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The Power Report: Shibano starts well in Judan; 75th Honinbo League; 45th Meijin League

Tuesday March 17, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Shibano starts well in Judan

The 58th Judan title match got off to a start on March 3, with the first game being played at the Osaka University of Commerce. The defending titleholder, Murakawa Daisuke, played well in the opening and early middle game to take an early lead in territory, but the challenger, Shibano Toramaru Meijin, pulled off an upset in the middle game. Taking white, he won by 3.5 points after 276 moves. The second game will be played on March 26.

75th Honinbo League

After the completion of the fifth round, three players shared the lead on 4-1: Shibano Toramaru Meijin, Ichiriki Ryo 8P, and Kyo Kagen 8P. A crucial game was played on March 12 in which Kyo Kagen beat Ichiriki Ryo, so Kyo has the provisional lead with 5-1. At the other end of the league, Yamashita Keigo has lost his fifth straight game and has already lost his league place.

(Feb. 20) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.; Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.

(March 5) Shida Tatsuya 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki Gosei by resig.

(March 12) Kyo beat Ichiriki.

45th Meijin League

With one game to go in the March round, the lead is shared by Iyama Yuta and Ichiriki Ryo, who are both on 3-0. They will meet in the April round, so there will then be a sole leader. With 0-4, Yamashita Keigo 9P is doing almost as badly as in the Honinbo League. At least as far as leagues concerned, Yamashita, with a combined 0-9 record, must be undergoing one of the worst slumps of his career.

(Feb. 20) Iyama Yuta Kisei (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig.

(Feb. 27) Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Kyo Kagen 8P by resig.

(March 5) Rin Kanketsu 8P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo by resig.

Tomorrow: Sumire’s results; Kido Prizes; Shibano wins Shusai Prize; Postponements; Promotion; Obituary: Kubouchi Shuchi 9P

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The Power Report: Iyama overcomes Kono fightback in Kisei title match; Yoda resumes playing; Top four decided in 1st Hakata Kamachi Cup; New pair wins Professional Pair Go Championship

Monday March 16, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama overcomes Kono fightback in Kisei title match

Iyama

As noted in my previous report, Iyama Yuta won the first three games in the 44th Kisei title match, but Kono saved the first kadoban. In the fifth game, which was played at the Hotel Kagetsuen in the town of Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, on February 26 and 27, Kono continued his fightback. Taking white, he won by resignation after 232 moves. Kono had fallen behind in territory, but managed to pull off an upset. Iyama was apparently quite crestfallen at his failure to convert his early lead into a win. With this win, Kono reached his “norm”against Iyama: two wins.

The sixth game was held at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on March 5 and 6. Taking white, Iyama won by 3.5 points after 262 moves. The game featured hectic fighting from the outset, but Kono was let down by a slack move with Black 137—White had a good counter that he had overlooked. This decided the game and gave Iyama the series 4-2. By winning his eighth Kisei title in a row, he matched the record set by Kobayashi Koichi. It also matches Iyama’s personal record set in the Honinbo title. He can now aim at becoming the first player to win two titles ten times. Whatever happens after this, his victory ensures that Iyama remains the number one player for another year.

Kono

For the fourth time, the third win in a best-of-seven challenge to Iyama proved elusive for Kono. Aged 39, he cannot expect many more chances to take a top-three title.

Yoda resumes playing

In my previous report, I gave the details of the suspension from play of Yoda Norimoto by the Nihon Ki-in. Since then, Yoda has sued the Nihon Ki-in at the Tokyo District Court. On March 11, the Nihon Ki-in announced that the suspension would be lifted until the result of the court hearing has been given. It is expected at the end of April.

Top four decided in 1st Hakata Kamachi Cup

The first and second rounds of the new Hakata Kamachi Cup were held at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on February 15 and 16. The final four—Ueno Asami, Fujisawa Rina, Mukai Akiko, and Nyu Eiko–were players who have been prominent in women’s go recently, but there were some notable results on the way. Competing in the main tournament were the ten players who qualified in the preliminary round, five seeded players, and one wild card, Hei Jiajia (aka Joanne Missingham) of Taiwan. It’s unusual for an overseas player to be given a seat in a domestic tournament, but Hei is popular with local fans. Full results are given below. (The semifinals and final are scheduled for April 13 and 14.)

Round 1 (Feb. 15) Ueno Asami, Women’s Honijnbo, (B) beat Yashiro Kumiko 6P by resig.; Nakazawa Ayako 5P (B) beat Cho Chen 2P by resig.; Xie Yimin 6P (W) beat Tsukuda Akiko 5P by resig.; Mukai Chiaki 5P (B) beat Mannami Nao 4P by 1.5 points; Hei Jiajia 7P (Taiwan) (B) beat Omori Ran 1P by resig.; Nyu Eiko 2P (B) beat Tatsumi Akane 3P by resig.; Tsuji Hana 1P (B) beat Inaba Karin 1P by resig.; Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Hollyhock Cup-holder, (B) beat Moro Arisa 1P by resig.

Round 2 (Feb. 16) Ueno (B) beat Nakazawa by resig.; Mukai (W) beat Xie by resig.; Nyu (B) beat Hei by half a point; Fujisawa (B) beat Tsuji by resig.

New pair wins Professional Pair Go Championship

The semifinals and final of the Professional Pair Go Championship 2020 were held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 1. Because of the corona virus, there were no spectators, although Pair Go tournaments thrive more than ordinary tournaments on the close contact between players and spectators. For their part, the organizers were probably relieved at being able to complete the tournament schedule. A live commentary was broadcast on the Net. In one semifinal, the pair of Okuda Aya 4P and Murakawa Daisuke Judan beat Chinen Kaori 6P and Motoki Katsuya 8P; in the other, Suzuki Ayumi 7P and Yo Seiki 8P beat Yoshida Mika 8P and Onishi Ryuhei 5p. In the final, Okuda & Murakawa (W) beat Suzuki & Yo by 10.5 points.

Tomorrow: Shibano starts well in Judan; 75th Honinbo League; 45th Meijin League

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The Power Report: Amateur makes Kisei C League; Cheating discovered in Korean qualifying tournament; Virus upsetting tournament schedule; Promotions; Yoda suspended for six months

Saturday February 22, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Amateur makes Kisei C League

For a number of years now, the top four place-getters in the Net Kisei tournament for amateur players have earned places in the professional Kisei qualifying tournament, called the First Tournament. So far the best performance by an amateur had been three wins, but this year Kurita Yoshiki won five games in a row and secured a place in the C League. In the final, held on February 13, he beat Sotoyanagi Sebun 3P playing with black. The C League is an irregular Swiss System: there are five rounds, but players drop out with their third loss.

Cheating discovered in Korean qualifying tournament

On January 14, one of the competitors in the Korean professional qualifying tournament was discovered to be cheating. The player (gender unknown) had concealed a small camera inside his or her clothing and had a wireless earphone hidden in a bandage. An accomplice outside the venue was relaying the moves suggested by an AI program. The player was immediately disqualified; after an emergency meeting of the officials on January 17, it was decided to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

Virus upsetting tournament schedule

The corona virus still shows no signs of letting up in China and is daily getting worse in Japan, so it is beginning to take a toll in deferments of international tournaments. As noted above, the second game of the Wild Fox final was put off, even though it’s a Net tournament. The 13th Chunlan Cup, scheduled to start on February 24 in Taizhou City in China, has likewise been postponed indefinitely. We can expect other casualties. There is no word yet on the Nihon Ki-in’s World Go Championship, scheduled for March 17~19 in Tokyo.

Promotions

To 7-dan: Iwamaru Taira (120 wins, as of Jan. 24)
To 2-dan: Aoki Hirotaka (30 wins, as of Feb. 7)

Yoda suspended for six months

The mills of the Nihon Ki-in grind slowly; whether or not they grind fine is another matter, but they have caught up with Yoda Norimoto. In the E-Journal issue of August 23 last year, I reported that the sponsors of the Masters Cup had cancelled it because of distaste for criticism Yoda was making of the Ki-in administration in tweets and via the Ki-in’s mailing list. When the medium was criticized as inappropriate, Yoda withdrew his tweets, but did not apologize to the persons who felt they had been libeled. Kobayashi Satoru 9P, chairman of the board of directors, said at the time that in due course Yoda would be punished for disturbing and defaming the Nihon Ki-in and causing it to lose a sponsor. On February 12, the Ki-in announced that a board of directors meeting had decided that he would be suspended from tournament participation for six months (from this day to August 11). The decision was announced at a press conference attended by Kobayashi and Obuchi Morito 9P, a director. They said the decision had been transmitted to Yoda through his lawyer. The next day, Yoda turned up to play a previously scheduled game, but was denied access to the playing room. It’s hard to get a full picture, but Yoda’s criticism was said to be related to the dismissal in May 2018 of his wife Hara Sachiko 4P as a director for—what else?–slandering other candidates in an election, though the timeline doesn’t seem to match.

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The Power Report: Nakamura Sumire receives Kansai prize, scores 20th win; Shin Jinseo wins LG Cup; Fourth-generation professional

Friday February 21, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Nakamura Sumire receives Kansai prize, scores 20th win

On January 27, Sumire was awarded the 2019 New Power Prize by the Association for Promoting the Kansai Cultural Sphere. The committee gives a number of prizes to Kansai figures who have had a national impact. Iyama received prizes in 2011 and 2018. Sumire was busy playing on the 27th, so Goto Shungo 9P, a Nihon Ki-in director, attended in her place. Sumire did send a video message.

Sumire has made a slow start this year, starting out with one win to four losses, but she has now improved her score to 4-4. Her cumulative record is a commendable 21-11; at this rate, she could earn promotion this year. Below are her 2020 results. (Unless otherwise indicated, games were played at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in.)

(Jan. 13) Miyamoto Chiharu 1P (B) beat Sumire by 2.5 points (Hakata Kamachi Cup preliminary). (Miyamoto also beat her in the Young Carp tournament last September.)
(Jan. 23) Iwamaru Taira 6P (B) beat Sumire by 10.5 points (semifinal of 46th Kisei First Tournament. (This win earned Iwamaru promotion to 7-dan—see below.)
(Jan. 27) Sumire (W) beat (Ms.) Osuga Seira 1P by resig.; Yahata Naoki 2P (B) beat Sumire by resig. (both games in the 7th Globis Cup preliminary round).
(Jan. 30) O Keii 3P (B) beat Sumire by resig. (Women’s Hollyhock Cup preliminary, played at the Nagoya headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in).
(Feb. 3) Sumire (W) beat Yanagawa Hiromasa 7P by 7.5 points (Preliminary C, 46th Gosei tournament).
(Feb. 10) Sumire (W) beat Yoshida Naoyoshi 4P (Preliminary C, 46th Meijin tournament).
(Feb. 13) Sumire (W) beat Ono Ayako 1P by resig. (5th Senko Cup preliminary, played at the Kansai Ki-in).

Shin Jinseo wins LG Cup

Shin Jinseo 9P (aged 19) has been the world’s top-rated player for a while without winning a major international tournament, but he redressed that in the 24th LG Cup. After beating Ke Jie 9P of China in the semifinal, he beat Park Junghwan 2-0 in an all-Korean final. In Game 1 (Feb. 10), he won by resig. with white; in Game 2 (Feb. 12), he won by resig. with black. First prize is 300,000,000 won (about $253,000). The venue was probably in Korea, but I checked three Net sites without being able to confirm this.

Fourth-generation professional

The 2020 Women’s Special Qualification Exam (actually a tournament) concluded on February 8. It was won by the 13-year-old Cho Kosumi, who scored seven wins to one loss. The results have to be ratified by a screening committee and then by a Nihon Ki-in directors meeting, but these are formalities, so Cho should start her professional career on April 1. As a professional, she could hardly be more of a blue blood: her father is Cho U 9P, former Kisei; her mother is Kobayashi Izumi 6P, daughter of Kobayashi Koichi 9P, also a former Kisei, and Kobayashi Reiko 6P, the former Kitani Reiko; her great-grandfather is Kitani Minoru 9P, a legendary player of the mid-20th century. Kosumi is the first fourth-generation professional at the Nihon Ki-in and the second in Japan. The Sekiyama family at the Kansai Ki-in was the first to have four generations of professionals. Incidentally, all the members of Kosumi’s family mentioned above have won titles: the family haul is 125 titles.

Tomorrow: Amateur makes Kisei C League; Cheating discovered in Korean qualifying tournament; Virus upsetting tournament schedule; Promotions; Yoda suspended for six months

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The Power Report: Suzuki wins Women’s Kisei title; Shibano to challenge for Judan; 75th Honinbo League; 45th Meijin League

Thursday February 20, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Suzuki wins Women’s Kisei title

In the last year or so, women’s go has been dominated by two players, Fujisawa Rina (Women’s Hollyhock Cup, Women’s Meijin, Senko Cup) and Ueno Asami (Women’s Honinbo, Women’s Kisei). This year things may be different. In the 23rd DoCoMo Cup Women’s Kisei title match, Suzuki Ayumi 7P, who at 36 qualifies as a veteran, challenged the 18-year-old Ueno Asami. Suzuki won the match 2-1 and took her first title for 16 years (she won the Strongest Woman Player tournament in 2003 and 2004). The first game was played at the Hotel Sun Life Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 16. Ueno is known for her fighting strength, but in this game Suzuki (W) outplayed her. She won by 3.5 points after 241 moves.

In the second game, played in the Ryusei Studio at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on Jan. 27,Ueno took revenge. Playing white, she fought fiercely and secured a resignation after 144 moves.

The deciding game was played at the same venue on February 10. Ueno (W) seemed to be doing well in the first part of the game, but little by little Suzuki overhauled her and secured the lead. She won by 3.5 points after 285 moves. Winning her third title after a gap of sixteen years is quite an achievement. Like many of the women professionals, Suzuki has been busy with child-rearing in recent years; she has two daughters, Yuzuki (five) and Yuri (two). Yuzuki was happy for her win; Yuri was happy because her mother brings home sweets for them when she’s won a game. Her husband is Rin Kanketsu 8P, who commented: “With [my wife] now falling behind, now taking the lead, any number of times I thought my heart was going to stop.”

Shibano to challenge for Judan

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 58th Judan title was held at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on January 30 and featured a clash between the current top two: Iyama Yuta and Shibano Toramaru. Taking white, Shibano won by resignation; it was the first time he had qualified for the main section of the Judan (the best 19—the seeding process is too complicated to describe), so he made the most of his opportunity. The title match with Murakawa Daisuke will start on March 3. At 20 years three months, Shibano will be the youngest-ever challenger for the Judan title (the previous record, 20 years 11 months, was set by Ida Atsushi 8P). If Shibano wins, he will draw (almost) even with Iyama as a triple crown-holder.

75th Honinbo League

After two games in the fifth round, Shibano Toramaru and Ichiriki Ryo have the provisional lead on 4-1, but they are closely followed by two players on 3-1: Hane Naoki 9P, and Kyo Kagen 8P. However, Kyo and Hane meet in this round. 2020 results:

(Jan. 9) Ichiriki (W) beat Shida Tatsuya 8P by resig.

(Jan. 16) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (B) beat Kyo Kagen 8P by resig.; Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.

(Jan. 23) Yokotsuka Riki 7P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 10.5 points.

(Feb. 6) Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Yokotsuka by resig.

45th Meijin League

After three rounds, Kyo Kagen has the sole lead with 3-0. However, Ichiriki and Iyama Yuta, who had byes in the second and third rounds respectively, are also undefeated. Results so far this year:

(Jan. 9) Cho U 9P (B) beat Rin Kanketsu 8P by resig.

(Jan. 16) Iyama Yuta Kisei (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.

(Jan. 30) Kono (B) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig.; Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki Gosei by resig.

(Feb. 13) Ichiriki (B) beat Yamashita by resig.; Kyo Kagen (W) beat Cho U by resig.; Murakawa (W) beat Hane by half a point.

Tomorrow: Nakamura Sumire receives Kansai prize, scores 20th win; Shin Jinseo wins LG Cup; Fourth-generation professional

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The Power Report: Iyama close to defending Kisei title; Iyama ahead in international final; Park wins New Year’s Cup

Wednesday February 19, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama close to defending Kisei title

Iyama Yuta made a great start in the 44th Kisei best-of-seven, racing to a 3-0 lead, but Kono Rin picked up his first win in the fourth game, so Iyama won’t be counting his chickens. In his previous challenges to Iyama for big-three titles—the 26th Meijin, the 41st Kisei, and the 74th Honinbo—Kono scored two wins each time. He can still improve on that record, but each game is a kadoban for him.

The title match got off to a start on January 9 and 10, with the first game being played at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. Iyama, who drew black in the nigiri, won by 5.5 points. Kono started well, taking the initiative in the opening, but he made an error of judgment in the crucial fight, and this cost him the game.

The second game was played at the Renkeiji Temple in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, on January 20 and 21. Iyama (W) took the lead in the opening, but Kono caught up in the middle game. However, Iyama again secured the lead in the endgame. Kono resigned after 198 moves. There was a complication under the surface that became clearer later. After playing move 114, Iyama began muttering bitter self-recriminations; after the game, he said he had overlooked a simple counter by black. Fortunately, Kono was out of the room at the time; when he came back, Iyama reverted to a poker face. Kono took his move on trust and didn’t think to query it, so Iyama got away with his blunder.

The third game was played at the Olive Bay Hotel in Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture on February 1 and 2. In a word, Iyama (B) simply outfought Kono and forced him to resign after 153 moves.

The fourth game was played at the Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu City, Kyushu, on February 14 and 15. Kono (B) won by resignation after 231 moves, thus saving his first kadoban. The fifth game will be played on February 26 and 27.

Iyama ahead in international final

The 1st Wild Fox Contest for Supremacy is an online tournament run by a Chinese server, Wild Fox, and has a top prize of 500,000 yuan (about $71,700). It was open to the 32 top-ranked players on the server. As no. 30, Iyama just made the cut, but he has done very well, winning eight games in a row to make the final, a best-of-three in which he started off with a win. In order, he beat Son Tengyu, Li Weiqing, Tang Weixing, Jiang Weijie, Chen Zijian, and Xie Ke to reach the semifinals; there he beat Chen Yaoye 2-0. His opponent in the final is Tong Mengcheng. The first game was played on January 29, with Iyama eking out a win by half a point. The second game of the best-of-free was scheduled for February 12 but has been deferred because of the corona-virus crisis in China.

Park wins New Year’s Cup

The 8th CCTV New Year’s Cup, which celebrates the Chinese New Year, is an invitational mini-tournament for one player each from China, Japan, and Korea. This year it was held in Zhengdu City with a first prize of 800,000 yuan (about $112,000). Game conditions follow the NHK format. With three participants, the tournament is an irregular knock-out. After drawing lots, the pairing for the first game (Jan. 20) was Park Junghwan 9P of Korea versus Ke Jie 9P of China. Taking white, Park won by 1.5 points and went through to the final. The first-game loser gets a second chance. In the second game (Jan. 21), Ke (W) beat Shibano Toramaru by resig. The loser of this game is the only player who doesn’t get to play two games; Shibano suffered the same fate last year, though his opponent then was Park. In the final (Jan. 22), Park (B) beat Ke by resig., winning this tournament for the third year in a row.

Tomorrow: Suzuki wins Women’s Kisei title; Shibano to challenge for Judan; 75th Honinbo League; 45th Meijin League

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The Power Report: 2019 review

Tuesday February 18, 2020

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Most wins
Shibano Toramaru, the youthful new Meijin, topped this list for the third year in a row. Considering the level of his competition now, as he’s playing top-flight opponents in leagues and title matches, that’s a significant achievement and testimony to his great form for most of the year. Also significant are the two best results ever attained by female players, with Ueno Asami and Fujisawa Rina coming third and fourth respectively. In particular, their good results against male players show that the level of women’s go is steadily rising. Here are the top 12.

  1. Shibano Toramaru: 52 wins, 18 losses
  2. Ichiriki Ryo 8P: 47-14
  3. Ueno Asami, Women’s Honinbo: 44-25
  4. Mutsuura Yuta: 38-20; Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Hollyhock Cup: 38-28
  5. Otake Yu 3P: 36-12
  6. Kono Rin 9P: 35-18
  7. Iyama Yuta Kisei: 34-27
  8. Suzuki Shinji 7P: 33-15; Son Makoto 7P: 33-19
  9. Kyo Kagen 8P: 32-17
  10. Xie Yimin 6P: 31-23

Most successive wins

  1. Ichiriki Ryo, Fujita Akihiko 7P (twice): 16
  2. Kono Rin: 13
  3. Yokotsuka Riki 7P, Fujisawa Rina: 12
  4. Hane Naoki Gosei: 11
  5. Shibano Toramaru, Adachi Toshimasa 6P, Muramoto Wataru 2P (twice), Nyu Eiko 2P: 10

Best winning percentage

  1. Ichiriki: 77.05
  2. Otake Yu, Fujita Akihiko (30-10): 75
  3. Shibano Toramaru: 74.29
  4. Oomote Takuto 3P (20-7): 74.07

2019 Prize-money promotions
There are three ways to earn promotions. One is through cumulative wins, which is the slow way. The fast way is through a tournament success, which will enable a low-ranked player to skip some intervening ranks. The conditions are fairly complicated, so here is a summary. Promotion to 7-dan: challenging for one of the bottom four (Oza, Tengen, Gosei, Judan) of the top seven titles; winning the Agon Kiriyama Cup or the Ryusei tournament; winning a place in the Kisei S League or the Honinbo or Meijin League. To 8-dan: winning one of the bottom four of the top seven titles; challenging for one of the top three titles (Kisei, Meijin, Honinbo); coming second in an international tournament. To 9-dan: winning a top-three or an international title; winning one of the bottom four of the top seven titles a second time. In theory, a new 1-dan could go straight to 9-dan by this system. In practice, however, it’s unlikely because it would take close to two years to go from the first qualifying round to a top-three title match, during which time a player strong enough to do this would have already made 2-dan or 3-dan.
The third way to get promoted is by coming first or second in the prize-money list for each dan from 1-dan to 5-dan; the top 6-dan is also promoted. Only prize money won in the top seven titles is counted. These promotions take effect on January 1 and are based on the previous year. (Players who earn promotions through the cumulative-wins system are not considered.) The promotions for 2019 are given below.

To 7-dan: Adachi Toshimasa
To 6-dan: Terayama Rei, Yo Chito
To 5-dan: Onishi Ryuhei, Koike Yoshihiro
To 4-dan: Otake Yu, Hirose Yuichi
To 3-dan: Seki Kotaro, Torii Yuta
To 2-dan: Chotoku Tetsushi, Sakai Yuki

Top prize-money winners for 2019 (in yen)

  1. Iyama Yuta: 108,259,237 (about $984,000)
  2. Shibano Toramaru: 67,669,600
  3. Ichiriki Ryo: 36,847,129
  4. Cho U: 32,272,656
  5. Fujisawa Rina: 26,593,572
  6. Yamashita Keigo: 26,177,458
  7. Kono Rin: 25,230,600
  8. Hane Naoki: 21,004,400
  9. Ueno Asami: 20,777,172
  10. Kyo Kagen: 19,044,240

Top news of 2019
The readers of Go Weekly chose the following as the hottest news topics of the year.

  1. Shibano Toramaru’s breakthrough
  2. The blossoming of Nakamura Sumire
  3. The rising dragon Ueno Asami
  4. Iyama Yuta stays on top
  5. The new Gosei Hane Naoki
  6. Death of Ogawa Tomoko
  7. Busy year for Fujisawa Rina
  8. Retirement of Lee Sedol
  9. Cho U’s win in China-Japan Agon Kiriyama Cup
  10. Ichiriki’s success rapid-go titles
    Just missing the top ten was Sakai Hideyuki retiring from go to resume his medical career.

Tomorrow: Iyama close to defending Kisei title; Iyama ahead in international final; Park wins New Year’s Cup

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The Power Report: December updates

Monday December 30, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama loses Oza, keeps Tengen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choi wins 2nd Wu Qingyuan Cup

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

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

Cho U wins Japan-China Kiriyama Play-off

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

Suzuki to challenge for Women’s Kisei

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

75th Honinbo League

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

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

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

45th Meijin League

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

Ueno sets women’s record

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

First pros from Southeast Asia

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

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

Promotions

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

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

Saturday December 7, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday December 6, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

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

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

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

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

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