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The Power Report (Part 2): Ida Takes Sole Lead In Honinbo League; Suzuki Leads Women’s Meijin League; Iyama Loses Chance For Grand Slam Next Year; Suzuki And Rin Win Pair Go Tournament For Married Couples; Meijin League Starts

Sunday December 28, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Ida Takes Sole Lead in Honinbo League: Two games in the second round of the 70th Honinbo League were played on November 13. Cho2014.12.27_Ida-Atsushi U 9P picked up his first win by beating Ryu Shikun 9P (B) by 3.5 points, and Ida Atsushi 8P (B) beat Mimura Tomoyasu 9P by resignation. This was the second win for Ida (right), the previous challenger. Another game was played on November 20. Yo Seiki 7P of the Kansai Ki-in (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P by 8.5 points. That put both players on 1-1. On November 27, the second round was completed when Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) defeated Kono Rin 9P by resig. That took Yamashita to 2-0, giving him a share of  the lead with Ida. Kono had made a bad start with 0-2. What could turn out to be the decisive game in the league came in the third round in a clash between Ida and Yamashita. In the previous league, Ida had caught up with Yamashita in the final round, then beaten him in the play-off. This time, in a game played on December 4, Ida (B) beat Yamashita by 1.5 points.  Yamashita will have to play catch-up, but forging ahead of the other players didn’t work for him in either the Honinbo or the Meijin League this year. On December 11, Cho U 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resignation. On December 15,  Ryu Shikun 9P (B) picked up his first win in the league when he beat Takao Shinji 9P by resignation.  On December 18, Kono Rin (W) followed in Ryu’s footsteps by beating Mimura Tomoyasu 9P by resignation. That completed the third round and also the league schedule for this year. The league goes into the new year with a tidy arrangement: the top-ranked player, Ida, leads with 3-0, as mentioned above; the number two and three players, Yamashita and Cho U, are both on 2-1, and the other five players are on 1-2. As yet, no one is out of the running.

Suzuki Leads Women’s Meijin League: Two games were played in the Women’s Meijin League in November. On the 13th, Suzuki Ayumi 6P (W) beat Mukai Chiaki 5P by 1.5 points.  On the 20th, Mannami Nao 3P (B) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by resignation. On December 4, Chinen Kaori 4P (B) beat Mukai Chiaki 5P by resignation. Two more games were played on December 11. Kato Keiko 6P (W) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8P by
4.5 points and Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) beat Mannami Nao 3P by resignation. On 4-1, Suzuki holds the sole lead — every other player has at least two losses.

Iyama Loses Chance for Grand Slam Next Year: Iyama Yuta was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 53rd Judan tournament, so he lost his chance to aim at a grand slam of the top seven titles in 2015. In a game played at the Osaka headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on November 28, Kobayashi Satoru 9P (W) beat Iyama by half a point. His prospects subsequently became even more distant, as you’ll see in tomorrow’s report.

Suzuki and Rin Win Pair Go Tournament For Married Couples: One of the events commemorating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Nihon Ki-in was a Pair Go tournament for married couples. There are 16 or 17 professional couples in Japan (I have lost count), of whom eight took part. The first two rounds in the knockout tournament were played on October 6, and the final was held on November 22, which is known as ‘good married couples’ day. If you take the first syllables of the numbers in 11/22 in Japanese, you get ‘ii fufu,’ a homophone for ‘good married couple.’ (Japanese are found of  turning numbers into mnemonics). In the final, Suzuki Ayumi 6P and Rin Kanketsu 7P (W) defeated Mimura Kaori 2P and Tomoyasu 9P by resignation.

Meijin League Starts: The first game in the 40th Meijin League was played on December 4. Ko Iso 8P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resignation. Two more games were played on the 11th. Kono Rin 9P (W) beat So Yokoku by resignation and Murakawa Daisuke (B) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by 13.5 points. Incidentally, Kono’s win ended a losing streak of ten successive games, starting with the fourth game of the Meijin title match (a contrast to his winning streak of 19 games earlier in the year). The final game of the first round was played on Christmas Day. The new Tengen Takao Shinji (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by half a point.

Tomorrow, Part 3: Takao Scores 900th Win; China Leads in Nong Shim Cup; Hane Wins Crown Title; Gu Wins Japan-China Ryusei Play-Off; Murakawa Takes Oza from Iyama

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The Power Report (Part 1): Ichiriki Wins Ibero-Japan Cup; Yamashita Repeats As Kisei Challenger: Kanazawa Wins Third Meijin Seat; Motoki Wins Hiroshima Aluminium Cup

Saturday December 27, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent2014.12.27_Ichiriki-Ryo-99x150

Ichiriki Wins Ibero-Japan Cup: This is a new tournament founded to encourage young players. It is open to players under 18, including inseis (professional trainees), and games are played on the Net. In the final, played on November 11, Ichiriki Ryo 7P (right), taking white, beat Kyo Kagen 2P by 6.5 points.

Yamashita Repeats as Kisei Challenger: The play-off to decide the challenger for the 39th Kisei title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on November 13. It featured the same players as the previous year, Yamashita Keigo 9P and Murakawa Daisuke 7P, and had the same result: a win for Yamashita. Taking black, Yamashita won by resignation. Yamashita’s previous challenge was rebuffed 4-2 by Iyama, but Yamashita has an affinity for this title: he has won it five times in all, including a run of four terms in a row, and has played in the title match eight times. Aged 36, he will soon qualify as a “veteran,” so he will be hoping to do better this time. The first game will be played in Osaka on January 15 and 16.

Kanazawa Wins Third Meijin Seat: Winning a seat in a league earns you an automatic promotion to 7-dan if you have not already made it. There has been a rash of such promotions in the last year or two (Yo Seiki, Ida Atsushi, Ichiriki Ryo), and now Kanazawa Makoto has joined them. The 4-dan beat O Meien 9P in the final round to win a seat in the 40th Meijin League. The game was played on November 13; taking white, Kanazawa won by 1.5 points. His promotion to 7-dan came the following day. The 22-year-old Kanazawa won the 37th King of the New Stars title in 2012. He looked a little disappointed when he realized he would no longer be able to play in this title or in the Hiroshima Aluminium Cup, both of which are restricted to players under 7-dan. Incidentally, Kanazawa’s father is Kanazawa Moriei, a former top amateur player who is a go writer for the Mainichi Newspaper.

Motoki Wins Hiroshima Aluminium Cup: The Hiroshima Aluminium Cup: Young Carp Tournament is a two-day knock-out tournament for Nihon Ki-in players 30 or under and 6-dan or under. The 9th cup was played at the Central Japan Newspaper Building in Hiroshima City on November 15 and 16. In the final, Motoki Katsuya 3P (aged 19) (W) beat Mutsuura Yuta 1P (aged 15) by 2.5 points to win his first title. Fujisawa Rina made it to the semifinals but lost to Motoki.

Tomorrow, Part 2: Ida Takes Sole Lead In Honinbo League; Suzuki Leads Women’s Meijin League; Iyama Loses Chance For Grand Slam Next Year; Suzuki And Rin Win Pair Go Tournament For Married Couples; Meijin League Starts

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The Power Report: Pair Go Celebrates 25th Anniversary; Korea Takes Lead in Nong Shim Cup; Iyama Makes Good Start in Oza Title Match; Iyama Wins First Tengen Game; Iyama Yuta Defends Meijin Title; Korea Wins O-kage Cup International New Stars Tournament; Two Meijin League Places Decided; Fujisawa Wins Women’s Honinbo; Radical Reorganization of Kisei Tournament

Sunday November 9, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Pair Go Celebrates 25th Anniversary: One of the biggest developments in go in recent decades has been the rise of Pair Go to worldwide2014_11.09_Pair-Go_winners-Kim-Sooyoung_Jeon-Junhak popularity. The holding of the 25th International Amateur Pair Go Championship at the end of October also marked the 25th anniversary of the birth of Pair Go…click here to read more on this and all the following reports.
Korea Takes Lead in Nong Shim Cup: In the three-way team tournament, Korea ended this round with two wins to one each for Japan and China…
Iyama Makes Good Start in Oza Title Match: The 62nd Oza best-of-five is another title match in which Iyama Yuta is facing a younger challenger. The first game was held at the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel in Yokohama City on October 21 and the game was a fierce one, which is usually the case with Iyama, and featured some novel variations…
Iyama Wins First Tengen Game: The first game of the 40th Tengen title match was held on October 24, so Iyama was engaged in three concurrent title matches. Here his challenger is Takao Shinji, holder of the only top-seven title missing from Iyama’s portfolio, the Judan…
Iyama Yuta Defends Meijin Title: In the sixth game of the 39th Meijin title match Iyama took a territorial lead early in the game, then 2014.11.09_meijin-game6skillfully reduced a large moyo that Kono built…
Korea Wins O-kage Cup International New Stars Tournament: The O-kage (gratitude) Cup is a regional 2014.11.09_fujisawa-honinbotournament for young players sponsored by an association of tourist shops in Ise City, the site of the famous Ise Shrine. The sponsors held an international tournament for teams from Japan, China, Korea, and Chinese Taipei on November 1 and 2…
Two Meijin League Places Decided: The Meijin is a conservative league, with only three out of nine places opening up every year. Two of the vacant seats were decided on November 6…
Fujisawa Wins Women’s Honinbo: The third game of the 33rd Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, Tokyo on November 7. Taking black, Fujisawa Rin 2P won by 5.5 points after 233 moves…
Radical Reorganization of Kisei Tournament: There will be complete overhaul of the Yomiuri Newspaper-sponsored Kisei tournament as of the 40th term (the 39th term will be completed with the best-of-seven title match starting in January 2015). The only thing that won’t change is the title match itself. Even with charts, it’s hard to understand the system, but I’ll try to explain it without them…

Continue reading…)

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The Power Report (Part 3): Murakawa Eliminated From Samsung Cup; Fujisawa Rin Increases Lead In Women’s Honinbo; Iyama Wins Third Agon Kiriyama Cup; Two Landmarks For So Yokoku; Other Promotions; Obituary: Miura Hiroshi

Friday October 24, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent2014.10.24_Tang+Weixing

Murakawa Eliminated From Samsung Cup: The second round of the Samsung Cup was held in Taejon City in Korea on October 14. Tang Weixing 9P (right) of China, the previous winner of the tournament, beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P (W), Japan’s sole remaining player, by resig. The semifinalists are Kim chi-seok 9-dan and Pak Jung-hwan of Korea and Shi Yue and Tang of China. photo: Tang at the 2013 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games; photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac

Fujisawa Rin Increases Lead In Women’s Honinbo: The sixteen-year-old 2014.10.24_Fujisawa-RinaFujisawa Rina has made an excellent start in the 33rd Women’s Honinbo title match, beating Mukai Chiaki, the titleholder, in the first two games. If Fujisawa wins one more game, she will become the youngest player to hold this title. The first game was played in Hanamaki Hot Spring on October 8, with Fujisawa drawing black. Mukai Chiaki, the defending champion, took the lead, but Fujisawa played a series of do-or-die moves, one of which eventually paid off. Mukai resigned after 227 moves. The second game was played at the Ichigaya headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on October 17. Fujisawa (W) won by 2.5 points. The third game will be played on November 7.

Iyama Wins Third Agon Kiriyama Cup: The final of the 21st Agon Kiriyama Cup was held at the Kyoto headquarters of the Agon Buddhist sect (Kiriyama is the name of the head priest) on October 18. It’s surprising how often two players engaged in a big title match run into each other in other titles. The final featured a clash between the players vying for the Meijin title. Iyama Yuta drew black and beat Kono Rin by 1.5 points after 309 moves. This is Iyama’s third win in a row against Kono and it secured him his third victory in this tournament.

Two Landmarks For So Yokoku: Recently there have been two landmarks for So Yokoku, one professional, one personal. On October 13,2014.10.24_so-youkoku he scored his 200th win as an 8-dan, so he won promotion to 9-dan. (He beat Cho Sonjin 9P in the first round of the 53rd Judan tournament.) The promotion dates from the following day (when it was confirmed by the Nihon Ki-in tournament office). Very soon after this, So got married. The source of this information is Takao Shinji’s blog on the Nihon Ki-in home page. Takao gives no details, but his blog entry was dated October 17, so presumably So was married on the 14th, 15th or 16th, so the two landmarks could well have come on the same day.

Other Promotions: To 7-dan: Miyazaki Ryutaro (120 wins); To 3-dan: Murakami Akihide (40 wins).

Obituary: Miura Hiroshi
Miura Hiroshi, a top amateur player, died of a cardiac infarction on September 29. He was 68. Miura won nine amateur titles and held the title of Honorary Amateur Honinbo. He took third place in the World Amateur Go Championship in 1988. He was one of the four professional-level amateurs who dominated amateur go in Japan from the 1960s to ‘80s.

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The Power Report (Part 2): Murakawa Wins Kisei B League; Mukai Leads Women’s Meijin League; Iyama Rebounds In Meijin Defense; Iyama Off to Good Start In Judan

Thursday October 23, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent2014.10.23_Murakawa Daisuke

Murakawa Wins Kisei B League: All the fifth-round games of the 39th Kisei Leagues were played on October 2. In the B League, Murakawa Daisuke 7-dan (right) of the Kansai Ki-in had stumbled in the fourth round, but he made no mistake in the fifth: taking black, he beat Cho Chikun, 25th Honinbo, by 3.5 points and secured first place. His only remaining rival, Yoda Norimoto 9P, also won his final game, so he ended up with the same score, 4-1, as Murakawa, but the latter’s number one rank in the league gave him priority. In the A League, Yamashita Keigo made a clean sweep. He will meet Murakawa in a play-off on November 13.
Full results:
(A League) Yamashita (W) beat Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P by resig.; Takao Shinji Judan (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by resig.; Yuki Satoshi 9P (B) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig.
(B League) Murakawa (B) beat Cho Chikun by resig; Yoda Norimoto 9P (B) beat Cho Riyu 8P by 5.5 points; Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resignation. Hane and Ichiriki drop out of the A League and the two Chos drop out of the B League.

2014.10.23_mukai chiakiMukai Leads Women’s Meijin League: Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, retains the lead on 3-0. Kato Keiko 6P and Aoki Kikuyo 8P are in second place on 3-1.
(Oct. 2) Kato Keiko 6P (W) beat Ishii Akane 2P by resig.
(Oct. 10) Aoki Kikuyo 8P (B) beat Mannami Nao 3P by 4.5 points.

Iyama Rebounds In Meijin Defense: Fans were starting to speculate about the possibility of a new Meijin when the challenger Kono Rin took a lead after the third game, but Iyama Yuta Meijin (right) has bounced back with two wins, so he is now in the better position. The fourth game was played at the Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto in Kyoto City on October 6 and 7. This was a very important game for Iyama, as a loss would put him in a very disadvantageous position. Although there was no 2014.10.23_IyamaYutamove by Kono (white) that could be labeled a mistake, Iyama gradually took the lead in the second day’s play. In retrospect, Kono’s strategy in pulling out some stones inside Iyama’s territory may have been dubious. Although the way he pulled them out was clever, he provided Iyama with a weak group to target. This let Iyama build up strength in the centre that turned the game in his favor. Iyama secured a safe lead — a few points more than the komi on the board — but as usual he didn’t let up. He set up a ko and used his superiority in ko threats to force a resignation after 217 moves.

With the match tied 2-all, it had become a best-of-three. The fifth game was played at the Atami Sekitei inn in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 15 and 16. It was a very interesting game, with Kono (black) playing an unusual variation of a joseki and Iyama coming up with a new move in the same joseki. The game developed into a contest between Kono’s territory and Iyama’s thickness. It was decided by a lapse in reading on Kono’s part: he overlooked a move with the double threat of a two-approach-move ko for one of his groups and a direct ko for another. The move wasn’t actually played, as Kono woke up to it belatedly and amended his play, but he had to let Iyama set up the two-approach-move ko. Such a ko would not usually be a big problem, but in this game Iyama had an overwhelming advantage in ko threats. Kono had to ignore a ko threat, but that let Iyama eventually kill a group. Kono resigned after White 176. The sixth game will be played on October 29 and 30.

Iyama Off to Good Start In Judan: If Iyama manages to defend his Meijin title, he will once again have a chance to aim at a simultaneous (that is to say, a genuine) grand slam next year. He needs to keep defending his six current titles, of course, and also to win the Judan title. He has made a good start in the 53rd Judan tournament. On October 10, playing white, he defeated Yoda Norimoto 9P by resig. in the first round (which has 20 players, four of whom are seeded into the second round). He needs to win three more games to become the challenger.

Second of three reports. Tomorrow: Murakawa Eliminated From Samsung Cup; Fujisawa Rin Increases Lead In Women’s Honinbo; Iyama Wins Third Agon Kiriyama Cup; Two Landmarks For So Yokoku; Other Promotions; Obituary: Miura Hiroshi

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The Power Report (Part 1): Nihon Ki-In Celebrates 90th Anniversary; Yo Seiki Wins 1st Yucho Cup; Ryusei Cup Winner Kono Gets Another Chance; 70th Honinbo League Starts

Wednesday October 22, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent2014.10.17_nihon-kiin-celebration

Nihon Ki-In Celebrates 90th Anniversary: The Nihon Ki-in held a party on October 3 at the Grand Hill Ichigaya hotel to celebrate its 90th anniversary with about 350 people in attendance. The Nihon Ki-in was founded in 1924 under the leadership of Baron Okura Kishichiro. It started out with 40 members and now has 320. There are a large number of domestic tournaments, some with very impressive prize money. The Nihon Ki-in has also played a major role in realizing Baron Okura’s dream of spreading go around the world. All the top professionals were in attendance and introduced on the stage, but the first to appear was Yo Seiki 7-dan of the Kansai Ki-in, who had won a tournament final played earlier this day (see item below). photo: Wada Norio, Pres. of the Board of Directors of the Ki-in, Iyama
Yuta (on his right) and other worthies cracking over a wood barrel of sake with mallets. This is a custom on auspicious occasions, on achieving landmarks etc. and especially at the New Year. They will drink some of the sake with square wooden cups.

Yo Seiki Wins 1st Yucho Cup: This was an unofficial tournament held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Nihon Ki-in, though2014.10.22_yo-seiki the numbering suggests it will continue. It is organized by the Nihon Ki-in and the main sponsor is the post office bank, the Yucho Bank, with assistance from the Asahi newspaper. It is open to professionals and inseis (apprentice professionals) 20 and under and 7-dan and under. Rules are NHK style (30 seconds per move plus ten minutes’ thinking time to be used in one-minute units). Thirty-one professionals and 11 inseis played in the qualifying tournament, which started on June 11. One insei, Shibano Toramaru, who made his debut as a 1-dan pro in July, won a place in the 16-seat main tournament. In the final, Yo Seiki 7-dan (right) of the Kansai Ki-in beat Motoki Katsuya 3-dan to claim the one million yen first prize.

2014.10.22_kono-rinRyusei Cup Winner Kono Gets Another Chance: The final of the 23rd Ryusei tournament was held a couple of weeks ago (the game is recorded, then telecast, and Go Weekly is coy about the date it was played). Kono Rin 9P (B, at left) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resignation. This is Kono’s second win in this tournament. There was a surprise waiting for Kono after the game. The sponsors also sponsor a Chinese version of the title, and they have arranged for a Japan-China Ryusei tournament.  Kono will play Gu Li, winner of the 5th Chinese Ryusei tournament, in December.

2014.10.22_Mimura-Tomoyasu70th Honinbo League Starts: The 70th Honinbo League got off to a start on October 2. The first game matched two players in their 40s who were making a comeback after a period out in the cold. Victory went to Mimura Tomoyasu 9P (back after an absence of four years, at right), who beat Ryu Shikun 9P (out for 11 years). Mimura had black and won by resig. Other results are given below. The most notable is perhaps Ida’s win over former Honinbo Cho U; Ida may have lost the title match to Iyama Yuta, but he is one of the favorites in the league.
(Oct. 9) Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig.
(Oct. 10). Takao Shinji 9P (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(October 16) Ida Atsushi 8P (W) beat Cho U 9P by 3.5 points

First of three reports. Tomorrow: Murakawa Wins Kisei B League; Mukai Leads Women’s Meijin League; Iyama Rebounds In Meijin Defense; Iyama Off to Good Start In Judan

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The Power Report: Kisei Leagues; Kono Takes Lead in Meijin Title Match; Women’s Meijin League; Ichiriki Wins 39th King of the New Stars Title

Monday September 29, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Kisei Leagues: One game was played in the 39th Kisei A League on September 11. Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resignation. 2014.09.29_Murakawa DaisukeBoth players are now on 2-2 and will be fighting to keep their places in the league in the final round. Incidentally, this was Takao’s second win against Kono in four days. Kono has gone into a bit of a trough after his winning streak of 19 games came to an end. A game was played in the B League on September 18. Kobayashi Satoru 9P (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P (right) by resig. This game has an effect on the standings. Murakawa missed his first chance to win the league and is now tied on 3-1 with Kobayashi and Yoda Norimoto 9P. However, if he wins his final game, Murakawa will still win the league, thanks to his number-one ranking. If he loses, however, Yoda is next in line: if he wins his final game, he will win the league regardless of Kobayashi’s result, as he is ranked number two. If both Murakawa and Yoda lose and Kobayashi wins, he will win the league. Pairings in the final round are: Murakawa vs. Cho Chikun 9P (1-3), Yoda vs. Cho Riyu 8P (1-3), and K
obayashi vs. Yuki Satoshi 9P (1-3).

Kono Takes Lead in Meijin Title Match: Kono Rin has shown that he is going to give Iyama Yuta a real run for his money. After losing the opening game, Kono (left) won the next two to take the lead in the 39th 2014.09.29_Kono RinMeijin best-of-seven title match. The second game was played at the Chokoro inn in Hawai Hot Spring in the town of Yurihama in Tottori Prefecture on September 18 & 19. The game featured fierce fighting from the start, with almost no fuseki. In the midst of a center fight, Iyama (B) played a move he regretted, and the game started to tilt in Kono’s favor. He cut off a large black group that couldn’t get two eyes, so Iyama resigned on move 200. Picking up your first win in a two-day game is important for your self-confidence. Perhaps that was reflected in Kono’s play in the third game, which was held in Jozankei Hot Spring, Sapporo City, Hokkaido on September 25 & 26 (the name of the venue has 14 characters in it and I have no idea how to read it).
Playing black, Kono secured a resignation after 169 moves. In the middle game, Iyama seemed to make a miscalculation about the importance of a ko he let Kono set up: he thought he could handle it more easily than turned out to be the case. This turned the game in Kono’s favor. He now has the initiative in the match. The fourth game, scheduled for October 6 and 7, will be very important
for Iyama’s chances of keeping his sextuple crown.

Women’s Meijin League: The 27th Women’s Meijin League is close to the halfway mark, with all but one game in the third round having been played. Two players are undefeated: Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, who has played three games, and Mannami Nao 3-dan,
 who has played two. Recent results: (Sept. 18) Aoki Kikuyo 8P (W) beat Chinen Kaori 4P by 3.5 points. (Sept. 24) Mukai Chiaki (B) beat Ishii2014.09.29_Ichiriki Ryo Akane 2P by resig. (Sept. 25) Suzuki Ayumi 6P (B) beat Kato Keiko 6P by resig.

Ichiriki Wins 39th King of the New Stars Title: Ichiriki Ryo 7P (right) has set another record, becoming, at 17 years three months, the youngest player to win the King of the New Stars title. The previous record, 17 years five months, was set by Yoda Norimoto 31 years ago. (If you are wondering about Iyama, he never won this title; he disqualified himself at the age of 16 by winning the Agon Kiriyama Cup and earning promotion to 7-dan). Ichiriki defeated Shida Tatsuya 7P 2-1. Only players under 7-dan qualify for this tournament, so this was the last chance for both players (they were promoted during the current term). Game 1 (Sept. 11). Ichiriki (B) by half a point. Game 2 (Sept. 17 ). Shida (B) by resig. Game 3 (Sept. 25). Ichiriki (B) by resig. 

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The Power Report (Part 2): Members of the New Honinbo League; Korean Teen Wins Bingsheng Cup; Takao Becomes Tengen Challenger; Obituary: Hoshikawa Nobuaki 9P; Sasaski Promoted to 9P

Tuesday September 9, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Members of the New Honinbo League: At first, I wrote “new members of the Honinbo league,” but that’s not quite 2014.09.09_Takao Shinjiaccurate. Two of the four vacant places in the 70th League were taken by players who had dropped out of the 69th League. One was Takao Shinji 9P (right), who made a comeback after a disappointing 1-6 in the previous league. The other was Yo Seiki 7P, who just missed out in the previous league with a score of 3-4. They were joined by Mimura Tomoyasu 9P, making a comeback after a gap of four years, and Ryu Shikun 9P, who has been out of the league for 11 years.
Results of the playoffs:
(August 28) Ryu Shikun (W) beat Anzai Nobuaki 6P by resig.
(September 4) Takao Shinji (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P by resig.; Mimura Tomoyasu (W) beat Matsumoto Takehisa 7P by resig.; Yo Seiki (W) beat Nakano Hironari 9P by 13.5 points.

2014.09.09_Choi-JungKorean Teen Wins Bingsheng Cup: The 5th Qionglong Mt. Bingsheng Cup (also referred to as ‘Qionglong Cup’ on the Net), a Chinese-sponsored tournament for women players, was held from August 30 to September 3 in Suzhou City in China. The winner was the 17-year-old Choi Jeong 5P (left) of Korea; she beat Rui Naiwei 9P in the final. Two Japanese representatives won in the first round, but were eliminated in the second (there are 16 players in the tournament, so there are four rounds). Xie Yimin 6P beat Oh Yoojin 1P of Korea and Fujisawa Rina 2P scored an excellent win over Song Ronghui 5P, one of the top Chinese players. In the second round, Xie lost to Rui and Fujisawa lost to Lu Jia 2P of China. photo courtesy GoGameGuru; click here for their 2012 interview with Choi.

Takao Becomes Tengen Challenger: The play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta for the 40th Tengen title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on September 8. Playing black, Takao Shinji Judan defeated Kono Rin 9P by resignation after 195 moves. Takao will make his first challenge for the Tengen title. The first game will be played on October 24.

Obituary: Hoshikawa Nobuaki 9P
Hoshikawa Nobuaki died on September 2. Born in Ehime Prefecture on July 7, 1951, Hoshikawa was a disciple of Mukai Kazuo 8P. He became 1P at the Kansai Ki-in in 1970 and reached 8P in 1984. He retired in 2010 and was promoted to 9P. He won the Oteai (rating tournament) twice. Three of his children20are also professionals.

Sasaski Promoted to 9P: And in a follow-up to my July 30 report on the passing of Sasaki Tadashi 8P, the Nihon Kiin recently posthumously awarded Mr. Sasaki with the rank of professional nine-dan.

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The Power Report (Part 1): Yamashita Wins Kisei A League; Iyama Defends Gosei Title; Iyama Makes Good Start in Meijin Defense

Monday September 8, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Yamashita Wins Kisei A League: There are no play-offs in the Kisei Leagues, so there is an built-in bias towards upholding the status 2014.09.08_Yamashita Keigo quo. When Yamashita Keigo 9P (right) scored his fourth win in the fourth round of the A League, he won the league. In theory, Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P and Kono Rin 9P could both draw level with him on 4-1 after the fifth round if Yamashita loses, but Yamashita is ranked higher, so they can’t catch him.
In the B League, the top-ranked player, Murakawa Daisuke 7P, on 3-0, is the only undefeated player; he also needs only one more win to win the league, so a repeat of the play-off between him and Yamashita to decide the Kisei challenger looks quite possible.(August 28) (A League) Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig. (B 2014.09.08_Iyama-YutaLeague) Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) beat Cho Riyu 8P by resig.
(September 4) (A League) Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P by 2.5 points.

Iyama Defends Gosei Title: For the second year in a row, the Gosei went the full distance, though the course of the match was a little different. Last year, Kono Rin won the first two games and Iyama Yuta the next three. This year, in the 39th Gosei, Kono won the opening game again, but Iyama (left) won the next two before Kono evened the score in the fourth game. The fifth game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 29. When the players drew for colors (nigiri), Kono drew black. Kono took the early lead, but he played too tightly at crucial points in the middle game and allowed Iyama to get back into the game. Immediately after this, however, Iyama made one of his rare blunders, a mistake in timing that allowed Kono to win outright a capturing race that should have become a sente seki for Iyama. After the game, Iyama commented that he could well have resigned at this point, but ironically Kono slipped up soon afterwards, making a number of mistakes in what was some very complicated fighting with both players out of time. Iyama took the lead again and this time held on to it. Kono resigned after 220 moves. After the game, it was hard to tell from the players’ expressions who was the winner. Kono recovered his composure very quickly whereas Iyama looked unhappy for quite a while about his bad play. He commented that he had been outplayed by Kono in both this and the previous year’s matches and that he would have to do better in the upcoming Meijin title match. However, a win is a win, and Iyama has not only maintained his sextuple crown but also kept alive the dream of a grand slam next 2014.09.08_Kono-Rinyear.

Iyama Makes Good Start in Meijin Defense: The first game of the 39th Meijin title match was held at the Hotel Chinzanso in Tokyo on September 4 and 5. Taking white, Iyama Yuta Meijin won by resignation after 212 moves. Both he and the challenger Kono Rin 9P (right) were down to their final minute of byo-yomi. Kono, fresh from his narrow loss to Iyama in the Gosei title match, played positively in the opening, and Iyama admitted later that he had been a little dissatisfied with his position after the opening fight. To make up his lost ground, he launched an aggressive invasion of Kono’s moyo that brought the game back to even. Iyama then took the lead in the middle game when Kono made some moves that were not quite the best. In desperation, Kono set up a ko but did not have enough ko threats to win it, so he had to resign. This game shows how sharp Iyama’s perception is in the middle game: if the opponent slips up even a little, he will take advantage of it. The second game will be played on September 18 and 19.

Tomorrow: Members of the New Honinbo League; Korean Teen Wins Bingsheng Cup; Takao Becomes Tengen Challenger; Obituary: Hoshikawa Nobuaki 9P; Sasaski Promoted to 9P

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The Power Report: Iyama Takes Lead, Then Kono Catches Up In Gosei Title Match; Kono Doing Well In Other Tournaments; Lee Se-Dol Wins TV Asia Cup; Fujisawa Rin To Make First Challenge; 27th Women’s Meijin League; Promotions

Tuesday August 26, 2014

by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent

Iyama Takes Lead, Then Kono Catches Up In Gosei Title Match: The third game of the 39th Gosei title match was held at 2014.08.26_gosei_rd-03-iyama-konothe Nagaoka Grand Hotel in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, on August 11. This was three weeks after the second game, which is a long gap for a best-of-five. Playing black, the challenger Kono Rin 9-dan (right, in photo) seemed to have a slight advantage when he won a ko and killed a white group fairly early in the game (before move 100), but he made a couple of slack moves later that cost him his chance to wrap up the game. Worse, he made an overly aggressive answer to a white invasion and ended up on the wrong side of a losing capturing race. He resigned on move 204. The fourth game was held on Iyama’s home ground, the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, on August 25, but that didn’t help him. Playing white, Kono forced a resignation after 224 moves. I don’t have any information about the course of the game. The deciding game will be played on Kono’s home ground, the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya, on August 29.

2014.08.26_tv-asia-cup-konoKono Doing Well In Other Tournaments: Regardless of whether or not he takes the Gosei title, Kono Rin (left) is the in-form player at the moment in Japan (see the TV Asia Cup report below). As of August 23, his win-loss record was 42-12, a winning record of nearly 78%. He has the most wins by a comfortable margin. On August 4, he won the play-off to become the Meijin challenger, as reported earlier. On August 13, he beat Yoda Norimoto 9-dan in the semifinal of the 40th Tengen tournament, so there is a good chance he will be making yet another challenge to Iyama;  taking white, he won by 6.5 points. (His opponent in the final will be Takao Shinji, who beat Ichiriki Ryo in the other semifinal on August 21.) He has also reached the semifinal of the 21st Agon Kiriyama Cup.

Lee Se-Dol Wins TV Asia Cup: Lee Se-dol (right) had not won an international title for a while, but he is ahead in his ten-game match 2014.08.26_tv-asia-cup-kono-leewith Gu Li and he offered more evidence, if it should be needed, that he is still a force to be reckoned with by winning the 26th TV Asia Cup. In the final, he beat Kono Rin (left, in photo at right). Kono had encouraged Japanese fans by beating the player currently ranked number one in the world, Pak Jung-hwan of Korea, in the semifinal, but he was outmatched by Lee in the final. This is the third time Lee has won this title and the first time for six years. This year the tournament was staged in Beijing.
Full results: Round 1, Game 1 (August 16). Lee Se-dol 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Tao Xinran 5-dan (China) by resig. Round 1, Game 2 (August 16). Kono (B) beat Li Qinchang 1-dan by 1.5 points. (Though just a 1-dan, the 15-year-old Li won the Chinese qualifying tournament telecast on CCTV.) Round 1, Game 3 (August 17). Pak Jung-hwan 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9-dan (Japan) by resig. Semifinal 1 (August 17). Lee (B) beat Iyama Yuta by 2.5 points. Semifinal 2 (August 18) Kono (B) beat Pak by resig. Final (August 19). Lee (W) beat Kono by resig.

Fujisawa Rin To Make First Challenge: The pairing in the play-off to decide the challenger to Mukai Chiaki for the 33rd 2014.08.27_womens-honinbo-okuda-fukisawaWomen’s Honinbo Title was the same as in the final of the new women’s tournament the Aizu Central Hospital Cup: Fujisawa Rina (right) vs. Okuda Aya (left). The result was the same: a win for Fujisawa. The game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 21; taking white, Fujisawa forced a resignation. Fujisawa is bidding to become the female Iyama Yuta, as she is rewriting the record book for youth landmarks. She will be exactly 16 when the first game of the title match is played on October 8 (birthday September 18); the previous youngest challenger was Xie Yimin at 17 years 10 months.

27th Women’s Meijin League: Two games were played in the first round of the 27th Women’s Meijin League on August 21. Kato Keiko 6-dan (B) beat Chinen Kaori 4-dan by 1.5 points and Mukai Chiaki, Women’s Honinbo, (B) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan by 4.5 points.

Promotions: To 9-dan: Mizokami Tomochika (200 wins); To 4-dan: Kanazawa Makoto (50 wins); To 2-dan: Fujimura Yosuke (30 wins).

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