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The Power Report: December updates

Monday December 30, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama loses Oza, keeps Tengen

   Iyama Yuta started the year with five titles, but ended it with only three. Like the previous year, he lost two titles, but he remains the number one player even in his 30s.

   The fourth game of the 67th Oza title match was played at the Ginbaso inn in Nishiura Hot Spring in Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture, on November 29. Taking white, Shibano Toramaru Meijin (left) beat Iyama Yuta (right) by half a point. This gave him a lead of 3-1, so he took the title. The first half of the game focused on a struggle by Black to secure life for a group inside White’s sphere of influence. Shibano’s attack was more severe than Iyama had expected: he seemed to read more deeply in this fight. He discarded a group while capturing the tail of Black’s group in sente, so he took the lead here. However, he made a slip later that let Black catch up. The game was decided by the final half-point ko: Black didn’t have enough threats to win it.

   This is Shibano’s second title, so he has clearly established himself as Japan’s number two. Shibano: “There were many difficult positions and tough fights [in the series]. I was lucky to win.” Iyama: “Shibano has developed into a player who can represent Japan. I expect even bigger things from him. [As for being reduced to three titles,] I would like to commend myself for having been able to secure good results over a long period. Going by my recent form, this loss can’t be helped.”

   Iyama came to the fourth game of the 45th Tengen title match in the same position as in the Oza: down 1-2 to a youthful challenger. Kyo Kagen (aged 21) was also the player who put an end to his second grand slam when he beat Iyama 3-0 in the 43rd Gosei title. The 4th game was played at the Hotel New Awaji, a hot spring hotel in Sumoto City, Hyogo Prefecture, on December 9. Taking black, Iyama forced a resignation after 177 moves. This game started with the large avalanche joseki, which was the king of the josekis in the 70s. Kyo got a bad result, with his outside influence not being a match for Black’s territory. Kyo narrowed the gap with some good play later, but Iyama kept the initiative and scored a comfortable win.

   The fifth game was played at the Tokushima Grandvrio Hotel in Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture, on December 18. Kyo drew black in the nigiri. The game was a spectacular one: Kyo fell behind, so he started a fight to the death between two large groups; Iyama outplayed him, saving his group and securing the lead. The game ended in a large capturing race that Kyo lost, so he resigned after move 234.

   Incidentally, ever since he won the Honinbo title in 2012, Iyama has always held at least three titles. 

Nakamura Sumire beats 9-dan, is top new 1-dan

   Ten-year-old Sumire is continuing to enjoy good results, scoring a win against a 9-dan, but her winning streak against male professionals has come to an end. Details of her games since my previous report are given below, but first let’s look at an honor she earned off the go board. A meeting of go-linked media representatives to choose the 37th Japan Igo Journalists Club Prize was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on November 26, and, not surprisingly, the unanimous choice was Sumire. There were other landmark performances by young players—for example, Shibano Toramaru’s becoming the first teenaged Meijin and Ueno Asami’s becoming the first woman to reach the final of a tournament open to male and female players—but they did not match the impact Sumire had on both the go world and the general public. The citation read: “[Sumire] attracted attention as the youngest professional in history and has had outstanding results since becoming 1-dan. Her success is worthy of the Special Promotion System.” 

   In a game in the second round of the 45th Kisei preliminary tournament, played at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in on November 28, Sumire (W) beat Baba Shigeru 9P (aged 71) by resignation after 260 moves. This took her official record to 13-5 and was her seventh win in a row against male players. After the game, she said: “I thought it was bad for me.” Baba commented: “She played tenaciously at the end. I think the lead changed hands two or three times in the endgame.” Three more wins in the Kisei will secure a seat in the C League, which would be quite a coup.

   The sponsors of the 2nd Wu Qingyuan (Go Seigen) tournament arranged as a side event a best-of-three match between Sumire and Wu Yiming 2P of China. It had the grand title of the Japan-China Women Super New Stars Invitational Best-of-Three. The result was a 2-0 win for Wu, who had just turned 13. This victory won her a seeded place in the 3rd Cup next year. The games were played in the Wu Qingyuan Hall in Fuzhou City, which is the hometown of Wu Qingyuan, in Fujian Province on December 2 and 3. Taking black, Wu won the first game by resignation; in the second game, Wu (W) won by 2.5 points. Sumire’s parents accompanied her on the trip, and her father, Shinya 9P, commented: “Overall, she showed all her strength. This result reflects her present level.” Sumire again attracted a lot of attention and a photo of her was used for the cover of the weiqi magazine Weiqi Universe. Incidentally, her opponent Wu became 1-dan last year in the Chinese qualifying tournament; she was one of 14 women who were successful. This year another 12 women made it, but Wu is still the youngest female player in China. (These games are not counted by the Nihon Ki-in as official games; just guessing, but the reason might be that, as invitational games, they are not in a tournament open to other women players.)

   On December 9, Sumire played Hane Ayaka 1P in the preliminary tournament for the 7th Aizu Central Hospital Women’s Hollyhock Cup. Taking black, Sumire won by 7.5 points after 290 moves. Her record against Hane, daughter of Hane Naoki Gosei, is now 2-0. She needs two more wins to get a seat in the main tournament. The game was played at the Nagoya Nihon Ki-in.

   On the 12th, Sumire played Komatsu Daiki 3P in Preliminary B of the 59th Judan tournament. Taking black, she lost by resignation after 202 moves. This put an end to her winning streak against male players. 

   On December 16, Sumire played Nyu Eiko 2P in one of the finals of the preliminary round of the 45th King of the New Stars tournament. Nyu (W) won by 6.5 points. The game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo.

   On December 19, Sumire played Takatsu Masaaki 1P in the preliminary tournament of the 45th Kisei tournament. Taking white, Sumire won by resignation after 294 moves. 

   On December 23, Sumire played Tafu Kae 3-dan of the Kansai Ki-on in the preliminary round of the 5th Senko Cup. Taking white, she won by resignation after 224 moves. The game was played at the Kansai Ki-in. Two more wins will secure her a seat in the main tournament, in which the top 16 women players compete.

   Sumire’s last official game of the year was played at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in preliminary C of the 46th Meijin tournament on December 26. Her opponent was Yamada Wakio 7P, younger brother of Yamada Shiho 7P, whom she beat in October (their younger brother is Yamada Kimio 9P). Taking white, she secured a resignation after 144 moves. Actually her opponent had the lead, but, according to Ishii Kunio 9P, “as if entranced, he played a move he shouldn’t have,” so she pulled off an upset. This result was reported on at least 11 different news sites on the Net,  

   Sumire’s record for the first “year” (actually nine months) of her career was 17-7, a winning record of 70.8%. These stats were the best of the 13 new 1-dans who debuted in 2019. That’s a remarkable performance, and no one can claim to have foreseen it. In an interview after the award ceremony for the above-mentioned press prize, held on December 17, Sumire commented: “I won more than I expected, so I’m happy Becoming a pro and being able to travel to China and Taiwan for games was great. I’ll do my best to get stronger next year.” Her first 2020 game is on January 13. She plans to attend a summer camp in Japan at the end of December and to make a study trip to Korea in the new year.

Choi wins 2nd Wu Qingyuan Cup

   The semifinals and finals of the 2nd Wu Qingyuan Cup World Women’s Championship were held in the Wu Qingyuan Hall in Fuzhou City in Fujian Province. Fuzhou was the birthplace of Wu Qingyuan (Go Seigen). As reported in the June 23 issue of this journal, three Chinese and one Korean made the best four. In the semifinals, held on November 30, Choi Jeong 9P (Korea) beat Li He 5P and Wang Chenxing 5P beat Rui Naiwei 9P. The latter was apparently an epic game. The 28-year-old Wang became well known when she won the 4th Bingsheng Cup in 2013. She married Liu Xing 7P and after having a baby in 2017, became famous for taking it with her around the country as she played in the women’s team league. The 55-year-old Rui, who has won 13 women’s titles, seemed to have a sure win, but Wang fought back, securing a four-approach-move ko, usually quite disadvantageous (she had to add four stones before it became an immediate ko), for a group of hers that had been captured. Somehow she pulled off an upset. Rui was bitterly disappointed: as a disciple of Wu’s, she would have loved to win this tournament.

   The final is a best-of-three. On December 2, Choi (W) beat Chen by resig. and on the 3rd, Choi (B) again won by resig., so she took the title 2-0. First prize is worth 500,000 yuan (about $71,500). Choi has also won the Bingsheng title four times. She confirmed her standing as the world’s number one woman player.

Cho U wins Japan-China Kiriyama Play-off

   The 21st Japan-China Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-off was held at the Guangzhou Garden Hotel in Guangzhou City in China on December 3. Taking white, Cho U 9P (Japan) beat Fan Tingyu 9P (China) by 1.5 points after 300 moves. This is the first win for Japan in four years and its sixth overall. It is also Cho’s first win in five appearances.

Suzuki to challenge for Women’s Kisei

   The play-off to decide the challenger to Ueno Asami for the 23rd Women’s Kisei title was held in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in on December 5. Playing white, Suzuki Ayumi 7P beat Nyu Eiko 2P by resignation. Suzuki will be making her first challenge for this title and playing in her first title match since 2015. The best-of-three will get off to a start on January 16.

75th Honinbo League

   After three rounds, league debutant Kyo Kagen 8P has the sole lead with 3-0. He is followed by four players with one loss. Recent results: 

(Dec. 5) Hane Naoki Gosei (W) beat Shibano Toramaru Meijin by resig.; Ichiriki Ryo 8P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by half a point; Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Yokotsuka Riki 7P by resig.

(Dec. 19) Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Shida Tatsuya 8P by 2.5 points.

45th Meijin League

    The new Meijin League got off to a start on December 12. Ichiriki Ryo (B) beat the previous Meijin Cho U 9P by resig.; Hane Naoki (W) beat Yamashita Keigo by 2.5 points; and Kyo Kagen (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig. The first round was concluded on December 26, when Iyama Yuta clashed with Kono Rin, who will challenge him for the Kisei title in January. The result was a convincing win for Iyama, who, playing black, forced a resignation after 161 moves. Kono will have to rethink his strategy over the New Year.

Ueno sets women’s record

    In a game played on December 26 in Preliminary C of the 46th Meijin tournament, Ueno Asami (aged 18) (B) beat Mitsunaga Junzo 6P by half a point. This was her 44th win (to 25 losses), so she broke the record for most wins by a woman player set by Fujisawa Rina last year. She also maintained her third place in the most-wins list.

First pros from Southeast Asia

   The Winter Qualifying Tournament for new professionals next year was held in October and November and concluded on November 24. Usually the top two place-getters qualify as 1-dan, but for players from outside the Far East there is a rule, known as the Special Qualification for Overseas Citizens, according to which a 50-50 score earns you the status of a probationary 1-dan. Two players have just qualified under this rule. They are Chang Fu Kang of Malaysia and Fitra Rafif Shidoki (this spelling is just a guess) of Indonesia. They both scored 9-5 and finished 4th and 5th respectively in the 16-player tournament. Chang was born on January 30, 2003 and is a student of Hong Seisen 4P of the Kansai Ki-in. He learnt go in Shanghai as a preschooler; he wanted to become a pro, but thought that he might have trouble as a Malaysian. Fortunately, he heard about the Nihon Ki-in system and has been studying in Japan since January this year. Fitla was born on August 12, 2002 and has no teacher. He commented: “I want to do well, so people don’t think I’m weaker than regular professionals.” Although his parents are Indonesian, he was actually born and brought up in Tokyo.

   The last player to qualify under this system was Antti Tormanen of Finland four years ago. (Probationary players become full-fledged professionals when they earn promotion to 3-dan, which requires 50 wins. Until then, they receive just half of the regular game fees.) The new pros will start their careers on April 1. 

Promotions

To 9-dan: Omori Yasushi (at right; 200 wins, as of November 29)
To 8-dan: Mochizuki Ken’ichi (150 wins, as of December 13)
To 3-dan: Oomote Takuto (40 wins, as of December 20) 

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The Power Report: A gain and a loss for women’s go; Ida defends Crown; Hirata wins Young Carp; Promotion; Obituaries

Saturday December 7, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

A gain and a loss for women’s go
Let’s give the bad news first. The sponsors of the Women’s Meijin tournament have announced that they are terminating the tournament. The current titleholder, Fujisawa Rina, will officially hold the title until the end of March 2020. No reason was given.
The good news: The Nihon Ki-in has announced the founding of a new tournament, the Hakata Kamachi Cup Women’s Open Tournament. It will be open to all women professionals in Japan. A preliminary round will start in December to choose the 16 players to compete in the main tournament, which will be held from February to April next year. The semifinals, final, and play-off for third place will be held in Fukuoka on April 13 and 14. First prize is 7,000,000 yen (about $65,000), second 2,000,000, third 1,000,000, and fourth 600,000 yen. The main sponsor is the Medical Corporation Saitama Giant Tree Association (Kyoju no Kai); chairman of its board is Kamachi Ken’ichi, who lends his name to the tournament. As far as I can work, the association’s main business is running the New Kuki (City) General Hospital. This is the second women’s tournament with a medical sponsor, following the Hollyhock Cup, which is sponsored by the Aizu Central Hospital.

Ida defends Crown
The Crown (Okan) title is open to members of the Central Japan or Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in. This year the challenger was Ogata Masaki 9P, who won this title from 1988 to 1991. In the final, played on October 20, Ida Atsushi Okan drew white and won by 1.5 points, winning the title for the fourth year in a row. First prize is 1,700,000 yen (about $15,700).

Hirata wins Young Carp
The Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp tournament is open to players 30 and under and 7-dan and under. The final of the 14th Cup was held at the Central Japan Newspaper Building in Hiroshima on November 24. Hirata Tomoya 7P (W) beat Matsuura Yuta 7P by 3.5 points. Hirata is a fitting winner, as he hails from Hiroshima. First prize is 3,000,000 yen (nearly $28,000).

Promotion
To 9-dan: Ko Iso (200 wins, as of Nov. 4.)

Obituaries
Izumitani Masanori
Died of prostate cancer on October 18, aged 77. Born on January 3, 1942 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Became a disciple of Ito Tomoe 7P. Qualified as 1-dan in 1961, reached 7-dan in 1996. Retired in 2018 and promoted to 8-dan. His son is Hideo 8P. His disciples include Konagai Masaru 8P. Izumitani was a director of the Overseas Dep’t. of the Nihon Ki-in for a number of years and also made some instructional tours overseas, including attending the 3rd Go congress at Mt. Holyoke in 1987 as the official representative of the Nihon Kiin.

Ogawa Tomoko
Ogawa Tomoko 6P died in a Tokyo hospital of an undisclosed illness on November 15. According to the Nihon Ki-in, she had been suffering from lower back problems since October and had taken official leave of absence as of October 30. She had returned home after a hospital stay, but her condition suddenly worsened on the 14th.
She was born in Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture, on April 1, 1951, but spent her childhood in Nagoya. She learnt go from her father at the age of 6. She became well known when she won the All-Japan Amateur Women’s Championship at the age of 14; her pageboy hairstyle (okappa) or bob cut added to her fame—she was called, not quite accurately, “the okappa Honinbo.” In 1966, after finishing junior high, she became a disciple of Kitani Minoru. She made 1-dan in 1970 and was promoted to 6-dan in 1995. She won four women’s titles (in the days when there were fewer of them): the 25th Women’s Championship in 1979 and the 26th in 1980; the Women’s Honinbo in 1986; and the Women’s Kakusei Cup in 1987. She became even better known to the public when she served as assistant commentator on the NHK Cup for ten years. In 2008, she became the second woman professional (after Sugiuchi Kazuko) to win 500 games. In 1977, she married the actor Yamamoto Kei, who had taken go lessons from her. They appeared together in a number of TV commercials. She served for two years as president of the Professional Go Players Association and for six years as a Nihon Ki-in director. She published life-and-death problems continuously for 29 years in the Sports Hochi newspaper. She was the author of many books, including the Ishi Press book “The Endgame,” written with James Davies. She was one of the most popular professionals and whatever she did, she always looked serene and competent.

This post has been updated to reflect Izumitani Masanori’s attendance at the 1987 U.S. Go Congress.

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The Power Report: New members of Meijin League; Ko Iso wins 2nd SGW Cup; Lee Se-dol announces retirement

Friday December 6, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

New members of Meijin League
Four of the eight members of the Honinbo League drop out each year but only three of the nine members of the Meijin League. That makes it a good league to get into, as you have a better chance of keeping your place. The new members for the 45th league have recently been decided. On October 31, Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Mimura Tomoyasu 9P by resig. in the play-off for a place. The 21-year-old Kyo has been a top player for a couple of years now, but he will be making his debut in this league. He also has seats in the Kisei S League and the Honinbo League. He is the first player younger than Iyama Yuta to have seats in all three top leagues.
The second seat was decided on November 7. Rin Kanketsu 8P (W) beat Adachi Toshimasa 6P by 2.5 points. Rin makes a comeback to the league after a gap of seven years.
The play-off for the third seat, played on November 18, was the one that attracted most attention, as it featured a clash between the top woman player, Fujisawa Rina, and one of the top younger players (= post-Iyama), Ichiriki Ryo. So far, no woman player had secured a seat in a league. Fujisawa was in outstanding form and won eight games in a row in this tournament to reach the play-off. However, she was no match for Ichiriki. Playing white, she did give him a scare with a bold counterattack in a bad position, but in the end she had to resign after 241 moves. Ichiriki will make his debut in the Meijin League. 

Ko Iso wins 2nd SGW Cup
The SGW Cup: Golden Mean Tournament is open to players from 31 to 60 who have not won a title. The main tournament is a four-round Swiss for the 16 players who won seats through the preliminary tournament. It was held on November 3 and 4. Ko Iso 9P scored 4-0 and won his first official title. First prize is 2,000,000 yen (about $18,500).

Lee Se-dol announces retirement
If Lee Chang-ho was the top player of the 1990s, Lee Se-dol, with 18 international victories, was clearly the top player of the first decade and a half of this century. The peak of his career came with his 6-2 victory in the only modern jubango, playing Gu Li, in 2014. He underestimated the strength of the first AI go-playing program AlphaGo and was chagrined to lose 1-4, but in retrospect winning a game in the match came to be seen as a triumph, as he is the only player to beat one of the Alpha programs. He is still only 35, but he has brought down the curtain on his go career. It is not a surprise, as he has hinted retirement was coming and he took a lengthy leave of absence a while back.

Tomorrow: A gain and a loss for women’s go; Ida defends Crown; Promotion; Obituaries

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The Power Report: Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo; Choi wins Bingsheng Cup; Kono to challenge for Kisei

Thursday December 5, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo
As described in my previous report, Fujisawa Rina made a good start in her defense of her Women’s Honinbo title, winning the first game, played on October 9, by 3.5 points, but that turned out to be her sole win of the series. The second game was played at the “old inn” Kaneyu in Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture, on October 27. Taking black, Fujisawa made a fierce attack on a white group and seemed on the verge of winning when Ueno made an exquisite counterattack, which she followed up with a superb shinogi (rescue operation) for an endangered group. Black resigned after 158 moves.
In the third game, played at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, on November 6, Fujisawa again took the lead, but Ueno was able to stage an upset by starting a complicated ko fight. Fujisawa resigned after 235 moves.
The fourth game was played at the same venue on November 15. Ueno (W) won by resignation after 200 moves, so she took the title and the first prize of 5,500,000 yen (about $51,000). Once again, Fujisawa seemed to have the advantage at one stage, but Ueno again complicated the game by setting up a ko. Fujisawa ignored a ko threat that turned out to be more potent than she had expected. White was able to live inside her territory, so she had to resign.
The women’s go world is now dominated by two players: the 18-year-old Ueno with this title and the Women’s Kisei and the 21-year-old Fujisawa with the Women’s Hollyhock Cup, the Women’s Meijin, and the Senko Cup.
Note. In my previous report, I mentioned that Ueno was the first woman to top the most-wins list. On Oct. 11, Shibano Toramaru displaced Ueno at number one, and the following week Ichiriki Ryo pushed her down to third position, which she has since maintained. She was number one for four months.

Choi wins Bingsheng Cup
The 10th Qionglong Mountain Bingsheng Cup World Women’s Weiqi Championship was held in Suzhou City in China in late October. Three players from Japan took part in the 16-player tournament. Xie Yimin 6P and Ueno Asami 3P were eliminated in the first round, but Fujisawa Rina 4P made the semifinals. This is the best result so far by a Japanese woman player in this tournament and the best internationally for 12 years. Incidentally, the player who beat her in the semifinal, Zhou Hongyu, is just 17 years old and is the winner of the Chinese King of the New Stars title, which is open to male and female participants. The cup was won by Choi Jeong 9P of Korea for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall. Her prize is 300,000 yuan (about $42,600). Results are given below. (The time allowance is two hours each, with the last five minutes going to byo-yomi.)

Round 1 (October 30)
Lu Minquan 5P (China) (B) beat Yang Zixuan 3P (Chinese Taipei) by resig.
Yu Zhiying 6P (China) (B) beat Oh Yoojin 7P (Korea) by resig.
Zhou Hongyu 5P (China) (W) beat Ueno Asami 3P (Japan) by resig.
Wang Chengxing 5P (W) beat Cho Seungah 3P (Korea) by resig.
Li He 5P (China) (B) beat Hei JiaJia 7P (Oceania) by resig.
Fujisawa Rina 4P (Japan) (W) beat Stephanie Yin (Yin Mingming) 1P (North America) by resig.
Choi Jeong 9P (Korea) (B) beat Ariane Ougier 4D (Europe) by resig.
Rui Naiwei 9P (China) (W) beat Xie Yimin 6P (Japan) by 1.5 points.

Round 2 (October 31)
Fujisawa (W) beat Lu by resig.
Choi (B) beat Yu by 1.5 points.
Zhou (B) beat Wang by resig.
Rui (W) beat Li by resig.

Semifinals (November 1)
Choi (B) beat Rui by resig.; Zhou (W) beat Fujisawa by resig.

Final (November 3)
Choi (B) beat Zhou by resig.

Kono to challenge for Kisei
Ichiriki Ryo enjoyed superb form in this year’s Kisei tournament, winning all seven of his league games and then three in a row in the final knock-out tournament that decides the challenger, including a win over Kono Rin in the first game of the final “best-of-three.” In contrast, Kono scored only 3-2 in the S League and had to rely on his higher rank to come out on top in a four-way tie. As winner of the S League, however, he started with a one-win advantage, so he had to win only one game, which he did. Incidentally, because this match is in theory a best-of-three (in practice, it’s limited to two games), nigiri to choose colors was held before both games. Kono also challenged for the Kisei in 2017, but lost 2-4 to Iyama. He also lost by the same score in this year’s Honinbo title match and the 2014 Meijin title match, so his first task is to break the third-win barrier. Iyama has held the Kisei for seven years in a row; one more successful defense and he will match Kobayashi Koichi’s record. The match will start on January 9.

Full results in the final knock-out stage (the first result is repeated from my previous report):
(Oct. 9) Suzuki Shinji (winner of C League) (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P (winner of B Leagues) by 5.5 points.
(Oct. 21) Ichiriki (winner of A League) (B) beat Suzuki by resig.
(Nov. 4) Ichiriki (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P (2nd in S League) by resig.
(Nov. 11) Ichiriki (B) beat Kono (winner of S League) by 2.5 points.
(Nov. 14) Kono (W) beat Ichiriki by resig., making his score 2-1.

Tomorrow: New members of Meijin League; Ko Iso wins 2nd SGW Cup; Lee Se-dol announces retirement

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The Power Report: Nong Shim Cup: Yang wins seven in a row; Hane wins 1,000th game; Shibano leads in Oza

Wednesday December 4, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Nong Shim Cup: Yang wins seven in a row

The opening round of the 21st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Beijing in mid-October and the second round being played in Korea late in November. China has made the best start, with their top batter, Yang Dingxin, remaining undefeated almost to the end of the second of the second round. Iyama Yuta was finally able to put a stop to his seemingly irresistible progress. The third sround will start in Shanghai on February 17, with Iyama playing Park Junghwan of Korea. Both Japan and Korea are down to their last player, while China still has four in the shed. Results of the first two rounds:

Round One (Beijing)
Game 1 (Oct. 15). Weon Seongjin 9P (Korea) (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game 2 (Oct. 16). Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Weon by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 17). Yang (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) by 3.5 points.
Game 4 (Oct. 18). Yang (B) beat Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) by resig.

Round Two (Busan).
Game 5 (Nov. 22). Yang (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P (Japan) by resig.
Game 6 (Nov. 23). Yang (W) beat Lee Donghoon 9P (Korea) by 1.5.
Game 7 (Nov. 24). Yang (W) beat Kyo Kagen 8P (Japan) by resig.
Game 8 (Nov. 25). Yang (W) beat Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) by resig.
Game 9 (Nov. 26). Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (B) beat Yang by resig.

Hane wins 1,000th game
On October 24, Hane Naoki (B) beat Katayama Yasuo 8P by resig. in Preliminary A of the 61st Crown (Okan) title and became the 27th player to win 1,000 games. He had 520 losses, 3 jigo, and 1 no-contest, for a winning percentage of 65.6. It took him 28 years six months, which is the fourth fastest (Yamashita Keigo’s 25 years seven months is the fastest). At 43 years two months, he is the fifth youngest (record was set by Yuki Satoshi at 39 years two months).

Shibano leads in Oza
Shibano Toramaru’s prospects of becoming a multiple title-holder look good, as he has taken the lead in his challenge to Iyama Yuta for the 67th Oza title. This is the first title match between these two. To date, they had played only one game; this was in the Meijin League in February this year, and it was won by Shibano. The first Oza game was held at the Westin Hotel Osaka in Osaka City on October 25. This is Iyama’s home ground, but, playing black, Shibano won by half a point after 271 moves. The game was close throughout, as attested by an AI program that players following the game referred to. Iyama did not make any obvious mistakes, but Shibano edged him in the endgame.

The second and third games were played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on November 16 and 18. In the second game, Iyama (black) evened the score, forcing a resignation after 211 moves. He convincingly outplayed the challenger, so this win should have bolstered his confidence, but . . . In the third game, Shibano won by 1.5 points after 262 moves. This was a tough game for Shibano, so he had to fight tenaciously. The fourth game is scheduled for December 9. Iyama is facing kadobans in two title matches.

Tomorrow: Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo; Choi wins Bingsheng Cup; Kono to challenge for Kisei

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The Power Report: New Honinbo League; Kyo leads in Tengen; Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

Tuesday December 3, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

New Honinbo League

The 75th Honinbo League got off to a start on October 10 and has now completed the second round. Two players got off to good starts: Kyo Kagen and Shida Tatsuya, both on 2-0.

Results to date:

(Oct. 10) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Yokotsuka Riki 7P by resig.
(Oct. 17) Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(Oct. 24) Shida Tatsuya 8P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 6.5 points.
(Oct. 31) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P by resig.
(Nov. 7) Kyo (W) beat Yamashita by resig.; Ichiriki (W) beat Hane by resig.
(Nov. 14) Shida (B) beat Yokotsuka by resig.
(Nov. 21) Shibano (W) beat Kono by resig.

Kyo leads in Tengen

Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan), the challenger, got off to a good start against Iyama Yuta in the 45th Tengen title match. The first game was played at the Miyako Hotel Gifu Nagaragawa in Gifu City in the prefecture of the same name on October 11. Taking black, Kyo won by resignation after 179 moves. Kyo played boldly, building a moyo by walling off the center, but Iyama invaded and skillfully lived in the center, giving him the lead. However, he later played some dubious moves, so Kyo took the lead back. Again, both sides made mistakes, but Iyama made the last one; he lost a group and had to resign.

The second game was played at the Niseko Hot Spring Ikoino Yuyado Iroha (the latter part of the name means “Relaxation Hot Water Inn ABC”) in the town of Niseko in Abuta County, Hokkaido, on October 21. The game started out with solid play by both, but Iyama (black) accelerated in the middle game, so Kyo fell behind. Kyo was unable to make a dent in his lead, so he resigned after 161 moves. This was Iyama’s first win over Kyo in a title match (he lost the Gosei title 0-3 to him last year).

The third game was played at the Hotel Marital Sousei Kurume in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture, on November 22, so there was a gap of a month in the match. Kyo (black) drew ahead in a melee late in the middle game and won by resignation after 157 moves. He needs just one more win to take the title. The fourth game will be played on December 9.

Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

The 6th Gratitude Cup International Young Stars Igo Tournament was held in Shima City, Mie Prefecture, on October 14 and 15, with five-player teams from Japan, China, Korea, and Chinese Taipei taking part. So far, the domestic and international Gratitude Cups have all been played in Ise City, but this year it moved to the Shima Mediterranean Village, a resort with white houses and red roofs designed to look Mediterranean. Despite the new venue, the result was the same as last year, with the final order being Korea, China, Japan, and Chinese Taipei. In the first section of the tournament, the teams all play each other; the top two proceed to the final and the bottom two to a play-off for third place. Again like last year, China had the best record in the first section with three team wins, but Korea beat it 3-2 in the final. In the third game in the first section, Japan started well against Korea, with Shibano Toramaru beating Shin Minjun on board one and Fujisawa Rina prevailing over the world’s number one woman player, Choi Jeong, but they got no support from the other players.

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The Power Report: Sakata and Cho Nam-chul enter Hall of Fame; Sumire continues to do well; Ichiriki does well in MLily Cup

Monday December 2, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Sakata and Cho Nam-chul enter Hall of Fame

The Go Hall of Fame committee met on October 8 to choose new players to be elected to the go pantheon. This was the 16th induction and two players were chosen: Sakata Eio (23rd Honinbo Eiju) and Cho Nam-chul 9P, the father of professional go in Korea and the founder of the Korean Baduk Institute (= Ki-in).

Sumire continues to do well

The ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire, the youngest professional ever in modern Japan, continues to enjoy good results. When I submitted my last report, published on October 10, her official record was four wins to two losses. She has now improved that to 12-5, a record that any new professional—seven months have passed since her debut—would be satisfied with. When she was playing—and losing—exhibition games with top players, her elevation to 1-dan may have struck some as premature, but now, competing against members of her peer group, she seems to be in her element. She was, after all, assessed and deemed qualified by top players like Cho U and Kobayashi Satoru, who probably know a thing or two about go talent. Her career is developing rapidly. The number of games you play is one index of your success. The more you win, the more you play: Sumire is now competing at the pace of two games a week. All her games are broadcast on the Nihon Ki-in’s server and usually draw twice as many viewers as other games.

Here are her results since my last report.

On October 10, Sumire lost to Li Xuanhao 7P (B) of China in the first round of the 4th MLily Cup. She had been given a seeded seat as a sponsor’s wild card. One of her groups came under severe attack; she needed to make eye shape, but then she would fall behind in territory, so she gambled and played a big move elsewhere; unfortunately, she was unable to save the group, so she resigned after 149 moves. Sumire is popular overseas and a number of players from other countries played practice games with her. Ko Reibun 7P, the Japanese team captain, reported that in one of these games she played superbly to score a win against Wang Chenxing 5P, one of the top Chinese women players.

On October 17, Sumire played Yamada Shiho 7P in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament (unless otherwise stated, games were played at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka). After 341 moves, Sumire (B) won by 26.5 points.

On October 24, Sumire played Takabayashi Masahiro 7P in Preliminary C of the Honinbo tournament. Taking black, she won by resignation after 173 moves. Sumire turned up for this game wearing glasses, as her sight has declined recently.

On October 28, Sumire (B) beat Tamura Chiaki 3P by resig. in the first round of the preliminary tournament for the 7th Women’s Hollyhock Cup. The game was played at the Kansai Ki-in.

On October 31, Sumire played Takagi Junpei 2P (aged 26) in the preliminary round of the 45th Kisei title. Taking white, she won by resignation after 160 moves. Her opponent took the lead in the first fight, but she hung on tenaciously, then played a life-or-death move that secured her an upset win.

On November 4, Sumire (B) lost to Tsukuda Akiko 5P by 5.5 points in the preliminary for the 39th Women’s Honinbo tournament. At home, before the game, Tsukuda’s children said to her: “You have a tough opponent today.” She maintained parental dignity by prevailing in a 300-move struggle.

On November 7, Sumire (B) beat Tanemura Sayuri 2P by resig. in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament. Her opponent played a little slackly in the early fighting and let her take the initiative. This was her tenth official win to four losses. Sumire: “I reached this mark more quickly than I expected.” She qualified for Preliminary B.

On November 11, Sumire (W) beat Takao Mari 1P by resig. in the preliminary of the 45th King of the New Stars title. The game was played at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in.

On November 14, Sumire (W) beat Udani Shunta 2P by resig. in Preliminary C of the 76th Honinbo tournament. Thanks to a misjudged move by Sumire, Udani took the lead, but late in the game he suffered a hallucination. Sumire picked up a lucky win, but even so Udani commented that she was much stronger—“like a different person”—than when he played her in a study group in May. This was Sumire’s third successive win in Preliminary C, so she qualified for Preliminary B. There she will play Hane Yasumasa 9P, with the winner proceeding to Preliminary A. This game was also her sixth win in a row against male players in official games, a streak which is still alive. (For readers who want to confirm this, the sequence is: Furuta and Yamamoto in my previous report [Oct. 17] and Yamada, Takabayashi, Takagi, and Udani above.

On November 17, the first two rounds of the Young Bamboo (Wakatake) Cup, a tournament open only to players 40 or under at the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka, were held. Sumire lost in the first round to Yoshikawa Hajime 3P. Games in this tournament are (presumably) not official, so this result is not counted in her official tally. (Some corrections to my previous report: The Young Carp became an official tournament as of the 6th Cup in 2011, so Sumire’s win and loss count in her official tally. The date of the games was September 23. Also, the game with Yamamoto Kentaro was on October 3, not October 2.)

Ichiriki does well in MLily Cup

The first three rounds of the 4th MLily Cup World Open Championship (“m” is short for “meng,” which means “dream”) were held at the Chinese Qiyuan (= Ki-in) in Beijing from October 10 to 13. Japan had four representatives taking part; of these, three were eliminated in the first round, but Ichiriki Ryo 8P made it to the quarterfinals, scheduled for March next year. This is the first time for two years that a Japanese player has won three or more games in an international tournament; the last time was the 22nd LG Cup, in which Iyama Yuta won four games and reached the final. Nakamura Sumire was given a wild-card seed by the sponsors; this was her debut in an international tournament.

The Chinese-sponsored tournament was a triumph for China: apart from Ichiriki, all the seven quarterfinalists were Chinese. (China did very well in the qualifying tournament held in May and, including its seeded players, had 46 of the 64 seats in the main tournament. Full results are given below:

Round 1 (Oct. 10). Ichiriki (W) beat Yu Zhiying 6P (China) by resig.; Baek Hyunwoo (amateur) (Korea) (W) beat Mutsuura Yuta 7P by 7.5 points; Li Xuanhao 7P (China) (B) beat Nakamura Sumire 1P (Japan) by resig.; Tao Xinran 8P (China) (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P (Japan) by 5.5; Ke Jie 9P (China) (B) beat Wu Guangya 7P (China) by resig.; Xie Ke 7P (China) (B) beat Artem Kachanovskyi 2P (Ukraine) by resig.; Ilya Shikshin 3P (Russia) (B) beat Yi Lingtao 7P (China) by resig.; Meng Tailing 7P (China) (B) beat Liu Zhaozhe 5P (China) by resig.; Wang Wei 4P (China) (W) beat Gu Li 9P (China) by 1.5; Mi Yuting 9P (China) (B) beat Zhou Hongyu 5P (China) by resig.; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Fan Yin 8P (China) by resig.; Xie Erhao 9P (China) (W) beat Zhou Zhenyu (amateur) (China) by resig.; Tan Xiao 9P (China) (W) beat Chen Yaoye 9P (China) by resig.; Lu Liyan 3P (China) (W) beat Wang Zejin 6P (China) by 1.5; Tu Xiaoyu 5P (China) (B) beat Gu Zhihao 9P (China) by 0.5; Tong Mengcheng 8P (China) (B) beat Jiang Weijie 9P (China) by 0.5; Fan Tingyu 9P (China) (W) beat Liao Yuanhe 8P (China) by resig.; Zhao Yan (amateur) (China) (B) beat Li Chengshen 4P (China) by 2.5; Zhang Tao 7P (China) (B) beat Zhen Zijian 7P (China) by resig.; Ding Hao 6P (W) (China) beat Huan Yunsong 7P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (B) beat Gu Lingyi 7P (China) by resig.; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (B) beat Li Qincheng 9P (China) by resig.; Li Xiangyu 5P (China) (W) beat Jiang Mingjiu 7P (North Am.) by resig.; Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) (W) beat Andy Liu 1P (North Am.) by resig.; Li Weiqing 7P (China) (W) beat Dang Yifei 9P (China) by resig.; Park Younghoon 9P (Korea) (B) beat Kim Dayoung 3P (Korea) by resig.; Shin Minjun (Korea) (W) beat Peng Liyao 7P (China) by resig.; Byun Sangil 9P (Korea) (B) beat Ma Tianfang (amateur) (China) by resig.; He Yuhan 6P (China) (W) beat Tong Yulin 4P (China) by resig.; Wang Yuanjun 9P (Chinese Taipei) (W) beat Oh Yujin 6P (Korea) by resig.; Xu Jiayang 8P (China) (B) beat Yang Yi 5P (China) by resig.; Shi Yue 9P (China) (B) beat Chen Yusen 5P (China) by resig.

Round 2 (Oct. 11). Ichiriki (W) beat Lu by resig.; Xie Erhao (W) beat Tan by 0.5; Meng (B) beat Li by resig.; Ke (W) beat Shi by resig.; Xie Ke (W) beat Yang by resig.; Xu (B) beat Wang Yuanjun by resig.; Mi (B) beat Tao by resig.; Baek (B) beat Shikshin by resig. (thanks to winning two games, Baek qualified as a pro in Korea); Byun (W) beat He by resig.; Tong (B) beat Tu by resig.; Park Yonghoon (W) beat Shin Minseo by resig.; Ding (B) beat Shin Jinseo by resig.; Park Junghwan (B) beat Li by resig.; Fan (B) beat Zhao by 4.5; Kim beat Li by resig.; Wang Wei (W) beat Zhang by resig.

Round 3 (all results by resig.) (October 12) Ichiriki (B) beat Ding; Mi (W) beat Byun; Xu (B) beat Tong. (October 13) Xie Ke (W) beat Paek; Meng (B) beat Park Yonghoon; Xie Erhao (W) beat Kim; Fan (W) beat Wang; Ke (W) beat Park Junghwan.

Quarterfinal pairings: Mi vs. Xie Erhao, Ichiriki vs. Xie Ke, Ke vs. Fan, Xu vs. Meng

Tomorrow: New Honinbo League; Kyo leads in Tengen; Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

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The Power Report: Shibano to challenge for Oza title; Son wins King of New Stars; Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

Thursday October 17, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Shibano to challenge for Oza title

This is turning into a big year for Shibano Toramaru. Wrapping up the Meijin series by the fifth game enables him to give his undivided attention to the next title match on his calendar. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 67th Oza title, held on September 20 at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo, he defeated Kyo Kagen 8P (W) by resignation after 195 moves. The title match with Iyama Yuta will start on October 25. At 19 years 11 months, he is the youngest-ever Oza challenger (the previous record was 20 years four months, set by Ichiriki Ryo in in 2017).

Son wins King of New Stars

The best-of-three final of the 44th King of the New Stars tournament featured a clash between Son Makoto 7P and Koike Yoshihiro 4P, two promising players of the younger generation. For Son, it was his last chance, as he had been promoted to 7-dan, and this tournament is restricted to players under 26 and under 7-dan (pairings were made on August 1, 2018, before Son earned his promotion by winning a seat in the Meijin League). He also made the final in 2017, but lost 0-2 to Shibaano Toramaru. In the first game, played on September 30, Son (B) won by 5.5 points. In the second, played on October 7, Son (W) won by resignation. Both games were played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo. First prize is 2,000,000 yen (about $18,700).

Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

The final of the 26th Agon Kiriyama Cup was held at the headquarters of the Agon sect in Kyoto on October 5. Cho U, then still Meijin, (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8p by resignation. This is the fifth time Cho has won this title, the last time being the 19th cup. Ichiriki, the recent king of fast go, is now down to two haya-go titles, the Ryusei and the NHK Cup.

Promotions

To 9-dan: Sakai Maki (200 wins, as of Sept. 20)

To 8-dan: Tsuruyama Atsushi (150 wins, as of Sept. 27)
To 4-dan: Takeuchi Kosuke, Tsuneishi Takashi (both 50 wins, both as of Sept. 13)

To 3-dan: Ueno Asami, Nagashima Kozue (both 40 wins, both as of Sept. 20)

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The Power Report: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Wednesday October 16, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Tang wins again in Samsung Cup

The 2019 Samsung Cup (the 23rd) was held at a Samsung training center in Taejon, Korea, from August 30 to September 6. It culminated in a best-of-three final in which Tang Weixing 9P of China beat his compatriot Yang Dingxin 9P 2-1. Apparently Tang had been in a bit of a slump recently, which explains why he was rated only no. 28 in China, but he has always done well in this tournament. After making his international debut by beating Lee Sedol 2-0 to win the 2013 Samsung Cup, he took second place in 2014 and 2017, and in-between won the 8th Ing Cup in 20126.

Japan had only three participants in this 64-player tournament: seeded players Iyama Yuta 9P and Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 8P were joined by Cho Sonjin 9P, who won a seat in the senior division in the qualifying tournament. All were eliminated in the first round. Actually Iyama had a very good position against Tang Weixing, so much so that the Japanese team captain Ryu Shikun commented that the game was “hard to lose” for him. However, complicated fighting continued during byo-yomi and Iyama slipped up with move 171. He resigned after move 180. Actually Tang is known for his tenacity and has a good winning percentage in games in which AI programs adjudge him as being behind. Kyo lost to Li Qincheng of China. Li won the 3rd Globis Cup in 2016 and the 28th TV Asia Cup in the same year. The latter win earned him promotion from 2-dan to 9-dan, the biggest leap in rank any professional has made. Cho Sonjin lost to Tao Xinran 7P of China.

Kisei leagues

Kono wins S League

The final game of the S League, played on Sept. 26, was like a final, as the winner would win the league. Taking white, Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) by half a point. Kyo, on 3-1, had held the sole lead in the league going into this game, so this was a come-from-behind victory for Kono. Kyo didn’t even have the consolation of taking second place, which would have got him into the final knock-out section; as he was ranked no. 4, he was pipped by no. 3, Takao Shinji. Four players ended up on 3-2, but there are no play-offs in the Kisei leagues, so Kono, ranked no. 2, took first place.

The A League was won by Ichiriki Ryo 8P who scored seven wins in a row. Cho U was in second place on 4-3; both these players will move up to the S League. Three other players ended on 4-3: Yo Seiki 8P, who came third, Shida Tatsuya 8P, who came fourth, and Shibano Toramaru, then 8P, who will drop to the C League. This is one of Shibano’s rare failures recently. The B1 League was won by Yoda Norimoto 9P on 5-2 and the B2 League by Motoki Katsuya 7P on 6-1. Motoki beat Yoda in the play-off. The C League was won by Suzuki Shinji 7P on 5-0.

The challenger will now be decided by an irregular knock-out. The first game was played on October 9 between Suzuki and Motoki. Taking black, Suzuki won by 5.5 points; next he will play Ichiriki; the winner will play Takao; the winner will play Kono Rin in a “best-of-three” in which Kono starts off with one win. It is very hard for someone beside the winner of the S League to become the challenger. Results in the S League since my last report are given below.

(July 14) Kyo Kagen Gosei (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 5.5 points.

(August 6) Kyo Kagen (W) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig.

(August 22). Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Yamashita by 6.5 points; Murakawa Daisuke Judan (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.

(September 5) So Yokoku 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji by 2.5 points; Yamashita (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig.

Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire picked up her third official win in a game played on September 16. In a game in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament, playing white, she beat Furuta Naoyoshi 4P by 1.5 points after 235 moves. The players are both members of the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in, so the game was played at its headquarters. The game was not going well for her, but she pulled off an upset in the endgame. This is actually her first win in a tournament open to all professionals and her first experience of a three-hour time allowance, which is the mainstream for pro tournaments. On September 30, Sumire played her first game in the main section of the 23rd Women’s Kisei tournament; as detailed in my report of August 22, she set a record by becoming the youngest player to reach the main section of a tournament. The game was played in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya in Tokyo. She faced a tough opponent in Mannami Nao 4P, who until recently held a women’s title, the 3rd Senko Cup. Sumire has an aggressive style; she attacked early and seized the initiative, getting a promising game. However, her momentum led her to make an overplay that let Mannami counterattack and stage an upset. Sumire resigned after 227 moves.

On October 2, Sumire played a game in Round One of Preliminary C of the 76th Honinbo tournament. Taking white against Yamamoto Kentaro 5P, she won by resignation after 232 moves. From here, nine successive wins will give Sumire a seat in the league that starts in autumn 2020. Sumire’s official record is now 4-2, which is not only eminently respectable but is also evidence that her selection under the new system was not premature.

Sumire is quite possibly the most popular Nihon Ki-in player just now, so she is often invited to go events. She played an exhibition game at the 9th Hankyu Railway Go Festival in Osaka for Enjoying the Cool of the Evening, held on August 14 & 15. A game pitting Sumire against Hane Ayaka 1P, the daughter of Hane Naoki who also became a professional this year, was one of the main attractions. Taking white, she won by resignation after 150 moves. On move 24, she played an AI innovation, which impressed the commentator on the game, Kobayashi Satoru 9P.

Sumire played another exhibition game at a festival, held on August 25, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Nihon Ki-in Hiroshima Prefecture Headquarters. Taking white, she played her first game with Fujisawa Rina, holder of four women’s titles. Sumire went on the attack in the middle game and at one stage was doing quite well–an AI program rated her winning chances at 85%. However, she made a bad threat in a ko fight, so the tide turned against her. She resigned after 187 moves.

Finally, Sumire played two games in a preliminary round for Kansai women players of the 14th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament, an unofficial tournament. In the first round, she played another game with Hane Ayaka (W), which the latter lost on time. In the next round, she lost by resignation to Miyamoto Chiharu 1P (W)

Tommorow: Shibano to challenge for Oza title; Son wins King of New Stars; Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

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The Power Report: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ueno reaches Ryusei final; New members of Honinbo League

Tuesday October 15, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 38th Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 29. Ueno Asami, the women’s number two at present, takes a fairly relaxed approach to her games: she doesn’t check up what tournament she’s playing in until the game is over. Perhaps this is to avoid putting extra pressure on herself in important games. However, there was a label at the entrance to the playing room reading “play-off to decide the Women’s Honinbo challenger,” so she could not avoid knowing in advance. It did not affect her play, however. Taking white, she beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig.

Ueno has had a spectacular start to her career. Born on October 26, 2001, she set a record for the youngest woman titleholder when she won the 21st Women’s Kisei in 2018 (she was then 16 years three months old) and defended the title this year. However, her challenge to Fujisawa Rina for the Hollyhock Cup earlier this failed, so she has not yet won a title match with multiple games. Ueno: “I’m happy to be able to play another match with Women’s Honinbo Fujisawa Rina. You can play up to five games, so I won’t get discouraged even if I lose two in a row. I’ll do my best and try to have fun.”

The first game was played at the Kashoen inn in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 9. Taking white, Fujisawa Rina won by 3.5 points. The second game will be played on October 27.

Ueno reaches Ryusei final

Ueno Asami seems to be enjoying the best form of her career, which is saying something, since she already has some impressive achievements (see Women’s Honinbo article above). She has turned in the best performance by a Japanese woman player in a tournament open to both male and female players. First of all, she did well just to reach the final section of the 28th Ryusei tournament, which means making the best 16. At this point, she shifted to high gear, beating Takao Shinji 9P in the first round and Murakawa Daisuke 8P in the quarterfinals. The latter win made her the first woman to reach the semifinals of an open tournament. She was not finished, though. She defeated Kyo Kagen 8P, securing a seat in the final with Ichiriki Ryo 8P. The final was played on September 23. In the middle game, Ueno (B) cut off a large white group and took away its eye shape. Around move 180, the players following the game in the pressroom thought that White was on the verge of resigning. At this point, perhaps, the pressure got to Asami, for she blundered with 181, a move that let Ichiriki save his group by making a shape that’s called “living with a false eye.” His group had one ordinary eye and two long tails that linked up with a shape like a false eye but which could not be put into atari.

For Ichiriki, this was his second successive Ryusei title and his 16th successive win (the winning streak ended with his next game).

Note: In my report of July 3, I mentioned that Ueno had become (probably) the first woman player to top the list of most games won. Starting on June 7, she maintained that place through the summer. In recent weeks, she has shared top billing with Shibano Toramaru, but she is still number one as of October 4.

New members of Honinbo League

The four vacancies in the 75th Honinbo League have been decided and we have yet another leapfrog promotion for a low-ranked player for winning a seat. On August 15, Shida Tatsuya 7P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resignation; he will play in his first league ever. Two seats were decided on August 22. Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Seto Taiki 8P by 4.5 points and Yokotsuka Riki 3P (B) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by 3.5 points. Ichiriki made an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league. Yokotsuka will make his league debut and earned a promotion to 7-dan (as of August 23). The final seat was decided on September 12 when Kyo Kagen 8P (W) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by 7.5 points. Kyo will be making his debut in the Honinbo League.

Tomorrow: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

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