American Go E-Journal

The Power Report: The amazing career of 9-year-old Nakamura Sumire

Tuesday March 19, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.03.19_Sumire with parents

Back on January 5, this journal carried a report about Nakamura Sumire, who had been granted 1-dan rank at the Nihon Ki-in at the age of nine. When she makes her pro debut in April, she will be exactly ten years old, making her the youngest professional ever in Japan. She gained her 1-dan diploma under a new system in which the Nihon Ki-in can award professional status to promising young players without making them wait to gain the rank through insei competition. The aim, presumably, is to accelerate their development by exposing them at a younger age to professional competition. No one at the Nihon Ki-in has commented on the obvious risk of a premature promotion: the player may be discouraged and suffer a setback if he or she is not equal to the challenge.

During the press conference, Kobayashi also expressed his gratitude to the Kansai Ki-in for all the assistance they had given to Sumire and for letting the Nihon Ki-in “poach” her.

Here are a few more details about her career so far. Nakamura was born into a go family: her father is Shinya 9P and her mother, Miyuki, is a strong amateur who is also a go teacher. Early on, Sumire showed an interest in go, so her mother taught her the game when she was three. She immediately started playing in children’s tournaments. When she lost, she asked her mother how she could win and, on her advice, started studying go two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. In 2015, aged exactly 6, she won a tournament for preschoolers, the 4th Watanabe Kazuyo Kids Cup. At this time, she was already amateur 4-dan. She then started playing in all-Japan tournaments for children and for female players, with good results. However, when she was seven, she started studying go more seriously, so she mainly stopped appearing in amateur tournaments. One exception was in July last year when she played in a tournament organized by Pandanet, the Ladies Tournament, and won it, including a win over a player who had twice won the All-Japan Women’s Amateur Championship. When she was eight, she became an insei at the Kansai Ki-in. She also underwent training in Korea last year from May to December, entering the famous go school of Han Jongjin and becoming a trainee (“kenkuyuusei,” = insei) at the Korean Kiwon. (Apparently she first visited Korea when she was seven, though I don’t have details. Reading between the lines, it may be that her father has more confidence in Korean professional training than in Japanese.) The number of trainees is limited to 108, so you have to win a place through a qualifying tournament. She quickly learned Korean and would interpret for her parents. Apparently she won a children’s tournament in Korea, but, again, I don’t have details.

In the Nihon Ki-in’s press conference, Kobayashi Satoru 9P, who is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, described the new system for discovering youthful talent. It is called the Young Stars Special Promotion System for Recommended Players and in principle applies to elementary-school children. Kobayashi: “We made this system, modeled on a Korean system, to solve the problem of Japan’s having fallen behind in world go.” The decision to found it was formally made on December 8. Soon after Sumire became the first candidate. The decisive factor in the decision to award her 1-dan status was her good performance in a test game with Cho U Meijin played on December 13. Taking black and receiving a reverse komi of six points, she secured a jigo (draw). This game was published in the February 11 issue of Go Weekly. According to the commentator, Ichiriki Ryo, she had a lead in the middle game, but lost points in the endgame. This performance is quite close to 1-dan level. Every year Go Weekly organizes games between the players who are about to debut as new professionals; the handicap is black, with no komi, and the results are mixed.

Actually, Nakamura may find things easier playing low-ranked professionals when her career starts in April because she has been put through the wringer in a number of tough teaching/demonstration games. Below is an update on these plus a report on a “temporary” police force promotion.

On January 6, the day after the Nihon Ki-in held a press conference to announce her debut, Sumire played a “public commemorative game” with Iyama Yuta at a go festival in Higashi (East) Osaka City. This was a reward for winning the elementary schoolchildren’s tournament at this festival the previous year. The press conference the day before had attracted a lot of attention, being widely reported on TV, so there was a major media presence at the festival. Taking black with no komi, Sumire played positively and took the lead, but fell behind after an overplay in the middle game. However, the game was 2019.03.19_Police Chief for a daysuspended after move 170 as the time allotted for it had expired. (It’s quite common for special games like this not to be played to a conclusion.) Iyama had played her at the same festival a year earlier; he commented that he was astonished by her improvement in the interval and added that she was stronger than he was at nine.

On January 12, Sumire acted as Chief of Konohana Police Station for a Day. Konohana is the area in Osaka City where her elementary school is located. Police stations in Japan often ask celebrities to act as a kind of honorary police chief for a day as a publicity measure. Sumire wore a down-sized policewoman’s uniform and a sash with the words Konohana Police Chief on it and attended an “investiture” ceremony and an event designed to raise awareness of swindling, a very common crime these days. She was of course the youngest person ever to act this role in Konohana; it’s unlikely there have been many younger “police chiefs” in Japan. This request by the police reflects the great public interest Sumire’s promotion has attracted. (A Net search for Nakamura Sumire, Konohana Police Chief for a Day or just for her name will locate lots of photos.)

Later in January, Sumire visited Seoul with her family, one reason being for her and her family to express their gratitude to people there who had helped with her training, especially Han Jongjin, who runs one of the top go schools. About 50 members of the Japanese and Korean media attended a press conference held on the 22nd. The next day she played a commemorative game with Choi Jeong 9P, the world’s number one or number two woman player. The game was played in a TV studio in the basement of the Korean Kiwon. Sumire was outplayed by Choi and resigned after 180 moves. In a commentary in Go World,Motoki Katsuya 8P commented that Sumire seemed to be quite familiar with the latest patterns played in international tournaments. In the middle game, Sumire got into trouble with over-aggressive play.

Sumire is quite popular in Korea. A week after the above game, she visited Korea again at the invitation of the go channel K Baduk to play another commemorative game, this time with the “emperor” of Korean go, Cho Hunhyun. The game was played on January 30 and telecast on February 3. Playing black with no komi, Sumire lost this game too.

Finally, as part of its regular series pitting debutant pros against senior players, Go Weekly arranged for Sumire to play a game with Hei Jiajia 7P (formerly known as Joanne Missingham) of Taiwan. Hei visited Japan for the Senko Cup (see our report tomorrow). This game was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on February 20, with Sumire taking black with no komi. According to Fujisawa Rina, who did a commentary for Go Weekly, Sumire was ahead in the middle game but made an overplay that let Hei stage an upset. Sumire resigned after 228 moves. Kobayashi Satoru commented that in content this was the best of the series of games for Sumire. He predicted that she would be appearing in women’s title matches in three years’ time, but Fujisawa Rina amended that to “one or two years’ time.”

Study time: According to her family, Sumire studies go six hours a day during the school year and nine hours a day in the holidays. When asked what was her favorite TV program in a press conference, her parents answered that there was no TV in their home.

Media attention: Recently shogi has been attracting a lot of attention in the media thanks to the exploits of Fujii Sota, who has been rewriting the record book, including starting his career with 29 successive wins. (I wrote a couple of reports on him for the E-Journal, the later one being in the July 19, 2017 issue.) Sumire has been attracting similar interest, with all the above games and the one-day police chief event being widely reported on prime-time TV. Japanese TV loves to show celebrities shedding tears, and they made a lot of a reputation Sumire had for crying when she lost. However, perhaps she’s matured, because she didn’t cry after any of the losses detailed above. Someone in her family said that because she respected these players, she didn’t get upset when she lost.

It’s now only a couple of weeks until she makes her professional debut. Even non-go players will be following her career with keen interest.

Tomorrow: Ueno & Xie join C League; Iyama defends Kisei title; Yu repeats in Senko Cup; Iyama makes good start in Judan

The Power Report: Another Ueno makes pro; Yang wins LG Cup; China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup

Monday March 18, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Another Ueno makes pro
Following older sister Asami’s successful defense of her Women’s Kisei title, related in my previous report, there was more good news for the Ueno family when younger sister Risa qualified as professional 1-dan. Risa took first place in the 2019 women’s tournament for qualification as a professional with a score of 7-1. The tournament concluded on February 8. She will be 12 years nine months old when she starts her career on April 1, which makes her the fourth youngest ever at the Nihon Ki-in. She will make her debut along with the ten-year-old Nakamura Sumire. Her success has also attracted a lot of attention and a press conference was held on the 15th. Like her elder sister (who is 17), she is a disciple of Fujisawa Kazunari 8P, so Fujisawa Rina could reproach her father for creating yet another rival.
Thanks to the example of her older sister Asami, Risa learnt go at the age of four and became an insei in the second year of elementary school. Asked if she respected her older sister, she answered: “M’m, I guess so . . . We’d probably quarrel, so we almost never play with each other.”
There are various routes to professional shodan, with Nakamura Sumire’s path being the newest one (see article below), and two other female players also qualified as 1-dan. They are both from the Central Japan or Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in and both were recommended for promotion by the insei instructor. Takao Mari (aged 17) and Hane Ayaka (aged 16) both scored 9-3 in a league for the top four inseis. Takao actually took first place because of her higher ranking. Hane is the third daughter of Hane Naoki 9P and Shigeko 1P. Her style is aggressive, in contrast to her father, and, like Fujisawa Rina, she is a third-generation professional.

Yang wins LG Cup2019.03.18_Yang Dingxin
The best-of-three final of the 23rd LG Cup was an all-Chinese affair, with Shi Yue 9P (aged 28) playing Yang Dingxin 7P (aged 20; at right). Game One (Feb. 11) was won by Shi (B) by resig., but Yang bounced back, winning Game Two (Feb. 13) by resig. and Game Three, for which he had white, also by resig. First prize is 2019.03.18_NongShim Iyama L Park300,000,000 won (a little over $264,000).

China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup
The third and final stage of the 20th Nong Shim Spicy Noodles Cup was held in Seoul, but it was over very quickly. In Game 10, played on Feb. 18, Park Junghwan 9P, the last player for Korea, beat Iyama Yuta 9P, the last player for Japan. Park had black and won by resig. The next day, however, China’s second player, Dang Yifei 9P, (B) beat Park by 1.5 points, giving China an overwhelming victory. Scores were: China 8-1; Korea 2-5; Japan 1-5. First prize is 500,000,000 won (nearly $441,000).

Tomorrow: The amazing career of 9-year-old Nakamura Sumire

The Power Report: Kido Prize winners announced; Top prize-money winners in 2018; Iyama wins 56th Shusai Prize, Ishida wins Okura Prize

Sunday March 17, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Kido Prize winners announced
The 52nd Kido Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony scheduled for March 26. They are awarded to the top Nihon Ki-in performers of 2018 in various categories and are named after the predecessor of the magazine “Monthly Go World.” They were selected by a committee of go journalists on February 5.
Most outstanding player: Iyama Yuta, quintuple crown. Iyama has now won this prize for seven years in a row.
Outstanding players: Cho U (won the Meijin title), Kyo Kagen (won the Gosei title)
New Star: Ueno Asami (won a women’s title in her second year as a pro)
Women’s Prize: Fujisawa Rina (won three women’s titles)
International prize: Shibano Toramaru (for beating Ke Jie in the Japan-China Ryusei play-off)
Most wins: Shibano Toramaru (46-23)
Best winning percentage: Fujita Akihiko (83.67%)
Most successive wins: Koike Yoshihiro (19)
Most games played: Shibano Toramaru (69)

Top prize-money winners in 2018
As usual, Iyama was far ahead of anyone else. His income dropped by ¥13,000,000 from last year owing to his loss of two titles from his septuple crown, but it’s considered a major achievement to top one hundred million yen. There’s a big drop to the next player in the list, but Ichiriki is doing well when you consider he’s also a university student. This year only one woman player made the top ten compared to two last year.
1. Iyama Yuta: ¥146,960,000 (about $1.3 million) (top for the eighth year in a row, clearing one hundred million yen for the seventh year in a row)
2. Ichiriki Ryo 8P: ¥51,617,199 (2nd for second year in a row)
3. Cho U: ¥41,519,000
4. Yamashita Keigo: ¥32,838,813
5. Shibano Toramaru: ¥22,266,400
6. Fujisawa Rina: ¥21,897,900
7. Kyo Kagen: ¥20,288,300
8. Kono Rin: ¥18,696,277
9. Hane Naoki: ¥12,746,400
10. Motoki Katsuya: ¥12,485,000

Iyama wins 56th Shusai Prize, Ishida wins Okura Prize
Both these prizes were decided on February 12. The Shusai Prize is awarded to a player with outstanding results in the previous year and who has a promising future. For the seventh year in a row, it went to Iyama Yuta, which is a new record.
The 48th Okura Kishichiro Prizes were awarded to three amateur players who have played a prominent role in spreading go and to Ishida Yoshio, otherwise known as 24th Honinbo Shuho.

Tomorrow: Another Ueno makes pro; Yang wins LG Cup; China’s overwhelming win in Nong Shim Cup

AlphaGo vs. AlphaGo; Game 29: It’s personal for Michael

Sunday March 17, 2019

This game features AlphaGo’s version of the double karari against a starpoint. “That’s one I like and have been using in my own 2019.03.09 AG-AG 29 thumbnailgames, so it’s sort of personal for me,” says Michael Redmond 9p in the latest vi2019.03.09 AG-AG 29 thumbnail-redmond-garlockdeo with the AGA E-Journal’s Chris Garlock. “Then black makes a big moyo and we’ll see how AlphaGo deals with that.”

These videos are made possible by the support of the American Go Association; please consider joining today!

Video produced by Michael Wanek & Andrew Jackson.

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Janice Kim to have brain tumor removed

Friday March 15, 2019

Janice Kim was scheduled to undergo surgery Friday to remove “a tennis-ball sized brain tumor in my frontal lobe,” she reported recently2019.03.14 Janice Kim and kids on Facebook. “Will probably be off Facebook for a long time, but I should be okay,” she said. The popular go professional and teacher is a co-author, with Jeong Soo-hyun 9 dan, of the Learn To Play Go Series and she’s been a columnist for the U.S. Shonen Jump and the American Go E-Journal. She also ventured into the poker world, placing 4th in the World Poker Tour Ladies Championship in 2008.

Interactive go books now available on Android and Windows

Friday March 15, 2019

Reading interactive go books used to be limited to iPad, iPhone, and Mac. “Not any more,” says SmartGo publisher Anders2019.03.18_go-books-website Kierulf. “Most of the 134 books at gobooks.com are now available as ePub, so you can also read them on Android and Windows.” Diagrams and problems in the ePubs are interactive. “The DRM-free ePubs let you read your books on different devices, and future-proof your investment in books.” Click here for more information.

Go Books now contains 134 books about go, and includes new books by Richard Bozulich on “Attacking and Defending Weak Groups” as well as “Sabaki – The Art of Settling Stones”.  The GoGoD game collection now contains over 102,000 pro games, and is part of SmartGo KifuSmartGo for Windows, and SmartGo for Macintosh. To stay up-to-date, follow @smartgo on Twitter or SmartGo on Facebook.

Pandanet AGA City League Round 5

Friday March 15, 2019

2017.10.03_PANDANETSunday starts the fifth round of the Pandanet AGA City League. Watch Sunday as most games will be played starting at 3PM EST in the AGA City League and AGA City League[Manual] Rooms. Check the league schedules to find the times to watch your favorite players.  New York City and Greater Washington are in the top spots in the A League. They faced off in the finals last year and are the top teams to watch for. Waterloo and Toronto 1 are at their heels down one match each. The B League has the Bay Area and Raleigh teams  apart one GP in the standings. Both of these teams are facing off this weekend which should make for  exciting games. The C League is led by the New York 2  team. Followed closely behind are the Baltimore, Columbus, and Cincinnati teams. The Columbus team will be live streaming their games on Twitch. The Captain Devin Fraze will be reviewing his team’s games live  at 7:30PM EST. You can connect with all of help of a Pandanet Client.

TD Steve Colburn

Gabby Su wins Wu Qingyuan Cup Qualifier

Thursday March 14, 2019

In the third round of the 2nd Wu Qingyuan Cup Qualifier, Gabby Su (playing black) beat Yinli Wang by 9.5 points to join Feng Yun, Stephanie Yin and Cathy Li at the 2nd Wu Qingyuan Cup, which will be played April 26-30 in Fuzhou, China.
– Jeff Shaevel, Tournament Director

Pasadena Go Club celebrates 1-year anniversary

Thursday March 14, 2019

The Pasadena Go Club recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. It currently has a consistent 13 to 15 players of all ranks 2019.03.13_pasadenagoattending weekly. Also notable is that the club has a number of 10-15k players that have recently begun playing at the club, so most players who show up should be able to get a good game.
“We are especially grateful to Shirley Lin, Andy Okun, and Mark Lee for providing their support to the club over this past year,” says Kevin Hwang.

You can find news and information about the club at Twitter.com/pasadenago

Review: Deep Learning and the Game of Go

Thursday March 14, 2019

Deep Learning and the Game of Go  by Max Pumperla and Kevin Ferguson, teaches all the aspects of deep learning that went 2019.03.13_DeepLearning-Pumperla-DL-HIinto Alpha Go. It is complete with code in Python3, with all code based upon building a go-playing program starting with code for the board structures/objects. It does not teach Python and does not assume you know anything about learning algorithms. I am only in the 4th chapter and so far I find the text very readable and the explanations clear. By the end of the book you can have a complete Go bot for playing or experimenting. One very nice thing that Manning does is that all the code is available for downloading, and buying the paper book allows you to signup for electronic versions in a variety of formats, so you can copy/paste the examples if you don’t want to type them and you can search the text electronically rather than paging through the book. About the only thing not covered in the book is parallelization for multiple GPU/CPUs.
– David Doshay