie’s 20 years two months, but not threatening the overall record for women’s titles—Fujisawa Rina’s winning the Women’s Aizu Central Hospital Cup (now called the Hollyhock Cup) at 15 years nine months. Ueno’s prize is 5,000,000 yen (about $46,000).

Yashiro to challenge for Women’s Meijin title: The play-off to decide the challenger to Fujisawa Rina for the 30th Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on February 1. Playing white, Yashiro Kumiko 6P (left) beat Izawa Akino 4P by resignation after 200 moves. Yashiro, who is 41, will be making her first challenge for this title. She won the 24th and 25th Women’s Honinbo Titles in 2005 and 2006. The best-of-five match starts on February 28.

Tomorrow: Xie wins LG Cup; Park wins New Year’s Cup; Ida keeps lead in Honinbo League despite loss

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Go Spotting: Altered Carbon

Tuesday February 13, 2018

The premise of Netflix’s new sci-fi show Altered Carbon is simple: After 250  years of suspended animation a prisoner is2018.02.13_alteredcarbon_kovacs_vertical-core_rgb_us-1 returned to the world with exactly one chance to save his life – he must solve a “mind-bending” murder. And, oh, by the way, his consciousness has been digitized, downloaded  and stored in the “cortical stacks” implanted in the spine of his new body.

AC‘s central protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is of Japanese descent and sometimes plays go. In a flashback during Nora Inu (#7 – between the 40th and 42nd minute) Kovacs plays go with his sister as they talk. The ‘board’ presented here is a roll-up, either vinyl/cloth (or the futuristic equivalent), though the go-ke appear to be chestnut. The game in progress presented, however, appears believable. Toward the end of Rage in Heaven (#9) a goban is featured on camera twice; it appears this is a “set piece,” although a character picks up and plays with a stone. The same table goban in Rage in Heaven appears at the beginning of season 1′s final episode, The Killers (#10.)

The future Altered Carbon depicts is less than optimistic; think the bluesy, morose zeitgeist of Blade Runner, as opposed to the love letter to humanity that was InterstellarAltered Carbon is based on the Richard Morgan novel of the same name, his first book in the Takeshi Kovacs cyberpunk trilogy.

- Charles “Doc” Sade

 

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Power Report: Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei; 73rd Honinbo League; 43rd Meijin League; Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka

Wednesday January 31, 2018

Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei: The challenger to Xie Yimin for the 21st Women’s Kisei title is a new face: 2018.01.31_21fkisei1_05Ueno Asami 1P (right), a 16-year-old who became a professional in 2016. She is the second woman 1-dan to challenge for this title recently (the other was Nyu Eiko 1P, who lost 1-2 to Xie last year). Ueno had a good year last year, scoring 30 wins to 15 losses; this challenge will raise her profile. The first game was played at the Hotel Sun Life Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 19. Taking white, Ueno showed that she was not overawed by the occasion or her opponent, the most successful woman player ever in Japan. She was ready to mix it up in scrappy fighting with Xi and secured the lead with a move that took Xie by surprise. The latter did her best to upset Ueno’s lead, but was thwarted by accurate and feisty play by the challenger. Xie resigned after White 186. The next game will be played on January 29.

73rd Honinbo League: On 3-0, Ida Atsushi 8P has the sole lead in the league. His game against Kobayashi Satoru 9P will be the final game in the fourth round. Ko Iso, on 3-1, is in provisional second place. Results since my last report, are given below.
(Dec. 21) Yo Seiki 7P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.
(Jan. 11) Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig.; Shibano Toramaru 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 9P by resig.
(Jan. 18) Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.

43rd Meijin League: The following games have been played in the Meijin League since our last report. The league leader will be the winner of the final game in the second round, between Cho U and Yamashita Keigo, as he will go to 2-0. Everyone else has lost at least one game.
(Dec. 21) Shibano Toramaru 7P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by 2.5 points.
(Jan. 11) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P by resig.
(Jan. 18) Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig.; Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by resig.

Promotions
To 2-dan: Nyu Eiko (30 wins, as of December 22)
To 8-dan: Ri Ishu (150 wins, as of January 19)

Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka
Shiraishi Yutaka, one of the leading players at the Kansai Ki-in, died of a squamous cell cancer of the right upper lobe of the lung on December 10. Shiraishi was born in Ehime Prefecture on January 14, 1941. A disciple of Sekiyama Riichi 9P, he became a professional in 1956 and reached 9-dan in 1973. He won the 9-dan section of the Kisei tournament in 1976 and 1981, won the Pro-Ama Tournament in 1981, and the 37th Kansai Ki-in Number One Position tournament in 1993. He played three times each in the Meijin and Honinbo tournaments. He retired in 2012.

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The Power Report: People’s Honor Awards confirmed for Iyama and Habu; Lee Sedol wins World Meijin; Iyama makes good start in Kisei defense

Friday January 26, 2018

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

People’s Honor Awards confirmed for Iyama and Habu: At a cabinet meeting held on January 5, it was officially decided to give People’s Honor Awards to go player Iyama Yuta and shogi player Habu Yoshiharu in recognition of two unprecedented achievements. In Iyama’s case, it was getting a grand slam of the top seven titles for the second time; in Habu’s case, it was qualifying for lifetime titles in all the top seven titles (equivalent to an honorary title in go). As I mentioned in my final report for last year, it was announced that the government was “considering” making these awards, so it has now been confirmed. The awards will be given by the prime minister, Abe Shinzo, in a ceremony at the prime minister’s official residence on February 13. (By the way, so far Iyama has qualified for three honorary titles, the Kisei, Honinbo, and Gosei.)

Lee Sedol wins World Meijin: On January 8 and 9, the Dongjun Pharmaceutical Co. Cup: 5th World Mingren Tournament was held at the Yongji Qiyuan in Baoshan in Yunnan Province. Baoshan is a town very close to the Myanmar border and is famous for its go stones. The Yongji Qiyuan (= Ki-in) is an eight-storey building erected in 2016, so go must be prospering in this area. This is an invitational tournament, pitting the holders of the Meijin (= Mingren in Chinese and Myeongin in Korean) against each other. Iyama Yuta Meijin represented Japan and Lian Xiao Mingren China, but the Korean Myeongin title has been discontinued, so the Korean Baduk Association chose Lee Sedol as its representative. Lee repaid the faith shown in him by winning the mini-tournament.

 The tournament followed the usual “irregular” format for a three-player knockout. After drawing lots, Iyama and Lian were paired to play in the opening round on January 8. Taking white, Lian won this game by resignation. Iyama then played Lee in the second round; taking black, Lee won by resignation, so Iyama took third place. In the final, played on the 10th, Lee beat Lian (Go Weekly does not give the details) and took the first prize of 500,000 yuan (about $31,000). The Legend Pair Go tournament was held as a parallel event. This was won by the Korean pair of Yun Yongmin 3P and Suh Bongsoo 9P. The Japanese pair of Yoshida Mika 8P and Otake Hideo 9P came second.2018.01.26_42kisei1_5

Iyama makes good start in Kisei defense: As usual, the honor of starting the official tournament program in Japan fell to the players competing for the Kisei title, though they beat two women players by just a day. The challenger for the 43rd Kisei title is Ichiriki Ryo 7P, who is making his fourth challenge for a top-seven title. The only way to win one of these titles is to overcome Iyama Yuta, as he holds all of them. So far, Ichiriki has been unsuccessful; his best effort was in the 42nd Tengen title match in 2016, when he won the second game, but he has had no luck since, losing the next two games here, and suffering whitewashes in the 65th Oza and the 43rd Tengen title matches at the end of last year. Since he also lost the final of last year’s NHK Cup (the 64th), that gave him nine successive losses to Iyama. Still, his becoming the challenger for three successive titles shows that he is one of the top players in Japan.

   The top-three title matches, with their eight-hour time allowances spread over two days, are a different world from the other title matches, so such a match represents a new challenge but also a new opportunity. Ichiriki also had a break of seven weeks to prepare, though he may have been distracted by university exams in January.

   The first game was played at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo on January 18 and 19, with Otake Hideo, Hon. Gosei, acting as referee. Ichiriki drew black in the nigiri. In the opening, Iyama went for territory and Ichiriki set up a large moyo. As usual these days, there were some moves influenced by AI go-playing programs, such as a 3-3 invasion by White on move six and a shoulder hit against the lower stone in a knight’s-move corner enclosure by Black with move 13. As usual with top-level games, the play was too complex for an amateur such as myself to follow. To summarize briefly, White invaded Black’s moyo with White 40. He came under severe attack but managed to settle his group in sente, so he was able to expand his territorial moyo at the top. At this point, Iyama had the lead. Ichiriki successfully invaded the top territory and perhaps took over the lead here. However, he later played a move that, in the words of the Go Weekly reporter, “lacked subtlety.” Actually, the three-page report in the go newspaper is a little hard to understand. The headlines on the second and the third pages read, “Iyama’s tenacious upset” and “Ichiriki misses his winning chance” respectively, but they are not concretely explained in the text. That’s why I wrote “perhaps” above. It seems that Ichiriki missed the best move in a center fight that concluded the game. The Yomiuri Newspaper commentator So Yokoku 9P identified Black 203 as “the final losing move.” Black resigned after move 240.

   After the game, Iyama commented: “I thought that if Black played correctly in the center the game was no good for me. It was a tough game, but I was lucky.” Ichiriki: “I didn’t know what was correct in the center. I made mistakes in delicate positions that were fatal.” The next game will be played on January 25 and 26.

Tomorrow: Ueno makes good start in Women’s Kisei; 73rd Honinbo League; Obituary: Shiraishi Yutaka

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Go Spotting: “Counterpart”

Thursday January 18, 2018

In the opening montage of “Counterpart”, a new sci-fi thriller television series on Starz, “there is part of a stylized go board grid2018.01.07_counterpart with black and white stones appearing on it,” reports Joe Maia. “I’m guessing this might suggest that go will appear regularly, though briefly if the first episode is any guide, on the show.” 

An espionage, sci-fi thriller with a metaphysical twist, “Counterpart” tells the story of Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), a lowly cog in a bureaucratic UN agency who is turning the last corner of a life filled with regret, when he discovers the agency he works for is guarding a secret: a crossing to a parallel dimension. Through Howard and his “counterpart” on the other side, the show navigates themes of identity, idealism, what ifs, and lost love. Check out a trailer here.

“In the first scene, Simmons is is sitting outside with another man, with an almost finished go game in front of them,” says Maia. “They talk about other things, and make only a mention or two about the game. Later in the episode, Simmons is again seated across from the same man, again with an almost finished go game in front of them. I was interrupted so I was unable to watch the last 20 minutes of the episode, so I do not know if there were additional scenes with go in them. I could not tell if the games looked real or not. The camera angle did not allow a full view of the board.”

“Counterpart” premieres on Starz on January 21.

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Power Report (2 of 2): Ueno to challenge for Women’s Kisei; Awards for Iyama and Habu; World Go Championship 2018

Tuesday December 19, 2017

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal21fkisei_challenger Ueno

Ueno to challenge for Women’s Kisei:
A fresh face will be challenging Xie Yimin for the 21st Women’s Kisei title early next year. The play-off to decide the challenger was held in the Ryusei TV studio located in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on December 11. Ueno Asami 1P (right), 21 fkisei Okudawho is aged 16 and who qualified as a pro last year, beat Okuda Aya 3P (left); Ueno had black and secured a resignation after 199 moves. She will be just 16 years two months when the title match starts on January 19 and will be the youngest challenger ever. She lowered the record of Nyu Eiko, set last year, by about a year.

Awards for Iyama and Habu: A government spokesman announced last week that the Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, was considering giving People’s Honor Awards to the top go and shogi players Iyama Yuta and Habu Yoshiharu. Going by the timing, it would seem the idea was sparked by a recent achievement of Habu. Earlier this month, he won the Ryuo tournament for the seventh time and so qualified for the title of Eternal Ryuo (also translated as “Lifetime Ryuo”). The wording sounds grander, but this seems to be the equivalent of the “honorary” titles in go. The point was that Habu has qualified for the “eternal” title in all of the top seven shogi titles, an unprecedented feat. The reason for also giving a People’s Honor Award to Iyama was his success in achieving a grand slam of the top seven go titles for the second time.

Iyama (aged 28) and Habu (aged 47) will be the first board-game players (or mind-sport athletes, if you prefer) to win this award. Previously, it has been given to 23 individual athletes in various sports, actors, singers, composers, etc., and to all the members of the women’s soccer team that won the World Cup in 2011. The wording that the government is “considering” making these awards may seem a little funny, but surely the Prime Minister won’t change his mind. An official announcement is expected to follow within the year. The story was the lead-off article on the front page of the December 13 morning Yomiuri Newspaper and also featured on the front page of the afternoon edition. The criterion for the awards is: a person with conspicuous achievements who is widely loved and respected by the people and who have given bright hope to society.(Conditions for the shogi “eternal” title seem slightly easier for some of the titles than for honorary titles in go. They range from five cumulative wins to five wins in a row or ten cumulative wins, the latter being the condition in go. There are actually five variations in the conditions.)

World Go Championship 2018: The Nihon Ki-in has announced that this tournament will be held in March next year. It’s actually the second time: the 1st World Go Championship was held in March last year, but the next one is not being called the “2nd.” Last year, four “players” took part, one of them being the AI program DeepZenGo. First place was taken by Park Junghwan of Korea, 2nd by Mi Yuting of China, 3rd by DeepZenGo, and 4th by Iyama Yuta. Next year, six players will take part: two from Japan, two from Korea, one from China, and one from Chinese Taipei. Note that Korea is not being favored over China. As host country, Japan gets two slots (the host country gets more seats in many international tournaments); Korea gets two because the previous winner, Park, is seeded (as in the TV Asia tournament). The other participants will be: Iyama Yuta and the winner of a qualifying tournament open to the top four place-getters (after Iyama) in the prize-money rankings for Japan; Shin Jinseo 8P for Korea; Ke Jie for China; and Wang Yuanjun 8P for Chinese Taipei. The time allowance will be three hours per player, with the last five minutes being allotted to byo-yomi. Games will start at 10:30 a.m. and there will be no break for lunch. Prizes are: 1st, \20,0000,000 (about $182,000); 2nd, \5,000,000; 3rd & 4th, \2,50,000; 5th & 6th, \1,000,000. Park and Iyama will be seeded into the second round.

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