by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal
Fujisawa wins 29th Women’s Meijin League: The last league game of 2016 was played on December 22. Suzuki Ayumi 7P (W) beat Sakakibara Fumiko 6P by resig. The final round of the league was held on January 12. Only two players were still in the running for league victory: Fujisawa Rina (below), on 5-0, and Okuda Aya 3P, on 4-1. Okuda needed to win herself and to have Fujisawa lose; there are no play-offs in this league, so, as the higher-ranked player, she would then come first. As it turned out, the gap widened. Fujisawa (W) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8P by 3.5 points (right), so she finished with a perfect 6-0 and won the league. Okuda lost to Suzuki Ayumi 7P (W) by resig., so she ended up on 4-2, which was good enough for 2nd place. In the third game played, Ishii Akane (W) beat Sakakibara Fumiko by resig. This will be Fujisawa’s first challenge for this title. Xie Yimin is a formidable opponent in the Women’s Kisei and has won it nine times in a row. She is aiming to become the first woman player to hold a title for ten years in a row. The first game will be played on March 1.
Kono makes good start in Kisei challenge, Iyama evens the score: Iyama Yuta was immediately under pressure as the 41st Kisei title match got off to a start. For the third time in his last four title matches, he lost the opening game.
The first game was played at the Sagi-no-yu-so, a traditional Japanese inn in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture on January 14 and 15. Holding a title game on Saturday and Sunday is a little unusual, especially playing on a Sunday. The reason was probably that Iyama (right) is even busier than last year, as now he has Meijin League games to fit into his schedule. Iyama drew black in the nigiri, and the game started at 9 am. At first play was peaceful but slow, as each side tried to frustrate the opponent’s plans. With his 32nd move, a shoulder hit on the 5th line, Kono set out to erase Black’s moyo, provoking an attack by Iyama with move 37. Move 39 was the sealed move, played at 4:56 pm.
On the second day, Kono counterattacked and succeeded in linking up his group under attack. Iyama apparently gained a little from this exchange. Iyama had the lead in territory, but Kono bided his time, building thickness, then staked the game on a double attack on two black groups with move 94. Black managed to survive this attack, but during the course of subsequent fighting, Iyama suffered a hallucination that let White cut off and capture seven black stones in the centre. That decided the issue.
Kono: “I was not confident in my prospects when I attacked, but when I captured the seven stones I could see my way to a win. There were also bad points in my play, but I was able to fight all out.”
Iyama: “I didn’t know the correct way to save my center stones. I fought my hardest, so this result can’t be helped.”
The second game was played at the Sasa-no-ya, another traditional Japanese inn, in Kikuchi City, Kumamoto Prefecture on January 22 (another Sunday) and 23. Once again, Kono found himself attempting to reduce a moyo early in the game
(move 19). Later, with 69, Kono switched to White’s top left corner, but Iyama ignored him in favor of splitting Black’s bottom right position into two. This enabled him to capture three stones and take the lead in territory. There was a lot more action after that, with Kono making a fierce attack and playing do-or-die moves, but Iyama took care of his weak groups with precise play and maintained his lead. The game ended after 301 moves, and White scored a win by 5.5 points.
Iyama: “When the centre clash concluded, I realized that I looked like winning by a little. I made a mistake in the first game, so right to the end I focused on not making another.”
Kono: “I was behind in territory, so I thought I had no choice but to fight [at the top]. Perhaps there was a better way to attack in the centre.”
The third game will be played on February 8 and 9.
Tomorrow: Xie starts well in Women’s Kisei, Nyu catches up; Cho U wins 900th game