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The Power Report: China Dominates 18th LG Cup; Catching Up On “Go Go Japan”; 4th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games to Include Go

Monday June 17, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

China Dominates 18th LG Cup: The opening rounds of this Korean-sponsored international tournament were held in the city of Kangnung (also written Gangneung) in Korea on June 10 & 12. An excellent report has already been presented (Korea Knocked Out In LG Cup Stunner; Japan Fights On 6/13), so this report will fill in some some details.

The main news is undoubtedly the great success of the new young generation of Chinese players, who took six of the quarterfinal places. However, Japan also made a good start: with just four seeded players taking part (it failed to win any seats in the qualifying tournament), it secured two quarterfinal places, its best result for some years. Also, although he was eliminated in the 2nd round, Kono Rin 9P scored an excellent win in the first round, beating the player who recently won the Ing Cup, Fan Tingyu 9P of China.

The interesting point about the Chinese success is that the main contribution
is not being made by its senior players, such as Gu Li 9P, but by players in their teens and early 20s (I include ages below for the Chinese players to demonstrate this). It really does seem that by your late 20s you are past your peak in China and also in international go. This is also borne out by the early elimination of such great Korean players as the two Yis, Ch’ang-ho and Se-tol, Pak Yeong-hun, Pak Cheong-hwan, and others; these are names to conjure with, but they don’t overawe the Chinese youngsters. Japan operates by different rules, of course; apart from Iyama, its top players are in their thirties.

Full results for the opening rounds:
Round One (June 10): Kono Rin 9P (Japan) (B) defeated Fan Tingyu 9P (aged 16) (China) by resignation; Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (W) d. Zhang Tao 3-dan (aged 21) (China) by resig; Takao Shinji 9P (Japan) (B) d. Hong Seong-chi 9P (Korea) by resig; Mok Chin-seok 9P (Korea) (B) d. Hane Naoki 9P (Japan) by half a point; Kim Seong-chin 2P (Korea) (W) d. Gu Li 9P (aged 30) (China) by resig; Li Zhe 6P (aged 23) (China) (B) d. Kang Tong-yun 9P (Korea) by resig; Zhou Ruiyang 9P (aged 22) (China) (B) d. Ch’oe Ch’eol-han 9P (Korea) by resig; Yi Se-tol 9P (Korea) (B) d. Xie Erhao 1P (aged 14) (China) by resig; Li Qincheng 2P (aged 14) (China) (W) d. Pak Yeong-hun 9P (Korea) by resig; Guo Yuzhang 3P (aged 20) (China) (B) d. Cho Han-seung 9P (Korea) by resig; Xia Chenkun 2P (aged 20) (China) (W) d. Kim Chi-seok 9P (Korea) by half a point; Tuo Jiaxi 3P (aged 22) (China) (B) d. Yi Ch’ang-ho 9P (Korea) by resig; Yi Yeong-ku 9P (Korea) (W) d. Xiao Zhenghao 8P (Chinese Taipei) by resig; An Hyeong-chun 4P (Korea) (W) d. Shi Yue 5P (aged 22; winner of the 17th LG Cup) (China) by 5.5 points; An Cho-yeong 9P (Korea) (W) d. Han Yizhou 2P (aged 16) (China) by resig; Chen Yaoye 9P (aged 23) (China) (W) d. Pak Cheong-hwan 9P (Korea) by resig.

Round 2 (June 12): Takao (B) d. Guo by resig; Iyama (W) d Yi Yeong-ku by 1.5 points; Chen (B) d. Kono by resig; Li Qincheng (W) d. Mok by resig; Li Zhe (B) d. An Hyeong-chun by resig; Tuo (B) d. Yi Se-tol by resig; Zhou (B) d. An Cho-yeong by 2.5 points; Xia (W) d. Kim by 2.5 points.

Quarterfinal pairings (November 11): Iyama vs. Chen, Takao vs. Tuo, Zhou vs. Li Qincheng, Li Zhe vs. Xia.
photos: (top right): Team China (from left): Yu BinLi ZheZhou Ruiyang and Xia Chenkun; (bottom left): 18th LG Cup quarter finalists (from left): Chen Yaoye, Iyama Yuta, Tuo Jiaxi, Takao Shinji, Li Zhe, Xia Chenkun, Li Qincheng and Zhou Ruiyang. Photos courtesy Go Game Guru

Catching Up On “Go Go Japan”: Two places out of eight may not seem a spectacular success, but for Japan it’s a big improvement on recent results. The go media here has been giving much of the credit to the foundation of a national team. Since I omitted to report on this earlier, now is a good time to catch up. Go Go Japan, the name of the national team, was chosen in a poll of go fans and announced on May 20 (the first word is English and the second refers to the game). The actual founding of a national team by the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in is dated to April 1 this year; the aim is to promote solidarity in international competition and to improve results. Members are the top 15 players in the prize-winning list, players with previous good results in international tournaments, the winners of the King of the New Stars, Hiroshima Aluminium Cup, the Okage Cup and Nakano Cup, the top ten women players, and all teenaged players, with the last-mentioned given the status of trainees (all of the above must volunteer for the team, though). This is quite a large pool, but there’s some overlap and the membership for the opening year, including coaches and playing coaches, amounts to 32 players. In theory, training camps and other events may be held, but the main activity so far has been setting aside Fridays and Saturdays for senior members of the team to play training games on the Net with the junior players. The most famous of the 30 players on the team are Iyama Yuta, Yamashita Keigo, Hane Naoki, Cho U, Takao Shinji, Kono Rin, Yuki Satoshi, and O Meien. Coaches are Yamashiro Hiroshi, who is also Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Nihon Ki-in, and Cho Riyu 8-dan, with Cho U and Takao acting as playing coaches. It’s hard to know how much of a boost the formation of the national team gave to the players competing in the LG Cup, but it’s certainly the focal point of the news coverage in Japan. Local fans are certainly hoping that this opening success is not a flash in the pan.

4th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games to Include Go: The 4th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games will be held in Incheon City in Korea from June 30 to July 5. Eight sports will be featured, including go, chess, billiards, bowling, and kick boxing. Participation represents yet another advance in raising the profile of go as a sport in Asia, following the major breakthrough in having it included as a regular competition sport at the 16th Asian Games in 2010. The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are organized by the Olympic Committee of Asia and are held every four years in the year before the Asian Games. They are staged at the same venue, and Incheon will host this event and the 17th Asian Games next year. There are three go events: male individual, Pair Go (referred to as Rapid Mixed Team on the event’s HP), and male team. Ten countries or territories are taking part: Korea, China, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, Vietnam, Chinese Hong Kong, and Macao. Countries with professional organizations are fielding teams of low-dan, young players. The players representing Japan will be Hirata Tomoya 3P (aged 19), Tsuruta Kazushi 2P (aged 18), Motoki Katsuya 2P (aged 17), Sada Atsushi 1P (aged 17), Okuda Aya 3P (aged 24) and Fujisawa Rina 1P (aged 14).

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The Power Report: Cho U Wins Crucial Game In Meijin League; Takao Takes Lead In Honinbo Title Match; Kono To Challenge Iyama For Gosei Title; New Professional Couple

Sunday June 9, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Cho U Wins Crucial Game In Meijin League: Thanks to defeating his most formidable opponent, Cho U 9P (right) is a lot closer to ecoming the challenger for the 38th Meijin title. In a game played on June 1, Cho (taking black) defeated Iyama Yuta Honinbo by resignation, improving his record to 6-0 and keeping the sole lead. Iyama had been one of just two players with only one loss, but, with his score now 5-2, the best he can hope for is a tie for first, but that will happen only if Cho loses both his remaining games; his opponents are Takao Shinji 9P and Kono Rin 9P. The other player with one loss is Hane Naoki 9P, who is on 4-1; he has already played Cho, so he has to rely on the above-mentioned pair for help in catching up. Incidentally, Saturday games are quite unusual, but Iyama is extremely busy, what with Honinbo games in successive weeks. On June 6, Sakai Hideyuki 8P (B) defeated Yuki Satoshi Judan by resignation. This was Sakai’s first win in the league, to six losses, while Yuki still has not opened his account. He is now 0-6 and has suffered a dismal 16 losses in a row, spread over three Meijin leagues.

Takao Takes Lead In Honinbo Title Match: All the momentum now seems to be with Takao Shinji 9P (left) in the 68th Honinbo title match. In the third game, played in the Hokkaido city of Kushiro on June 5 & 6, he defeated the defending champion Iyama Yuta and took a 2-1 lead. Playing black, Takao forced a resignation after 167 moves. In its report, Go Weekly was unable to specify a losing move for Iyama; he apparently played no dubious moves after the opening, so Takao must have gained an advantage in the first fight of the game, in which he sacrificed corner stones to set up a squeeze on the outside. Iyama has now lost three important games on the trot; the fourth Honinbo game, scheduled for June 17 & 18, will be a crucial one for his title defense.

Kono To Challenge Iyama For Gosei Title: In the final of the 38th Gosei tournament, Kono Rin 9P (B) defeated Matsumoto Takehisa 7P by 1.5 points, so he will challenge Iyama Yuta Gosei for the title. Kono challenged Iyama for the Tengen title last November, but lost three straight; he will be hoping to improve on this record in what will be his first Gosei challenge. The title match starts on July 6.

New Professional Couple: On June 4, Suzuki Ayumi 6-dan and Rin Kanketsu 7-dan got married at a hotel in Karuizawa. Rin commented: “There’s a perfect balance of supply and demand in our marriage: I like composing life-and-death problems and my wife likes solving them.” As far as I know, this is the 16th marriage among Nihon Ki-in professionals.

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The Power Report: Takao Evens Score in Honinbo; Kisei Leagues; Kono or Matsumoto to be Gosei Challenger:

Sunday June 2, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Takao Evens Score in Honinbo Title Match: Takao Shinji 9P has a notoriously bad career record against Iyama Yuta Honinbo, but he has shown that past results may be irrelevant. After losing the first game in his challenge for the 68th Honinbo title, Takao roared back with a strong win in the second, played on May 28 & 29, so the match is level. There was plenty of drama in the game, with three important ko fights.  The first was worth over 50 points and led to a major trade, but neither side took the lead. Another big trade followed the second ko fight, but once again the game remained evenly poised. Shortly after this (on move 205), Iyama made a small misjudgment , letting Takao take the lead. Iyama resorted to yet another ko but was unable to make up his deficit, so he resigned after 244 moves. The third game will be played on June 5 & 6.

Kisei Leagues: Two games were played in the 38th Kisei Leagues on May 23. In the final game in the first round of the A League, two of the big guns in the league clashed. Takao Shinji 9P, the top-ranked player in the league, beat Hane Naoki 9P, who is the second-ranked player; taking white, Takao won by half a point. This win may have given him some momentum for the Honinbo title match. The B League was one game behind the A League. The game on the 23rd was a match-up between two veteran players, Kobayashi Satoru 9P and Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P; the former is a former Kisei (beating Cho Chikun in 1995), and Yamashiro came within an ace of winning the title in 1992 (he had the lead late in the 7th game but lost it in the endgame). Taking black, Kobayashi beat Yamashiro by resignation.
        The first round of the B League was completed on 30 May. Taking white, 25th Honinbo Chikun (Cho Chikun) defeated Kono Rin 9P by resignation to make a good start to this year’s league.

Kono or Matsumoto to be Gosei Challenger: The semifinals in the 38th Gosei tournament were held on May 23. In one, Matsumoto Takehisa 7P (W) beat Akiyama Jiro 9P by 1.5 points; in the other, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Cho Riyu 8P by half a point. Either Kono or Matsumoto will challenge Iyama Yuta for the Gosei title, but we don’t have a date for the final yet.

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The Power Report: Honinbo, Kisei Updates; Ryo Breaks Yuta’s Record; New Chinese Tourney

Monday May 20, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Iyama makes good start in Honinbo defense: The first game of the 68th Honinbo title match was played in Ota City in Shimane Prefecture on May 16 and 17. Taking white, Iyama  Honinbo defeated Takao Shinji 9P by 4.5 points. The game was closely fought, but Iyama drew ahead with a severe attack launched a little over 100 moves into the game. Winning with white is a good way to start off a best-of-seven. The second game will be played on May 28 and 29. Photo: Iyama Yuta, current Honinbo, courtesy Nihon Ki-in

38th Kisei Leagues: Two more games were played in the new Kisei leagues on May 16. In the second game in the A League, Cho U 9P (B) defeated Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P (Kansai Ki-in) by 15.5 points. In the first game in the B League, Murakawa Daisuke 7P (Kansai Ki-in) (W) beat Mizokami Tomochika 8P by resignation.

Youngest title-winner: Iyama Yuta’s record for youngest title-winner has been broken, though in an unofficial tournament. In the final of the 4th Okage Cup, held in Ise City on May 16, the fifteen-year old Ichiriki Ryo 3P defeated Anzai Nobuaki 6P, who had won the previous two cups.  Iyama Yuta won the Agon Kiriyama Cup at the age of 16, so Ichiriki has lowered his record by a year, though Iyama retains the record for an official title.  The tournament is sponsored by a manufacturer of traditional sweets, and is open to members of the Nihon Ki-in aged 30 and under. The format is NHK-style (30 seconds per move plus ten minutes of thinking time taken in one-minute units). The best 16 competed in a final knockout tournament, held on May 15 and 16. Born in Miyagi Prefecture on June 10, 1997, Ichiriki is a disciple of So Kofuku 9P. He became a professional in 2011. He is also enrolled in first year of high school. It will be interesting to see if he can follow further in the footsteps of Iyama. Photo: Ichiriki Ryo, courtesy Nihon Ki-in

New Chinese international tournament: Launching international tournaments seems to be the latest fashion in China, reflecting both the increasing prosperity of Chinese corporations and the high status of go as an intellectual sport. The increasing success of Chinese players in the international arena is undoubtedly another factor. The latest new arrival is the Mlily Cup World Open Tournament, sponsored by Mlily Healthcare. It starts out with an international qualifying tournament being held from May 21 to 24 that will decide 50 out of the 64 places in the first round of the main tournament. Of the 50, four places are reserved for women players and four for amateurs. The disposition of the 14 seeded places is five to China, three each to Japan and Korea, one to Chinese Taipei, and two special seeds selected by the organizers. First prize is 1,800,000 yuan (about $285,000). The first two rounds will be played in July, and the next two in August. The dates of the final and semifinals have not yet been decided. China graphic from wallsave.com

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The Power Report: Cho Leads Meijin; Kisei, Honinbo Begin; Pair Go

Monday May 13, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Cho U keeps sole lead in the Meijin League: Two important games in the 38th Meijin League were played on May 2. In one, Cho U 9P (W) beat Mizokami Tomochika 8P by resignation; in the other, Iyama Yuta Kisei (B) beat Sakai Hideyuki 8-dan, also by resignation. As a result, Cho improved his score to 5-0 and kept the sole lead. Iyama is in second place, on 5-1. The two are scheduled to play each other in June. The only other player with one loss is Hane Naoki, who is on 4-1. However, he has a bye in May.

Two more games were played on May 9. Takao Shinji 9P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P by resignation and Kono Rin 9P beat Yuki Satoshi Judan, also by resignation.  These results meant that Takao and Kono both kept their hopes of winning the league alive, as each has only two losses (Takao is 4-2 and Kono is 3-2). Neither has played Cho yet, so they need to “cooperate” to drag him down. Of course, they need Iyama to stumble as well. Incidentally, Yuki’s jinx continues: he has now lost 15 games in a row over three Meijin legues. Photo: Cho U, Official Nihon Ki-in photo.

Kisei Leagues starts: The 38th Kisei Leagues got off to a start with a game in the A League. Taking black, Yamashita Keigo Meijin beat Yoda Norimoto 9P by 5.5 points.

Honinbo title match starts on 16th: The big game later this week will be the first game of the 68th Honinbo title match, in which Takao Shinji 9P is challenging Iyama Yuta Honinbo. The game will be played on May 16 & 17. Takao has a dismal record against Iyama of 5 wins to 17 losses, but he was in superb form in the Honinbo League, which he won 7-0, so the title match is unlikely to be one-sided.

Professional Pair Go championship: The E-Journal reported on this tournament on May 6th. The Japanese Pair Go Association would like to add some details about the event. The official name of the tournament is the 1st China-Japan-Korea Professional Pair Go Championship. It is notable as the first purely professional international Pair Go tournament.  The first tournament in which professionals took part was the Pair Go World Cup 2010, which was held in Hangzhou, China. It was organized by the World Pair Go Association, and a total of 16 professional and amateur players took part.  This tournament was popular with spectators and go fans. This year’s event was organized by the WPGA with the cooperation of the Chinese Weiqi Association, Anhui Province and Hefei City. Matsuura Koichiro, President of the WPGA and former Director-General of Unesco, attended the tournament to give out prizes. A large number of photos and the game records can be found at the home pages of the Japan Pair Go Association and on the Pandanet page for the tournament. Photo: Pair Go Winners, representing China, Wang Chenxing 5-dan & Chang Hao 9-dan. From Pandanet.

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The Power Report: Yuki takes Judan Title, Reducing Iyama to Quintuple Crown; Korea Wins Huading Cup After 3-Way Tie

Monday April 29, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Yuki takes Judan Title, Reducing Iyama to Quintuple Crown: Challenger Yuki Satoshi 9P put an end to Iyama Yuta’s reign as a sextuple titleholder on April 26 when he won the final game of the 51st Judan title match, which was played at the headquarters of the Kansai Ki-in. Taking white, Yuki won by 1.5 points after 261 moves to win his second top-seven title. Yuki took the lead in the middle game and thereafter, thanks to accurate play, managed to fend off Iyama’s attempts to catch up. Yuki is the fourth Kansai Ki-in player to win the Judan title. He has now won 11 titles, but nine of these are fast-go titles; his only previous top-seven title was the 36th Tengen title, which he won in 2010.

In March, Iyama became the first player ever to hold six of the top-seven titles simultaneously, and there was a lot of speculation about his chances of monopolizing all seven by winning the Meijin title later this year. That prospect has now been ruled out after his reign as a sextuple titleholder ended after just 43 days. To have a second crack at this goal, Iyama will have to hang on to his other titles, then regain the Judan title next year, while also picking up the Meijin title this year or next year.

As with the fourth game, all the interest of the press focused on Iyama at the end of the game, with photographers snapping him, not the winner. The report the next day in the Yomiuri newspaper, for example, featured a photo of Iyama with the headline ‘Iyama reduced to five crowns.’ Yuki probably was philosophical about this; after all, he had the title, and his career had reached a new peak at the ‘advanced’ age, for tournament go, of 41.

Korea Wins Huading Cup After 3-Way Tie: The Huading Tea Industries Cup World Women’s Team Tournament is a tournament for three-player teams from the four East Asian countries with professional go organizations. Last year, in the tournament’s first edition. it was dominated by Korea, which didn’t lose a game, but this year China, Korea, and Japan fought their way to a three-way tie, with each country winning two matches and losing one. Last place was filled by Chinese Taipei, which failed to win a match but did pick up an individual win, one more than last year. The first tie-breaker is the number of games won. Japan had five wins, compared to six each for China and Korea, so it took third place. The second tie-breaker is the results of the players on the top board, but here, too, China and Korea were tied, so the organizers had to resort to the third tie-breaker, the results on the second board. Here the Korean player had one more win, so that gave Korea the championship for the second time running. photo: Xie playing Hei (Joanne Missingham) of Chinese Taipei;  photo by sina.com

Results:
Round 1 (April 26): Japan 2, Taiwan 1: Xie Yimin (Hsieh I-min) 6P (B) defeated Hei Jiajia (Joanne Missingham) 6P by half a point; Okuda Aya 3P (W) lost to Su Shengfang 2P by resignation; Mukai Chiaki 5P (B) d. Zhang Zhengping 3P by resig.; China 2, Korea 1: Li He 5P (W) d. Pak Chi-eun 9P by 3.5 points; Tang Yi 2P (B) lost to Kim Mi-li 2P by resig; Wang Chenxing 5P (W) d. Kim Ch’ae-yeong 1P by resig.

Round 2 (April 27): Korea 2, Japan 1: Pak (B) d. Xie by resig.; Kim Mi-li (W) d. Okuda by resig.; Kim (B) lost to Mukai by resig.; China 3, Chinese Taipei 0: Li (B) d. Hei by resig.; Tang (W) d. Su by resig.; Wang (B) d. Zhang by resig.

Round 3 (April 28): Japan 2, China 1: Xie (B) d. Li by resig.; Okuda (W) lost to Tang by resig.; Mukai (B) d. Wang by half a point.; Korea 3, Chinese Taipei 0: Pak (W) d. Hei by resig.; Kim Mi-li (B) d. Su by resig.; Kim (W) d. Zhang by resig.

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The Power Report: Iyama Catches Up in Judan Title Match

Tuesday April 23, 2013

by John Power,  Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal
After losing two games in a row in the 51st Judan title match, Iyama Yuta 9P has stopped the rot and evened the series against Yuki Satoshi 9P.

The fourth game was played on Iyama’s home ground of the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Kita Ward, Osaka, on April 18. This was the day that Iyama could lose his sextuple crown, so there was an unusually large press contingent in attendance, just in case.

Playing black, Iyama (right) started with a good opening and secured a slightly favourable position. He then turned this into a decisive lead by playing a sharp attacking move in the latter half of the middle game. This is Iyama’s forte: whether he is ahead or behind, he is very dangerous in the middle game, as he is always looking for the most aggressive move. He doesn’t just try to coast to
a win. In this case, he played a clamp with move 113 that cut off four white
stones and put the game out of Yuki’s reach. Yuki resigned after move 179.

After the game, the photographers from various media had to jostle with each
other to get photos of Iyama — not a sight you often see with go matches. In
an interview, Iyama expressed his relief at getting a win after two games in which ‘my play was hopeless’.

Yuki has another chance to take his second top-seven title, but psychologically this convincing win may have tilted the balance in Iyama’s favour. The final game will be played at the Kansai Ki-in, Yuki’s home ground, on Friday, April 26.
photo courtesy European Go Congress 2014 website 

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The Power Report: Takao to Challenge Iyama for Honinbo Title; Iyama and Hane Keep Chances Alive in Meijin League; Xie and Kobayashi Win Pair Go; Korea wins 3rd Huang Longshi Cup

Tuesday April 16, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Takao to Challenge Iyama for Honinbo Title: Four years after being deposed as Honinbo, Takao Shinji 9P has earned a chance to regain the title, but to succeed he will have to overcome his nemesis, Iyama Yuta. The 68th Honinbo League ended on April 8 with the grand finale that has become customary for leagues in recent years, with all the games in the final round being held on the same day. By this stage only two results at the top were possible, a win for Takao (right) or a play-off between him and Cho U. Takao avoided complications by defeating his final-round opponent, Imamura Toshiya 9P. As it turned out, Cho U lost his game with Yamashita Keigo Meijin, so Takao could have afforded to drop his game.

Full results in this round and final placings follow. Takao Shinji 9P (W) defeated Imamura Toshiya 9P by resignation; Yamashita Keigo Meijin (W) d. Cho U 9P by resignation; Ko Iso 8P (B) d. Cho Sonjin 9P by resignation; Yuki Satoshi 9P (W) d. Seto Taiki 7P by resignation. 1. Takao Shinji: 7-0; 2. Yamashita Keigo: 5-2; 3. Cho U: 5-2; 4. Yuki Satoshi: 3-4. Ko Iso: 3-4; Imamura Toshiya, Seto Taiki: 2-5; Cho Sonjin: 1-6. The last four players lost their places in the league.

The title match will get off to a start on May 16 and, if it goes the full distance, continue until July 18. Iyama Yuta will be the favorite, as he has a 17-5 lead over Takao, but Takao won their most recent encounter, in the Meijin League in January. They have played one previous title match, when Takao challenged Iyama for the 35th Meijin title in 2010; Iyama won this match 4-0.

Iyama and Hane Keep Chances Alive in Meijin League: Cho U 9P, on 4-0, is the only undefeated player in the 38th Meijin League, but his main rivals, Hane Naoki 9P (left) and Iyama Yuta Kisei (right), who each have only one loss, both won their fifth-round games, played on April 11, so they are keeping up the pressure on Cho. Iyama (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 7P by resignation and Hane (B) beat Yuki Satoshi 9P, also by resignation. The latter game put an end to Yuki’s recent winning streak, but actually it’s more serious than that: Yuki seems unable to win in the Meijin League. In the previous league, he lost all eight games and the last two in the league before that; he has now lost four in a row in the current league, so he has lost 14 games in a row. This is surely one of the worst losing streaks ever in a league (one reason being that probably not many players who have scored 0-8 have won a place in the next league).

Xie and Kobayashi Win Pair Go: The team of Xie Yimin, holder of the Women’s Triple Crown, and Kobayashi Satoru 9P defeated Osawa Narumi 4-dan and Mizokami Tomochika 8-dan in the final of the Professional Pair Go Championship 2013. The game was played on March 10 and telecast on March 31. This is the fourth year in a row Xie has been on the winning team and fittingly she made a big contribution to her team’s victory this year with a very aggressive clamping move in the middle game that gave her team control of the game. Details of the tournament are given on the homepage of the Japan Pair Go Association.

Korea wins 3rd Huang Longshi Cup: This is a knock-out team tournament for five-player female teams from China, Korea, and Japan, run along the lines of the Nong Shim Cup and sponsored by the City of Jiangyan in Jiangsu Province in China. It is named after Huang Longshi, active in the second half of the 17th century, who was one of the greatest Chinese players of the historical period. After Korea’s first player, Kim Cae-yeong 1-dan, started with four successive wins, the tournament was dominated by the fifteen-year-old Yu Zhiying 2-dan (right), who won six games in a row. She was finally beaten by the sixteen-year-old Ch’oe Cheong 2-dan of Korea, who won three games in a row, securing victory for Korea (the final game was played on April 11). The services of Korea’s top board, Pak Chi-eun 9-dan, were not required. The Japanese team, headed by Xie Yimin 6-dan, was unable to win a game. Actually only three of the fifteen players put a win on the board. Last year, a 20-year-old from China, Wang Chenxing 2-dan, was the star, winning eight games in a row. Every year the players are getting younger.
- photo: Yu Zhiying at the Huang Longshi Cup in 2012; photo courtesy Go Game Guru 

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The Power Report: Yuki Satoshi 9P’s Good Form Continues; Iyama’s Sextuple Crown in Danger?; Cho U Keeps Sole Lead in Meijin League

Sunday April 7, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

Yuki Satoshi 9P’s Good Form Continues: The ‘good week’ described in our previous report (Power Report, 4/1 EJ) looks like turning into a good month for Yuki Satoshi 9P (right). The third game of the 51st Judan title match was played at the Kuroyon Royal Hotel in the city of Omachi in Nagano Prefectures on April 4. Taking black, Yuki forced the titleholder, Iyama Yuta, to resign after 189 moves, so he took a 2-1 lead in the series. He is now just one win away from taking his second top-seven title.
This was Yuki’s third win in a row against Iyama, so he is exacting some revenge for the ten successive losses he suffered previously. The fourth game will be played on April 18.

Iyama’s Sextuple Crown in Danger? Past records of multiple crowns show that they don’t usually last very long, usually less than a year (a detailed listing is given on page 6 of Go World 129). Iyama Yuta 9P (right) picked up his quintuple crown in November 22 last year and is in no danger of losing it for a few months yet, but his sextuple crown, acquired as recently as March 14, already seems to be in some danger. Many fans in Japan are rooting for him to score a genuine grand slam by winning all seven top titles, but first he has to defend the ones he already has.

Cho U Keeps Sole Lead in Meijin League: A week ago, Cho U (left) lost his share of the lead in the current Honinbo League, but he remains the sole leader in the 38th Meijin League. In a game played on April 4, he defeated Sakai Hideyuki 9P by 2.5 points to extend his score to 4-0. Cho is the only undefeated player, but he is closely followed by Hane Naoki 9P and Iyama Yuta, who are both on 3-1. To have a shot at a grand slam, Iyama’s first task is to overhaul Cho. In another game played on the same day, Takao Shinji 9P (black) beat Mizokami Tomochika 8P by resignation.

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The Power Report: A Good Week for Yuki; Takao Takes Sole Lead In Honinbo League; Gu Li Wins Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-Off; 38th Kisei Leagues

Monday April 1, 2013

by John Power, Japan Correspondent for the American Go E-Journal

A Good Week for Yuki: The last week of March was undoubtedly one of the best of Yuki Satoshi 9P’s career.  On the 23rd, Yuki (right), the top player of the Kansai Ki-in, defeated Takao Shinji 9P in the final of the 8th Daiwa Securities Cup. Taking black, Yuki won by 3.5 points. As of this term, the Daiwa Cup, a tournament played on the internet, was upgraded to an official title, which means two things. First, it was opened to participation by Kansai Ki-in professionals, which gave Yuki his chance. Second, it is now included in the tallies of official titles won by a player. Just for the record, Yuki’s predecessors (in order) are Takao, O Meien, Takao again, Kono Rin for the 4th and 5th cups, and Iyama Yuta for the 6th and 7th (none of these players can include the cup in their official tallies; that makes a difference, especially for someone like Iyama, who, on present form, can be expected to challenge Cho Chikun’s all-time record of 72 titles). First prize is 3 million yen (about $32,000).

The next day, Sunday the 24th, the final of the 60th NHK Cup was telecast on NHK educational TV. Taking white, Yuki defeated Iyama Yuta by 9.5 points to win the NHK Cup for the fourth time and twice in a row for the second time.
This game would actually have been played a week or two before telecasting. Yuki’s win put an end to a losing streak against Iyama of ten games in a row.His last previous win was in the final of the same tournament in 2010, when he won this title for the first time.

Ironically, Iyama had enjoyed much better form in the NHK Cup up to the final, scoring decisive wins over Komatsu Hideki 9P, Mizokami Tomochika 8P, Hane Naoki 9P, and Kono Rin 9P. In contrast, Yuki struggled, almost losing to Kurahashi Masayuki 9P before he pulled off an upset, beating Akiyama Jiro 8P by half a point, and then needing all his patience to prevail in tough games with Murakawa Daisuke 7P and Yamada Kimio 9P. Yuki dominated the final however, as Iyama chose a slightly unreasonable variation early in the game and got a bad result; he admitted later that he wasn’t really in the game after his opening setback.

Both players will represent Japan in the TV Asia tournament, usually played towards the end of spring.

Yuki’s third success was his win in the second game of the 51st Judan title match on the 28th. This evened the series and kept alive his chances of taking his second top-seven title. The game was played in Tamana City in Kumamoto Prefecture. Taking white, Yuki won by 2.5 points. The third game will be played on 4 April.

Takao takes sole lead in Honinbo League: 
After the first five rounds, only two players were left undefeated in the 68th Honinbo League: Takao Shinji 9P (at left) and Cho U 9P, who are both former Honinbos. The winner of their 6th-round clash, held on March 27, would take a big step towards becoming the challenger to Iyama Yuta Honinbo. Both sides played very fast for such an important game. Cho, in particular, took almost no time on his moves. He seemed to make the better start, but in the middle game Takao made a skilful sacrifice, then took advantage of his superiority in ko threats to start a ko fight that clinched the game. In the end, Cho, who played black, had to resign.

In the final round, Takao plays Imamura Toshiya 9P, who is on 2-4, and Cho plays Yamashita Keigo 9P, who is on 4-2. Whatever happens, Takao will at least make a play-off.

Gu Li Wins Agon Kiriyama Cup Play-off: Cho U played his Honinbo League game on a Wednesday instead of the usual Thursday because he had to play the 14th Agon Kiriyama Cup Japan-China play-off on Saturday, March 30. The extra rest day didn’t help: for the 10th year in a row China won this play-off.

This year it was Japan’s turn to host the play-off. The last international event held in Japan, the International Amateur Pair Go Championship in November 2012, was boycotted by China to show their displeasure with the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, but fortunately Gu Li (right) turned up for this game. Taking white, he won by 4.5 points to score his fourth victory in the play-off. After winning the first four play-offs, Japan has been outclassed in this play-off.

38th Kisei Leagues: The four vacant seats in the upcoming Kisei Leagues have been decided. They have gone to Yamashiro Hiroshi 9P (making an immediate comeback after being eliminated in the previous league), 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun, Kiyonari Tetsuya 9P, and Murakawa Daisuke 7P. Murakawa, the top player of his age group at the Kansai Ki-in (he is 23), is making his debut in a league. Kiyonari, also from the Kansai Ki-in is playing in his second Kisei league.
Longtime go writer John Power is a veteran author, translator and compiler of go books and magazines.  

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Categories: Japan,John Power Report
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