American Go E-Journal » John Power Report

Ichiriki one win away from becoming Kisei

Monday February 28, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

Ichiriki (l), almost there; Iyama (r), back to the wall

Ichiriki Ryo, the challenger, made a good start in the 46th Kisei best-of-seven title match, winning the first game. Iyama Yuta evened the score in the second game, but then Ichiriki again took the lead, winning two games in a row and securing a commanding 3-1 lead. This could be the end of Iyama’s record nine-year run as Kisei. 

For the fifth year in a row, the match got off to a start at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. The first game was played on January 13 and 14. Iyama drew black in the nigiri. Ichiriki was in excellent form; he attacked positively and seized the initiative at an early stage. Iyama resigned after move 214. Already Ichiriki had improved on his previous Kisei challenge (he lost 0-4 in the 42nd title match).

The second game was played at the Mikazuki Sea Park Katsuura Hotel, Chiba Prefecture, on January 21 and 22. Ichiriki took the initiative in a reading contest in the opening on the first day, but Iyama fought back on the second day and secured a slight lead. A white group came under pressure in the closing stages of the game, but Iyama showed great skill in rescuing it. Ichiriki resigned after 158 moves. 

Iyama makes a sealed move

The third game was played at the Olive Bay Hotel in Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture, on February 4 and 5. In the opening, both sides went for territory. In the middle game, Iyama settled a group under attack while taking territory. Ichiriki countered by splitting Black into two in the center. With both sides in byo-yomi, Iyama missed a chance to decide the game, letting Ichiriki secure a large territory and stage an upset.

The fourth game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on February 18 and 19. In a game marked by continuous fighting, the lead shifted back and forth, with observers noting two upsets. Ichiriki (B) played with greater tenacity in the late middle game and endgame and pulled off a win by half a point. He now has three chances to take the title. Ichiriki won’t be counting his chickens. In two of his big-three title defenses last year, Iyama staged fightbacks after falling behind—in the 76th Honinbo title match he recovered from 1-3 down against Shibano Toramaru and in the 46th Meijin from 2-3 against Ichiriki. If you include his other title matches last, Iyama faced eight “kadoban,” that is, a game that can lose a series, and won all of them. No one is stronger with his back to the wall. The fifth game will be played on March 3 and 4.


The Power Report: Yo leads 77th Honinbo League; Shibano and Shida share lead in 47th Meijin League; 33rd Women’s Meijin League; Sumire’s progress

Monday February 28, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

Yo leads 77th Honinbo League
Yo Seiki 8-dan of the Kansai Ki-in was the in-form player in the first month and a half of the new year. Besides becoming the Judan challenger, he also holds the sole lead in the Honinbo League on 5-0. His closest rival is Ichiriki Ryo on 4-1. 2022 results follow.
(Jan. 6) Shibano Toramaru 9-dan (B) beat Hane Naoki 9-dan by resig.
(Jan. 17) Kyo Kagen Judan (B) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 8-dan by resig.
(Jan. 27) Ichiriki (W) beat Motoki Katsuya 8-dan by resig.
(Feb. 3) Kyo (W) beat Sada Atsushi 7-dan by resig.
(Feb. 10) Ichiriki (B) beat Shibano by resig.; Yo Seiki (B) beat Motoki by 1.5 points

Shibano and Shida share lead in 47th Meijin League
Only two and a half rounds have been completed in the Meijin, but already there are only two undefeated players: Shibano Toramaru and Shida Tatsuya, who are both on 2-0. Results this year follow.
(Jan. 6) Shida Tatsuya 8-dan (W) beat Motoki Katsuya 8-dan by resig.
(Jan. 10) Yamashita Keigo (B) beat Kyo Kagen Judan by resig.
(Jan. 17) Shibano (W) beat Ichiriki by resig.
(Jan. 20) Hane Naoki (W) beat Yo Seiki by 3.5 points.
(Feb. 3) Shibano (B) beat Yamashita by 4.5 points.
(Feb. 10) Kyo (B) beat Hane by resig.

33rd Women’s Meijin League
So far, only one round + two games have been played in this seven-player league. Four players—Ueno Asami, Xie Yimin, Mukai Chiaki, and Nakamura Sumire— are undefeated, but their score is just 1-0. Nyu Eiko is 1-1, and Suzuki Ayumi and Omori Ran are both on 0-2. Results to date follow.
(Jan. 27) Mukai Chiaki 6-dan (B) beat Nyu Eiko 4-dan by resig.
(Jan. 31) Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, (B) beat Omori Ran 1-dan by resig.; Xie Yimin 7-dan (B) beat Suzuki Ayumi 7-dan by 2.5 points.
(Feb. 10) Nyu Eiko 4-dan (W) beat Suzuki by 1.5 points; Nakamura Sumire (W) beat Omori by 3.5 points.

Sumire’s progress
The first game given below should have been included in my previous report. Sumire has made a reasonable start to the new year with five wins to three losses.
(Dec. 27) Sumire 2-dan (B) beat Jo Bun-en 1-dan by resig. (prelim., 41st Women’s Honinbo).
(Jan. 6) Sumire (B) beat Nishioka Masao 2-dan by resig. (prelim., 47th King of the New Stars).
(Jan. 13) Sumire (W) beat Moro Arisa 2-dan by resig.; Sumire (W) beat Kato Chie 2-dan by resig. (both games in Prelim. A, 33rd Women’s Meijin). These wins secured for Sumire the final open seat in the seven-player league.
(Jan. 20) Sumire (W) lost to Nakazawa Ayako 5-dan by 2.5 points (Prelim., 9th Women’s Hollyhock). 
(Jan. 24) Sumire (B) beat Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan by 3.5 points (Prelim. C, 79th Honinbo tournament). With this win, Sumire advanced to Prelim. B.)
(Jan. 31) Sumire (B) lost to Kobayashi Izumi 7-dan by 6.5 points (First Tournament, 47th Kisei tournament) 
(Feb. 7) Sumire (W) lost to Imabun Taro 2-dan (B) by 1.5 points (47th King of the New Stars.
(Feb. 10) Sumire won her first game in the Women’s Meijin League—see article above.

To 7-dan: Nobuta Shigehito (120 wins, as of Jan. 28)
To 2-dan: Nakano Shoya (30 wins, as of Jan. 21)

Takagi Shoichi retired as of  January 20. Born in Yokohama City on November 7, 1943, he became a disciple of the late Nakagawa Shinshi 7-dan in 1956. He made 1-dan in 1962 and reached 9-dan in 1981. He won three titles: the 13th Prime Minister’s Cup (1969), the 2nd New Stars (1970), and the 19th Prime Minister’s Cup (1975). He challenged unsuccessfully for the 11th Judan (1973). He played in the Meijin League three times and the Honinbo League four times. His lifetime record is 989 wins, 626 losses, 4 jigo. He has written four books about go.

Tsujii Ryotaro 8-dan died of a myocardial infarction on January 31, aged 91. He was born on March 16, 1930 in Kyoto. He was a disciple of Fujita Goro 8-dan (1902-94). He became 1-dan in 1949 and was promoted to 8-dan when he retired in 2011. He was a member of the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in. 

In the item about best winning percentage in my previous report (published Feb. 2), the first line should have read: “Restricted to players who have played 24+ games” (not “wins”). Thanks to Howard Warshaw for catching this.


The Power Report: Yo to challenge for Judan; Ueno defends Women’s Kisei; Sumire no longer youngest professional

Sunday February 27, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

Yo Seiki 8P

Yo to challenge for Judan

The play-off to decide the challenger to Kyo Kagen for the 60th Judan title was held at the Kansai Ki-in on January 27. It featured two Kansai Ki-in members. Yo Seiki 8-dan (B) beat Sada Atsushi 7-dan by 3.5 points. This will be Yo’s third challenge for a top-seven title; in the 64th Oza title match in 2016, he lost 0-3 to Iyama Yuta and in the 55th Judan title match (2017) he lost 1-3 to Iyama. He will doubtless be glad the titleholder this time is someone different. The title match will start on March 1. 

Ueno defends Women’s Kisei

The Women’s Kisei has featured the same pairing for three years in a row. In the 23rd title match, Suzuki Ayumi 7-dan challenged Ueno Asami (left), who had held the title for two years; Suzuki won the match 2-1 and made her debut as Women’s Kisei. In 2021, Ueno became the challenger and regained her title by winning the match 2-1.  This year Suzuki was back as challenger again. The first game was held at the Hotel Sunlife Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 20. Ueno Asami drew black in the nigiri. Unusually for her, she did not play very aggressively, so the challenger, Suzuki Ayumi 7-dan, led the game into an endgame contest, which is her forte. However, Ueno managed to eke out a win by 1.5 points.

The second game was played in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Ichigaya, Tokyo, on January 27. There was more fighting than in the first game, but this game also became an endgame contest. Ueno played with precision and won the game by 5.5 points.

Cho Koharu makes 1-dan; Sumire no longer youngest professional

For the first time ever, two elementary-school pupils met in the deciding game in the 2022 Women’s Special Professional Qualification League. The two were Yanagihara Saki (aged 11) and Cho Koharu (aged 12). After six rounds of the league, both were on 5-1, so the winner of their final-round game would win the league and qualify as professional shodan as of April 1. Taking black, Koharu won by 6.5 points. I have no information about Saki, but she still has a chance of making pro while in elementary school. There’s lots of information about Koharu. She is the daughter of Cho U 9-dan and Kobayashi Izumi 7-fan. Her grandmother is Kobayashi Reiko, daughter of Kitani Minoru, and her grandfather is Kobayashi Koichi. Her older sister, Kosumi, who is now 15 (born on March 24, 2006), became a professional in April 2020. Koharu is eight months younger than Nakamura Sumire, so she will be the youngest active player at the Nihon Ki-in (she will be 12 years four months; Sumire turns 13 on March 2). Sumire’s record of debuting at ten years of age no months is still safe.

The January 30 Yomiuri Newspaper published an interview with Koharu and her parents. Her father offered some interesting background information about her given name. “Koharu” sounds like a typical girl’s name, but usually it would be written “small spring”小春 . In Cho’s case, her name is written心治. The first character is “kokoro,” which means “heart,” though only the first syllable is used. Go players who know kanji will immediately recognize the second character as the “chi” in Cho Chikun’s name. Cho U greatly respects Cho Chikun and actually asked him for permission to use the character from his name. The core meaning of this character is something like “cure” or “make better” or “regulate.”

Nakamura Sumire: “Congratulations on making 1-dan. Last year I studied together with Koharu. I hope that we can both do our best to get stronger.” 

Tomorrow: Yo leads 77th Honinbo League; Shibano and Shida share lead in 47th Meijin League; 33rd Women’s Meijin League; Sumire’s progress


The Power Report: 2021 in statistics

Wednesday February 2, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

Here is a statistical overview of Japanese go in 2021

Most prize money won
The Nihon Ki-in published the list of top prize-money winners on January 24. There were few surprises. Iyama Yuta took first place for the 11th year in a row and topped 100,000,000 (called “ichi-oku”) yen for the 10th year in a row. Only four players have reached this impressive figure, the others being Kobayashi Koichi (three times), Cho Chikun (four times), and Cho U (also four times). 
1. Iyama Yuta: ¥133,849,290 ($1,160,073 at $1 = ¥115.38)
2. Ichiriki Ryo: ¥44,285,702
3. Shibano Toramaru: ¥41,139,960
4. Kyo Kagen: ¥37,422,211
5.Fujisawa Rina: ¥31,993,482
6. Ueno Asami: ¥23,509,352
7. Kono Rin: ¥20,784,000
8. Seki Kotaro: ¥17,824,300
9. Hane Naoki: ¥13,609,000
10. Motoki Katsuya: ¥11,285,600

Most wins
Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, had the lead in the list of most wins for most of the year, helped, of course, by the boom in women’s go tournaments but also by her good results against male players. Sumire, boosted by her astonishing winning streak of 13 at the beginning of the year, kept her company. Even so, other players were in the running until the end of the year, when Ueno suddenly built a big lead.  She is the first woman player to top this list. Below are the top ten. 
1. Ueno Asami: 54 wins, 25 losses
2. Kyo Kagen Judan: 45-21
3. Nakamura Sumire 2-dan: 43-18
4. Fukuoka Kotaro 3-dan: 39-12; Ichiriki Ryo 9-dan: 39-20; Shibano Toramaru 9-dan: 39-24
7. Fujisawa Rina, Women’s Honinbo: 38-15
8. Seki Kotaro Tengen: 37-14; Iyama Yuta Kisei: 37-16
10. Nyu Eiko 4-dan: 34-17

Most successive wins
14: Ichiriki Ryo
13: Fukuoka Kotaro, Nakamura Sumire
12: Ichiriki
11: Kyo Kagen, Fujisawa Rina, Tsuneishi Takashi
10: Seki Kotaro, Ogata Masaki 9-dan, Horimoto Mitsunari, Nakamura Sumire

Best winning percentage
Restricted to players with 24+ wins.
1. Tsuneishi Takashi: 76.92% (30-9)
2. Fukuoka Kotaro: 76.47% (39-12)
3. Shida Tatsuya 8-dan: 75% (30-10)
4. Ogata Masaki: 74.36% (29-10)
5. Yamamori Tadanao 7-dan: 73.08% (19-7)
6. Komatsu Hideki 9-dan: 72.73% (24-9)
7. Seki Kotaro: 72.55% (37-14)
8. Son Makoto 7-dan, Sakai Yuki 3-dan: 72.22% (26-10),
10. Matsumoto Takehisa 8-dan, Horimoto Mitsunari 5P: 71.88% (23-9) 

Prizemoney promotions
Every January there are eleven automatic promotions based on prizemoney won in the top-seven titles. To be specific, the top two 1-dans to 5-dans and the top 6-dan are promoted. Players who earned promotion in other ways are excluded. The 2021 promotions were announced early in January and are given below.
To 7-dan: Koike Yoshihiro
To 6-dan: Hirose Yuichi, Otake Yu
To 5-dan: Tsuneishi Takashi, Cho Zuiketsu
To 4-dan: (Ms.) Nyu Eiko, Muramoto Wataru
To 3-dan: Fukuoka Kotaro, Nishioka Masao
To 2-dan: (Ms.) Tsuji Hana, Chan Fukan (from Malaysia)


The Power Report: International tournament for seniors; 77th Honinbo League; Meijin League; Sumire’s progress; Promotions/Retirements; Obituary: Kikuchi Yasuro

Monday January 31, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

International tournament for seniors

O Meien

   The final international event of 2021 was yet another special tournament for senior players, the 1004 Islands Shin-An International Senior Baduk Championship. Sixteen former top players took part, with eight players from the host country of Korea, three each from Japan and China, and two from Taiwan, though those two were actually the Nihon Ki-in players O Rissei and O Meien. The time allowance was just 30 minutes per player plus 30-second byo-yomi x 3; there were two rounds per day. The tournament was held on the net on December 21 and 22. Reaching the final were Yoo Changhyeok of Korea and O Meien. The latter took the lead early in the game, but Yu pulled off a late upset and won by half a point. First prize was 30 million won (about $25,000). O had to be content with half that. Results are given below, but full details for most of the games are not available to me. (All players are 9-dan.)

Round 1 (Dec. 21). Yoda Norimoto (Japan) beat Kim Jongsoo (Korea); Kim Yonghwan (Korea) beat Kobayashi Koichi (Japan); Yoo Changhyeok (Korea) beat O Rissei; Yu Bin (China) beat Seo Nun-uk (Korea); O Meien beat Cho Hoonhyun (Korea); Rui Naiwei (China) beat Kim Ilhwan (Korea); Seo Bongsoo (Korea) beat Takemiya Masaki (Japan); Nie Weiping (China) beat Choe Kyupeong (Korea).

Round 2 (Dec. 21). Yoda beat Kim Yonghwan; Yoo beat Yu; O (B) beat Rui by resig.; Seo beat Nie.

Semifinals (Dec. 22). Yu (B) beat Yoda by 2.5 points; O beat Seo on time.

Final (Dec. 22). Yu (B) beat O by half a point.   

77th Honinbo League

   As of the end of the year, with three rounds completed, Yo Seiki 8P of the Kansai Ki-in had the sole lead as the only undefeated player. 

(Nov. 1) Tsuruyama Atsushi 8P beat Sada Atsushi 7P by 3.5 points. 

(Nov. 12) Ichiriki Ryo Tengen (W) beat Kyo Kagen Judan by resig. 

(Nov. 23) Shibano Toramaru (Oza) (W) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig.

(Dec. 2) Kyo Kagen Judan (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by resig.; Yo Seiki 8P (B) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resig.

(Dec. 10) Yo (W) beat Ichiriki by resig.

(Dec. 13) Shibano (W) beat Tsuruyama by resig.

(Dec. 16) Hane (W) beat Sada by resig.

Meijin League

   The three vacant seats in the 47th Meijin League went to three 8-dans: Yo Seiki, Ida Atsushi, and Shida Tatsuya. The deciding games were all played on November 11. Shida (B) beat Kono Rin, who has been a regular in the league for many years, by resignation and will make his league debut. Ida (B) beat Xie Yimin 7P by 2.5 points, so once again the debut of a woman player in a major league has been put off (recognizing as “major” only the Meijin, Honinbo, and Kisei S Leagues). Ida, a former Honinbo challenger, will make his debut in the Meijin League. Yo (B) beat Fujita Akihiko 7P by resignation, so he made an immediate comeback after losing his place in the previous league. Results of games played last year follow.

(Dec. 3) Ichiriki Tengen (W) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by resig. 

(Dec. 9) Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P by half a point.

(Dec. 18) Yo Seiki 8P (W) beat Kyo Kagen Judan by resig.

(Dec. 20). Shida Tatsuya 8P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 3.5 points.  

Sumire’s progress

This report follows on from my report published on November 10 and takes Sumire to the end of the year. Her final record was 43 wins to 18 losses, which put her in third place in the most-wins list after Ueno Asami on 54-25 and Kyo Kagen Judan on 44-21.

(Nov. 11) Sumire (B) lost to Suzuki Ayumi 7P by half a point (25th Women’s Kisei main tournament, round 2).

(Nov. 13) Sumire (B) beat Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, by 1.5 points (Women’s Brains Match, details given earlier in this report); Sumire (W) lost to Xie Yimin 7P by resig. (final of the Brains Match). These are both unofficial games.

(Nov. 18) Sumire (W) lost to Kaneko Maki 2P by 4.5 points (round 1, prelim., Teikei Cup Young Stars).

(Nov. 22) Sumire (B) beat Fujii Koki 1P by 4.5 points (prelim., 47th King of the New Stars)

(Nov. 29) Sumire (B) beat Kimu Shujun 9P by 3.5 points (Prelim. C, 78th Honinbo).

(Dec. 2) Sumire (B) beat Hoshiai Shiho 3P by resig. (Prelim. B, Women’s Meijin).

(Dec. 9) Sumire (B) beat Suzukawa Natsumi 1P by resig. (Prelim., 47th King of the New Stars). 

(Dec. 23) Sumire (W) beat Shimoji Gensho 7P by resig. (Prelim. C, 48th Meijin tournament).


To 2-dan (30 wins): Toyoda Hirohito (as of Nov. 12); Miura Taro (as of Nov. 26)

To 3-dan (40 wins): Kuwabara Shun (as of Nov. 23); Sakai Yuki (as of Dec. 24) 

To 4-dan: Sotoyanagi Sebun (50 wins, as of Dec. 7) 


Otake Hideo 9P, one of the top players of the second half of the 20th century, retired on December 15 after a go career of 65 years. He was born in Kita Kyushu City in Fukuoka Prefecture on May 12, 1942. He became a disciple of Kitani Minoru in 1951 and made 1-dan in 1956. He won his first title, the Nihon Ki-in No. One Position, in 1966 and monopolized it for the five years of its existence. He won the 14th Yomiuri Meijin title in 1975 and the 1st (1976), 3rd (1978), and 4th (1979) Asahi Meijin titles. He acquired the nickname of “the Meijin man” when he played in the Meijin title match nine times in the decade from 1975 to 1984. He and Rin Kaiho 9P, who was born in the same year, were great rivals and this period was called “the age of Otake and Rin.” He won a total of 48 titles, which is fifth best, including seven Gosei, five Judan, and one Oza among the top-seven titles, and five NHK Cups. A winning streak of six years in the Gosei earned him the title of Honorary Gosei. He also won two international titles, the 5th Fujitsu Cup in 1992 and the 6th TV Asia tournament in 1994. His career record is 1319 wins, 846 losses, 5 jigo, 1 no-contest. He served as chairman of the Nihon Ki-in board of directors from 2008 to 2012.

Chino Tadahiko 9P retired as of December 16. Chino was born in Chiba Prefecture on July 4, 1937. He became a disciple of Nakamura Yutaro 9P and made 1-dan in 1953. He reached 9-dan in 1983. He played twice in the Honinbo League.

Obituary: Kikuchi Yasuro

Kikuchi Yasuro, the leading amateur player of the second half of the 20th century and founder of the Ryokusei Igo Gakuen (Igo College), died of old age on November 3. Kikuchi was born in Tokyo in 1929. In 1948, he entered Senshu University and established himself as the top university player. In 1957, he won the 3rd Amateur Honinbo Championship; in all, he won it 13 times. In 1992, he won the 14th World Amateur Go Championship; he made five appearances in this tournament in all. He also won the Amateur Best Ten nine times. Winners of the Amateur Honinbo and the Amateur Best Ten got to play games with professionals, and, playing on a handicap of reverse komi or two stones, he enjoyed quite a good winning percentage. For example, taking black with a reverse komi of five, he beat Sakata Eio by eight points in 1957. In 1979, he founded the Ryokusei Igo Gakuen with the goal of giving children a healthy upbringing through go. It was not meant to be a training school for professionals, though about 20 of his pupils did become professionals, starting with Muramatsu Ryuichi 8P and including Yamashita Keigo, former Kisei, Aoki Shinichiro 9P, and his sister Kikuyo 8P. His last pupil to become a pro was Hoshiai Shiho 3P. I recall reading that when he was young, he consulted Segoe Kensaku 9P about whether he should become a professional. Segoe’s answer was that he had enough talent, but that he would be “just another 9-dan,” whereas as an amateur he would have a more illustrious career.

Tomorrow: 2021 stats


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

Saturday January 29, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

Iyama regains Oza title

In contrast to his other recent title matches, Iyama never fell behind in the 69th Oza best-of-five. Rather, it was the titleholder, Shibano Toramaru, who had to play catch-up in the second game and then save a kadoban in the fourth. The final game, played on December 9, was the last title-match game of the year. Iyama got black in the nigiri. The game was very close and in the end was decided by a small slip in judgment by Shibano, who resigned after move 161.

With this win, Iyama regained the title that he lost to Shibano two years ago. He was also once again the holder of a quintuple crown. Of the top seven titles, he is missing just the Tengen and the Judan, but he has already been eliminated from the 60th Judan tournament, so there is no immediately prospect of his getting another grand slam.  Results follow (note that Black won all the games). Incidentally, the Go Weekly reporter worked out that during 2021 Iyama’s record in kadoban games (that is, games in which he could have lost a match) was eight successive wins. The Oza prize is 14,000,000 yen (about $123,000). This is Iyama’s 67th title.

Game 1 (Oct. 29). Iyama (B) by resig.; Game 2 (Nov. 12). Shibano (B) by resig.; Game 3 (Nov. 19). Iyama (B) by resig.; Game 4 (Dec. 3). Shibano (B) by resig.; Game 5 (Dec. 9). Iyama (B) by resig.

The Teikei tournaments

In 2021, three new tournaments were founded by one sponsor, the Teikei Corporation. This is actually a massive family of companies whose core business seems to be providing security services of various kind. The three tournaments are described below. 

The Teikei Cup New Stars Tournament is for players of 25 or under, as of April 1 of the tournament year (this date applies to the other two tournaments also). The top 12 players in a preliminary tournament qualify for two all-play-all six-player leagues, the winners of which meet in a best-of-three final. First prize is 10,000,000 yen (close to $88,000), the most generous of the three tournaments. Unusually for a Japanese tournament, the leagues were held at the rate of a game a day from December 20 to 25 (the 23rd was a rest day). In the A League, Shibano Toramaru tied on 4-1 with Ichiriki Ryo, but Shibano took precedence because he won their encounter in the league. Kyo Kagen Judan dominated the B League with a score of 5-0. Shibano and Kyo will meet in the final in March. 

The Teikei Cup Legends Tournament: for players 60 and above. Players start out in a preliminary tournament, but honorary titleholders and the top four players in the Women Legends (see below) are seeded into the main tournament, which is a standard knockout. In the 1st term, 17 players are in the main tournament. First prize is 5,000,000 yen.

The Teikei Cup Women Legends Tournament: for players 45 and older. First prize is 2,000,000 yen. Actually the 1st term of this tournament has already been completed.  Thirteen players took part in a knock-out tournament, with three of the players being seeded into the second round. In the semifinals, Aoki Kikuyo 8P (B) beat Hosaka Mayu 3-dan by 4.5 points (played on November 25) and Kato Tomoko 6P (W) beat Tsukuda Akiko 6P by resig. (December 2). In the final, held in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in on December 11, Aoki (W) beat Kato Tomoko by 4.5 points. All four of these players are seeded into the Legends Tournament.

Ueno wins Young Carp

The main tournament of the 16th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament was held at the Hotel MyStays Hiroshima on November 20 and 21. In the final, Ueno Asami (B) beat Nishi Kengo 5P by resignation. Last year this tournament was won by Fujisawa Rina; this year it was the turn of her main rival in women’s go, Ueno. She didn’t get an easy draw, either; her defeated opponents, in order, were Otani Naoki 4P, Koike Yoshihiro 6P, recognized as one of the top young players, and Mutsuura Yuta 7P, who has played in the Meijin league. First prize is 3,000,000 yen (about $26,360).

Ida sets record in Crown title

Ida Atsushi 8P

This is a title open only to players at the Central Japan (Nagoya) branch of the Nihon Ki-in, who number about 50. The final of the 62nd Crown title was held in the Hodaka Hotel in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture, on November 30. Taking black, Ida Atsushi 8P, the titleholder, beat the challenger Otake Yu 5P by resignation. Ida surprised his opponent by unveiling a new move in a large-scale corner fight in the opening; he said later that it was a move that AI doesn’t give and which he discovered for himself. It turns a seki into a winning capturing race for Black. Otake found a way to live but at the cost of having other stones come under severe pressure. After this opening, AI assessed Black’s winning chances at 90%. Ida’s own assessment was that he gained about five points. He has now held this title for six years in a row, which is a new record. First prize is 1,700,000 yen (just under $15,000).

Tomorrow: Choi wins 4th Go Seigen Cup; China wins Agon Kiriyama Cup play-off; Shibano wins Ryusei; Suzuki to challenge for Women’s Kisei; Kuksu Mountains World Championship


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

Friday January 28, 2022

By John Power, Japan Correspondent  for the E-Journal

46th Meijin; Iyama (r)

Iyama defends Meijin title

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

Han wins SGW Cup

Han Zenki

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

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

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

Xie wins Women’s Brains Match

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

Seki wins Tengen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Power Report: Latest international go news

Wednesday December 8, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday November 10, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Yokohama Royal Park Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday November 7, 2021

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

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

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

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

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

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