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

Friday December 6, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

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

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

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

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

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The Power Report: Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo; Choi wins Bingsheng Cup; Kono to challenge for Kisei

Thursday December 5, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo
As described in my previous report, Fujisawa Rina made a good start in her defense of her Women’s Honinbo title, winning the first game, played on October 9, by 3.5 points, but that turned out to be her sole win of the series. The second game was played at the “old inn” Kaneyu in Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture, on October 27. Taking black, Fujisawa made a fierce attack on a white group and seemed on the verge of winning when Ueno made an exquisite counterattack, which she followed up with a superb shinogi (rescue operation) for an endangered group. Black resigned after 158 moves.
In the third game, played at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, on November 6, Fujisawa again took the lead, but Ueno was able to stage an upset by starting a complicated ko fight. Fujisawa resigned after 235 moves.
The fourth game was played at the same venue on November 15. Ueno (W) won by resignation after 200 moves, so she took the title and the first prize of 5,500,000 yen (about $51,000). Once again, Fujisawa seemed to have the advantage at one stage, but Ueno again complicated the game by setting up a ko. Fujisawa ignored a ko threat that turned out to be more potent than she had expected. White was able to live inside her territory, so she had to resign.
The women’s go world is now dominated by two players: the 18-year-old Ueno with this title and the Women’s Kisei and the 21-year-old Fujisawa with the Women’s Hollyhock Cup, the Women’s Meijin, and the Senko Cup.
Note. In my previous report, I mentioned that Ueno was the first woman to top the most-wins list. On Oct. 11, Shibano Toramaru displaced Ueno at number one, and the following week Ichiriki Ryo pushed her down to third position, which she has since maintained. She was number one for four months.

Choi wins Bingsheng Cup
The 10th Qionglong Mountain Bingsheng Cup World Women’s Weiqi Championship was held in Suzhou City in China in late October. Three players from Japan took part in the 16-player tournament. Xie Yimin 6P and Ueno Asami 3P were eliminated in the first round, but Fujisawa Rina 4P made the semifinals. This is the best result so far by a Japanese woman player in this tournament and the best internationally for 12 years. Incidentally, the player who beat her in the semifinal, Zhou Hongyu, is just 17 years old and is the winner of the Chinese King of the New Stars title, which is open to male and female participants. The cup was won by Choi Jeong 9P of Korea for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall. Her prize is 300,000 yuan (about $42,600). Results are given below. (The time allowance is two hours each, with the last five minutes going to byo-yomi.)

Round 1 (October 30)
Lu Minquan 5P (China) (B) beat Yang Zixuan 3P (Chinese Taipei) by resig.
Yu Zhiying 6P (China) (B) beat Oh Yoojin 7P (Korea) by resig.
Zhou Hongyu 5P (China) (W) beat Ueno Asami 3P (Japan) by resig.
Wang Chengxing 5P (W) beat Cho Seungah 3P (Korea) by resig.
Li He 5P (China) (B) beat Hei JiaJia 7P (Oceania) by resig.
Fujisawa Rina 4P (Japan) (W) beat Stephanie Yin (Yin Mingming) 1P (North America) by resig.
Choi Jeong 9P (Korea) (B) beat Ariane Ougier 4D (Europe) by resig.
Rui Naiwei 9P (China) (W) beat Xie Yimin 6P (Japan) by 1.5 points.

Round 2 (October 31)
Fujisawa (W) beat Lu by resig.
Choi (B) beat Yu by 1.5 points.
Zhou (B) beat Wang by resig.
Rui (W) beat Li by resig.

Semifinals (November 1)
Choi (B) beat Rui by resig.; Zhou (W) beat Fujisawa by resig.

Final (November 3)
Choi (B) beat Zhou by resig.

Kono to challenge for Kisei
Ichiriki Ryo enjoyed superb form in this year’s Kisei tournament, winning all seven of his league games and then three in a row in the final knock-out tournament that decides the challenger, including a win over Kono Rin in the first game of the final “best-of-three.” In contrast, Kono scored only 3-2 in the S League and had to rely on his higher rank to come out on top in a four-way tie. As winner of the S League, however, he started with a one-win advantage, so he had to win only one game, which he did. Incidentally, because this match is in theory a best-of-three (in practice, it’s limited to two games), nigiri to choose colors was held before both games. Kono also challenged for the Kisei in 2017, but lost 2-4 to Iyama. He also lost by the same score in this year’s Honinbo title match and the 2014 Meijin title match, so his first task is to break the third-win barrier. Iyama has held the Kisei for seven years in a row; one more successful defense and he will match Kobayashi Koichi’s record. The match will start on January 9.

Full results in the final knock-out stage (the first result is repeated from my previous report):
(Oct. 9) Suzuki Shinji (winner of C League) (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8P (winner of B Leagues) by 5.5 points.
(Oct. 21) Ichiriki (winner of A League) (B) beat Suzuki by resig.
(Nov. 4) Ichiriki (B) beat Takao Shinji 9P (2nd in S League) by resig.
(Nov. 11) Ichiriki (B) beat Kono (winner of S League) by 2.5 points.
(Nov. 14) Kono (W) beat Ichiriki by resig., making his score 2-1.

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

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The Power Report: Nong Shim Cup: Yang wins seven in a row; Hane wins 1,000th game; Shibano leads in Oza

Wednesday December 4, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Nong Shim Cup: Yang wins seven in a row

The opening round of the 21st Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Beijing in mid-October and the second round being played in Korea late in November. China has made the best start, with their top batter, Yang Dingxin, remaining undefeated almost to the end of the second of the second round. Iyama Yuta was finally able to put a stop to his seemingly irresistible progress. The third sround will start in Shanghai on February 17, with Iyama playing Park Junghwan of Korea. Both Japan and Korea are down to their last player, while China still has four in the shed. Results of the first two rounds:

Round One (Beijing)
Game 1 (Oct. 15). Weon Seongjin 9P (Korea) (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 9P (Japan) by resig.
Game 2 (Oct. 16). Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Weon by resig.
Game 3 (Oct. 17). Yang (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P (Japan) by 3.5 points.
Game 4 (Oct. 18). Yang (B) beat Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) by resig.

Round Two (Busan).
Game 5 (Nov. 22). Yang (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P (Japan) by resig.
Game 6 (Nov. 23). Yang (W) beat Lee Donghoon 9P (Korea) by 1.5.
Game 7 (Nov. 24). Yang (W) beat Kyo Kagen 8P (Japan) by resig.
Game 8 (Nov. 25). Yang (W) beat Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) by resig.
Game 9 (Nov. 26). Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (B) beat Yang by resig.

Hane wins 1,000th game
On October 24, Hane Naoki (B) beat Katayama Yasuo 8P by resig. in Preliminary A of the 61st Crown (Okan) title and became the 27th player to win 1,000 games. He had 520 losses, 3 jigo, and 1 no-contest, for a winning percentage of 65.6. It took him 28 years six months, which is the fourth fastest (Yamashita Keigo’s 25 years seven months is the fastest). At 43 years two months, he is the fifth youngest (record was set by Yuki Satoshi at 39 years two months).

Shibano leads in Oza
Shibano Toramaru’s prospects of becoming a multiple title-holder look good, as he has taken the lead in his challenge to Iyama Yuta for the 67th Oza title. This is the first title match between these two. To date, they had played only one game; this was in the Meijin League in February this year, and it was won by Shibano. The first Oza game was held at the Westin Hotel Osaka in Osaka City on October 25. This is Iyama’s home ground, but, playing black, Shibano won by half a point after 271 moves. The game was close throughout, as attested by an AI program that players following the game referred to. Iyama did not make any obvious mistakes, but Shibano edged him in the endgame.

The second and third games were played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on November 16 and 18. In the second game, Iyama (black) evened the score, forcing a resignation after 211 moves. He convincingly outplayed the challenger, so this win should have bolstered his confidence, but . . . In the third game, Shibano won by 1.5 points after 262 moves. This was a tough game for Shibano, so he had to fight tenaciously. The fourth game is scheduled for December 9. Iyama is facing kadobans in two title matches.

Tomorrow: Ueno wins 38th Women’s Honinbo; Choi wins Bingsheng Cup; Kono to challenge for Kisei

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The Power Report: New Honinbo League; Kyo leads in Tengen; Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

Tuesday December 3, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

New Honinbo League

The 75th Honinbo League got off to a start on October 10 and has now completed the second round. Two players got off to good starts: Kyo Kagen and Shida Tatsuya, both on 2-0.

Results to date:

(Oct. 10) Hane Naoki 9P (B) beat Yokotsuka Riki 7P by resig.
(Oct. 17) Kyo Kagen 8P (B) beat Kono Rin 9P by resig.
(Oct. 24) Shida Tatsuya 8P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by 6.5 points.
(Oct. 31) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (W) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P by resig.
(Nov. 7) Kyo (W) beat Yamashita by resig.; Ichiriki (W) beat Hane by resig.
(Nov. 14) Shida (B) beat Yokotsuka by resig.
(Nov. 21) Shibano (W) beat Kono by resig.

Kyo leads in Tengen

Kyo Kagen (Xu Jiayuan), the challenger, got off to a good start against Iyama Yuta in the 45th Tengen title match. The first game was played at the Miyako Hotel Gifu Nagaragawa in Gifu City in the prefecture of the same name on October 11. Taking black, Kyo won by resignation after 179 moves. Kyo played boldly, building a moyo by walling off the center, but Iyama invaded and skillfully lived in the center, giving him the lead. However, he later played some dubious moves, so Kyo took the lead back. Again, both sides made mistakes, but Iyama made the last one; he lost a group and had to resign.

The second game was played at the Niseko Hot Spring Ikoino Yuyado Iroha (the latter part of the name means “Relaxation Hot Water Inn ABC”) in the town of Niseko in Abuta County, Hokkaido, on October 21. The game started out with solid play by both, but Iyama (black) accelerated in the middle game, so Kyo fell behind. Kyo was unable to make a dent in his lead, so he resigned after 161 moves. This was Iyama’s first win over Kyo in a title match (he lost the Gosei title 0-3 to him last year).

The third game was played at the Hotel Marital Sousei Kurume in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture, on November 22, so there was a gap of a month in the match. Kyo (black) drew ahead in a melee late in the middle game and won by resignation after 157 moves. He needs just one more win to take the title. The fourth game will be played on December 9.

Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

The 6th Gratitude Cup International Young Stars Igo Tournament was held in Shima City, Mie Prefecture, on October 14 and 15, with five-player teams from Japan, China, Korea, and Chinese Taipei taking part. So far, the domestic and international Gratitude Cups have all been played in Ise City, but this year it moved to the Shima Mediterranean Village, a resort with white houses and red roofs designed to look Mediterranean. Despite the new venue, the result was the same as last year, with the final order being Korea, China, Japan, and Chinese Taipei. In the first section of the tournament, the teams all play each other; the top two proceed to the final and the bottom two to a play-off for third place. Again like last year, China had the best record in the first section with three team wins, but Korea beat it 3-2 in the final. In the third game in the first section, Japan started well against Korea, with Shibano Toramaru beating Shin Minjun on board one and Fujisawa Rina prevailing over the world’s number one woman player, Choi Jeong, but they got no support from the other players.

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The Power Report: Sakata and Cho Nam-chul enter Hall of Fame; Sumire continues to do well; Ichiriki does well in MLily Cup

Monday December 2, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Sakata and Cho Nam-chul enter Hall of Fame

The Go Hall of Fame committee met on October 8 to choose new players to be elected to the go pantheon. This was the 16th induction and two players were chosen: Sakata Eio (23rd Honinbo Eiju) and Cho Nam-chul 9P, the father of professional go in Korea and the founder of the Korean Baduk Institute (= Ki-in).

Sumire continues to do well

The ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire, the youngest professional ever in modern Japan, continues to enjoy good results. When I submitted my last report, published on October 10, her official record was four wins to two losses. She has now improved that to 12-5, a record that any new professional—seven months have passed since her debut—would be satisfied with. When she was playing—and losing—exhibition games with top players, her elevation to 1-dan may have struck some as premature, but now, competing against members of her peer group, she seems to be in her element. She was, after all, assessed and deemed qualified by top players like Cho U and Kobayashi Satoru, who probably know a thing or two about go talent. Her career is developing rapidly. The number of games you play is one index of your success. The more you win, the more you play: Sumire is now competing at the pace of two games a week. All her games are broadcast on the Nihon Ki-in’s server and usually draw twice as many viewers as other games.

Here are her results since my last report.

On October 10, Sumire lost to Li Xuanhao 7P (B) of China in the first round of the 4th MLily Cup. She had been given a seeded seat as a sponsor’s wild card. One of her groups came under severe attack; she needed to make eye shape, but then she would fall behind in territory, so she gambled and played a big move elsewhere; unfortunately, she was unable to save the group, so she resigned after 149 moves. Sumire is popular overseas and a number of players from other countries played practice games with her. Ko Reibun 7P, the Japanese team captain, reported that in one of these games she played superbly to score a win against Wang Chenxing 5P, one of the top Chinese women players.

On October 17, Sumire played Yamada Shiho 7P in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament (unless otherwise stated, games were played at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka). After 341 moves, Sumire (B) won by 26.5 points.

On October 24, Sumire played Takabayashi Masahiro 7P in Preliminary C of the Honinbo tournament. Taking black, she won by resignation after 173 moves. Sumire turned up for this game wearing glasses, as her sight has declined recently.

On October 28, Sumire (B) beat Tamura Chiaki 3P by resig. in the first round of the preliminary tournament for the 7th Women’s Hollyhock Cup. The game was played at the Kansai Ki-in.

On October 31, Sumire played Takagi Junpei 2P (aged 26) in the preliminary round of the 45th Kisei title. Taking white, she won by resignation after 160 moves. Her opponent took the lead in the first fight, but she hung on tenaciously, then played a life-or-death move that secured her an upset win.

On November 4, Sumire (B) lost to Tsukuda Akiko 5P by 5.5 points in the preliminary for the 39th Women’s Honinbo tournament. At home, before the game, Tsukuda’s children said to her: “You have a tough opponent today.” She maintained parental dignity by prevailing in a 300-move struggle.

On November 7, Sumire (B) beat Tanemura Sayuri 2P by resig. in Preliminary C of the 59th Judan tournament. Her opponent played a little slackly in the early fighting and let her take the initiative. This was her tenth official win to four losses. Sumire: “I reached this mark more quickly than I expected.” She qualified for Preliminary B.

On November 11, Sumire (W) beat Takao Mari 1P by resig. in the preliminary of the 45th King of the New Stars title. The game was played at the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in.

On November 14, Sumire (W) beat Udani Shunta 2P by resig. in Preliminary C of the 76th Honinbo tournament. Thanks to a misjudged move by Sumire, Udani took the lead, but late in the game he suffered a hallucination. Sumire picked up a lucky win, but even so Udani commented that she was much stronger—“like a different person”—than when he played her in a study group in May. This was Sumire’s third successive win in Preliminary C, so she qualified for Preliminary B. There she will play Hane Yasumasa 9P, with the winner proceeding to Preliminary A. This game was also her sixth win in a row against male players in official games, a streak which is still alive. (For readers who want to confirm this, the sequence is: Furuta and Yamamoto in my previous report [Oct. 17] and Yamada, Takabayashi, Takagi, and Udani above.

On November 17, the first two rounds of the Young Bamboo (Wakatake) Cup, a tournament open only to players 40 or under at the Kansai branch of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka, were held. Sumire lost in the first round to Yoshikawa Hajime 3P. Games in this tournament are (presumably) not official, so this result is not counted in her official tally. (Some corrections to my previous report: The Young Carp became an official tournament as of the 6th Cup in 2011, so Sumire’s win and loss count in her official tally. The date of the games was September 23. Also, the game with Yamamoto Kentaro was on October 3, not October 2.)

Ichiriki does well in MLily Cup

The first three rounds of the 4th MLily Cup World Open Championship (“m” is short for “meng,” which means “dream”) were held at the Chinese Qiyuan (= Ki-in) in Beijing from October 10 to 13. Japan had four representatives taking part; of these, three were eliminated in the first round, but Ichiriki Ryo 8P made it to the quarterfinals, scheduled for March next year. This is the first time for two years that a Japanese player has won three or more games in an international tournament; the last time was the 22nd LG Cup, in which Iyama Yuta won four games and reached the final. Nakamura Sumire was given a wild-card seed by the sponsors; this was her debut in an international tournament.

The Chinese-sponsored tournament was a triumph for China: apart from Ichiriki, all the seven quarterfinalists were Chinese. (China did very well in the qualifying tournament held in May and, including its seeded players, had 46 of the 64 seats in the main tournament. Full results are given below:

Round 1 (Oct. 10). Ichiriki (W) beat Yu Zhiying 6P (China) by resig.; Baek Hyunwoo (amateur) (Korea) (W) beat Mutsuura Yuta 7P by 7.5 points; Li Xuanhao 7P (China) (B) beat Nakamura Sumire 1P (Japan) by resig.; Tao Xinran 8P (China) (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P (Japan) by 5.5; Ke Jie 9P (China) (B) beat Wu Guangya 7P (China) by resig.; Xie Ke 7P (China) (B) beat Artem Kachanovskyi 2P (Ukraine) by resig.; Ilya Shikshin 3P (Russia) (B) beat Yi Lingtao 7P (China) by resig.; Meng Tailing 7P (China) (B) beat Liu Zhaozhe 5P (China) by resig.; Wang Wei 4P (China) (W) beat Gu Li 9P (China) by 1.5; Mi Yuting 9P (China) (B) beat Zhou Hongyu 5P (China) by resig.; Yang Dingxin 9P (China) (B) beat Fan Yin 8P (China) by resig.; Xie Erhao 9P (China) (W) beat Zhou Zhenyu (amateur) (China) by resig.; Tan Xiao 9P (China) (W) beat Chen Yaoye 9P (China) by resig.; Lu Liyan 3P (China) (W) beat Wang Zejin 6P (China) by 1.5; Tu Xiaoyu 5P (China) (B) beat Gu Zhihao 9P (China) by 0.5; Tong Mengcheng 8P (China) (B) beat Jiang Weijie 9P (China) by 0.5; Fan Tingyu 9P (China) (W) beat Liao Yuanhe 8P (China) by resig.; Zhao Yan (amateur) (China) (B) beat Li Chengshen 4P (China) by 2.5; Zhang Tao 7P (China) (B) beat Zhen Zijian 7P (China) by resig.; Ding Hao 6P (W) (China) beat Huan Yunsong 7P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (B) beat Gu Lingyi 7P (China) by resig.; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (B) beat Li Qincheng 9P (China) by resig.; Li Xiangyu 5P (China) (W) beat Jiang Mingjiu 7P (North Am.) by resig.; Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) (W) beat Andy Liu 1P (North Am.) by resig.; Li Weiqing 7P (China) (W) beat Dang Yifei 9P (China) by resig.; Park Younghoon 9P (Korea) (B) beat Kim Dayoung 3P (Korea) by resig.; Shin Minjun (Korea) (W) beat Peng Liyao 7P (China) by resig.; Byun Sangil 9P (Korea) (B) beat Ma Tianfang (amateur) (China) by resig.; He Yuhan 6P (China) (W) beat Tong Yulin 4P (China) by resig.; Wang Yuanjun 9P (Chinese Taipei) (W) beat Oh Yujin 6P (Korea) by resig.; Xu Jiayang 8P (China) (B) beat Yang Yi 5P (China) by resig.; Shi Yue 9P (China) (B) beat Chen Yusen 5P (China) by resig.

Round 2 (Oct. 11). Ichiriki (W) beat Lu by resig.; Xie Erhao (W) beat Tan by 0.5; Meng (B) beat Li by resig.; Ke (W) beat Shi by resig.; Xie Ke (W) beat Yang by resig.; Xu (B) beat Wang Yuanjun by resig.; Mi (B) beat Tao by resig.; Baek (B) beat Shikshin by resig. (thanks to winning two games, Baek qualified as a pro in Korea); Byun (W) beat He by resig.; Tong (B) beat Tu by resig.; Park Yonghoon (W) beat Shin Minseo by resig.; Ding (B) beat Shin Jinseo by resig.; Park Junghwan (B) beat Li by resig.; Fan (B) beat Zhao by 4.5; Kim beat Li by resig.; Wang Wei (W) beat Zhang by resig.

Round 3 (all results by resig.) (October 12) Ichiriki (B) beat Ding; Mi (W) beat Byun; Xu (B) beat Tong. (October 13) Xie Ke (W) beat Paek; Meng (B) beat Park Yonghoon; Xie Erhao (W) beat Kim; Fan (W) beat Wang; Ke (W) beat Park Junghwan.

Quarterfinal pairings: Mi vs. Xie Erhao, Ichiriki vs. Xie Ke, Ke vs. Fan, Xu vs. Meng

Tomorrow: New Honinbo League; Kyo leads in Tengen; Korea repeats in Gratitude Cup

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In Memoriam: Ogawa Tomoko 6P

Tuesday November 19, 2019

Ogawa Tomoko 6 dan passed away on November 18 at age 68. A pupil of Kitani, she is perhaps best known in the West as the author of “The Endgame” part of the Ishi Press Elementary Go Series. I will always remember her as the ofttimes host of the NHK matches I watched on my VCR. She was the winner of the Women’s Honinbo in 1986 and the Women’s Kakusie in 1987.
– Keith Arnold, HKA

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18th World Students Go Oza Championship Registration ends this weekend

Thursday October 17, 2019

Pandanet is holding the 18th World Students Go Oza Championship from February 17-21, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, where sixteen students from around the world will gather to determine the world’s top student player.

To select the finalists, there will be an online preliminary round on Pandanet; check out the tournament page for details. University/college students under the age of 30 are eligible to participate in the preliminary round (note that students living in China, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei cannot participate in the prelim). Application deadline is Sunday October 20.

Pandanet covers airfare, hotel and meals. For any other questions, email Chika Mochizuki and The All-Japan Students GO Association.

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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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18th World Students Go Oza Championship

Wednesday September 11, 2019

Pandanet is holding the 18th World Students Go Oza Championship from February 17-21, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, where sixteen students from around the world will gather to determine the world’s top student player.

To select the finalists, there will be an online preliminary round on Pandanet; check out the tournament page for details. University/college students under the age of 30 are eligible to participate in the preliminary round (note that students living in China, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei cannot participate in the prelim). Application deadline is October 20.

Pandanet covers airfare, hotel and meals. For any other questions, email Chika Mochizuki and The All-Japan Students GO Association.

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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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