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The Power Report: Iyama defends Meijin title; Han wins SGW Cup; Xie wins Women’s Brains Match; Seki wins Tengen

Friday January 28, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

46th Meijin; Iyama (r)

Iyama defends Meijin title

When Iyama Yuta Meijin survived a kadoban in the sixth game of the 46th Meijin title match (see my report of November 4), he caught up with the challenger, Ichiriki Ryo Tengen, for the second time. In effect, the best-of-seven was down to a one-off clash. The seventh game was played in the Imai Villa, a Japanese-style inn, in Kawazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on November 4 and 5. The nigiri was held again and Iyama drew black. Both sides played aggressively, but, perhaps because of the pressure of staking everything on this one game, Ichiriki made a slack move in the middle game. Iyama took full advantage of it and seized control of the game. Ichiriki resigned after move 129. This gave Iyama his second Meijin title in a row and his eighth overall. Notably, following his Honinbo title defense earlier in the year, it is the second successive best-of-seven in which he fell behind and had to make a comeback. That may show that keeping his place at the top is getting harder. Be that as it may, he remained the indisputable number one in Japan and also reached some impressive milestones. This is his 66th title (two more than Sakata Eio and only nine behind Cho Chikun). It is also his 27th big-three title, which is just two behind the record-holder—Cho Chikun, of course. Finally, he also maintained his quadruple crown (holding four of the top-seven titles). First prize is 30 million yen (about $263,600, at $1 = ¥113.8). 

Han wins SGW Cup

Han Zenki

The SGW Cup Golden Mean Tournament is a tournament open to Nihon Ki-in players from 31 to 60 who have not won a top-seven title or the Ryusei or Agon Kiriyama titles or this title itself. It follows the NHK format.

The modified Swiss System tournament for the top 16 players that concluded the 4th Cup was held at the Nihon Ki-in on November 6 and 7. The two undefeated players after three rounds met in a final. Han Zenki 8P (B) beat Okuda Aya 4P by 3.5 points after 310 moves.

Previous winners, in order, are: Rin Kanketsu 8P, Ko Iso 9P, and Kanazawa Hideo 8P. First prize is 2,000,000 yen (about $17,500). 

Xie wins Women’s Brains Match

The Women’s Brains Match is an invitational tournament for four players organized by the Fumakira company and held at the Fumakira Brains Park Hiroshima on November 13. In the first round, Xie Yimin 7P (W) beat Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo, by resignation and Nakamura Sumire 2P (B) beat Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, by 1.5 points. Incidentally, this was the first time Sumire had won a game against Ueno. In the final, Xie (B) beat Sumire by resig. The tournament followed the NHK format. Brains Park (using the English words) is the name of a research facility established by the Fumakira company, whose main product is insecticides. It is located near a Fumakira factory and has a view of the Itsukushima shrine gate, which is considered one of the top three tourist attractions in Japan.

Seki wins Tengen

One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 tournament year was the one-sided triumph of the 20-year-old Seki Kotaro in the 47th Tengen title match. Recently, the 24-year-old Ichiriki has clearly established himself as the number two player after Iyama Yuta and he has won 14 titles. In contrast, the unheralded Seki had won just one junior title, the 45th King of the New Stars in 2020, and was not yet considered to be a dangerous rival for Ichiriki. Among his colleagues, Seki is known for his fondness for using AI in his research and for his aggressive middle-game fighting. In the pre-match interview with Go Weekly, however, he commented that beating Shibano Toramaru in the play-off to decide the challenger had given him confidence, and he also mentioned that he had spent a lot of time studying the opening and the endgame in preparation for the title match.

Seki started the match with a win, but Ichiriki evened the score in the second game. Significantly, however, Seki had played well though he ended up losing in the endgame. He bounced back and wrapped up the match with good wins in the third and fourth games. First prize is 13,000,000 yen (about $114,235). Results follow.

Game 1 (Oct. 5). Seki (W) by resig.

Game 2 (Nov. 16). Ichiriki (W) by resig.

Game 3 (Nov. 25). Seki (W) by resig.

Game 4 (Dec. 6). Seki (B) by resig.

Iyama set a slew of youth records early in his career. Recently Shibano has lowered some of them. Now Seki is following in their footsteps. Winning a top-seven title after just four years eight months as a professional is a new speed record (eclipsing Shibano’s five years one month). At exactly 20, he is one month older than Shibano was when he won the Meijin title. He is the first player born in the 21st century to win a top-seven title. For his part, Ichiriki had now lost both his top-seven titles and had also failed in his Meijin challenge despite coming very close to winning the match. He will be pinning all his hopes on his Kisei challenge.

Incidentally, while analyzing a game of Seki’s a year earlier, Cho Chikun commented that he was convinced he would soon win a title. Instead of just playing the move everyone would play, Seki looked “for something better and this is the difference between title-winners and ordinary players.” 

Tomorrow: Iyama regains Oza title; The Teikei tournaments; Ueno wins Young Carp; Ida sets record in Crown title

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The Power Report: Latest international go news

Wednesday December 8, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

NOTE: There has been quite a lot of action in international go over the past month or two. This report is an attempt to catch up.

Nong Shim Cup: honors shared in first round
Each of the participating countries have picked up a win in the opening round of the 23rd Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup even though only four games were played, so the honors were shared more or less evenly. This round was held on the net in mid-October. The only surprise so far is that in Game 4 Korea fielded its second highest-ranked player. Just for the record, game conditions are: one hour per player, followed by one-minute byo-yomi. The second round, which consists of five games, started on November 26 (report follows soon). Details of the first round follow.

Game 1 (Oct. 11). Weon Seoung-jin 9P (Korea) (B) beat Shibano Toramaru 9P (Jap
an) by resig.
Game 2 (Oct. 12). Li Weiqing 9P (China) (W) beat Weon by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 13). Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 9P (Japan) (B) beat Li by resig.
Game 4 (Oct. 14). Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (W) beat Kyo by resig.

Park wins his first Samsung Cup
The 26th Samsung Cup World Baduk Masters was held on the net with 32 players competing. The tournament started on October 20 and was completed by November 2. It climaxed in an all-Korean final, with Shin Jinseo playing Park Junghwan. Shin is rated no. 1 in the world, and Park no. 3 (Ke Jie is no. 2). Recently, Park has done badly against Shin; in all games played to date, Shin leads 25-20. More ominously, in multi-game matches, like this final, Shin has overwhelmed Park 14-0. When Shin won the first game convincingly, most fans would have written off Park’s chances. However, he fought back tenaciously, taking the next two games and winning this title for the first time. This is his fifth international title, the others being the Fujitsu Cup (2011), the LG Cup (2018), the MLily Cup (2018), and the Chunlan Cup (2019). For Shin, this was his second successive loss in the Samsung final (the winner last year was Ke Jie). First
 prize is 300,000,000 won (about $251,000). Japan had four players taking part. Two of them, Kyo Kagen and Yamashita Keigo, were the Japanese seeds; Onishi Ryuhei won the Japanese qualifying tournament and Yamashiro Hiroshi won the Japanese qualifying tournament for senior players. Tournament conditions: two hours per player, followed by byo-yomi of 60 seconds x 5. First prize is 300,000,000 won (about $250,000). Below are selected results from Round One and full results thereafter.

Round 1 (Oct. 20, 21). Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) (W) beat Cho Seunga 4P by resig.; Lee Changseok 8P (Korea) (W) beat Onishi Ryuhei 7P (Japan); Han Seongjoo 8P (Korea) (B) beat Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (Japan) by resig.; Fan Yuting 9P (China) beat Kyo Kagen 9P (Japan) by resig.; Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) (W) beat Ke Jie 9P (China) by half a point; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (W) beat Li Weiqing 9P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Xie Erhao 9P (China) by resig.; Zhao Chenyu 8P (China) beat Lee Changho 9P (Korea) by resig.

Round 2 (Oct. 22, 23). Han (B) beat Dang Yifei 9P (China) by resig.; Lee Donghoon 9P (Korea) (W) beats Xie Ke 9P (China) by resig.; Park (W) beat Mi Yuting 9P (China) by 1.5; Lee (W) beat Peng Liyao 8P (China) by 0.5; Zhao (W) beat Ya
mashita by resig.; Shin (W) beat Fan by resig.; Lian Xiao 9P (China) (W) beat An Seungjun 9P (Korea) by 0.5; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Kim by resig.

Round 3 (Oct. 25, 26). Yang (W) beat Lee Changseok by resig.; Shin (W) beat Han by resig.; Zhao (B) beat Lee Donghoon by resig.; Park (W) beat Lian by 2.5.

Semifinals (Oct. 27, 28). Park (W) beat Zhao by resig.; Shin (B) beat Yang by resig.

Final
Game 1 (Nov. 1). Shin (B) by resig.
Game 2 (Nov. 2). Park (B) by resig.
Game 3 (Nov. 3). Park (W) by resig.

Japan wins three-way team tournament
Japan scored its first international victory for a while in the “2021 3rd China-Japan-Korea Nie Weiping Cup Weiqi Masters.” This is an unusual tournament in more than one respect. It is fought between five-player teams from the a
bove countries; these teams are made up (judging by the Japanese team) of celebrated players from the past, present, and future, and include one female player. The Japanese players were Takemiya Masaki 9P, who turned 70 on Jan. 1 this
 year, Yamashita Keigo 9P, Kono Rin 9P, Ms. Aoki Kikuyo 8P, and Fukuoka Kotaro 2P (aged 15, he represents the future in my formulation). The Chinese team was made up of Nie Weiping 9P (as far as I know, the first time a player has com
peted in a named in his honor), Chang Hao 9P, Gu Li 9P, Zhang Xuan 8P (the wife of Chang Hao), and Tu Xiaoyu 6P 6P (Tu won the Chinese King of the News Stars title and took second place in this year’s Globis Cup). Members of the Chinese team were: Cho Hunhyun 9P, Lee Changho 9P, Cho Hanseung 9P, Ms. Lee Changen (“en” is just a guess) 3P, and Mun Minjong 4P. Japan beat at China 3-2 and came second. In his own tournament, Nie was unable to pick up a win. Full results follow.

Round 1 (Oct. 30). Japan v. China
Takemiya (B) beat Nie by resig. Yamashita (W) beat Chang by half a point. Kono (B) lost to Gu by half a point. Aoki (B) beat Zhang by resig. Fukuoka (W) beat Tu by half a point.

Round 2 (Oct. 31). Japan v. Korea
Takemiya (W) beat Cho HH by 4.5. Yamashita (W) beat Lee CH by resig. Kono (B) lost to Cho HS by 4.5. Aoki (W) beat Ms. Lee by 8.5. Fukuoka (W) beat Mun by resig.

Round 3 (Nov. 1). Korea vs. China
Cho (B) beat Nie by resig. Lee CH (B) beat Chang by resig. Cho HS (B) beat Gu by resig. Ms. Lee (W) lost to Zhang by resig. Mun (W) lost to Tu by resig.

Ichiriki eliminated from LG Cup
After a gap of a little over five months, the quarterfinals and semifinals of the 26th LG Cup were played on the net on November 7‾10. Unfortunately for Japanese fans, Ichiriki Ryo 8P was eliminated. Results follow.

Quarterfinals (Nov. 7 & 8)
Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 9P (Japan) by resig.; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (W) beat Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) by resig.; Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) by resig.; Mi Yuting 9P (China) (W) beat Byun Sa
ngil 9P (Korea) by resig.

Semifinals (Nov. 9 & 10). Yang (W) beat Mi by resig.; Shin (W) beat Ke by resig.

Yang Dingxin vs. Shin Jinseo: The best-of-three final will be played on February 7, 9, and, if necessary, 10.

Nong Shim Cup: Iyama dominates second round
The second round of the 23rd Cup was held in the last five days of November. At the end of the first round, Korea had surprised fans by fielding its number two player, Park Junghwan. In an interview, the Korea team captain, Mok Jinseok 9P, revealed that the reason for this was that in recent years Korea had done badly in the middle round, falling behind China and putting too much pressure on their final player or players in the final round. The strategy seemed to work at first, when Park won the final game of the first round (see above), but then he was eliminated in the next game when he lost to Fan Tingyu of China. Fan was another player fielded a little earlier than expected. He has been a hero for China in recent years, twice winning seven games in a row (18th and 20th Cups).
Japan seemed to follow a similar strategy, fielding its top player Iyama Yuta next. This turned out to be a good decision, as Iyama was in excellent form. He won the remaining four games in this round, Japan’s best-ever winning streak in this tournament. Results follow.

Game 5 (Nov. 26). Fan Tingyu 9P (China) (B) beat Park by resig.
Game 6 (Nov. 27). Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (W) beat Fan by resig.
Game 7 (Nov. 28). Iyama (W) beat Byun Sangil 9P (Korea) by resig.
Game 8 (Nov. 29). Iyama (W) beat Lin Qincheng 9P (China) by resig.
Game 9 (Nov. 30). Iyama (B) beat Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) by resig.

The final round starts on February 21. Iyama will play Mi Yuting 9P of China. (A team has to inform the organizers who will be its next player before the preceding game is concluded.) After Mi, China’s last player is Ke Jie. Korea is down to its last player, Shin Jinseo; any one of these three is quite capable of winning the tournament single-handed. Japan still has Yo Seiki and Ichiriki Ryo.

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The Power Report: Iyama starts with win in Oza challenge; Sumire’s progress; First snap AI inspection; The ideal and the real ; Most wins/ Most successive wins; Promotions

Wednesday November 10, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Yokohama Royal Park Hotel

Iyama starts with win in Oza challenge
The 69th Oza title match, a best-of-five, got off to a start on October 29. The defender is Shibano Toramaru, whose target is to win the title for the third year in a row. So far he has won six titles. The challenger is Iyama Yuta, who is hoping to pick up his fifth concurrent title. He holds the Kisei, Meiin, Honinbo, and Gosei titles.
   The venue was a special playing room on the 65th floor of the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. This is probably the highest venue for a title-match game.
   Iyama drew black in the nigiri. In the opening, he set up four low, territorial positions, so White found himself setting up a large moyo. During fighting that started when Iyama tried to reduce the moyo, Shibano made a misjudgment and fell a little behind. He went all out and caught up enough to make the game a half-pointer, but then he made a mistake in the endgame and had to resign soon after. The game lasted 205 moves. The second game will be played on November 12.

Sumire’s progress
   Having been eliminated from a number of tournaments, this seems to be a season of lean pickings for Nakamura Sumire 2P. Since September 2 (see my report of September 28), she has played only five games, the first two of which she lost. Because of that she dropped into third place in the most-wins list for two weeks, but she regained second place after winning two games in one day.
(Sept. 27) Sumire (W) lost to (Ms.) Moro Arisa 2P by 5.5 points (16th Young Carp preliminary).
(Oct. 4) Sumire (B) lost to Kobayashi Koichi by 5.5 (Prelim. B, 70th Oza).
(Oct. 21) Sumire (W) beat Kobayashi Chizu 6P by 15.5; Sumire (W) beat Shimosaka Miori 3P by 3.5. (Both games in Prelim. B, 33rd Women’s Meijin)
(Oct. 25) Sumire (B) beat O Keii 3P by resig. (25th Women’s Kisei, main tournament).

First snap AI inspection
   The first snap inspection to prevent AI-assisted cheating (see my report of September 28) was carried out on September 23. Led by the director responsible for organizing tournaments, Aoki Kikuyo 8P, a number of Nihon Ki-in employees entered a playing room where eight games were being played just as play was about to resume after the lunch break. They ordered the players to suspend their games and inspected their persons and their belongings with a metal detector. The rule is that devices such as smart phones and tablets have to be handed over to the staff before playing. Fortunately, there were no untoward discoveries.

The ideal and the real
    Hino Shota, aged 16, has just qualified as a professional. His responses at a news conference held on October 5, contrasted ambition and realism. Asked about his future goals, he replied: “In the future, I want to become a player who can star in world championships. My goal for the time being is to make the best eight in the Kings of the New Stars tournament.”

Most wins
  The competition from second place down is quite fierce, but, with under ten full weeks to go, it’s hard to see anyone overtaking Ueno in first place. (Results below are as of Oct. 29.)
1. Ueno Asami: 43-21
2. Nakamura Sumire: 37-16
3. Fukuoka Kotaro 2P: 36-11
4. Fujisawa Rina: 35-11
5. Kyo Kagen: 34-16
6. Motoki Katsuya 8P: 32-14
7. Seki Kotaro 7P: 31-10; Nyu Eiko 3P: 31-14
9. Ichiriki Ryo: 30-14

Most successive wins
6: Enda Hideki 9P; Oomote Takuto 3P. In recent weeks, a number of good winning streaks have come to an end. The main ones are listed below.
Kyo Kagen, Fujisawa Rina: 11; Horimoto Mitsunari: 10; Seki Kotaro: 9.

Promotions
To 8-dan: Suzuki Isao (150 wins; as of Oct. 5)
To 7-dan: Kanno Masashi (120 wins, as of Sept. 24)
To 5-dan: Koyama Kuya (70 wins, as of Sept. 24)
To 3-dan: Ito Kenryo (40 wins; as of Oct. 15)

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The Power Report: Kyo wins Agon Kiriyama Cup; Big win for Fujisawa Rina; New Honinbo League starts; Seki makes good start in Tengen title match

Sunday November 7, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Agon Kiriyama Cup: Kyo (l) beats Iyama
Seki Kotaro 7P

Kyo wins Agon Kiriyama Cup
   The final of the 28th Agon Kiriyama Cup was held in the Kagyu-An (Snail Pavilion) at the Kyoto headquarters of the Agon Sect on October 2. Taking white, Kyo Kagen Judan won by resignation after 214 moves. He won this title for the first time. Iyama missed out on winning it for the sixth time.

Big win for Fujisawa Rina
Fujisawa Rina scored one of the most impressive wins of her career when she played Ichiriki Ryo Tengen in the final preliminary round of the 60th Judan tournament on September 23. Taking black, she won by resignation and also won a seat in the main tournament of the Judan. This was her first win in four games with Ichiriki. One of those losses was the final play-off for a place in the Meijin League last year?Ichiriki prevented Fujisawa from making history by becoming the first woman to play in a Meijin or Honinbo league. Ueno Asami had already won a place in the main tournament, so Fujisawa became the second woman in the best 16. Just for the record, it’s 17 years since a woman last accomplished this feat.
   On October 25, Fujisawa (B) beat Son Makoto 7P by 4.5 points, making her the first woman ever to win a game in the main tournament of the Judan. She has made the best eight, so she needs just three more wins to become the challenger.
   Backtracking a little, Fujisawa played her final game in the C League of the 46th Kisei tournament on October 4. Playing white, she beat Cho Zuiketsu 4P by resig. This took her score to 3-2, so she retained her seat in the league.

New Honinbo League starts
The new Honinbo League got off to a start on October 4 and the first round has now been completed. Results to date follow
(Oct. 4) Sada Atsushi 7P (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 9P by resig.
(Oct. 8) Ichiriki Ryo (W) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P by resig.
(Oct. 11) Yo Seiki 8P (B) beat Kyo Kagen Judan by half a point.
(Oct. 14) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig.

Seki makes good start in Tengen title match
   The first game of the 47th Tengen title match, in which Seki Kotaro 7P is challenging Ichiriki Ryo, was played at the Genji-Ko, a modern Japanese-style inn in Minami-Chita Hot Spring Village, Chita Peninsula, Aichi Prefecture, on October 5. This inn is, in its own words, “built around the themes of ‘The Tale of Genji’ and the first Japanese inn to be themed on scents.” Playing white, Seki forced Ichiriki to resign after 130 moves. There is a big gap before the second game, which will be played on November 16.

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The Power Report: Ichiriki to challenge for Kisei; Iyama to challenge for Oza; Sotoyanagi wins King of the New Stars

Tuesday November 2, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ichiriki to challenge for Kisei
   First, here is the result of the final game in the 46th Kisei S League, which was played on September 20. Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 4.5 points. This was Kono’s first win in the league; Yamashita ended up on 0-5. (The league chart is given in my report of September 22.) In the knock-out tournament that follows the leagues, Shibano Toramaru reached the “best-of-three” play-off to decide the challenger, but faced a difficult task here. As the winner of the S League, Ichiriki Ryo was awarded a one-win advantage, that is, Shibano had to win the first two games, while Ichiriki needed just one win. The play-off started and ended on October 25. Taking black, Ichiriki won by resignation after 121 moves. Other results in this stage follow.
(Sept. 23) Son Makoto 7P (winner of B League) (W) beat Numadate Sakiya 7P (winner of C League) by resig.
(Sept. 30) Shibano (B) (winner of A League) beat Son by 2.5 points.
(Oct. 21) Shibano (W) beat Yo Seiki 8P (second in S League) by resig.

Sotoyanagi wins King of the New Stars

Iyama to challenge for Oza
The play-off to decide the challenger to Shibano Toramaru for the 69th Oza title was held at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on September 20. Taking black, Iyama Yuta beat Ichiriki Ryo by resig. after 231 moves. The best-of-five starts on October 29.

Sotoyanagi wins King of the New Stars
So far, only one woman player has won a tournament open to both male and female players: that was Fujisawa Rina, who made the breakthrough in the 15th Young Carp tournament last year (she beat Son Makoto 7P in the final). However, Ueno Asami has long been noted for her good results against male players, so when she reached the final of the 46th King of the New Stars, fans had high hopes she would emulate Fujisawa. Her opponent was Sotoyanagi Sebun 3P; this was his last chance, as he just barely made the age qualification; he is now 26 (born on Dec. 23, 1994, but he was 25, the cut-off point, when the draw for the opening round was made). (The other condition is that a player be under 7-dan). In a program on the Nihon Ki-in’s Youtube channel, Yokotsuka Riki 7P commented that probably 95% of the fans watching were rooting for Ueno, something Sotoyanagi would have been well aware of.
   All of the games were played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo. The best-of-three got off to a start on September 20, with Sotoyanagi drawing black in the nigiri. He took the lead in the middle game, but Ueno made a desperate attack in which she ripped off half a dozen stones. Sotoyanagi countered with a do-or-die move of his own and retook the lead. Ueno resigned after Black 281. Sotoyanagi commented that he thought he was 1.5 points ahead at the end.
   The second game was played on October 9. Ueno (B) took the lead in a ko fight and forced a resignation after 261 moves.   
The third game was played on October 15. Sotoyanagi drew white in the nigiri. Compared to the other two games, this one was a little one-sided. Sotoyanagi took the lead in the opening and held on to it throughout. Ueno resigned after 272 moves.
   Ueno is still only 19 (her birthday is October 26), so she will have more chances to win this title. Not so Sotoyanagi, as noted above. He was quite self-deprecating in the winner’s interview, commenting that this was the first and maybe the last time that he would appear on a major stage. His professional career got off to a late start, as he didn’t qualify as 1-dan until he was 19. However, he has fans in his home prefecture of Iwate and was happy that he finally had an achievement to repay them for their support. His first prize is two million yen.


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The Power Report: Fujisawa wins Senko Cup; The 79-year age gap; New Honinbo league members; Three-way tie in international tournament; Shin Jinseo wins Chunlan Cup

Thursday September 23, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Fujisawa wins Senko Cup
The final rounds of the 6th Senko Cup were held in the Guest Pavilion Akekure (Dawn and Dusk) at the Crefeel Koto hotel in East Omi City, Shiga Prefecture, on September 10 and 12. This tournament is a little unusual in that the previous winner does not defend the title but starts out again in the main tournament. The winner of the 5th Cup was Ueno Asami; she reached the final, so the result was the same as if she were defending the title. She was joined in the final by her main rival, Fujisawa Rina. The latter prevailed in the final, so she won this title for the third time. First prize is 8,000,000 yen (just under $73,000 at $1 = 109.62 yen), which makes this the most lucrative domestic female title. Second prize of 4,000,000 yen is also quite generous. Fujisawa now holds five of the six women’s titles, the other four being the Women’s Honinbo, the Women’s Meijin, the Women’s Hollyhock, and the Hakata Kamachi Cup. The lone hold-out is the Women’s Kisei, held by Ueno. Fujisawa also holds the Young Carp title. This is her 19th title; she is rapidly catching up with XieYimin (27 titles).

Results:
Semifinals (Sept. 10). Ueno Asami (B) beat Xie Yimin 7P by resig.; Fujisawa (B) beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig.
Final (Sept. 12). Fujisawa (W) beat Ueno by resig.

The 79-year age gap
On September 9, Sugiuchi Kazuko 8P, at 94 the oldest active go player, was paired against Fukuoka Kotaro 2P, at 15 one of the youngest professionals at the Nihon Ki-in. The gap between the two was 79 years. Taking black, Fukuoka won by resignation. After the game, he commented: “Sugiuchi Sensei’s posture and movements were very natural and struck me as beautiful. I’m glad I had a chance to play her.’ The biggest gap ever in a professional game was 80 years, set when her husband, the late Sugiuchi Masao, then 95, played Onishi Ryuhei 1P, then 15.

New Honinbo league members
The four vacant seats in the 77th Honinbo League have been decided, and two have gone to Kansai Ki-in players. On August 26, Sada Atsushi 7P (KK) (W) beat Koyama Kuya 4P by 2.5 points. Sada makes a comeback to the league immediately after dropping out of the previous league.
On September 2, Yo Seiki 8P (KK) (W) beat Ko Iso 9P by resig. and won a seat for the sixth time after a gap of two terms. On the same day, Motoki Katsuya 8P (W) beat Koike Yoshihiro 6P by resig. This will be his fourth appearance in the league; he won the 72nd league.
In the game for the last open seat, played on September 9, Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P (B) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by resig. Tsuruyama also made an immediate come back to the league. He commented that he was happy to make his second league; one appearance could be dismissed as a fluke, but not two.

Three-way tie in international tournament
The 2021 6th Hulu Island Weiqi Cultural Festival China-Japan-Korea Tournament was held from September 12‾14 on the net. It is a team tournament, with three-player teams from China, Japan, and Korea competing. It features former top players, though one member of the Japanese team might object to the first adjective. Each team won one match and lost one and each scored three individual wins, so the result was a three-way tie for first. Chinese rules were used, and the time allowance was one hour plus one minute x 5. Prizes were 300,000 yuan (about $18,450 at one yuan = 15.3 cents), 200,000, and 100,000. Results follow:

Round One) Korea 2-China 1
Yoo Chang-hyeok 9P (B) lost to Yu Bin 9P by half a point.
Lee Chang-ho 9P (B) beat Chang Hao 9P by resig.
Cho Hun-hyeon 9P (B) beat Nie Weiping 9P by resig.

Round Two) China 2-Japan 1
Nie Weiping 9P (W) lost to Kobayashi Koichi 9P by resig.
Yu Bin (B) beat Kobayashi Satoru 9P by resig.
Chang Hao 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji 9P by half a point.

Round Three) Japan 2-Korea 1
Kobayashi Koichi (W) beat Cho Hun-hyeon by 4.5 points.
Kobayashi Satoru (B) beat Yoo Chang-hyeok by resig.
Takao Shinji 9P (B) lost to Lee Chang-ho by 2.5 points

Shin Jinseo wins Chunlan Cup
Shin Jin-seo 9P of Korea, the world’s top-rated player, beat Tang Weixing 9P of China 2-0 in the best-of three final of the 13th Chunlan Cup (the tournament started in July last year). In the first game, played on the net on Sept. 13, Shin (W) upset his opponent’s lead and won by half a point. The second game was played on Sept. 15; taking black, Shin won by resig. after 173 moves. First prize is $150,000.
Shin was born on March 17, 2000, and this is his fourth international title (see below for the other three). The other three are given below. Shin has a reputation for surpassing AI, which has earned him an interesting nickname: “shinko chino,” which means “Shin-built intelligence.” That is a pun on the term “jinko chino,” which means “artificial intelligence.”
Shin’s other titles: 4th Globis Cup (2017); 31st TV Asia (2019); 24th LG Cup (2020, this tournament began in 2019).

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The Power Report: Hoshiai’s first challenge; Ichiriki takes lead in Meijin; Ichiriki wins Kisei S League

Wednesday September 22, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Hoshiai Shiho 3P

Hoshiai to make first challenge
The play-off to decide the challenger to Fujisawa Rina for the 40th Women’s Honinbo was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 23. Taking black, Hoshiai Shiho 3P (right) beat Koyama Terumi 6P by resignation. She will make her first challenge for a title. She may be a new name for some readers, but actually she is one of the best-known women players in Japan, as she has been serving as the MC of NHK’s TV tournament telecast on Sundays. Hoshiai turned 24 on September 4. The title match begins on September 28. Her opponent, Koyama Terumi, deserves praise for reaching the play-off. In an era of domination by young stars, the 51-year-old Koyama revived memories of her younger days when she won the Women’s Meijin title four times (1996‾98, 2005).

Shiki-sai Ichiriki or Four Seasonal Colors Ichiriki

Ichiriki takes lead in Meijin title match
This year’s 46th Meijin title match features what is undoubtedly the strongest pairing in current tournament go in Japan. Iyama held the top three titles and has continued to lord it over the go world despite entering his 30s. The challenger, Ichiriki Ryo, has been the in-form player in recent months and has looked the most likely to dethrone Iyama. However, although he has won 14 titles, he has not yet won one of the big three, unlike his closest rival, Shibano Toramaru. This match is his chance to rectify that.
The first game of the match was held at its customary venue of the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, on August 26 and 27. Iyama drew white in the nigiri. Both players played aggressively, so the game featured fierce fighting throughout, making this a spectacular start to the title match. However, Ichiriki’s strategy at an important point in the middle game was a little dubious, so Iyama took the lead. Ichiriki made an all-out attempt to capture a large group, but White cut off a black group and won the capturing race with a brilliant combination, one that he apparently worked out 25 moves in advance. Ichiriki resigned after move 212.
The second game was played at the Shiki-sai Ichiriki or Four Seasonal Colors Ichiriki in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, on September 8 and 9, Ichiriki being written with the same characters, “one strength,” as in the player’s name. Although there’s no connection between the family that founded the inn and Ichiriki’s family, it was a pleasant coincidence for Ichiriki (the venue would have been chosen before the organizers knew who the challenger would be). The game was a real rough-and-tumble affair, with various moves supposed to be bad style, such as empty triangles and moves pushing through a knight’s move, appearing in the messy infighting. Iyama (B) delivered what Go Weekly called “unlimited punches,” with Ichiriki sometimes absorbing the impact, sometimes dodging lightly. Ichiriki had an edge, but in the endgame he missed a move that would have secured a win, so the game became a half-pointer. However, Iyama later made a mistake, so the half point went in Ichiriki’s favor. This was Ichiriki’s first win in a two-day game?he lost 0-4 when he challenged Iyama for the 42nd Kisei title in 2018.
The third game was played at Kakujoro inn in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture, on 15 & 16 September, with Hane Naoki acting as referee. Ichiriki (B) got into trouble when he came under a severe attack, but he was able to pull off an upset. Iyama resigned after move 225. The fourth game will be played on September 28 and 29.  

Ichiriki wins Kisei S League
In a repeat of his Meijin League performance, Ichiriki Ryo has won the S League of the 46th Kisei tournament without dropping a game. Second place was taken by Yo Seiki 8P of the Kansai Ki-in. Results since my last report are given below.
(Aug. 16) Murakawa Daisuke 9P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.
(Aug. 23) Ichiriki (B) beat Takao Shinji by resig.
(Sept. 16) Yo Seiki 8P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by 2.5 points.
The final-round game between Kono Rin and Yamashita Keigo has yet to be played.

The winners of the other leagues have also been decided, though not all the games have been played yet. In the B League play-off, Son Makoto 7P, who won the B2 League with 6-1, defeated Shida Tatsuya 8P, who won the B1 League with 5-2. The game was played on September 6, and Son, taking black, won by resignation. The knock-out to decide the challenger looks like this: Numadate Sakiya 7P, winner of the C League, plays Son Makoto; the winner then plays Shibano Toramaru, winner of the A League; the winner plays Yo Seiki 8P, who came second in the S League; the winner then plays Ichiriki in a “best-of-three” in which Ichiriki has a one-win advantage, so he needs to win only one game to become the challenger.

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The Power Report: Ichiriki perfect in Meijin; Ueno into King of the New Stars final; Iyama wins Gosei, 65th title

Monday September 20, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ichiriki

Ichiriki’s perfect record in Meijin League
The final round of the 46th Meijin league was held on August 6. There was no suspense at the top of the league, as Ichiriki had taken an unbeatable lead of 7-0 in the previous round, but at the other end there were issues of demotion still to be decided. Kyo Kagen, Hane Naoki, Yamashita Keigo, and Shibano Toramaru were sure of their places. Yo Seiki, who had a bye in the last round, was the only player sure of dropping out. That meant that out of Kono Rin, Motoki Katsuya, and Anzai Nobuaki, two would have to drop out. Complete results for the final round follow:
Ichiriki Ryo Tengen (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.
Kyo Kagen Judan (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by half a point.
Motoki Katsuya (W) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.
Anzai Nobuaki 9P (B) beat Shibano Toramaru Oza by resig.

The position became simplified when Motoki won his game. He improved his score to 4-4 and took 5th place. Anzai needed not just to win but also to have Motoki (and Kono) lose, in which case there would be a play-off with Motoki for the sixth seat. This happens only when the players have the same rank, so this rule applies only to the three newcomers to the league, who are all ranked 7th. That’s why Anzai didn’t get a play-off with Shibano, although they finished on the same score. Shibano’s luck in keeping his place with a 3-5 score is indicative of how the Meijin League favors the status quo. In the Honinbo League, a score of 4-3 is sometimes not enough to keep your place. Incidentally, Kono is enduring one of the worst slumps of his career, the loss above being his 11th in a row. This was his 10th Meijin League in a row and the first time he lost his seat.

Ueno makes King of the New Stars final
On August 9, Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, (W) beat Nishi Takenobu 5P in the semifinal of the 46th King of the New Stars tournament by 4.5 points. This made her the second woman player to make the final. The first was Aoki Kikuyo 8P (then 7P) in the 22nd title. The other finalist is Sotoyanagi Sebun 3P; the best-of-three starts on September 20.

Iyama

Iyama wins Gosei, once again
The fourth game of the 46th Gosei title match was held at the Niigata Grand Hotel in Niigata City on August 17. Taking white, Iyama Yuta won by resignation after 198 moves and so survived a kadoban. He played quite aggressively and did not seem to fall behind at any stage. The highlights of the game were two brilliancies played by Iyama. One was a surprising move adding a stone to three captured white stones, but giving White leverage that he used in his second brilliancy. Incidentally, the referee for this game was Cho U. Aged 41, Cho was making his debut in this role. He was also the referee for the first game in the Meijin title match (see below). It’s a little unusual to choose as referees players who are still competing at the top. Cho is slated to play Iyama in the semifinal of the 69th Oza tournament; if he won that game, he would meet Ichiriki in the final to decide the challenger. (As it happened, Iyama beat Cho.) Actually, it’s not just Cho. The other three members of the group popularly called “the top four of the Heisei (1989-2019) era,” that is, Takao Shinji, Hane Naoki, and Yamashita Keigo, are also serving as referees for the Meijin title match.
The fifth game was held at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on August 29. Iyama drew white in the nigiri and continued where he left off in the fourth game. He took the edge in the middle game, so Ichiriki felt that he had to stake the game on attacking a large white group. When this attack failed, he resigned. The game lasted 180 moves.
Iyama regained the title that he had held for six years in a row (2012‾2017: 37th to 42nd). He lost it to Kyo Kagen in 2018, who lost it to Hane Naoki in 2019, who lost it to Ichiriki Ryo in 2020. Perhaps a new dynasty will start. Iyama once again becomes a quadruple title holder. This is his 65th title, so he moves ahead of Sakata Eio into sole second place on the all-time list:.
Most titles won
1. Cho Chikun: 75
2. Iyama Yuta: 65
3. Sakata Eio: 64
4. Kobayashi Koichi: 60
5. Otake Hideo: 48
6. Kato Masao: 47
7. Cho U: 41
8. Yoda Norimoto: 36
9. Rin Kaiho: 35
10. Xie Yimin: 27

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The Power Report: Promotions, retirement and an obituary

Friday August 20, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Promotions
To 8-dan: Uchida Shuhei (150 wins; as of July 30)
To 7-dan (120 wins): Minematsu Masaki (as of July 6), Kato Yuki (as of July 9)
To 4-dan (50 wins): Takahashi Masumi (as of July 6); Otani Naoki (as of July 16); Seki Kotaro (as of July 27)

Retirement: Kanagawa Masaki
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture on June 26, 1955, Kanagawa was a disciple of Abe Yoshiteru 9P. He became 1-dan in 1975 and reached 8-dan in 2017. He retired on July 31 and was promoted to 9-dan. He took second place in the 2-dan, the 4-dan, and the 5-dan section of the Kisei tournament in 1976, 1979, and 1983 respectively.

Obituary: Harada Minoru
Harada Minoru died of a heart attack on July 10, aged 85. In his prime, he was one of the top amateur players in Japan while also pursuing a business career at Hitachi Manufacturing. He won the Amateur Honinbo tournament seven times, the Amateur Best Ten four times, and various other amateur titles. He was known as one of the “Top Four” amateurs, along with Kikuchi Yasuro, Hirata Hironori, and Murakami Bunsho. They monopolized the amateur titles and could all have been successful as professional players if they had wanted to, but perhaps they might not have become so well known.

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The Power Report: Sumire suffers setbacks but recovers; Most wins/Best winning streak

Thursday August 19, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Sumire v. Iyama at New Ryusei

Sumire suffers setbacks but recovers
   As reported on June 4, Nakamura Sumire saw her winning streak come to an end and in fact suffered successive losses to two 9-dans. Although she won what was her third successive game against a 9-dan, she then lost four games in a row, the worst losing streak of her career so far. However, she is now balancing losses with wins, including her first win in an international tournament against a formidable opponent.

(June 3) Sumire (W) beat Nakane Naoyuki 9p by 1.5 points Prelim. B, 60th Judan tournament).
(June 4) Sumire beat Iwasaki Seito (2 stones) by 4. This was an unofficial game. Iwasaki is blind in his right eye and has 0.01 vision in his left eye. With the cooperation of the Nihon Ki-in, he has become an insei. He started out in April in D Class, but quickly moved up to C Class. He attends a school for the blind, and, like Sumire, is in the first year of middle school. He plays on a board, called “aigo,” adapted for use by players with vision disabilities. A 2-hour commentary (in Japanese) on the game can be found here.

(June 10) Sumire lost to Takeshita Ryoya 1p (Prelim. B, 47th Gosei).
(June 15) Sumire (W) lost to Nyu Eiko 3p by 6.5 points (semifinal, 8th Hollyhock Cup?see article above). Reaching the final four is Sumire’s best result in a tournament so far. 
(July 1) Sumire (B) lost to Shuto Shun 8p by 1.5 (46th Kisei, C League).
(July 5) Sumire (W) lost to Koyama Terumi 6p by 3.5 (Round 2, main tournament, 40th Women’s Honinbo.) This was her fourth loss in a row.
(July 8) Sumire (W) beat Ueno Risa 1p by resig. (Round 1, main tournament, 6th Senko Cup). This was her first win in an official game for five weeks. 
(July 15). Sumire (B) beat Muramoto Wataru 3p by resig. (Prelim. A, 60th Judan. This game was played at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in.)
(July 18) Sumire (W) beat Kim Jaeyoung 6p (Korea) by half a point. (Sumire was given a sponsor’s wild-card seed in the 4th Wu Qingyuan [Go Seigen] Cup; see report above. Kim won this tournament in its first year, so this is an excellent result for Sumire and her first international win.)
(July 19) Sumire (W) lost to Zhou Hongyu 6p (China) by resig. (Round 2 of tournament above.)
(July 22) Sumire (B) beat Endo Yoshifumi 8p by 2.5 (Prelim. C, 70th Oza.)
(July 29) Sumire (W) lost to Iyama Yuta Kisei in round one of the New Ryusei tournament. This is an unofficial tournament, presumably because of its very short time allowance. Players start with one minute and get an extra five seconds every time they play a move (a system known as Fischer time, after its inventor Bobby Fischer). There are 32 participants in a knock-out; Sumire was chosen as one of two special seeds. After the game, she commented that she was “cut to pieces.” (The above information comes from the Net. The Nihon Ki-in is withholding news of the result until the game is televised on August 28.)
(August 2) Sumire beat Antti Tormanen 1p (Prelim. C, Tengen) (details not yet available).   
Sumire still has the second-most wins of all Nihon Ki-in pros but no longer the best winning percentage; see below. However, I have a problem. Go Weekly (and the Nihon Ki-in HP) gave her score as 29-8 as of July 16, compared to 26-8 as of July 9, but I can find only one result, listed above, for that week. A Net site that tracks her results didn’t have the two “missing” games either.

Most wins (as of July 31)
1. Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei: 35-13
2. Nakamura Sumire: 31-10 (75.6%) (note that the last two games given above are not included)
3. Fukuoka Kotaro 2p: 27-4 (86.6%). Fukuoka was on a winning streak that stopped at 13, so he is level with Sumire for the best winning streak so far this year.
4. Fujisawa Rina: 23-10; Motoki Katsuya 8p: 23-11; Kyo Kagen Judan: 23-12; Nyu Eiko 3p: 23-28. Tsuneishi Takashi 4p: 22-2 (at 91.6%, the best winning percentage); Ichiriki Ryo Tengen: 22-5 (his 12-game winning streak stopped a few weeks earlier); Seki Kotaro 4p: 22-7.
   At present, there are four women players in the top ten.

Best winning streak
11: Tsuneishi Takashi
9: Otake Yu. Sumire’s father, Shinya 9P, briefly entered the list with 5-in-a-row, but was unable to keep his streak going.

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