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The Power Report (2): 28th Women’s Meijin League starts; Japan eliminated from TV Asia Cup; New women’s tournament with biggest prize; Death of Cho Chikun’s wife

Tuesday September 1, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.09.01_Fujisawa Rina

28th Women’s Meijin League starts: The first two games in the 28th Women’s Meijin League were played on August 20. The main interest this year is the debut of Fujisawa Rina (right) in the league. The sixteen-year-old lived up to expectations, defeating Kato Keiko 6P in her opening game. Taking black, Fujisawa forced a resignation. In the other game, Mannami Nao 3P (W) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by resignation. Xie Yimin has held this title for nine years in a row.

2015.09.01_Lee Donghun 5PJapan eliminated from TV Asia Cup: The opening round (three games) and the first semifinal of the 27th TV Asia Cup have been played in Seoul. Unfortunately for Japan, its representatives have already been eliminated, so the tournament is now a contest between China and Korea. On August 25, the first two games in Round One were played. Lee Donghun 5P (Korea, at left) (W) beat Ida Atsushi 8P (Japan) by resignation. In the second game, Park Junghwan 9P of Korea (B) beat Liao Xingwen 5P (China) by resignation. The final game of this round was played on the morning of August 26. Yang Dingxin 3P (China) (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P (Japan) by half a point. In the afternoon, the first semifinal was played, with Park (W) beating Lee by resignation.  The second semifinal will be played on August 27. Yang will meet Lee Sedol 9P (Japan), who as last year’s cup winner was seeded into the semifinals. The winner of that game will meet Park in the final on August 28.

2015.09.01_Xie-YiminNew women’s tournament with biggest prize: Financial incentives are getting better and better for women players in Japan. First of all, a new tournament, the Aizu Central Hospital Cup, founded last year, raised the bar by offering a record prize of seven million yen. That has now been topped by the Senko Cup, founded by the Osaka-based Senko Corporation. The Senko Cup Women’s Igo Strongest Player Tournament, to give it its full name, offers a first prize of eight million and a second prize of four million yen. The second prize in itself almost matches the three long-established women’s titles (to be specific, their top prizes are 5,800,000 yen for the Women’s Honinbo and 5,000,000 each for the Women’s Meijin and the Women’s Kisei). The new tournament is open to all professional women players in Japan and the preliminaries start in September. The main tournament, in which the top 16 participate, will start in January 2016 and the semifinal and final will be held in July. Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo, Xie Yimin (left), Women’s Meijin & Kisei, and O Keii, Aizu Central Hospital Cup-holder, will be seeded in the main tournament. The time allowance will be three hours per player.

Death of Cho Chikun’s wife: Cho Chikun’s wife Kyoko died of pancreatic cancer on August 7. She was 65 years old.

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The Power Report (1): Young players make Agon Kiriyama Cup semis; Iyama reaches Oza final; Yoda stumbles in top Kisei league, Kono wins A League

Monday August 31, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.08.30_Yo Seiki

Young players make Agon Kiriyama Cup semifinals: The remaining two quarterfinals of the 22nd Agon Kiriyama Cup were played recently. On August 10, Kyo Kagen 3P (B) (aged 15) beat Shuto Shun 7P by resignation.  On August 13, Yo Seiki 7P (B) (aged 20) beat Matsumoto Takehisa 7P by resignation. Kyo and Yo will play each other in one semifinal; the other matches Iyama Yuta (aged 26) and Son Makoto 3P (aged 19). As you can see from the ages, all four are young players, though Iyama is already a veteran in experience. The recent results of the Taiwanese players Yo and Kyo show that they both have exceptional promise; they will probably be titleholders before too much longer.

Iyama reaches Oza final: The first semifinal in the 63rd Oza tournament was played on August 17. Iyama Yuta (B) beat Yuki Satoshi by resignation. The other semifinal pits Ko Iso 8P against Yo Seiki 7P. The winner will meet Iyama in the play-off to decide the challenger on September 7.

2015.08.30_Yoda Norimoto 9PYoda stumbles in top Kisei league, Kono wins A League: In a game played in the S League, the top league, in the 40th Kisei tournament, on August 13, Yamashita Keigo 9P improved his score to 3-1 when he beat Takao Shinji Tengen (W) by 2.5 points. At this point he was in second place. League leader Yoda Norimoto 9P (left) suffered a painful loss in the S League on August 20. Taking white, he lost to Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P by half a point. On 3-1, Yoda now shares the lead with Yamashita Keigo 9P, who has the advantage of being ranked higher (number one) ? there is no play-off within the Kisei leagues. Yamashiro goes to 2-2, so his chances of keeping his place improve. Kono Rin scored his sixth successive win in the A League in a game played on August 13. Taking black, he beat Cho Riyu 8P by 2.5 points. Everyone else in the league has at least two losses, so Kono wins the league regardless of his result in his final game. He also secured promotion to the S League next year. In the knock-out tournament, he will have to win four games in a row to become the challenger whereas the winner of the S League has to win only one game in what is called an “irregular best-of-three.” How this works is that Kono would have to beat the winner of the game between the B and C League winners (both of whom have to win five games to become the challenger), next win a game against the second-place-getter in the S League, then beat the winner of the S League twice in a row. The latter is given an advantage of one win in the final play-off, so his opponent can’t afford to lose a game. That means that in practice, there can’t be a third game in this “best-of-three,” as the winning score will always be 2-0. 
Tomorrow: 28th Women’s Meijin League starts; Japan eliminated from TV Asia Cup; New women’s tournament with biggest prize; Death of Cho Chikun’s wife.

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The Power Report: Shida qualifies for Samsung; Iyama defends Gosei; Rin Kaiho wins 1,400 games

Sunday August 9, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.08.09_Shida qualifies for Samsung

Shida qualifies for Samsung: The General Preliminary Tournament for the 20th Samsung Cup was held in Seoul from August 1 to 5. This is a massive tournament and the preliminary is held on a proportionate scale, with additional qualifying sections for women and senior players besides the open section. Five Japanese representatives took part in the open section, of whom one was successful. Shida Tatsuya 7P (at left) won a place in the main tournament by defeating Pak Seung-hwa 6P of Korea in the final. Oya Koichi 9P and Goto Shungo 9P competed in the senior section but without success. The opening rounds of the main tournament will be held in Beijing on September 8 and 10. Nineteen qualifiers through the preliminary will join 13 seeded players. The seeded players for Japan are Ida Atsushi 8P and Yoda Norimoto 9P.

2015.08.09_Iyama wins 40th GoseiIyama defends Gosei, maintains quadruple crown: The fourth game of the 40th Gosei title match was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo on August 7. Playing white, Iyama (left) forced a resignation2015.08.09_Gosei White 128 after just 122 moves and so defended his title by a 3-1 margin. He has now won this title for four years in a row, so one more win and he will qualify for the title of Honorary Gosei. Iyama has beaten Yamashita Keigo in the three title matches they have contested so far this year; the others were the Kisei and Honinbo. Incidentally, three matches in the same year equals for record for the same two players. They have played 16 games with each other this year, which also equals the record. Iyama seemed to gain a slight advantage in the first major fight of the game, which occurred when he set out to reduce Black’s top moyo. Yamashita went all out and got back into the game, but then went wrong in the decisive fight. Iyama cut off and killed a large group, deciding the game. As mentioned in my report in May, when Yamashita became the Gosei challenger, two pairs of players had previously played three matches in the same year. They were Otake Hideo and Cho Chikun in 1982 and Kato Masao and Kobayashi Koichi in 1988. It was the latter two who previously played 16 games in one year.
2015.08.09_Rin Kaiho wins 1,400th game
Promotions: To 3-dan: Fujisawa Rina (40 wins) (as of August 7); To 2-dan: Bian Wenkai (30 wins) (as of August 7)2015.08.09_takemiya and Rin review the game

Rin Kaiho wins 1,400 games: On August 6, Rin Kaiho, Honorary Tengen (left), became the second Nihon Ki-in player to win 1,400 games when he beat Takemiya Masaki 9P in a game (right) in the 41st Gosei Preliminary B.  Taking white, Rin won by half a point. The first player to reach this landmark was 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun. Rin was born in 1942 and became a professional in 1955.

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The Power Report (Part 2): Iyama taking aim at two former titles; Iyama retakes lead in Gosei; Takao to challenge for Meijin

Wednesday August 5, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.08.04_gosei-iyama

Iyama taking aim at two former titles: The first quarterfinal of the 63rd Oza tournament was held on July 13. Playing white, Iyama Yuta (r) defeated Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resignation. With both players in byo-yomi in the late middle game, Ichiriki made a snap judgement that he could live with a large group, so instead of starting a ko to make sure of two eyes he moved into his opponent’s territory. Iyama made a snap judgement that the group couldn’t be saved by a player in byo-yomi; he connected the ko and killed the group. Iyama thus became the first player to reach the semifinals of this tournament. The titleholder is Murakawa Daisuke, who took the title off Iyama last year. Iyama had previously reached the semifinals of the 41st Tengen title by beating beat Ko Iso 8P. In the semifinal, played on July 30, he beat Ri Ishu 7P (W) by resignation. In the play-off to decide the challenger, he will meet the winner of the other semifinal between Yamashita Keigo and Yuki Satoshi 9P.

Iyama retakes lead in Gosei title match: After a break of a month from the opening game, two games were played recently in the 40th Gosei title match. On July 20, the second game was played at the Hokkoku (North Country) Newspaper Hall in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. Iyama Yuta Gosei (white) got a favorable position in the opening, but Yamashita Keigo 9P launched a bold series of do-or-die moves that eventually drew a misjudgment from Iyama. He later started a ko to try to get back into the game, but played an invalid ko 2015.08.04_gosei-both-playersthreat and had to resign after 183 moves. The third game was played at the Nagaoka Grand Hotel in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture on July 27. Iyama, playing black, built up a small lead, though the game was marked by complicated fighting. Late in the middle game, Iyama had a chance (with move 175) to set up a large-scale capturing race. Research by the players following the game showed that he would have won it by one move, but, in byo-yomi, he hesitated to take the risk. Yamashita almost caught up, but Iyama just managed to hold on to his lead. The game finished after 292 moves and ended in a win for Iyama by one and a half points. The fourth game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 7. photo: Iyama Yuta Gosei (l); Yamashita Keigo 9P

Takao to challenge for Meijin title: The final round of the Meijin League is one of the biggest events of the summer, which this year has been its usual hot, humid and unbearable self in Tokyo. Four players were in the2015.08.04_meijin_playoff_takao running to win the league, which added to the interest. They were, in order of ranking, Kono Rin, Yamashita Keigo, Takao Shinji (right), and Ko Iso.
The results were:
Cho U 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. Both players finished on 5-3.
Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig. Yamashita finished on 6-2 and Ko on 5-3.
Takao Shinji Tengen (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke Oza by resig. Takao finished on 6-2 and Murakawa on 3-5.
Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by resig. Hane ended on 2-6 and Kanazawa on 1-7. They both lost their places, as did So Yokoku 9P, who was on 3-5 and had a bye in the last round.
Takao and Yamashita were tied for first, so they met in a play-off on August 3. Takao (W) beat Yamashita by 5.5 points, so he will make his first challenge for the Meijin title for five years. Takao lost his last challenge to Iyama Yuta 0-4 in the 35th Meijin tournament. In general, he has done badly against Iyama, but his results have improved in the last couple of years. The title match will start on September 3.

Promotion: To 2-dan: Mutsuura Yuta (aged 16) (30 wins) (as of July 17)

photo research by Maeda Ryo & Todd Heidenreich

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The Power Report: Tie in Meijin League; Iyama Defends Gosei, Honinbo; O Keii Wins Aizu Cup

Monday July 6, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

70honinbo5 moment of victoryFour-way tie in Meijin League: With only one round to go, four players share the lead in the 40th Meijin League, so there is a strong possibility of the league ending in a tie. The four  players are Kono Rin 9P, Yamashita Keigo 9P, Takao Shinji Tengen, and Ko Iso 8P, who are all on 5-2 (I overlooked Yamashita in my previous report when I wrote there were three players with two losses). Recent games: (June 25) Kono Rin (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Oza by resig.; Cho U 9P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. (July 2) Takao Shinji (B) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by half a point. (July 3) Yamashita Keigo (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig.

In the final round, to be played on July 30, Kono plays Cho U, Yamashita plays Ko Iso, Takao plays Murakawa, Hane plays Kanazawa, and So has a bye. Only Yamashita or Ko Iso has a chance of winning the league outright; there could also be a two-way or three-way tie. If Ko is part of a three-way tie, however, he will miss out, as only the two higher-ranked players qualify for a play-off. Hane and Kanazawa have already lost their league places.

2015Gosei1 game reviewIyama makes good start in Gosei title defense: The first game of the 40th Gosei best-of-five title match was played at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on June 26. Yamashita is making his third challenge to Iyama Yuta this year; he’s probably sick of the sight of Iyama, but with the latter holding four titles, beating him is the quickest way for Yamashita to make a comeback as a titleholder. As usual with these two, fighting started early and didn’t let up. Yamashita, playing white, acquitted himself well in the middle game, building thickness to counter Iyama’s territory. However, just when the game looked like it was entering a tight endgame contest, Yamashita suffered a hallucination (on move 156) that cost him a large group. He resigned after Black 171.  There is a break of nearly a month before the next game, which will be played in Kanazawa City on July 20.

Iyama defends Honinbo title: The fifth game of the 70th Honinbo title match was played on July 29 and 30,  so Yamashita had a break of just two days to recover from his loss in the Gosei title match. The venue was the Hotel Hankyu Expo Park in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, so it was home ground for Iyama. Playing white, Iyama went for territory, letting Yamashita build a moyo. He then set out to live inside the moyo. By white 76, he had parried Black’s attack; when he occupied a key point with 82 he felt that he was ahead. However, he left Black with scope to invade his territory, his plan being to reduce Black’s large center while harassing the invader. However, Iyama slipped up in the ensuing fight, missing a chance to kill Black’s group. That let Black get a ko, but his best ko threat was setting up an attack on the white group that had settled itself inside Black’s moyo earlier. When White finished off the ko and also rescued this group, Black had to resign. The game lasted exactly 200 moves.  A generation or two ago, Takagawa lamented that he would have won many more titles but for the existence of Sakata Eio. Perhaps Yamashita may feel the same way about Iyama, he has won just one out of six big-three title matches with him. Nonetheless, he will surely be doing his best to become the Meijin challenger. Once again, Iyama has extended his quadruple crown. This is his 29th title and his 11th big-three title. He has just turned 26 (May 24), so he is roughly four years ahead of the title-winning pace of Cho Chikun and Cho U. He is in 9th place in the all-time list in Japan, six titles behind Rin Kaiho and Yoda Norimoto.2015 Aizu checking sealed move

O Keii wins Aizu Central Hospital Cup: 
The final of the 2nd Aizu Central Hospital Cup was held at the Konjakutei inn in Aizu Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 2 and 3. O Keii 2P (W) beat Xie Yimin 6P by one and a half points. O is the daughter of O Rissei 9P, three-time Kisei winner, and older sister of O Keiko 1P (Kansai Ki-in). She is a member of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in. This is O’s first title and it comes in her third year as a pro. She is already 28, so she made a late debut, though she is making up for that now. The game didn’t make this week’s issue of Go Weekly, so I don’t have any details yet.

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The Power Report: Lead changes again in Meijin League; Yamashita picks up first win in Honinbo; Kisei S League & Tokyo perspective on the LG Cup

Monday June 22, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Lead changes again in Meijin League: Things were shaken up again in the sixth round of the 40th Meijin League and Ko resurfaced
with the provisional lead. Three games were played on June 4. Ko
 Iso 8P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.; Cho U 9P (W) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by 2.5 points; and So Yokoku 8P (W) beat Takao Shinji by resignation. That left three players on two losses: Ko (5-2), Kono (4-2), and Takao (4-2). Kono has the advantage of being the top-ranked player in the league, but Ko has the advantage of having won an extra game. He gets a bye in the next round, then plays Takao in the final round. Incidentally, the above-mentioned loss cost Kanazawa his place in the league.

Mimura Kaori Promoted: With 40 wins in the cumulative-win system, Mimura Kaori earned promotion to 3-dan on June 11 (though the promotion officially took effect on the following day). Mimura was born on July 31, 1981; she is married to Mimura Tomoyasu 9P. Her 2015.06.22_70honinbo4_2younger sisters are Mukai Chiaki 5P (born on December 24, 1987, and Nagashima Kozue 2P, born on October 3, 1984.

Yamashita picks up first win in Honinbo title match: After making an awful start, Yamashita Keigo (right) has finally picked up a win in the 70th Honinbo best-of-seven title match. The fourth game was played at the Olive Bay Hotel in Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture on June 16 and 17. Iyama had scored convincing wins in the previous two games, putting a lot of pressure on the challenger. However, Yamashita dominated this game right from the start, and Iyama never had a chance. Taking white, Yamashita forced a resignation after just 128 moves. In retrospect, Iyama queried his 23rd move. Yamashita had played a probe with White 22, and Iyama answered it aggressively rather than safely. However, he was taken aback by Yamashita’s next move, an invasion-cum-attack that was a line deeper — and much severer — that he had expected. Although extremely difficult fighting followed, Yamashita held the initiative for the rest of the game. Yamashita is one of the best fighters in Japanese go; Iyama will probably avoid going toe-to-toe with him after this. This is the third time in a row that Yamashita’s first win in a best-of-seven with Iyama has come in the fourth game. In last year’s Kisei title match, he managed to win two games before losing the match. In this year’s Kisei title match, he improved that to three games before dropping the seventh game. If the upward trend holds, however, he should win this match. The fifth game will be played on June 29 and 30. First, however, the two will meet in the first game of the 40th Gosei title match, scheduled for June 26.

Kisei S League: One game in the 40th Kisei S League was played on June 18. Taking black, Takao Shinji Tengen beat Yamashiro Hiroshi 2015.06.22_Yo (R) playing Lee9P by resignation. This game completed the second round. Yoda Norimoto 9P has the sole lead with 2-0. In the A League, Kono Rin 9P has the sole lead with 4-0.

Tokyo perspective on the LG Cup: The E-Journal has already featured a report on the 20th LG Cup, held on June 8 and 10. Here is how the opening rounds looked from Tokyo. The big surprise was that the most junior Japanese representative, Yo Seiki 7P (actually, a Taiwanese member of the Kansai Ki-in), had the best results. While the other players were eliminated in the first round, Yo, who was making his debut in a full-scale international tournament, won his way through to the quarterfinals. He joins four players from Korea and three from China. In the first round, Yo (W) beat Peng Liyao 5P of China by resignation. In the second round (left), he bested Lee Donghun 5P of Korea; again Yo had white. The latter win gave him revenge for his loss to Lee in the Globis Cup. Two years ago, Iyama Yuta and Takao Shinji also made the best eight but were then eliminated. The challenge for Yo will be to go further. He could become a new hero for Japan. The quarterfinals are scheduled for November 16.

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The Power Report (III): Aizu Central Hospital Cup; 2nd Mlily Cup; O Meien wins 1,000 games

Wednesday June 10, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.06.08_Aizu O & Xie

Aizu Central Hospital Cup: Xie Yimin (right), Women’s Meijin, will meet O Keii 2P (left), the daughter of O Rissei 9P, in the final of the 2nd Aizu Central Hospital Cup. In the semifinals, played on June 7, Xie (W) beat the previous winner Fujisawa Rina 2P by resignation and O (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by 4.5 points. The final, the only two-day game in women’s go, will be held on July 2 and 3.

2nd Mlily Cup: Nineteen Japanese players took part in the open preliminary tournament for the 2nd Mlily Cup, held at the Chinese Qiyuan (Ki-in) in Beijing from May 22 to 26. They were made up of ten male professionals, five female professionals, and four amateurs. No Japanese players won a seat in the main tournament, but Yo Seiki 7P, Fujisawa Rina 2P and Xie Yimin 6P did reach the semifinals. In the second round, Fujisawa scored a memorable win over the world’s top-rated woman player, Choe Cheong 5P of Korea. Fujisawa, playing white, had fallen behind but found a brilliancy, a move that looked like a suicide move but which turned the game around. Fujisawa commented that Choe, who is two years her senior, is definitely stronger than her, but she was happy to pick up a win.

O Meien wins 1,000 games: A win on June 4 was O Meien’s 1,000th as a pro. He is the 16th player at the Nihon Ki-in to reach this landmark, and it took him 38 years two months. With 571 losses, two jigos and two no-results, his winning percentage is 63.7.

Promotion: To 8-dan: Kitano Ryo (150 wins) (as of May 29)

Correction: In my report about Otake Hideo’s decoration (5/3 EJ), I wrote that he was the 23rd go player to be so honoured. Go Weekly subsequently amended the list it published; actually 25 players have won decorations.

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The Power Report (II): China wins 4th Mt. Tiantai Nongshang Bank Cup; Yo Seiki wins Okage Cup; Hane senior wins 1,200 games

Tuesday June 9, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

China wins 4th Mt. Tiantai Nongshang Bank Cup: The 4th Mt. Tiantai Nongshang Bank Cup World Women’s Team Championship was held in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province in China from May 8 to 10. Three-player teams from China, Korea, Japan, and Chinese Taipei competed. The teams finished in the order just given. Representing Japan were Fujisawa Rina 2P, Xie Yimin 6P, and Kaneko Maki 1P. Results are given below.
(Round 1) China beat Japan 3-1; Korea beat Chinese Taipei 3-0. (Round 2) Japan beat Chinese Taipei 3-0; China beat Korea 2-1. (Round 3) Korea beat Japan 3-0; China beat Chinese Taipei 3-0. So Yokoku 9P accompanied the Japanese team as coach. A conversation he had with the top board for China, Yu Zhiying 5P, gives an idea of what goes into becoming a top player. As a member of the national team, Yu studies at the Chinese Qiyuan from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. At night, she plays Net games, with her norm being 3.5 games a night. Even on days when she has official games, she still completes her norm. She said she plays about 1,700 games a year. So commented that Fujisawa and Xie are also studying hard. In an interview with the Chinese press, Fujisawa said that she studies eight to ten hours a day, at least six days a week. The other members of the Chinese team were Song Rongrui 5P and Rui Naiwei 9P. The Korean players were Choe Cheong 5P, Kim Hye-min 7P, and Pak Ji-yon 3P. Choe inflicted the sole loss suffered by China, defeating Yu on the top board. As of May, Choe was the top-ranked woman player in the world (#193 on the geocities site).

Yo Seiki wins Okage Cup: The O-kage (gratitude) Cup is sponsored by a group of tourism-related shops in the street leading to Ise Shrine. It is open to players 30 and under and so far has been won by Cho Riyu (2010), Anzai Nobuaki (2011 and 2012), and Ichiriki Ryo (2013 and 2014). This year, the main tournament (for the best 16) was held in Ise City on May 14 And 15. In the final, Yo Seiki 7P of the Kansai Ki-in (W) beat Ichiriki by resignation.

Hane senior wins 1,200 games: On May 21, Hane Yasumasa 9P became the sixth player at the Nihon Ki-in to reach the landmark of 1,200 wins. It took him 57 years one month (he will turn 71 on June 25). With 641 losses and 5 jigos, his winning percentage is 65.2. He won the Oza title in 1990. He is the father of Hane Naoki.

Tomorrow: 2nd Mlily Cup; O Meien wins 1,000 games; Aizu Central Hospital Cup

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The Power Report (I): Iyama takes 3-0 lead in Honinbo title match

Monday June 8, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal2015.06.08_70honinbo3_2

Iyama takes 3-0 lead in Honinbo title match: In the 70th Honinbo title match, Yamashita Keigo is seeking to regain the title that he lost to Iyama Yuta in 2012. He is also seeking revenge for his loss to Iyama in this year’s Kisei title match. As defending champion, Iyama is hoping to maintain his quadruple crown; after losing two titles at the end of last year, he will be anxious to avoid any further reductions to his swag. Also, if he defends his title, it will be his fourth in a row, so he will draw near to qualifying for the title of Honorary Honinbo.

Just as in the Kisei title match, Iyama has made a great start, sweeping the first three games. In the Kisei, Yamashita staged a recovery, winning three games in a row himself. Will he be able to do it again?
The first game was played in the Fugetsuro pavilion in Shizuoka City on May 13 and 14. This was the hometown of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the warlord who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the game was one of the events in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Ieyasu’s death. The Fugetsuro is located on the estate of the 15th and last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Yamashita drew black in the nigiri. He was doing fairly well in the fighting, but a couple of slightly dubious moves let Iyama into the game. Yamashita then made a misreading about a possible capturing race and so failed to play the best move. Although he was still ahead on the board, he couldn’t give the komi, so he resigned after 164 moves.

2015.06.08_70honinbo3_3The second game was played at the Shikimeien garden in Naha City, Okinawa on May 25 and 26. Fierce fighting started in the opening. In the middle game, Yamashita (white) made a fatal blunder and fell behind. Iyama wrapped up the game safely, and Yamashita resigned after 177 moves.

The third game was played at the Jozankei Resort Spa Mori no Uta (Song of the Forest) in Sapporo City, Hokkaido on June 3 and 4. In this game, there was no major fighting — when the first proper fight looked like breaking out, the players settled for a peaceful trade, and when another fight looked like starting, it again ended peacefully. In each case, it was Iyama (white) who made the decision to avoid a fight; it retrospect, it can be said that he was confident he had a lead and he denied Yamashita any chance to exert his strength. The latter resigned after 142 moves.

Tomorrow: China wins 4th Mt. Tiantai Nongshang Bank Cup; Yo Seiki wins Okage Cup; Hane senior wins 1,200 games

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The Power Report: Lead changes in 40th Meijin League; Kisei S League starts; Cho U moves to Taiwan; Yamashita to challenge Iyama Gosei

Monday May 25, 2015

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal

Lead changes in 40th Meijin League: A game in the 40th Meijin League was played on a Monday, May 4, instead of the usual Thursday.2015.05.25-Kono-Rin Cho U 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Oza by 2.5 points, thus scoring what was only his second win in five games. Murakawa dropped to 3-3 and will probably have to focus on keeping his league place rather than on becoming the challenger. An important game was played on May 7 between the two players who were close on the heels of the provisional leader of the league, Ko Iso 8P. Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. Kono (right) improved his score to 4-1 and shares the lead with Ko. Yamashita dropped to 3-2. On May 21, Takao (W) beat Ko Iso by resig. This completed the sixth round. The lead is now shared by Kono and Takao, who are both on 4-1. For the first time since the league began, Ko Iso has dropped out the lead or a share of it, but on 4-2 he is well placed if the above two falter; he hasn’t played either of them yet, so he doesn’t have to rely on other players to drag them down. Yamashita is next on 3-2.

Kisei S League starts: The S League is at the top of the pyramid of five leagues in the revamped Kisei tournament, and its winner has the 2015.05.25-murakawabest chance of becoming the Kisei challenger, as he gets a seat in the play-off and an automatic one-game lead as well. The first two games were played on May 7. Murakawa Daisuke Oza (left) started the week badly (see Meijin League report above), but did better here. Playing white, he beat Takao Shinji by 4.5 points. In the other game, Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig. The other players in the six-man league are Yamashita Keigo and Yamashiro Hiroshi. I was planning to report in detail only on the S League, but there was an interesting game in the A League on the 4th. Veteran player Kono Rin 9P (W) beat the up-and-coming new star Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resignation. On 2-0, Kono shares the lead in the eight-player A League with Cho Riyu 8P.

Cho U moves to Taiwan: Cho U 9P has revealed that he is moving to his homeland of Taiwan this 2015.05.25-Cho-Umonth, though he will remain a member of the Nihon Ki-in and keep playing in Japanese tournaments. The reason is his dissatisfaction with his results in recent years; he is hoping that a change in environment will bring about an improvement in his play. Many top players have come to Japan from Taiwan (Rin Kaiho, O Rissei, and O Meien, just to mention three), but this is the first time a top player has taken the reverse course. Cho is 35, an age at which even a top player usually sees a falling off in his results, but Cho is obviously not prepared to accept this. His inspiration may be Cho Chikun, who won his second triple crown (Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo) at the age of 40. Cho U came to Japan at the age of ten and in 2009 became the first player to hold five top-seven titles simultaneously. He has seats in the top three leagues (though in the A League in the 40th Kisei, not the top S League), but he hasn’t won a title since losing the Kisei title in 2013. In an interview in the Yomiuri Newspaper, he said: ‘I can’t show [go fans] games of which I am ashamed. I think that changing my environment will have a positive effect on my go.’ A brief news item in Go Weekly stated that Kobayashi Izumi was taking a break from tournament play after her game on May 14 so that her children could study  in Taiwan. Cho’s desire to see his children master Chinese is obviously an additional motive for moving back to Taiwan. It’s a bit unfortunate that Kobayashi Izumi (aged 37), who just made a comeback to active play last year, once again has to sacrifice her own career for her family.

2015.05.25-yamashitaYamashita to challenge Iyama Gosei: Yamashita Keigo is doing his level best to make a breach in Iyama’s quadruple-crown citadel. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 40th Gosei title, held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo on May 18, Yamashita (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. The game lasted 194 moves. Yamashita has won the Gosei title once, way back in 2000 (the 20th Gosei); in 2008 he unsuccessfully challenged Cho U, losing 1-3. This will be the third title match this year between Yamashita and Iyama; it is only the third time two players have played three top-seven matches against each other in the same year. Moreover, the Gosei is only the fourth title match of the year, so the two could well set a new record (Yamashita is still in the running to become the challenger in the Meijin and Tengen tournaments). The first game of the title match will be played on June 26.

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Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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