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The Power Report: Best performers of 2020

Sunday February 21, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

This reports focuses on the players with the best performances in various categories last year.

Most wins
Because of a multiple tie for 9th place, the top ten is actually the top eleven. Some other results of interest have been added. Note that three women players make the top eleven. The increase in tournaments for women gives them more playing opportunities and more prize money. It could be argued that this is a golden age for professional women’s go in Japan.
1. Ichiriki Ryo Tengen: 53-13
2. Iyama Yuta Kisei: 38-14
3. Kyo Kagen 8P: 36-23
4. Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo: 35-15; Shibano Toramaru Oza: 35-21 
6. Ueno Asami, Senko Cup-holder: 34-23 
7. Onishi Ryuhei 7P: 32-15
8. Yamashita Keigo 9P: 30-20
9. Seki Kotaro 3P: 29-8; Mutsuura Yuta 7P: 29-13; Nyu Eiko 3P: 29-16
15. Xie Yimin 6P: 26-19
17. Kono Rin 9P: 25-22
19. Mukai Chiaki 5P: 24-13
22. Suzuki Ayumi, Women’s Kisei: 23-14
27. Nakamura Sumire 1P: 21-17 (7th among women players)

Most consecutive wins
1. Chotoku Tesshi 3P: 14
2. Ichiriki: 11
3. Mutsuura: 10
4. Iyama, Ichiriki, Kyo Kagen, Kanazawa Hideo 8P, Motoki Katsuya 8P: 9

Best winning percentage (over a minimum of 24 games)
1. Ichiriki: 80.3
2. Seki: 78.38
3. Kanazawa: 76
4. Anzai Nobuaki 7P: 73.68 (28-10)
5. Hirata Tomoya 7P: 73.53 (25-9)
6. Iyama: 73.08
7. Onishi: 72.73
8. Mizokami Tomochika 9P, Takei Takashi 7P: 72.41 (both 21-8)
10. Ida Atsushi 8P: 71.05 (27-11)

Prize-money promotions 
The following players from 1- to 6-dan earned promotions based on prize money earned during the year. The top two from 1-dan to 5-dan are promoted a rank, but only one 6-dan is promoted. Players who earned promotions by other means during the year, that is, by cumulative wins or challenging for a title or winning a seat in a league, are excluded, so the players below are the “top” among the rest. Promotions are dated to January 1.
To 7-dan: Numadate Sakiya
To 6-dan: Koike Yoshihiro, Yanagisawa Satoshi
To 5-dan: Hirose Yuichi, Otake Yu
To 4-dan: Cho Zuiketsu, Ueno Asami
To 3-dan: Muramoto Wataru, Chotoku Tesshi
To 2-dan: Terada Shuta, Fukuoka Kotaro 

Most prize money won
For the 10th year in a row, Iyama topped the list of prize-money winners and once again reached the enviable bench mark of 100,000,000 yen (approx. $961,000 at $1 = 104 yen). Actually, the first time he came first was the only time he fell short of this mark, but, with 91,000,000, not very short. The most he has made is 172,000,000 in 2015 and the least is 106,000,000 (these figures are rounded off). Just for the record, only three other players have reached seven figures: Kobayashi Koichi (three times), Cho Chikun (four times), and Cho U (four times). Note the figures below include tournament prize money and game fees but not other income, such as for doing public commentaries or lectures, appearance money, teaching, book royalties, etc. 
1. Iyama Yuta: 128,519,441
2. Ichiriki Ryo: 48,609,332
3. Shibano Toramaru: 47,412,860
4. Fujisawa Rina: 27,410,030
5. Kono Rin: 26,927,300
6. Yamashita Keigo: 20,993,400
7. Kyo Kagen: 20,962,681
8. Ueno Asami: 17,545,862
9. Cho U: 11,969,400
10. Hane Naoki: 11,722,000

54th Kido Prizes  
The magazine Kido is defunct, but its prizes live on and were announced on February 10. They are open only to Nihon Ki-in players. This time they were dominated by Ichiriki Ryo, who won five of the seven prizes he was eligible for.
Most outstanding player: Iyama Yuta Kisei, Meijin & Honinbo.
Outstanding player: Ichiriki Ryo Tengen & Gosei
New star: Seki Kotaro, King of the New Stars
Women’s prize: Fujisawa Rina, Young Carp titleholder, Women’s Honinbo, Women’s Meijin, Women’s Hollyhock Cup holder, Hakata Kamachi Cup holder
International Prize: Ichiriki
Most wins: Ichiriki (53)
Best winning percentage: Ichiriki (80.3%)
Most consecutive wins: Chotoku Tesshi
Most games played: Ichiriki (66)

Kansai Ki-in prizes
The following prizes were announced on January 29. They were dominated by Yo Seiki, who matched Ichiriki in number of prizes won
Most outstanding player: Yo Seiki 8P (aged 25)
Most Wins: Yo (43)
Best winning percentage: Yo (86%)
Risen Prize (fighting spirit): Sada Atsushi 7P
Dogen Prize (special merit): Seto Taiki 8P
New star: Okawa Takuya 2P (aged 19)
Most successive wins: Yo (22)
Yamano Prize (for popularizing go): Tobita Saki 2P
Nagai Prize (outstanding player under 30): Nishi Takenobu 5P
Yoshida Prize (most wins against Nihon Ki-in players): Yo (24)
Taniguchi Prize (to encourage players under 26): Abe Yoshiki 3P (aged 24)

Kansai Ki-in prize-money promotions
The Kansai Ki-in has a more limited system than the Nihon Ki-in: the top three prize-money earners from 1- to 4-dan go up a rank on January 1. In order of earnings they are:
1. Hong Akiyoshi: to 4-dan
2. Nishi Takenobu: to 5-dan
3. Taniguchi Toru: to 5-dan


The Power Report: Sumire’s progress; Ida wins 5th Crown

Saturday February 13, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Sumire’s progress

First of all, some good news for Nakamura Sumire fans. On August 15, she scored a commendable win over Takao Shinji in a practice game played on the net. Takao was playing in his capacity of coach of the national team. Taking white, Sumire won by 1.5 points. It’s not an official result, of course, but pros take all their games quite seriously.

In the September 14 issue of Go Weekly, it was announced that Sumire would be transferring to the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on January 1. The timing is right for her, as she had finished elementary school and will proceed to junior high in April. Sumire: “I thought that I wanted to study hard in Tokyo, where there would be many strong players and rivals. I will do my best to improve, even if only a little.” Her father, Nakamura Shinya 9P, commented: “Sumire has been saying that she wanted to test herself in Tokyo. . . . She won’t forget her feelings of gratitude to all the people who helped her in the Kansai. I hope she will do her best.”

Incidentally, the magazine also mentioned that a fan with an anime-style portrait of Sumire on it had gone on sale.

Results since my previous report are given below.

(Sept. 7) Sumire (W) beat Tsukuda Akiko 5P by 6.5 points (Prelim. A, 24th Women’s Kisei tournament). This win earned Sumire a seat in the main tournament for the second year in a row.

(Sept. 14) In the preliminary tournament for the 15th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament, Sumire won three games in one day and qualified for the main tournament. This tournament is open to players under 31 and under 8-dan. The time allowance is 30 seconds per move with ten minutes of thinking time to be used in one-minute units (the NHK Cup format). She beat three woman players: Honda Mariko 1P, Miyamoto Chiharu 1P, and Omori Ran 1P.

(Sept. 17) Sumire beat Ishida Atsushi 9P (Preliminary C, Oza tournament). Go Weekly noted that her record since the resumption of professional play in June was now 8-2.

(Oct. 1) Sumire (W) lost to Takahashi Masahiro 7P by resig. (Prelim. B, 69th Oza tournament).

(Oct. 8) Sumire (W) beat Ueno Risa 1P by 6.5 points (main tournament, 24th Women’s Kisei). With Sumire being 11 and Ueno 14, this was a game between the two youngest players at the Nihon Ki-in, for which the combined age of 25 was probably a record. They became pros at the same time, but this was the first official game between them. Sumire also played in the main tournament last year, but on more favorable terms, as she had to play only one game in the qualifying tournament. This is her first win in the main section of a tournament.

(Oct 26) Sumire (B) lost to Aoki Kikuyo 8P by 8.5 points (24th Women’s Kisei).
(Oct. 29) Sumire (W) beat Kori Toshio 9P (Prelim. C, 77th Honinbo). This was her fourth win over a 9-dan in 11 encounters.
(Nov. 16) Sumire (B) lost to Tsuji Hana 1P (46th King of the New Stars preliminary).
(Nov. 19) Sumire (B) beat Taguchi Misei 1P by resig. (Prelim. B, 32nd Women’s Meijin).
(Nov. 21) Sumire (W) lost to Ueno Asami, Women’s Honinbo, by resig. (round 1, main tournament, 15th Young Carp).
(Dec. 3) Sumire (B) lost to Iwamaru Taira 7P by 7.5 points (Prelim. C, 77th Honinbo).
(Dec. 10) Sumire (B) beat Nakajo Chihiro 1P by resig.; Sumire (W) beat Mizuno Hiromi 5P by resig. (both in Prelim. B, 32nd Women’s Meijin)
(Dec. 17) Sumire (W) beat Miyamoto Chiharu 1P by 32.5 points (8th Women’s Hollyhock Cup prelim.)

Sumire’s results for the year were 21 wins to 17 losses

Ida wins Crown title for 5th straight year

This year, the 19-year-old Otake Yu 4P challenged Ida Atsushi 8P (aged 26) for the 61st Crown title. The game was played at the Nagoya headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on November 26; taking black, Ida won by resignation after 181 moves. He won the Crown title for the fifth year in a row. First prize is 1,700,000 yen (about $16,300).


To 2-dan: (Ms.) Moro Arisa (30 wins; as of Sept. 4); (Ms.) Kato Chie (30 wins, as of Oct. 30)

To 4-dan: Fujimura Yosuke (50 wins; as of Sept. 8); Kazama Jun (50 wins; as of Nov. 13)


Inoue Kunio 9P retired as if October 5. Born in Tokyo on January 19, 1948, he became a disciple of Suzuki Goro 9P in 1955, then switched to the Kitani school in 1966. He made 1-dan in 1968 and reached 8-dan in 1988. After his retirement, he was promoted to 9-dan.


Sakai Masanori 5P died on September 15. Born in Hiroshima Prefecture on October 12, 1929, he became a disciple of Iyomoto Momoichi Hon. 8P. He became 1-dan in 1950 and reached 4-dan in 1974. He retired in 1996 and was promoted to 5-dan.

Kosugi Kiyoshi 9P died on September 27. Born on February 2, 1939, he was taught by his father Kosugi Chokufu 7P. He became 1-dan in 1957 and reached 8-dan in 1991. He was promoted to 9-dan after his retirement in 2004. With James Davies, he was the author of 38 Basic Joseki in the ISHI press Elementary Go Series. The late Kosugi Masaru 9P was his younger brother.

Asano Hideaki 8P died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Nov. 10. Born on January 14, 1945, he entered the Kitani school. He made 1-dan in 1966 and reached 7-dan in 1997. He retired in 2011 and was promoted to 8-dan.


The Power Report: Ichiriki wins Tengen; Shibano defends Oza; Ke Jie wins Samsung Cup

Friday February 12, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ichiriki wins Tengen

Ichiriki (r) beats Iyama

After failing in five challenges to Iyama Yuta for top-seven titles, Ichiriki Ryo finally prevailed in his sixth challenge, which was for the 46th Tengen title. He now has two top-seven titles to his name.

First of all, Ichiriki had to overcome the redoubtable resistance of Kono Rin 9-dan, whom he defeated in the play-off to decide the challenger. The game was played on September 4, and Ichiriki (W) won by resignation. The results in the title match are detailed below. Ichiriki made a lucky start by scoring a half-point win, but Iyama fought back to take two games in a row. At this point, it looked like the same old story, but Ichiriki has acquired some tenacity. He scored two successive wins and won his second top-seven title, to add to the Gosei he won earlier in the year from Hane Naoki. Iyama, with his major triple crown of the three top titles, is still indisputably the number one, but Ichiriki is competing for the number two position with Shibano Toramaru.

Game 1 (Oct. 8). Ichiriki (B) by half a point.
Game 2 (Oct. 20). Iyama (B) by resig.
Game 3 (Nov. 27). Iyama (W) by resig.
Game 4 (Dec. 7). Ichiriki (W) by resig.
Game 5 (Dec. 16). Ichiriki (B) by resig.

Shibano defends Oza title

The 68th title match pitted two of the new leaders of Japanese go against each other: the 22-year-old Kyo Kagen 8P and the 20-year-old Shibano Toramaru Oza. The latter’s play in the Oza title match showed that he had recovered from the shock of losing the Meijin title. He managed to fend off Kyo’s challenge while dropping just one game, though he did seal his victory with a half-pointer.

Game 1 (Oct. 23). Shibano (W) by resig.
Game 2 (Nov. 6). Shibano (B) by resig.
Game 3 (Nov. 17). Kyo (B) by 5.5 points.
Game 4 (Dec. 3). Shibano (B) by half a point.

Ke Jie wins Samsung Cup; Ichiriki carries the flag for Japan

Four players from Japan took part in the 25th Samsung Cup, which, like other international tournaments these days, was played on the net. Ichiriki Ryo 8P and Kyo Kagen 8P were seeded for Japan. Sada Atsushi 7P won a seat in the open section and Mimura Tomoyasu 9P in the senior section respectively of the Japanese qualifying tournament. Once again, Ichiriki led the way for Japan, reaching the quarterfinals with two wins (the first win was on time, but he was ahead). Fittingly, the final featured the top two ranked players in the world: Shin Jinseo, who is number one, and number two, Ke Jie. The latter won 2-0, but Shin was handicapped in the first game by a move that was made accidentally. The cord of his mouse touched the “touch panel” of his notebook computer and triggered a ridiculous move: Black’s move 21 on the 1-8 point. There was a technical problem in the 21st Nong Shim Cup (see the first installment of this report), which led to a replayed game, but Shin not appeal, something that the Samsung rules for this tournament did not allow for anyway. In the second game, Shin took the lead but fell victim to an upset in the endgame. Ke picked up his fourth victory in the Samsung Cup and his eighth international victory overall. First prize is worth 300,000,000 won (about $272,000).

Selected results:

(Round 1, Oct. 27). Ichiriki Ryo 8P (Japan) (W) beat Gu Jihao 9P (China) on time; Shi Yue 9P (China) (W) beat Sada Atsushi 7P (Japan) by resig.; Kang Jihoon 2P (Korea) (W) beat Kyo Kagen 8P (Japan) by 1.5 points; Choi Jaeyoung 5P (Korea) (W) beat Mimura Tomoyasu 9P by resig.;

Round 2 (Oct. 28). Ichiriki (W) beat Shin Minjun by resig.; Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Cho Hanseung 9P (Korea) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Lian Xiao 9P (China) on time.

Quarterfinals (Oct. 30). Xie Erhao 9P (China) (B) beat Ichiriki by resig.; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Li Weiqing 8P (China) by resig.; Ke (B) beat Li Xuanhao 8P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Shi Yue by resig.

Semifinals (Oct. 31). Shin (W) beat Xie by resig,; Ke (W) beat Yang by resig.

Game 1 (Nov. 2). Ke (W) by resig.
Game 2 (Nov. 3). Ke (B) by half a point.

Tomorrow: Sumire’s progress; Ida wins 5th Crown


The Power Report: Kono to challenge for Kisei; New Meijin League; 22nd Nong Shim Cup

Thursday February 11, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Kono to challenge for Kisei title

Kono Rin

After the fourth round of the S League in the 45th Kisei tournament, Takao Shinji 9P was in the sole lead, but he slipped up in the final round, losing to Murakawa Daisuke 9P. Kono Rin won his final game, against Cho U, so he ended on 3-2, even with Takao, Murakawa Daisuke, and Ichiriki Ryo. In such a short league, multiple ties are common, but there are no play-offs. The higher-ranked player prevails, and this was Kono, who was number one. However, Takao, as number two, came second and so qualified for the irregular knock-out tournament that decides the challenger. Below are S League results since my last report and details of the knock-out.

(Aug. 20) Cho U 9P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P by resig.; Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Kyo Kagen 8P by resig.
(Aug. 31) Takao Shinji (B) beat Cho U 9P by half a point.
(Sept. 14) Murakawa (W) beat Ichiriki by 1.5 points.
(Sept. 21) Murakawa (W) beat Takao by 4.5 points.
(Sept. 24) Kono (W) beat Cho U by resig.; Ichiriki (W) beat Kyo Kagen by resig.

The play-off between the winners of the two B Leagues was held on September 19. Shibano (B) beat Mutsuura Yuta 7P by 3.5 points. Results that follow are those in the Tournament to Decide the Challenger, an irregular knock-out.

(Oct. 5) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (B), winner of the B Leagues, beat Hong Akiyoshi 3P (Kansai Ki-in), winner of the C League, by resig.
(Oct. 19) Yamashita Keigo (B), winner of A League, beat Shibano by resig.
(Oct. 30) Takao Shinji 9P (B), second in S League, beat Yamashita by resig.
(Nov. 9) (Best-of-three match to decide the challenger, Game 1). Takao (B) beat Kono, first in S League, by resig.
(Nov. 12) Kono (B) beat Takao by half a point. Kono started this “best-of-three” with a one-game advantage, so he won it 2-1. He is making his second successive challenge to Iyama Kisei.

New Meijin League

   The new players in the 46th Meijin League are Anzai Nobuaki 7P, Motoki Katsuya 8P, and Yo Seiki 8P. Anzai has played in a Honinbo League, but is a debutant in the Meijin League. Motoki has played in three Honinbo leagues and has challenged for the title, but this is his first Meijin League. Yo is playing in his third Meijin League and had made five appearances in the Honinbo League. Only one round was completed by the end of the year. Results follow.

(Dec. 3) Ichiriki Ryo Gosei (B) beat Anzai by resig.
(Dec. 10) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.
(Dec. 14) Kyo (W) beat Shibano Toramaru Oza by half a point.
(Dec. 17) Yo Seiki 8P (B) beat Motoki by resig.

22nd Nong Shim Cup

   The conclusion of the 21st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was delayed until August (see the first installment in this report), but the 22nd Cup got off to a start on schedule, though, like the final round of the previous cup, it was played on the net. So far, the first two rounds, that is, nine games have been played. As a tournament, it has been more even than usual, with no one player dominating. In fact, only one player, Gu Jihao of China, has won successive games. China has four wins to Korea’s three and Japan’s two; each country has two players left. The final round is scheduled for February 22 to 26.

Round 1
Game 1 (Oct. 13). Hong Kipyo 9P (Korea) (B) beat Fan Tingyu 9P (China) by resig.
Game 2 (Oct. 14). Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 8P (Japan) (W) beat Hong 9P by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 15). Gu Jihao 9P (China) (W) beat Kyo by resig.
Game 4 (Oct. 16). Gu (W) beat Kang Dongyun 9P (Korea) by resig.

Round 2
Game 5 (Nov. 20). Gu (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game 6 (Nov. 21). Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) (W) beat Gu by half a point.
Game 7 (Nov. 22). Shibano Toramaru 9P (W) beat Shin by resig.
Game 8 (Nov. 23). Tang Weixing 9P (China) (B) beat Shibano by resig.
Game 9 (Nov. 24). Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Tang by 4.5 points.

Tomorrow: Ichiriki wins Tengen; Shibano defends Oza; Ke Jie wins Samsung Cup


The Power Report: Seki wins King of New Stars; Cho U scores 1,000 wins; Fujisawa wins Young Carp & Women’s Honinbo; Iyama wins Agon Kiriyama Cup; Ichiriki sets new Ryusei record, leads Honinbo League

Tuesday February 9, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Seki wins 45th King of New Stars title

Seki Kotaro 3P

This year’s title match was fought between Sada Atsushi 7P (aged 25) of the Kansai Ki-in and Seki Kotaro 3P (aged 18) of the Tokyo branch of the Nihon Ki-in Sada had recently earned promotion to 7P for winning a seat in the Honinbo League; this title is restricted to players 6P and under, but he had already qualified for the next term of the tournament before the promotion, so this was his second-last chance. He started out well with a win, but Seki made a strong comeback to win the next two games and secure his first title. Seki commented that winning this title made him feel he had “been rewarded” for his efforts, since it had been his main target, which he reached on his third attempt in the main tournament.

There was an unusual incident toward the end of the game. The contraption placed by the board to film the game for a net commentary suddenly started streaming the verbal commentary. Fortunately, officials were able to have the mistake rectified before the commentary got too personal. Results follow.

Game 1 (Sept. 18). Sada (W) by resig.
Game 2 (Sept. 28). Seki (W) by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 16). Seki (W) by resig.

Cho U scores 1,000 wins

On November 2,Cho U 9P became the 28th player at the Nihon Ki-in to win 1,000 games. His record was 1,000 wins, 451 losses, 2 jigo, and 1 no-contest. His winning percentage of 68.9 is the best for 1,000-game winners. At 40 years nine months, he is the second youngest and he reached the landmark in 26 years seven months, the second quickest.

Fujisawa wins Young Carp in first for a woman player

The Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament is open to players 30 and under and 7-dan and under. First prize is 3,000,000 yen (about $28,800), which is about par for a tournament with limited participation.

Young Carp; Fujisawa Rina (center)

The main tournament (for the top 16) was held at the Sotetsu Grand Fresa Hiroshima on November 21 and 22. Reaching the final were Fujisawa Rina, women’s triple crown, and Son Makoto 7P. Taking white, Fujisawa won by half a point and made history as the first woman professional in Japan to win an official tournament open to both male and female players. (Actually, Xie Yimin, then 3P, won the 1st Cup, but for the first five terms it was not an official tournament.)

Fujisawa Rina wins Women’s Honinbo

It was no surprise to see Fujisawa Rina emerge as the challenger to Ueno Asami in the 39th Women’s Honinbo title match, as she had already played in the title match six years in a row. She won the title three times but each time failed to make a successful defense. Against that, all her challenges were successful.

The match was highly competitive, with Fujisawa starting off well, then surrendering the lead to Ueno. After Fujisawa caught up again, the fate of the title was decided by the narrowest of margins. This came just three days after her Young Carp win by the same margin.

This was Fujisawa’s 14th title. She now held five titles: the Women’s Honinbo, Women’s Meijin, Women’s Hollyhock, and the Hakata Kamachi Cup, and the Young Carp. The only women’s titles missing are the Women’s Kisei (Suzuki Ayumi) and the Senko Cup (Ueno Asami). Results of the title match are given below.

Game 1 (Oct. 1). Fujisawa (B) by resig.
Game 2 (Oct. 18). Ueno (B) by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 31). Ueno (W) by resig.
Game 4 (Nov. 7). Fujisawa (W) by 5.5 points.
Game 5 (Nov. 25). Fujisawa (B) by half a point.

Iyama wins Agon Kiriyama Cup


The final of the 27th Agon Kiriyama Cup was held at the Kyoto headquarters of the Agon Buddhist sect on October 3. Taking black, Iyama Yuta beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. This is the fifth time Iyama has won this title; he is tied with Cho U for the record. It is also his 61st title, which moves him one ahead of Kobayashi and into sole third place. (Still ahead of him are Sakata Eio with 64 and Cho Chikun with 75.)

Ichiriki sets new record for Ryusei title

The final of the 29th Ryusei tournament was telecast on October 26. It featured a clash between the top two exponents of rapid go in Japan, Iyama Yuta and Ichiriki Ryo. Taking black, Ichiriki won by resignation after 221 moves. He set a new record for this tournament by winning it for the third year in a row, a first, and the fourth time overall, also a record. These two players have now met in the finals of five TV tournaments, and Ichiriki has a slight edge, having beat Iyama twice in this tournament and once, to two losses, in the NHK Cup.

Ichiriki leads Honinbo League

The first of the vacant seats in the 76th Honinbo League was decided on August 27. Taking black, Onishi Ryuhei 5P (aged 20) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig. (if the game had been played out, the margin would have been 1.5 points). This is Onishi’s first league place and he earned an automatic promotion to 7-dan (effective the following day).

The next two seats were decided on August 31. Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P (B) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by 6.5 points and Sada Atsushi 4P (W) beat Yo Seiki 8P by resig. Both these players will play in a league for the first time. Tsuruyama gave himself a good present on what was his 39th birthday. Sada (aged 24) earned himself an automatic promotion to 7-dan.

The new league started on October 8. After three rounds, Ichiriki Ryo is the only undefeated player. Results in the new league follow.

(Oct. 8) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (W) beat Sada Atsushi 7P by half a point; Kyo Kagen 8P (W) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P by half a point.

(Oct. 15) Ichiriki (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.
(Oct. 22) Onishi Ryuhei 7P (W) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.
(Nov. 5) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Koi Iso 9P by resig.
(Nov. 12) Ichiriki (B) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P by resig.
(Nov. 20) Kyo Kagen 8P (W) beat Shibano Toramaru Oza by resig.
(Nov. 26) Sada Atsushi 7P (B) beat Onishi Ryuhei 7P by resig.
(Dec. 10) Ichiriki (W) beat Ko Iso by resig.
(Dec. 18) Shibano (B) Onishi by resig.; Hane (B) beat Kyo by resig.

Tomorrow: New Meijin League; Kono to challenge for Kisei; 22nd Nong Shim Cup


The Power Report: Iyama regains Meijin title and triple crown; China wins 21st Nong Shim Cup; Ichiriki does well in Ing Cup

Sunday February 7, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama regains Meijin title and triple crown
With both the challenger, Iyama Yuta, and the champion, Shibano Toramaru, holding three of the top-seven titles, the 45th Meijin title match represented the peak of Japanese go. The same was true of the preceding Honinbo title match. Unfortunately for Shibano, Iyama seems to have the edge on him in two-day games: he won the earlier match 4-1.

The first game of the match was played, as has been the practice recently, at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo on August 25 and 26. Japanese tournaments, unlike international ones, have resumed face-to-face play, though the usual precautions (wearing face masks, checking body temperatures, avoiding crowded rooms) are observed. Iyama, who drew white in the nigiri, took the lead in the opening and early middle game, but he made a mistake that threw the game into confusion. A large ko led to a large-scale trade; the game became a half-pointer, but Iyama just managed to fend off the defending champion. A slip by Shibano let Iyama secure a win by 1.5 points. The game concluded after 275 moves.

The second game was played at the Takarazuka Hotel in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture, on September 15 and 16. Shibano (W) played well and seemed to have victory within his grasp, but he slipped up and allowed his opponent to pull off an upset. Iyama won by resignation after 213 moves. Shibano’s grip on his title had been considerably loosened.

The third game was held at an historical building, the Yamaguchi City Saikotei, on September 23 and 24. Like the second game, Shibano (B) had the lead, but Iyama make a tricky attack in an attempt to stage another upset. He almost succeeded, but this time Shibano just barely managed to ride out the storm. Iyama resigned after 211 moves. This win could have become a turning point in the series.

The fourth game was played at the Todaya, a hotel in Toba City, Mie Prefecture on September 29 and 30. This was Shibano’s chance to even the score. He did his best to capture a large black group, but Iyama came out on top after some complicated fighting, forcing Shibano to resign after 145 moves. The title-holder was now faced with a kadoban.

The fifth game was played at the Atami Sekitei inn in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on October 13 and 14. Playing white, Iyama was in outstanding form. He dominated the game and forced Shibano to resign after 178 moves. After a gap of two years, Iyama was Meijin again. This was the fifth time he had won this title and the third time that he had secured the big triple crown of Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo. He also held the Tengen, so he had four of the top seven titles. It was his 60th title—he drew even with Kobayashi Koichi in third place. At 31 years of age, he is still the central figure on the Japanese tournament scene.

China wins 21st Nong Shim Cup
The much-delayed final round (originally scheduled for Shanghai in February 2020) of the 21st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held on the net in August. Both Korea and Japan were down to their last player, so China, which had suffered only one loss in the first two rounds, was the overwhelming favorite. Brilliant play by Park Junghwan of Korea, however, made the contest an exciting one right to the finish.

The first game of the round was a clash between the Japanese and Chinese number ones; as usual, victory went to Park Junghwan of Korea. He went on to eliminate three Chinese players as well, so the match became a showdown with the Chinese number one. Along the way, however, there was a complication: the game between Park and Fan Yuting of China ended up as a no-result that was the first of its kind. In the endgame, Park had the lead, but when he clicked with his mouse to play move 158, there was no response; he was in byo-yomi and lost on time. After the Korean and Chinese officials conferred, it was decided to declare the game a no-result. Park won the replay comfortably. As the result shows (see below), Game 13 was a tight contest, but Xie missed a clever move that would have made it a half-pointer that could have gone either way. The reverse happened in the final: this time Park missed a brilliancy that would have made the game favorable for him. Ke’s win secured victory for the Chinese team for the second year in a row and the eighth time overall. First prize is 500 million won (about $420,000). Results are given below.

Game 10 (Aug. 18). Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (B) beat Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game 11 (Aug. 19). Park (B) beat Mi Yuting 9P (China) by resig.
Game 12-1 (Aug. 20). Park (W) v. Fan Yuting 9P (China): no result.
Game 12-2 (Aug. 21). Park (B) won by resig.
Game 13 (Aug. 21). Park (W) beat Xie Erhao 9P (China) by 1.5 points.
Game 14 (Aug. 22). Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Park by half a point.

Ichiriki does well in Ing Cup
The Ing Cup, which is held every four years in the year of the Olympics, shared the fate of the other international tournaments, but, unlike the Olympics, did manage to be staged in 2020. The first three rounds of the 9th Cup were held on the net from September 8 to 11. For Japanese fans, the welcome news was the success of Ichiriki Ryo, who won all his games and qualified for the semifinals.

This tournament was founded by the Taiwanese industrialist Ing Chang-Ki, partly as a means of promoting the rules he developed. It features the biggest prize for international tournaments, $400,000. The time allowance is three hours per player, with sudden death if your time runs out. However, you can buy extra time twice, at the rate of 20 minutes for two points of komi. Komi is eight points, with black winning a tie.

A total of 30 players competed this year. There were six from Japan, of whom Iyama Yuta, Shibano Toramaru, and Murakawa Daisuke lost in the first round. Kono Rin and Kyo Kagen lost in the second round. Selected results are given below. Note that Tang Weixing 9P, the previous winner, and Park Junghwan 9P (previous runner-up) were seeded into the second round.

Round 1 (Sept. 8). Gu Zihao 9P (China) (B) beat Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) by 3 points; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) beat Shibano Toramaru 9P (Japan) by 5 points; Ichiriki Ryo 8P (Japan) (W) beat Mi Yuting 9P (China) by resig.; Jiang Weijie 9P (China) (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P (Japan) by 1 point; Kono Rin 9P (Japan) (B) beat Lin Lixiang 8P (Ch. Taipei) by resig.; Kyo Kagen 8P (Japan) (B) beat Dang Yifei 9P (China) by resig.; Ke Jie 9P (China) beat Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea); Tao Xinran 8P (China) beat Lee Donghoon 9P (Korea); Xie Ke 8P (China) beat Ali Jabarin 2P (Europe); An Soonjoon 8P (Korea) beat Li Wei 5P (Ch. Taipei); Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) beat Xie Erhao (China); Fan Tingyu (China) beat Shin Minjun (Korea); Xu Haohong 6P (Ch. Taipei) beat Byun Sangil (Korea); Zhao Chenyu 8P (China) beat Ryan Li 1P (USA).

Round 2 (Sept. 9): Ichiriki (B) beat An by resig.; Gu (B) beat Kono by 3 points; Xu (W) beat Kyo by resig.; Tao beat Tang; Ke beat Jiang; Xie beat Yang; Shin beat Fan; Zhao beat Park.

Round 3 (Sept. 11): Ichiriki (B) beat Tao by resig.; Xie beat Ke; Shin beat Gu; Zhao beat Xu.

NOTE: This is the first of a series of 2020 year-end reports on Japanese go news we’ll be publishing over the next week. Tomorrow: Ueno wins Senko Cup; Zhou wins 3rd Go Seigen Cup; Fujisawa wins 1st Hakata Kamachi Cup


The Power Report: Kataoka wins 1100 games; Sumire’s progress

Thursday August 27, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Kataoka wins 1100 games
A win former titleholder Kataoka Satoshi 9P picked up on July 23 was his 1100th in the 48 years three months of his career (12th fastest). He is the 16th player to reach this mark and the 14th at the Nihon Ki-in. The landmark win came against Fujisawa Kazunari 8P in Preliminary B of the 46th Gosei tournament. His 1000th win came against the same opponent. He has suffered 598 losses and had 4 jigo, giving him a winning percentage of 64.8, which is ninth best.

Sumire’s progress
In my previous report (Aug. 4), I reported on the start of “Sumire’s Oro Challenge,” four three-game matches with Korean players arranged by the Cyber Oro, server, which runs the Nihon Ki-in’s home page. Things started badly when Sumire was unable to pick up a win against Korea’s number two woman player Kim Chaeyoung. However, taking black, she won the second game in her series with Suh (also spelled Seo) Neung-uk 9P. Taking black, she won by 3.5 points. This is no mean achievement, as Suh (aged 62) is no journeyman 9-dan; unfortunately for him, when he was at his peak, Korean go was dominated by Cho Hunhyun and Suh Bongso; he took second place in 13 tournaments. The games with Sumire were played on July 17 and 18. Suh had the lead in the second game, but Sumire pulled off an upset. Sumire had the lead in the third game, but this time she was the one to suffer an upset.

Today (writing on August 16), brief details of the remaining two matches were finally published (the go press shuts down for O-bon in midsummer; this is a kind of All Souls’ Day; dead relatives are said to return to visit their relatives; in an ordinary year, millions of people would return to their ancestral homes and visit the family graveyard). The report is very brief: Sumire lost 0-3 to Suh Bongsu, but picked up a win against Jeong Yujin 1P.

The final result was one-sided, but, as usual with these special projects, Sumire was ridiculously outmatched. In that context, she deserves to be commended for her win against the 9-dan. Playing the legendary Suh Bongsu is also an honour shared by none of her contemporaries in Japan. Incidentally, Sumire has now played nine games against five 9-dans and won two of them. Just to recap: besides the games described above, she beat Baba Shigeru 9P on November 28 last year, lost to Hane Yasumasa 9P on January 16 this year, and lost to Sakaguchi Ryuzo 9P on February 24 this year.

A Sumire brand has appeared. A major sauce manufacturer created “Sumire-chan’s Barbecued Meat Sauce” (“chan” in an affectionate title used for young children) and distributed it free to participants in a go festival held at the Umeda Go Club in Osaka on July 19, 26, August 2 and 9. It was also sold for 300 yen a bottle. As far as I know, it is not being generally distributed.

To 6-dan: Kawai Shoji (90 wins)


The Power Report: Moon wins Globis Cup; Takei wins Discovery Cup; Kisei S League; Ichiriki wins 45th Gosei

Wednesday August 26, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Moon wins Globis Cup
The 7th Globis Cup, an international tournament for players under 20, was originally scheduled for May 8 to 10, but was delayed by the virus. It was finally held on the net on August 1 and 2. The winner was the 17-year-old Moon Minjeong 2P of Korea. In the semifinals, he beat Liao Yuanhe 8P of China. The final was played on the afternoon of the second day; taking white, Moon beat Li Weijing 8P by resig. First prize is 3 million yen (about $28,150).

Takei wins Discovery Cup
The Discovery Cup is a new tournament for players and inseis at the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in 18 or under and 2-dan or under. After a Net preliminary round, the top eight faced off in a three-round Swiss tournament held at the Nihon Ki-in on August 11. No inseis or women players made the cut. Takei Taishin 1P scored three wins in a row and took the prize of 200,000 yen ($1,876).

Kisei S League
The contest has heated up in the 45th Kisei S League, with four players on 2-1. Kyo Kagen, who had made the best start, stumbled in the third round. Results since my previous report follow. For the record, Yamashita Keigo 9P and Yo Seiki 8P, both on 4-1, share the lead in the A League. Recent results:
(July 20). Murakawa Daisuke 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(July 30) Ichiriki (W beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(August 3) Takao Shinji 9P (W) beat Kyo Kagen 8P by resig.

Ichiriki wins 45th Gosei
Ichiriki Ryo 8P had nine titles but so far no top-seven ones. That changed with his 3-0 victory over Hane Naoki in the 45th Gosei title match. The result of the first game was given in my previous report. The second game was played at the Central Japan headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on August 3 but being on home ground didn’t help Hane. Playing black, Ichiriki won by resignation. The third game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 14. This was Hane’s 44th birthday, but fate was not kind to him. Playing white, Ichiriki forced a resignation after 160 moves. On his sixth top-seven title challenge (the others were all to Iyama Yuta), he was finally successful, and, as luck would have it, his first title was one of which his family’s newspaper is a co-sponsor. With his 10th title, Ichiriki is already 24th in the all-time title standings in Japan.

Tomorrow: Kataoka wins 1100 games; Sumire’s progress


The Power Report: 13th Chunlan Cup; Fujisawa defends Hollyhock Cup; Iyama to challenge for Meijin

Tuesday August 25, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

13th Chunlan Cup
The Chunlan (literally, Spring Orchid) Cup is a Chinese-sponsored international tournament that is held every two years. First prize is $150,000, and the current titleholder is Park Junghwan of Korea. Like many other tournaments, it was postponed because of Covid-19, but the two opening rounds were finally held on the net at the end of July. As usual, the best eight were mainly Korean (four) and Chinese (three) players, but this year a new star from Chinese Taipei, Hsu Hao Hung (Xu Haohong in Pinyin) 6P, wedged into their ranks. He has already beaten two Chinese former world champions, and in the quarterfinals, presumably to be played at the end of the year, he will be matched against the Chinese number one. Hsu was born on April 30, 2001, and became 1-dan in 2013. Results follow. 

Round 1 (July 29) Murakawa Daisuke 9P (Japan) (B) beat Ryan Li 1P (US) by resig.; Yo Seiki (Yu Zhengqi) 8P (Japan) (B) beat Ilya Shikshin 3P (Russia) (by resig.); Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan by resig.); Lian Xiao 9P (China) (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 9P (Japan) by resig.; Kang Dongyun 9P (Korea) (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P (Japan) by resig.; Byun Sangil 9P (Korea) (W) beat Mi Yuting 9P (China) by resig.; Xu Jiayang 8P (China) (W) beat Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) by resig.; Hsu Hao Hung (Ch. Taipei) (W) beat Shi Yue 9P (China) by resig.

Round 2 (July 31) Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Kang by resig.; Tang Weixing (W) beat Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) by resig.; Lian (W) beat Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) by resig.; Byun (W) beat Yang Dingxin 9P (China) by resig.; Shin (W) beat Xu by resig.; Hsu (B) beat Chen Yaoye 9P (China) by resig.; Fan Yuting 9P (China) (B) beat Murakawa by resig.; Park Yeonghun 9P (Korea) (B) beat Yo by resig.

Quarterfinal pairings) Ke vs. Hsu, Tang vs. Park, Lian vs. Byun, Fan vs. Shin.

Fujisawa defends Hollyhock Cup
The main point of interest in the 7th Hollyhock Cup was whether the veteran player Suzuki Ayumi 7P (aged 36), who has won three women’s titles, could make a comeback. She met with doughty resistance from the titleholder Fujisawa Rina (aged 21), so the answer is, not this year. What with the truncated schedule of these matches that have been delayed by Covid-19, everything was over in a flash, giving the challenger little time to enjoy the exhilaration of fighting in a title match. The first and second games were played at the Nihon Ki-in on July 27 and 29. In the first game, Fujisawa took white and won by half a point after 259 moves. This was a painful loss for Suzuki, as she miscounted and had thought she was winning. There was just one day’s rest before the second game, which is not much time to recover from a half-point loss. It was played at the same venue. Taking black, Fujisawa won by 8.5 points. She won this title for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time overall; it is her 13th women’s title (second to Xie Yimin on 27).

Iyama to challenge for Meijin
It’s the practice to play all the games in the final round of the Meijin title on the same day, unlike the other rounds, to add to the drama. Go journalists originally dubbed this “the go world’s longest day,” playing off a famous movie called “Japan’s Longest Day,” which dealt with the infighting within the government about how and when to surrender, following the dropping of the atom bombs in early August in 1945. This year, perhaps influenced by global warming, “Go Weekly” referred to the day of the final round as “Japan’s hottest day.” It was a day of tension not only for the players competing for the challengership but also the players struggling to keep their seats in the league. A league seat is more valuable in games fees that some of the minor titles.

Ominous note for Shibano Meijin: Iyama has challenged for and won the Meijin title twice previously, and each time he won the league 8-0. Results since my last report follow. The title match will start on August 25
(July 23) Rin Kanketsu 8p (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke by 1.5 points.
(July 27) Iyama Kisei (W) beat Cho U 9P by half a point.
(Final round, (Aug. 6) Hane Naoki Gosei (B) beat Cho U 9P by resig.; Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat Kyo Kagen 8P by resig.; Iyama Yuta Kisei (B) beat Rin Kanketsu 8P by resig.; Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P by resig.

One comment: Yamashita was having a horrible time before the virus shutdown, having lost all his games so far in the Honinbo and Meijin Leagues, so Covid-19 has not spoilt things for everybody. In the former league, you can lose your place with 4-3 but retain it in the latter with 3-5 (on top of which it pays more).

Tomorrow: Moon wins Globis Cup; Takei wins Discovery Cup; Kisei S League; Ichiriki wins 45th Gosei


The Power Report: Iyama defends Honinbo; Ichiriki makes good start in Gosei; League updates; Sumire’s winning streak ends; More tournaments rescheduled

Tuesday August 4, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama defends Honinbo, matches Takagawa: The fifth game of the 75th Honinbo title match was held at the Todaya hotel in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, on July 8 and 9. Taking white, Honinbo Monyu, aka Iyama Yuta, won by 4.5 points after 243 moves. Shibano did not seem to make any big mistakes, but Iyama took the lead in territory. With move 116, Iyama went for more territory instead of strengthening his only weak group. He staked the game on being able to look after it and was successful. Iyama defended his title with four wins to one loss. This is his ninth successive Honinbo title, so he has matched the record of 22nd Honinbo Shukaku (Takagawa Kaku), who held the title from 1952 to 1960. Next year he will have a chance to draw even with 25th Honinbo Chikun (Cho Chikun), who won the title for ten years in a row. 

45th Meijin League: Ichiriki Ryo, now on 6-1, has maintained the pressure on Iyama Yuta by winning his July game. Iyama is on 6-0 and faces Cho U in this round. Results since my last report follow.
(July 6) Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Hane Naoki Gosei by resig.
(July 9) Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 1.5 points.

S League: With two out of three second-round games played in the 45th Kisei S League, Kyo Kagen 8P has the provisional lead on 2-0. Cho U, on 0-2, is in trouble. Just one game has been played since my last report. On July 13, Kyo Kagen (W) beat Cho U by resig.

Sumire’s winning streak ends: “Streak” is perhaps an exaggeration. Nakamura Sumire 1P won her first three games after the resumption of professional go last month, with one of the wins earning her one of the 16 seats in the main tournament of the 5th Senko Cup. Unfortunately, the luck of the draw pitted her against Ueno Asami, holder of the Women’s Honinbo title, who is one of the top two women players in Japan at present. Taking white, Ueno won by resignation after 164 moves. This was Sumire’s first game with a current titleholder. Her record for the year is now 10-11. As there was no title-match game last week, this game adorned the front page of Go Weekly.     The Korean server Cyber Oro, which runs the Nihon Ki-in’s server, has organized a series of Net games, called “Sumire’s Oro Challenge,” among Sumire and four Korean players. She plays each player three times, so it’s quite a large-scale project. The games are fast games, with a time allowance of 10 minutes per player plus byo-yomi of 40 seconds x 3. The first opponent was Korea’s number two woman player Kim Chaeyoung 6P; the first game was played on July 10 and the next two the following day. Not surprisingly, Kim won 3-0. The second opponent was Seo Neung-uk 9P; the games were played on July 17 and 18, but I don’t have the results yet. The third opponent is the legendary Suh Bongsu 9P, with the games to be played on July 24 and 25. The fourth player is Jeong Yujin 1P, and the games are scheduled for July 31 and August 1. I would have chosen four Korean female 1-dans for a series like this, but you could say that Sumire has been lucky to get to play so many top players. We know from the invitational games organized last year that losses to top-level opposition don’t discourage her.

Ichiriki makes good start in 45th Gosei challenge: Ichiriki Ryo 8P is making his fourth challenge for a top-seven title, after three failures against Iyama Yuta. In the case of the Gosei title, he has the added incentive that his family’s newspaper, the Hokkoku (North Country) Newspaper, which is based in Sendai, is a member of the Newspaper Igo League that sponsors the tournament. Since graduating from university, he has been working in the Tokyo office of the newspaper, so conceivably he could also report on his own performance. The defending titleholder is Hane Naoki 9P, who beat Ichiriki in the play-off to decide the challenger last year. He beat Kyo Kagen in the title match, winning his first title since winning the Gosei title in 2011. He is aged 43 to Ichiriki’s 23. The first game was played at the Hokkoku Newspaper Hall in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, on July 18. Taking white, Ichiriki won by 1.5 points after 261 moves. The second game will be played on August 3.

More tournaments rescheduled: The 7th Hollyhock Cup title match, in which Suzuki Ayumi, Women’s Kisei, is challenging Fujisawa Rina, will be played at the Nihon Ki-in on July 27, 29, and, if necessary, 31.
The 7th Globis Cup was originally scheduled for May 8 to 10 this year, but it was another of the victims of Covid-19. It is now scheduled to be played on the Net on August 1 and 2.
The opening rounds of the 13th Chunlan Cup were supposed to be played in February, but this Chinese-sponsored international tournament was one of the first casualties of Covid-19. It has finally been decided to play the games on the Net, with Round 1 slated for July 29 and Round 2 July 31. Both Iyama and Shibano will play in this tournament.

Promotion: To 9-dan: Arimura Hiroshi (200 wins, as of July 7)

Retirement: Ms. Furusho Katsuko 2P has retired as of July 8, which is her birthday. Born in Tokyo in 1943, she became a disciple of Nakaoka Jiro 9P. She became 1-dan in 1969 and was promoted to 2-dan in 2005. She was promoted to 3-dan after her retirement.