American Go E-Journal » Columns

50 years aGO: November 1969

Wednesday November 20, 2019

This month we start a new feature, as we look back fifty years in world Go.

by Keith Arnold, hka, with Patrick Bannister

On November 14, 1968, the Nihon Kiin celebrated Rin Kaiho’s victory as the 8th Meijin. He towers above the dignitaries in our photo , but also notable is the late Go Seigen 9 dan, fourth from the left and , at far right, Rin’s teacher, Goro Fujita 6 dan.

As was his custom, Fujisawa Shuko won the first year the Oza became a title match. He’s shown here, at left, turning aside the challenge of Otake Hideo, then 8 dan, on November 12, 1968. Otake was the first of the Kitani school disciples to make his presence felt.

Go Review also heralded the “Big Three’ of the younger generation, 50 years ago this month, but these three – Ishida Yoshio “the Computer”, Kato Masao “ the Killer”, and Takemya Masaki would become better known as the “Three Crows “ of the Kitani school.

Finally, William Pinckard returned home to New York after a 6-month stay in Tokyo, with a 2 dan diploma from Iwamoto 9 dan. Pinckard is well known in the west for his writings about go history and culture, particularly his wonderful “Japanese Prints and the World of Go” available from Kiseido.

Please forward any ideas for future months to the journal, ejournal@usgo.org. Photos are borrowed from Go Review.

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The Power Report: Shibano to challenge for Oza title; Son wins King of New Stars; Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

Thursday October 17, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Shibano to challenge for Oza title

This is turning into a big year for Shibano Toramaru. Wrapping up the Meijin series by the fifth game enables him to give his undivided attention to the next title match on his calendar. In the play-off to decide the challenger for the 67th Oza title, held on September 20 at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo, he defeated Kyo Kagen 8P (W) by resignation after 195 moves. The title match with Iyama Yuta will start on October 25. At 19 years 11 months, he is the youngest-ever Oza challenger (the previous record was 20 years four months, set by Ichiriki Ryo in in 2017).

Son wins King of New Stars

The best-of-three final of the 44th King of the New Stars tournament featured a clash between Son Makoto 7P and Koike Yoshihiro 4P, two promising players of the younger generation. For Son, it was his last chance, as he had been promoted to 7-dan, and this tournament is restricted to players under 26 and under 7-dan (pairings were made on August 1, 2018, before Son earned his promotion by winning a seat in the Meijin League). He also made the final in 2017, but lost 0-2 to Shibaano Toramaru. In the first game, played on September 30, Son (B) won by 5.5 points. In the second, played on October 7, Son (W) won by resignation. Both games were played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo. First prize is 2,000,000 yen (about $18,700).

Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

The final of the 26th Agon Kiriyama Cup was held at the headquarters of the Agon sect in Kyoto on October 5. Cho U, then still Meijin, (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8p by resignation. This is the fifth time Cho has won this title, the last time being the 19th cup. Ichiriki, the recent king of fast go, is now down to two haya-go titles, the Ryusei and the NHK Cup.

Promotions

To 9-dan: Sakai Maki (200 wins, as of Sept. 20)

To 8-dan: Tsuruyama Atsushi (150 wins, as of Sept. 27)
To 4-dan: Takeuchi Kosuke, Tsuneishi Takashi (both 50 wins, both as of Sept. 13)

To 3-dan: Ueno Asami, Nagashima Kozue (both 40 wins, both as of Sept. 20)

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The Power Report: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Wednesday October 16, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Tang wins again in Samsung Cup

The 2019 Samsung Cup (the 23rd) was held at a Samsung training center in Taejon, Korea, from August 30 to September 6. It culminated in a best-of-three final in which Tang Weixing 9P of China beat his compatriot Yang Dingxin 9P 2-1. Apparently Tang had been in a bit of a slump recently, which explains why he was rated only no. 28 in China, but he has always done well in this tournament. After making his international debut by beating Lee Sedol 2-0 to win the 2013 Samsung Cup, he took second place in 2014 and 2017, and in-between won the 8th Ing Cup in 20126.

Japan had only three participants in this 64-player tournament: seeded players Iyama Yuta 9P and Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) 8P were joined by Cho Sonjin 9P, who won a seat in the senior division in the qualifying tournament. All were eliminated in the first round. Actually Iyama had a very good position against Tang Weixing, so much so that the Japanese team captain Ryu Shikun commented that the game was “hard to lose” for him. However, complicated fighting continued during byo-yomi and Iyama slipped up with move 171. He resigned after move 180. Actually Tang is known for his tenacity and has a good winning percentage in games in which AI programs adjudge him as being behind. Kyo lost to Li Qincheng of China. Li won the 3rd Globis Cup in 2016 and the 28th TV Asia Cup in the same year. The latter win earned him promotion from 2-dan to 9-dan, the biggest leap in rank any professional has made. Cho Sonjin lost to Tao Xinran 7P of China.

Kisei leagues

Kono wins S League

The final game of the S League, played on Sept. 26, was like a final, as the winner would win the league. Taking white, Kono Rin 9P (W) beat Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan) by half a point. Kyo, on 3-1, had held the sole lead in the league going into this game, so this was a come-from-behind victory for Kono. Kyo didn’t even have the consolation of taking second place, which would have got him into the final knock-out section; as he was ranked no. 4, he was pipped by no. 3, Takao Shinji. Four players ended up on 3-2, but there are no play-offs in the Kisei leagues, so Kono, ranked no. 2, took first place.

The A League was won by Ichiriki Ryo 8P who scored seven wins in a row. Cho U was in second place on 4-3; both these players will move up to the S League. Three other players ended on 4-3: Yo Seiki 8P, who came third, Shida Tatsuya 8P, who came fourth, and Shibano Toramaru, then 8P, who will drop to the C League. This is one of Shibano’s rare failures recently. The B1 League was won by Yoda Norimoto 9P on 5-2 and the B2 League by Motoki Katsuya 7P on 6-1. Motoki beat Yoda in the play-off. The C League was won by Suzuki Shinji 7P on 5-0.

The challenger will now be decided by an irregular knock-out. The first game was played on October 9 between Suzuki and Motoki. Taking black, Suzuki won by 5.5 points; next he will play Ichiriki; the winner will play Takao; the winner will play Kono Rin in a “best-of-three” in which Kono starts off with one win. It is very hard for someone beside the winner of the S League to become the challenger. Results in the S League since my last report are given below.

(July 14) Kyo Kagen Gosei (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 5.5 points.

(August 6) Kyo Kagen (W) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig.

(August 22). Takao Shinji 9P (B) beat Yamashita by 6.5 points; Murakawa Daisuke Judan (W) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.

(September 5) So Yokoku 9P (W) beat Takao Shinji by 2.5 points; Yamashita (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke Judan by resig.

Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

Ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire picked up her third official win in a game played on September 16. In a game in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament, playing white, she beat Furuta Naoyoshi 4P by 1.5 points after 235 moves. The players are both members of the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in, so the game was played at its headquarters. The game was not going well for her, but she pulled off an upset in the endgame. This is actually her first win in a tournament open to all professionals and her first experience of a three-hour time allowance, which is the mainstream for pro tournaments. On September 30, Sumire played her first game in the main section of the 23rd Women’s Kisei tournament; as detailed in my report of August 22, she set a record by becoming the youngest player to reach the main section of a tournament. The game was played in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Ichigaya in Tokyo. She faced a tough opponent in Mannami Nao 4P, who until recently held a women’s title, the 3rd Senko Cup. Sumire has an aggressive style; she attacked early and seized the initiative, getting a promising game. However, her momentum led her to make an overplay that let Mannami counterattack and stage an upset. Sumire resigned after 227 moves.

On October 2, Sumire played a game in Round One of Preliminary C of the 76th Honinbo tournament. Taking white against Yamamoto Kentaro 5P, she won by resignation after 232 moves. From here, nine successive wins will give Sumire a seat in the league that starts in autumn 2020. Sumire’s official record is now 4-2, which is not only eminently respectable but is also evidence that her selection under the new system was not premature.

Sumire is quite possibly the most popular Nihon Ki-in player just now, so she is often invited to go events. She played an exhibition game at the 9th Hankyu Railway Go Festival in Osaka for Enjoying the Cool of the Evening, held on August 14 & 15. A game pitting Sumire against Hane Ayaka 1P, the daughter of Hane Naoki who also became a professional this year, was one of the main attractions. Taking white, she won by resignation after 150 moves. On move 24, she played an AI innovation, which impressed the commentator on the game, Kobayashi Satoru 9P.

Sumire played another exhibition game at a festival, held on August 25, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Nihon Ki-in Hiroshima Prefecture Headquarters. Taking white, she played her first game with Fujisawa Rina, holder of four women’s titles. Sumire went on the attack in the middle game and at one stage was doing quite well–an AI program rated her winning chances at 85%. However, she made a bad threat in a ko fight, so the tide turned against her. She resigned after 187 moves.

Finally, Sumire played two games in a preliminary round for Kansai women players of the 14th Hiroshima Aluminum Cup Young Carp Tournament, an unofficial tournament. In the first round, she played another game with Hane Ayaka (W), which the latter lost on time. In the next round, she lost by resignation to Miyamoto Chiharu 1P (W)

Tommorow: Shibano to challenge for Oza title; Son wins King of New Stars; Cho U wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

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The Power Report: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ueno reaches Ryusei final; New members of Honinbo League

Tuesday October 15, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 38th Women’s Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 29. Ueno Asami, the women’s number two at present, takes a fairly relaxed approach to her games: she doesn’t check up what tournament she’s playing in until the game is over. Perhaps this is to avoid putting extra pressure on herself in important games. However, there was a label at the entrance to the playing room reading “play-off to decide the Women’s Honinbo challenger,” so she could not avoid knowing in advance. It did not affect her play, however. Taking white, she beat Suzuki Ayumi 7P by resig.

Ueno has had a spectacular start to her career. Born on October 26, 2001, she set a record for the youngest woman titleholder when she won the 21st Women’s Kisei in 2018 (she was then 16 years three months old) and defended the title this year. However, her challenge to Fujisawa Rina for the Hollyhock Cup earlier this failed, so she has not yet won a title match with multiple games. Ueno: “I’m happy to be able to play another match with Women’s Honinbo Fujisawa Rina. You can play up to five games, so I won’t get discouraged even if I lose two in a row. I’ll do my best and try to have fun.”

The first game was played at the Kashoen inn in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 9. Taking white, Fujisawa Rina won by 3.5 points. The second game will be played on October 27.

Ueno reaches Ryusei final

Ueno Asami seems to be enjoying the best form of her career, which is saying something, since she already has some impressive achievements (see Women’s Honinbo article above). She has turned in the best performance by a Japanese woman player in a tournament open to both male and female players. First of all, she did well just to reach the final section of the 28th Ryusei tournament, which means making the best 16. At this point, she shifted to high gear, beating Takao Shinji 9P in the first round and Murakawa Daisuke 8P in the quarterfinals. The latter win made her the first woman to reach the semifinals of an open tournament. She was not finished, though. She defeated Kyo Kagen 8P, securing a seat in the final with Ichiriki Ryo 8P. The final was played on September 23. In the middle game, Ueno (B) cut off a large white group and took away its eye shape. Around move 180, the players following the game in the pressroom thought that White was on the verge of resigning. At this point, perhaps, the pressure got to Asami, for she blundered with 181, a move that let Ichiriki save his group by making a shape that’s called “living with a false eye.” His group had one ordinary eye and two long tails that linked up with a shape like a false eye but which could not be put into atari.

For Ichiriki, this was his second successive Ryusei title and his 16th successive win (the winning streak ended with his next game).

Note: In my report of July 3, I mentioned that Ueno had become (probably) the first woman player to top the list of most games won. Starting on June 7, she maintained that place through the summer. In recent weeks, she has shared top billing with Shibano Toramaru, but she is still number one as of October 4.

New members of Honinbo League

The four vacancies in the 75th Honinbo League have been decided and we have yet another leapfrog promotion for a low-ranked player for winning a seat. On August 15, Shida Tatsuya 7P (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resignation; he will play in his first league ever. Two seats were decided on August 22. Ichiriki Ryo 8P (W) beat Seto Taiki 8P by 4.5 points and Yokotsuka Riki 3P (B) beat Ida Atsushi 8P by 3.5 points. Ichiriki made an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league. Yokotsuka will make his league debut and earned a promotion to 7-dan (as of August 23). The final seat was decided on September 12 when Kyo Kagen 8P (W) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by 7.5 points. Kyo will be making his debut in the Honinbo League.

Tomorrow: Tang wins again in Samsung Cup; Kisei leagues; Nakamura Sumire wins more official games

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The Power Report: FineArt wins computer AI go tournament; Hane takes Gosei title; Shibano wins Meijin title

Monday October 14, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

FineArt wins computer AI go tournament

The 2019 China Securities Cup World AI Open, a tournament to decide the world’s top go-playing computer program, was held in Rizhao City in Shandong Province, China, from August 21 to 25. Fourteen programs from China (8), Japan (1), Korea (2), Chinese Taipei (1), Hong Kong (1), and Belgium (1) took part. Fine Art (China) showed overwhelming strength, beating Golaxy (also China) 4-1 in the final. Third place went to HanDol of Korea and fourth to Leela Zero of Belgium. Japan had high hopes for Globis-AQZ, but after coming third in the first section of the tournament, it was beaten into fifth place in the knock-out stage. This tournament was just one part of a large-scale go festival with various kinds of tournaments for amateurs and professionals. The AI tournament was in its third year. DeepZenGO of Japan won the first tournament and Golaxy of China the second.

Hane takes Gosei title

The fifth game of the 44th Gosei title was played at the headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 23. The challenger, Hane Naoki 9P, had made a good start by winning the first two games, but Kyo Kagen had fought back to win the third and fourth games, so for the first time in five years the title match went the full distance. The game started at 9 a.m. and finished at 6:19 p.m. There was a fierce fight involving a ko, but Hane came out on top and forced a resignation after 150 moves. He made a comeback as Gosei after a gap of eight years (he won the 36th title). At the age of 43, Hane is the oldest titleholder, but, unlike perhaps in Korea or China, this doesn’t cause much comment in Japan. For the record, this is his 9th top-seven title and his 25th overall. First prize is worth 8,000,000 yen (about $74,500).

Shibano wins Meijin title

The 44th Meijin title match was another rare title match not involving Iyama Yuta. The title holder was Cho U (aged 39), who made a comeback last year, taking the title from Iyama. The challenger was Shibano Toramaru 8P, aged 19, who is the top teenaged player in Japan. After losing the opening game, Shibano won four games in a row to take the title. He turns 20 on November 9 (two days before the scheduled seventh game if the match had gone the distance), so he became the first teenaged Meijin, in fact, the first teenager to hold a top-seven title. Briefly, the course of the match was as described below.

The first game was held at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo in Bunkyo Ward on August 27 and 28. The challenger (white) took a big lead, but the titleholder played a do-or-die move and pulled off an upset.

The second game was played in Cho U’s hometown of Taipei. Cho (white) took the initiative in the opening, but he made a miscalculation on the second day and had to resign after 195 moves. Shibano commented that he was relieved to pick up a win.

The third game was played at the Gifu Grand Hotel in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, on September 17 and 18. Shibano won by resignation after 234 moves. So far, white had won all the games.

The fourth game was played at the Takarazuka Hotel in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture, on September 25 and 26. Taking black, Shibano won by resignation after 233 moves.

The fifth game was played at the Atami Sekitei, a traditional Japanese inn, on October 7 and 8. Taking white, Shibano won by resignation after 252 moves. This made his score 4-1, so he took the title.

Shibano set a couple of significant records with this victory. At 19 years 11 months, he is the first teenaged Meijin, as mentioned above. The win carries with it an automatic promotion to 9-dan (as of Oct. 9). Shibano reached the top rank in five years one month, which is a new speed record (the old record was Iyama’s seven years six months).

Shibano has been setting records since he became a pro. When he was 17 years eight months old, he won the 26th Ryusei title and last year he beat one of the world’s top players, Ke Jie, in the 4th Japan-China Ryusei play-off. In person, he’s quiet and unassuming, but on the go board he is aggressive and always looks for the strongest move. He’s well informed about AI go and plays a lot on the net, especially with Chinese players. He’s said to play up to 30 games a day.

Tomorrow: Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo; Ueno reaches Ryusei final; New members of Honinbo League

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The Power Report: 1200 wins for O Rissei; Iyama’s second marriage; Sakai to resume medical career; Promotions & Obituaries

Sunday August 25, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

1200 wins for O Rissei: In the final play-off on July 18 for one of the places in the main tournament of the 58th Judan tournament, O Rissei (W) beat Akiyama Jiro 9P by resig. This was his 1200th win as a professional. He had 688 losses, 1 jigo, and 1 no-result, for a winning percentage of 63.6. O is the 9th player at the Nihon Ki-in to reach this mark. He is 60 years eight months old, and it took him 47 years three months. He has won 22 titles, including the Kisei from 2002 to 2004.

Iyama’s second marriage: According to Go Weekly, Iyama Yuta got married for the second time on July 20. No details were given of his wife except to say that she is an “ordinary woman.” In Japanese newspaper jargon, that means that she is not a celebrity or a professional entertainer or sportswoman. Iyama was previously married to Murota Io, a shogi professional. They had the same birthday, May 24, 1989, so they got married on their birthday in 2012. However, they split up amicably in 2015, the reason being that they were unable to spend much time together. Iyama was traveling constantly for title games (a two-day game takes four days with travel on the day before and the day after the game and a one-day game may take three days). Murota was very popular with shogi fans and so she also spent a lot of time away from home. 

Sakai to resume medical career: Born on April 23, 1973, Sakai Hideyuki is a player who has had an unusual career and it is now taking another twist. While in high school and at medical school he was one of the top amateur players in Japan and he won the World Amateur Go Championship in 2000. In 2001, very soon after graduating from the Kyoto University College of Medicine, he became a professional with the Kansai Ki-in, being awarded the rank of 5-dan after winning some test games with professionals. He became one of the top players at the Kansai Ki-in, winning numerous internal titles; he also won the Gosei title in 2010 and played in the Meijin League nine times and the Honinbo League once. He was noted for his meticulous study, especially of the opening, and preparation. He has just announced, however, that he has submitted an application for leave of absence from the Kansai Ki-in so that he can resume his medical career as of September 1. Apparently he has been dissatisfied with his results in recent years. He plans to work in a hospital. This would be the real start to his medical career; he must have kept up with medical advances to gain professional acceptance. There are professional players who have pursued careers as lawyers or in other professions while also playing go, but I don’t know of any other case of retiring from go like this. The term “leave of absence” suggests that he might later be able to make a comeback as a go professional if he wished.

Promotions

To 7-dan: Yamamori Tadanao (120 wins, as of August 2)
To 4-dan: Onishi Kenya (50 wins, as of July 26)

Obituaries

   Takabayashi Takuji 6P died of multiple organ failure on July 7. Born on May 21, 1942, he became a disciple of Okubo Ichigen 9P. He made 1-dan in 1961 and reached 6-dan in 2000. He had a number of disciples, including Kyo Kagen Gosei.

  Matsumoto Tokuji 8P died on July 14. Born on November 5, 1921 in Yamaguchi Prefecture, he was a disciple of Kitani Minoru. He became 1-dan in 1941 and reached 7-dan in 1967. He retired in 2002 and was promoted to 8-dan. He won the Okura Prize for spreading go in 2000.

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The Power Report: Shibano to challenge for Meijin title; Kyo becomes Tengen challenger; 6th Kuksu Mountains Cup

Saturday August 24, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Shibano to challenge for Meijin title: The final round of the 44th Meijin League was held in Tokyo and Osaka on August 1. All of the games were important to the players playing them, either for winning the league or retaining their places. Three players were in the running to be the challenger: Iyama Yuta, Shibano Toramaru, and Kono Rin. They were not playing each other, so a three-way tie was possible, but only the two higher-ranked players would qualify for a play-off. This meant that Iyama and Shibano had an advantage, but Iyama lost his final game while Shibano and Kono won, so these two made the play-off. Results of games played since my last report are given below.

   The play-off between Shibano and Kono was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 8. Taking black, Shibano won by half a point after 202 moves; he took revenge for losing the Honinbo play-off to Kono earlier this year. He will be making his first challenge for a top-seven title. Without intending any disrespect to Kono, it’s safe to say that the Japanese go public has been eagerly awaiting Shibano’s title-match debut. When the best-of-seven starts, on August 27, he will be 19 years nine months old, making him the second-youngest challenger ever for the Meijin title (Iyama holds the record of 19 years three months). Shibano took four years 11 months from the start of his career to make this challenge, the quickest for any top-seven challenger (previous record was held by the late Kato Masao, who challenged for the Honinbo title five years after becoming a pro. Becoming the challenger for a top-three title earned Shibano an automatic promotion to 8-dan, effective the following day. He is the fastest to reach this mark.

(July 4) Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by 2.5 points.
(July 11) Shibano Toramaru 7P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig.; Mutsuura Yuta 7P (W) beat Son Makoto 7P by resig.
(July 18) Iyama (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(August 1) Hane (B) beat Iyama by resig.; Kono (W) beat Yamashita by 3.5 points; Shibano (B) beat Suzuki by resig.; Murakawa Daisuke Judan (W) beat Son by resig.

Kyo becomes Tengen challenger: The play-off to decide the challenger to Iyama Yuta for the 45th Tengen title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 15. Taking black, Kyo Kagen Gosei beat Sada Atsushi 4-dan (Kansai Ki-in) by resignation. Kyo’s form has picked up this month. The title match will start on October 11.

6th Kuksu Mountains Cup: This is a Korean-sponsored tournament that was a team tournament for its first four years but switched to an individual tournament last year. Players have a time allowance of 30 minutes plus 40 seconds by three times. First prize is 50 million won. The four rounds were held over three days, from August 3 to 5 and, which must be very unusual, as three different locations.

   This year Chinese players dominated the tournament, with “veteran” Chen Yaoye 9P, who is 29 years old, defeating Liao Yuanhe 8P in the final. Of the three Japanese participants, only Yamashita Keigo picked up a win, but that was over Park Junghwan, many times a world champion. Results follow (I don’t have full details for most of the games):

Round 1 (August 3). Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) beat Wang Yuanjun 9P (Chinese Taipei); Byun Sangil 9P (Korea) (W) beat Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) by resig.; Lee Tonghun 9P (Korea) beat Fan Tingyu 9P (China); Liao Yuanhe 8P (China) beat Lee Jihun 9P (Korea); Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P (Japan); Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) beat Xu Haohong 6P (Chinese Taipei); Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) (B) beat Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) by resig.; Chen Yaoye 9P (China) beat Lee Changho 9P (Korea).

Quarterfinals (August 4) Byun beat Shin Minjun; Liao beat Lee Tonghun; Shin Jinseo beat Kim; Chen beat Yamashita.
Semifinals (Aug. 4). Liao beat Byun; Chen beat Shin
Final (Aug. 5). Chen beat Liao  

   As a side event, an invitational Pair Go tournament was also held. Results: 
Round 1 (Aug. 3). Yu Li-chun 2P & Wang Li-ch’eng 9P (O Rissei) (Chinese Taipei) (B) beat Heo Seohyun 1P & Yoo Changhyuk 9P (Korea) by resig.; Gao Xing 4P & Yu Bin 9P (China) (B) beat Tsuji Hana 1P & Yamada Kimio 9P (Japan) by resig.
Final (Aug. 5). Yu/O (W) beat Guo/Yu by resig.
(Play-off for 3rd) Heo/Yoo (W) beat Tsuji/Yamada by resig.

Tomorrow: 1200 wins for O Rissei; Iyama’s second marriage; Sakai to resume medical career

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The Power Report: Fujisawa wins Senko Cup; Kyo evens score in Gosei; Cho Chikun wins Masters Cup

Friday August 23, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Fujisawa wins Senko Cup: The semifinals and final of the 4th Senko Cup Women’s Igo Strongest Player Tournament, which is sponsored by Senko Group Holdings, were held at the Guesthouse Akekure in Higashi-omi City, Shiga Prefecture, on July 12 and 14. The semfinals on the 12th featured the current top three in women’s go in Japan, joined by a player, Mukai Chiaki 5P, who for many years was one of the top three. However, Mukai was beaten by the current number one, Fujisawa Rina, holder of the Women’s Honinbo, Hollyhock and Meijin titles. Fujisawa had black and forced Mukai to resign. In the other semifinal, Xie Yimin 6P (B) beat Ueno Asami, Women’s Kisei, by resig. This meant that the final, played on the 14th, featured the most common pairing in women’s go in recent years, Fujisawa vs. Xie. Taking black, Fujisawa beat Xie by 1.5 points in a game marked by a number of reversals. This win secured her fourth concurrent title for Fujisawa. The previous champion, Mannami Nao, lost to Mukai in the first round of the main tournament (round of 16). This is Fujisawa’s 12th title. First prize is 7,000,000 yen (about $63,000).

Kyo evens score in Gosei title match: The 44th Gosei title match started out with the challenger, Hane Naoki 9P, winning the first two games, but the titleholder, Kyo Kagen, made a comeback in the next two, so the tournament is evenly poised. Details of the first game were given in my previous report.

   The second game was held in the special playing room Yugen on the fifth floor of the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on July 19. Taking white, Hane won by resignation after 216 moves. As is usual these days, the game was marked by continuous fighting. Hane shows few signs of being influenced by AI go, but he does make an effort to play aggressively. A ko fight in the late middle game led to a large-scale trade, but another ko fight followed soon after. Hane lost this but used his ko threats to capture a large black group. 

   The third game was held at the North Country Newspaper Hall in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, on July 27. In the opening and middle game, Kyo (white) built thickness and apparently Hane went wrong in his strategy for countering it. Kyo used his thickness to secure enough territory to take the lead. Hane resigned after 162 moves.

   The fourth game was played at the Central Japan Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, on August 9. This was Hane’s home ground, but he was outplayed by Kyo and had to resign after just 133 moves. Kyo had recovered from his bad start and evened the series. The deciding game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on August 23.

Cho Chikun wins Masters Cup: The final of the 9th Fumakira Masters Cup was held at the Nihon Ki-in on July 20. Taking black, Cho Chikun, Hon. Meijin, defeated Komatsu Hideki 9P by resignation after 149 moves. Cho won this title for the fourth time and Komatsu failed in his first final. This is Cho’s 75th title. First prize is 5,000,000 yen (about $45,000).

   That’s the go side of it. At the awards ceremony, a representative of Fumakira announced that it was discontinuing its sponsorship. According to a comment later posted on the Nihon Ki-in’s home page, Kobayashi Satoru 9P, Chairman of the Board of Directors, commented that Fumakira had objected to some tweets made by Yoda Norimoto, who forfeited his semifinal to Komatsu, which they felt blemished the tournament. Kobayashi concluded by saying that the board would examine the question of how to deal with Yoda. 

   That’s all the information given out officially. A Net search did not turn up much supplementary information. Briefly, Yoda’s tweets apparently criticized the new board of directors created after a recent election. On being criticized in turn, Yoda apologized and deleted the tweets. There is no indication about their contents. There are a couple of blogs that discussed the problem, but they don’t give a coherent story. Perhaps this just reflects go’s lack of popularity compared to shogi.

Tomorrow: Shibano to challenge for Meijin title; Kyo becomes Tengen challenger; 6th Kuksu Mountains Cup

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The Power Report: Iyama defends Honinbo title; Nakamura Sumire records first wins, sets new records; Cho Sonjin wins Samsung seat

Thursday August 22, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Iyama defends Honinbo title: The sixth game of the 74th Honinbo title match was held at the Hotel Hankyu Expo Park in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, on July 3 and 4. Taking black, Iyama Yuta, otherwise known as Honinbo Monyu, forced the challenger, Kono Rin, to resign after 171 moves. Kono had tried to take the initiative by launching an attack in the opening, but it failed to come off, leaving him in a difficult position. Iyama then steadily increased his lead and dominated the game. In the end, Kono got into a losing capturing race, so he had no choice but to resign.

   When Iyama started out by losing the first two games of the match, he seemed in danger of having his swag of titles reduced even further. However, Kono failed to make the most of a favorable position in the third game, letting the titleholder pull off an upset. In retrospect, this may have been the key game, as it changed the flow of the series. Iyama’s play picked up and he ended up winning four games in a row. He has now won the Honinbo title for eight years in a row, which takes him ahead of Sakata Eio’s seven and leaves him just behind Cho Chikun’s ten and Takagawa Shukaku’s nine. This is his 56th title, which puts him in fourth place after Cho Chikun (74 at this point, but soon after 75), Sakata (64), and Kobayashi Koichi (60). Top-seven titles account for 45 of his total, which is a record (Cho’s top-seven tally is 42). Iyama still holds four of the top-seven titles, so he remains head and shoulders above his Japanese rivals.

  First prize is 28 million yen (about $254,000), down 2 million yen from last year.

Nakamura Sumire records first wins, sets new records: A fateful day came for Nakamura Sumire, Japan’s youngest professional ever, on July 8. In a game in Preliminary B of the 23rd Women’s Kisei, held at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, she was matched against the veteran player Tanaka Chieko 4P (aged 67). Taking white, Sumire got into a tough position in the middle game, but her opponent blundered. Once she took the lead, she played with precision and secured a resignation after 146 moves. She was ten years four months old, making her the youngest player ever to win a professional game in Japan. The previous record of 11 years eight months was set by Fujisawa Rina.

   As usual, the press was out in full force. According to Go Weekly, there were 60 reporters from 25 media outlets. Sumire’s mother Miyuki commented that when she lost her first game, the atmosphere at the press conference after the game was like a wake, but this time everyone was cheerful, including Tanaka. The latter commented: “I was surprised how calmly she played, like an adult.” Sumire’s father, Shinya 9P, commented: “I was on tenterhooks throughout the game. I was happier than when winning one of my own games. No one recognizes you unless you win a game.” 

   Two days later, Sumire played a practice game with a new AI program–practice for both sides. The program is called AQZ, and is being developed by a group led by Yamaguchi Hiroshi in cooperation with the president of Globis University, Hori Yoshito. Their goal is to compete in an AI world championship to be held in August. Taking black, AQZ won the game. 

   On August 5, Sumire played another game in the Women’s Kisei tournament. Taking white, she beat Kim Hyon-jon 4P (aged 40) by resignation after 120 moves. Sumire came under attack in the opening and had to work hard to rescue a group, but when her opponent made a slack move, she counterattacked and quickly wrapped up the game. This win earned her a seat in the main section (best 16) of the tournament. She is the youngest player ever to reach the main section of a tournament. The previous record, 13 years eight months, was set by Fujisawa Rina. Sumire’s official record is now 2-1. During the summer holidays, she spent two weeks studying in Korea, but I have no details about this trip.

Cho Sonjin wins Samsung seat: The international qualifying tournament for the 2019 Samsung Cup was held in Seoul from June 30 to July 5. Forty-one players from Japan competed in the different sections of the tournament, but the only one to be successful was Cho Sonjin 9P, who defeated Ryu Shikun 9P, also from Japan, in the final round of the section for senior players. He will join Japan’s two seeded players, Iyama Yuta and Kyo Kagen, in the main tournament, which starts on August 30.

Tomorrow: Fujisawa wins Senko Cup; Kyo evens score in Gosei title match; Cho Chikun wins Masters Cup

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Go Spotting: Hunter x Hunter

Tuesday July 30, 2019

Longtime EJ contributor Janice Kim recently sent along this screenshot “from my favorite anime, Hunter x Hunter. In this longer scene,  the King of the Chimera Ants learns Go from books, and takes on the national champion, winning after playing just ten games. His advisors had mentioned to him that Go is quite more difficult than chess or shoji (not agreeing, just reporting there :) and so he wanted a challenge while he’s waiting to take over the world. 


“This is from episode 102, fourth season I believe. The first three seasons are on Netflix, but you have to go on crunchyroll to see episodes from there.
The first episodes are a little slow, but there is a lot in there about training, that I’m perhaps somewhat hilariously extrapolating to Go, with I think good results.”

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