American Go E-Journal

The Power Report: Shibano takes lead in Meijin title match; Seats filled in the new Honinbo League; China dominates 4th Nie Weiping tournament

Tuesday September 27, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Shibano takes lead in Meijin title match

Shibano Toramaru 9-dan at left

In the 47th Meijin title match, the challenger, Shibano Toramaru 9-dan, has made a good start, taking a 2-1 lead over the defending Meijin, Iyama Yuta. However, Shibano had the bitter experience of taking a 3-1 lead over Iyama in the Honinbo title match last year without being able to win the title, so he won’t be counting his chickens. So far, Shibano has played five title matches with Iyama and won only of them. They are: the 67th Oza (2019), which Shibano, the challenger, won 3-1; the 45th Meijin (2020), which Iyama, the challenger, won 4-1; the 75th Honinbo (2020), which Iyama defended 4-1; the 76th Honinbo (2021), which Iyama defended 4-3; the 69th Oza title (2021), which Iyama defended 3-2.

The first game was played in the customary venue for opening games in recent years, the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, on August 24 and 25. Shibano drew black in the nigiri. In the opening, he played less aggressively than usual, storing up strength instead. This seems to have let Iyama secure a small territorial lead. Shibano kept on playing patiently, so White’s territorial lead became decisive. Black made use of his thickness to launch an all-out attack on a large, weak white group, which Black had surrounded on a large scale. However, Iyama found the perfect move to rescue this group. Black kept attacking it and reduced it to one eye, but in the end, he found that he had to give up one of his own attacking groups or let White link up. Shibano resigned after 152. In effect, he didn’t get a chance to use his stored-up strength to full advantage.

The second game was played at the Todaya, a long-established traditional inn in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, on September 5 and 6. Shibano (W) played very boldly in the early middle game, making an invasion in which he used 11 stones as a sacrifice. However, the limited compensation he got on the outside didn’t seem to justify the sacrifice. Iyama maintained a lead throughout most of the middle game, but he went wrong in an invasion into White’s moyo. In a position in which there were only two feasible moves, he chose the wrong one. Shibano took profit from attacking the group, enabling him to upset Black’s lead; in the end, he no longer needed to kill the group. Black resigned after White 220.

The third game was played at the Hotel Agora Osaka Moriguchi in Moriguchi City, Osaka Prefecture, on September 15 and 16. As in the previous two games, Iyama (W) took the early lead in territory and staked the game on a shinogi strategy, that is, on being able to rescue groups in trouble. Shibano again built thickness. The game was very close all the way through. Perhaps it became slightly favorable for Black when he walled off one side of a center moyo by sacrificing a few stones in sente. A little later, he had the option of attacking a vulnerable white group, but there would have been uncertainties involved. Shibano calculated that a peaceful enclosing move would retain a small lead. His calculations in choosing this safety-first move turned out to be correct. Convinced that he was behind, Iyama abruptly resigned after Black 171. The players following the game in the pressroom were astonished—according to their endgame research, Black had a win, but the margin was just half a point. 

For the second time in a best-of-seven, Shibano had the lead over Iyama, but he was well aware that the match had only just started. The fourth game will be played on October 6 and 7.

Seats filled in the new Honinbo League

The first seat in the 78th Honinbo League was decided on August 18 in a game held at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in, Fujita Akihiko 7-dan (B) beat Ida Atsushi 8-dan, a former Honinbo challenger (the 69th term), by resig. Fujita will make his debut in a league.

The second seat was decided on August 25. Motoki Katsuya 8-dan (W) beat Cho U 9-dan by resig. Motoki regained his seat immediately after dropping out. Cho U failed to make a comeback after an absence of six years.

The remaining two seats were decided on September 8. Tsuruyama Atsushi 8-dan (B) beat Hirata Tomoya 7-dan by resig., securing a seat in the Honinbo League for the third year in a row. Otake Yu 6-dan (W) beat Fujisawa Rina by resig. Otake will make his debut in a big-three league (Kisei S, Meijin, Honinbo); he earned an automatic promotion to 7-dan. Unfortunately, Fujisawa Rina missed her second chance to be the first woman player to enter a top league—three years ago she lost a play-off to enter the Meijin League to Ichiriki Ryo. 

The new league will start in October.

China dominates 4th Nie Weiping tournament

The Nie Weiping Cup Youth Masters, named after the legendary Chinese player who dominated international go in the 1980s, is an unofficial tournament for 16 young players from the four Far Eastern countries with professional systems. The tournament is open to players born on January 1, 2002, or later. The time allowance is one hour plus byo-yomi of 30 seconds a move. The first two rounds were held on the net on August 27. In the opening round, China fielded eight players, who won seven games; Wen of Korea was the only one to dent their record and he was eliminated in the next round.

Results are given below. The dates of the semifinals and the final have not yet been decided. First prize is 250,000 yuan (about $35,100).

(Round 1)  Zheng Zaixiang 4-dan (China) beat Xu Jing’en 4-dan (Chinese Taipei); Li Haotong 4-dan (China) beat Lee 4-dan (Korea); Tu Xiaoyu 7-dan (China) beat Kweon 4-dan (Korea); Wen Minzhong 5-dan (Korea) beat Wang Chunhui 2-dan (China); Zhou Hongyu 6-dan (B) beat Miura Taro 2-dan (Japan) by resig.; Zhang Baiqing 2-dan (China) beat Sakai Yuki 3-dan (Japan) by 5.5 points; Jin Yucheng 4-dan (China) (B) beat Fukuoka Kotaro 3-dan (Japan) by resig.; Wang Xinghao 7-dan (China) beat Lai Junfu 7-dan (Ch. Taipei).

(Round 2) Li beat Zheng; Tu beat Wen; Zhang beat Zhou; Wang beat Jin.

(Semifinal pairings) Li v. Tu, Zhang v. Wang

Tomorrow: Yo to challenge Iyama for Oza; Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; New youngest player at Nihon Ki-in; Shibano wins Kisei S League