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IMSA World Masters Championship report

Sunday May 19, 2019

The 2019 IMSA World Masters Championship was held in Hengshui, China, from May 13 to 18. The Championship included five sports, Go, Chess, Bridge, Draughts, and Xiangqi, which in total offered 99 medals in 17 disciplines, with 170 players from 47 countries participating.
In Go, Men’s team (round-robin), Women’s team (round-robin), and Pair Go (bracket-tournament) competitions took place. Players were invited from six regions – China, Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Europe, and North America. North America was represented by Ryan Li 1P, William Shi 1P, and Eric Lui 1P in Men’s, Shirley Lin 1P and Gabriella Su 6D in Women’s, and Eric Lui 1P and Shirley Lin 1P in Pair Go. 
The competition results are as follows:
Men’s Team
1st: China; 2nd: Korea; 3rd: Japan; 4th: Chinese Taipei; 5th: Europe; 6th: North America
Women’s Team: 1st: Korea; 2nd: China; 3rd: Japan; 4th: Chinese Taipei; 5th: North America; 6th: Europe
Pair Go (6 pairs from each region plus 2 wildcard pairs selected by drawing): 1st: Korea (Choi Jeong & Shin Jinseo); 2nd: Chinese Taipei – wildcard (Pai Hsin Hui & Lin Li Hsiang); 3rd: Chinese Taipei (Jiajia Missingham Joanne & Wang Yuan Jyun); 4th: Europe (Natalia Kovaleva & Ilya Shikshin); 5th: China (Yu Zhiying & Mi Yuting)6th: Europe – wildcard (Ariane Ougier & Pavol Lisy); 7th: Japan (Eiko Nyu & Daisuke Murakawa); 8th: North America (Shirley Lin & Eric Lui).
– Hajin Lee

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The Power Report: Kisei S League starts; Otake wins 1,300 games; Meijin League; Shibano wins Grand Champion Tournament; Obituary: Ing Ming-hao

Sunday May 12, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.05.12_kisei-s-league

Kisei S League starts: The S League, the last of the 44th Kisei leagues to get under way, got off to a start on April 25 with a clash between two heavyweights. Takao Shinji 9P (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resignation. The second game in the league was played on May 2. Yamashita Keigo 9P (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resig. In the A League, Ichiriki Ryo 8P and Cho U Meijin, who are both on 2-0, share the lead. In the B1 league, Yoda Norimoto 9P, on 3-0, has made the best start, but Hane Naoki, on 2-0, is also undefeated. In the B2 League, Motoki Katsuya 8P, on 3-0, is the only undefeated player.

Otake wins 1,300 games: In a game in the 9th Masters Cup played on April 25, Otake Hideo. Hon. Gosei, (W) defeated 2019.05.12_Otake 1300Hane Yasumasa by resig. This was Otake’s 1,300th win in a go career lasting 63 years. He is the fourth player to reach this mark. He has 820 losses, five jigo, and one no-contest for a winning record of 61%. (Top is Cho Chikun with 1531 wins.)

Meijin League: Only three games have been played in the 44th Meijin League since my last report. On 2019.05.12_meijin-leagueApril 11, Suzuki Shinji 7P (B) beat Son Makoto 7P by 3.5 points. This result slightly improved the former’s chances of retaining his seat and worsened the latter’s. Incidentally, these two featured in the first game in the new NHK Cup, the 67th, and the result went the other way, with Son (W) winning by resignation. On April 25, Hane Naoki 9P (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 7P by resig. and Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Mutsuura Yuta 7P, also by resig. As before, Kono Rin, leads the league on 4-0.

Shibano wins Grand Champion Tournament: The Grand Champion Tournament is a fast-go (NHK format) knock-out2019.05.12_champions Shibano Iyama tournament open to current title-holders plus, if necessary to bring the numbers up to 16, the top players in the previous year’s prize-money list. First prize is a relatively modest one or two million yen (there’s ambiguity because the Nihon Ki-in HP gives both figures). The semifinals and final of the 2018 (6th) Grand Champion Tournament were held at the Nihon Ki-in on May 6. In the semifinals, Iyama Yuta beat Ichiriki Ryo and Shibano Toramaru beat Kyo Kagen. The final was open to the public, being played on the stage of the Nihon Ki-in’s second-story auditorium with a public commentary being given on the same stage at the same time. Presumably the players are so focused on the game they shut out the commentary. Taking white, Shibano beat Iyama by resig. to win this title for the first time. This is his fourth title.

2019.05.12_Ing Ming-haoObituary: Ing Ming-hao
Ing Ming-hao, chairman of the board of directors of the Ing Chang-ki Wei-ch’I Educational Foundation, died on April 20, just a few days after making a speech at the opening ceremony of the Changqi Cup. He was 76. As the son of Ing Chang-ki, Ing Ming-hao carried on his mission of promoting and supporting go around the world. The Chinese Weiqi Association called it “an unfortunate loss for us” and go organizations and players around the world benefited from the Ing Family’s longstanding efforts to support and promote go across the globe. Players at the Changqi Cup stood in silence to express mourning before the second round of Changqi Cup.

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The Power Report: Shin Minjun wins 6th Globis Cup; China starts well in 9th Huanglongshi Cup; Nakamura Sumire makes pro debut; Gosei challenger: Ichiriki or Hane

Saturday May 11, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.05.11_6globis Shin

Shin Minjun wins 6th Globis Cup: The Globis Cup is an international tournament sponsored by the Globis University Graduate School of Management (president Hori Yoshito) for players under 20 (as of January 1) and is held at the university’s Tokyo campus, which is quite close to the Nihon Ki-in. The professed aim of the sponsor in founding the tournament was to give younger Japanese players more international experience. This year the tournament was held from April 19 to 21 and was dominated by Korea and China. It was won by Shin Minjun (right) of Korea, who lost in the final last year. He turned 20 on January 11, so he made the most of his last chance to compete. Sixteen players start out in four mini-tournaments in which two wins earn you a seat in the main tournament (the best eight). Below are the results for the main tournament.
(Quarterfinals, April 20). Ding Hao 5P (China) (B) beat Chen Jirui 5P (Chinese Taipei) by resig.; Shin Minjun 9P (Korea) (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 7P (Japan) by 3.5 points; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (B) beat Chen Zijian 7P (China); Wang Zejin 6P (China) (W) beat Park Sangjin 4P (Korea) by 2.5 points.
(Semifinals, April 21) Shin Minjun (W) beat Ding by resig.; Wang (W) beat Shin Jinseo by resig.
(Final, April 22). Shin (B) beat Wang by resig.
(Play-off for 3rd place). Ding (B) beat Shin by resig.

China starts well in 9th Huanglongshi Cup: The first round of this team tournament for five-women teams from China, Korea, and Japan was held in Taizhou City from 23 to 26 April. This continue-until-beaten Chinese-sponsored tournament is similar in format to the Nong Shim Cup, but one difference is that two games are played on most days.  China is threatening to dominate the tournament in the same way their male players did the most recent Nong Shim Cup. After the seven games of the opening round, China has four players left while both Korea and Japan have only two. Japan’s team leader, Rin Shien 8P commented that he was surprised how closely the play of the Chinese players matched the style of AI programs, especially in the opening. He comments that the Chinese players not only study AI go intensively but also share the fruits of the study with each other. Results follow.
Game 1 (April 20). Gao Xing 4P (China) (W) beat Cho Seungah 2P (Korea) by resig.
Game 2 (April 20). Gao (B) beat Xie Yimin 6P (Japan) by 4.5 points.
Game 3 (April 21). Gao (W) beat O Jeongah 4P (Korea) by resig.2019.05.11_Nakamura Sumire
Game 4 (April 21). Mannami Nao 4P (Japan) (W) beat Gao by resig.
Game 5 (April 22). Kim Chaeyoung 5P (Korea) (W) beat Mannami by resig.
Game 6 (April 23). Zhou Hongyu (China) (W) beat Kim by 3.5 points.
Game 7 (April 23). Zhou (B) beat Fujisawa Rina 4P (Japan) by resig.

Nakamura Sumire makes pro debut: After all the waiting and the advance publicity, Japan’s youngest-ever go professional Nakamura Sumire has finally made her debut, by which time she was ten years one month old. Her first professional game was in Preliminary B of the 29th Ryusei tournament and her opponent was another debutante and member of the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in, Ms. Omori Ran 1P, who was all of 16. On the morning of April 22, when the game was played, 100 members of the press, from 40 different media organizations, turned up to cover the game, which was also telecast live on the Igo & Shogi Channel. This was probably a first for a game from the preliminary round. It was also one of the top items on TV news programs that day, which shows that public interest in Sumire is not waning.
Although Sumire lowered Fujisawa Rina’s record for the youngest professional, she did not set a new record for the youngest player to win a pro game. Omori, who had white, outplayed her in the middle-game fighting and forced her to resign after 174 moves. Some people, myself included, have been worried that the excessive media attention may put too much pressure on her, but there were no signs of this on the day. Both she and Omori were relaxed and smiling at the press conference before the game and afterwards Sumire did not appear too upset by her loss. Unfortunately, with the way debutantes are slotted into the opening rounds of tournaments in progress, Sumire will not play her second official game until some time in June, but a week later she took part in an unofficial tournament. This was the 2nd Young Bamboo Cup, a tournament for 16 “young” players (40 and under) at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in. The first two rounds were held on April 28. Forty members of the press turned up to report on Sumire. Seeing the level of interest, a representative of the sponsor, the Iida Group, who was present, doubled the first prize to 200,000 yen (about $1800) on the spot. In Round One, Sumire beat (Ms.) Tanemura Sayuri 2P but lost in Round Two to Muramatsu Hiroki 6P (who, ironically, is a disciple of her father’s), although this was reported to be a tight game. According to the tournament referee, Goto Shungo 9P, Sumire had the lead at one stage, but was tricked by Muramatsu’s superior technique. In any case, this was clearly a professional-level performance. On May 1, Sumire fever reached a new level when she was tapped for the ceremony of “pitching the first ball” at the first Giants baseball game of the Reiwa era at Tokyo Dome. Her pitch didn’t quite reach the catcher, who was standing closer than on the home base, on the full stretch, but the direction was good, and she got a warm round of applause from the crowd. Sumire was wearing a special Giants uniform with “15” on the back, as this number can be read “igo.”

Gosei challenger: Ichiriki or Hane:  Ichiriki Ryo’s good form against Iyama Yuta continues after his NHK win. In the second semifinal of the 44th Gosei title, played on April 23, Ichiriki (B) beat Iyama by resig. He will meet Hane Naoki 9P in the final; Hane beat Yo Seiki 8P in the first semifinal on April 1; taking white, Hane won by resig.

Next: Kisei S League starts; Otake wins 1,300 games; Meijin League; Shibano wins Grand Champion Tournament; Obituary: Ing Ming-hao

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The Power Report: Murakawa takes Judan title; Ke Jie wins new tournament; Takao wins 1,000 games

Tuesday May 7, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Murakawa takes Judan title:
The third game of the 57th Judan title match was held at the Kuroyon Royal Hotel in Omachi City, Nagano Prefecture, on April 11. In the second game (March 29), Murakawa had finally put an end to a losing streak of 13 games against Iyama, but the following week Iyama had reasserted his supremacy with a win in the Meijin League (details in our last report), so this was an important game for Murakawa. Early in the game, Murakawa made an oversight, letting Iyama take the lead in territory. However, Iyama also went wrong, making a forcing exchange based on an oversight. He then played aggressively, but for once his policy of always playing the strongest move backfired. The above-mentioned dubious exchange handicapped him in a large-scale fight that broke out, so he had to resign after 151 moves. This is only the second time Murakawa has taken the lead in a title match with Iyama.
The fourth game was played on April 18. Taking white, Murakawa won by resignation after 226 moves, so he won his first Judan title and his second top-seven title (he won the 62nd Oza title in 2014, beating Iyama 3-2). This game was played at the Kansai headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on March 19. There was an interesting start to the game: Iyama played his first move on the 3-3 point and Murakawa immediately did the same in the opposite corner. That did not lead to a territorial contest, however, as the game was marked by continuous fighting. It featured an unresolved ko fight in the opening, that is, a potential ko that neither side could start until they were sure of their ko threats. Murakawa eventually started it on move 100 and ignored Iyama’s ko threat. After hectic middle-game fighting, the outcome was decided by a much bigger ko fight; it was a big white group at stake, but White had good ko threats, so he also won this fight. Black’s compensation was inadequate, so Iyama resigned. Murakawa had turned his losing streak into a winning streak.  “Before when I won a title,” Murakawa said, “I was lazy after that, so this time I’m going to be serious and study to get stronger.” The Judan prize is 7,000,000 yen (about $63,000). It is the last of the top seven open titles. (It used to be ranked fourth when the prize money was 15,000,000 yen. It was reduced as of the 51st term.)
This loss leaves Iyama with “just” four titles: Kisei, Honinbo, Oza, and Tengen. It also puts a third simultaneous grand slam out of reach for some time. Incidentally, this was the last title match of the Heisei era, which yielded to the Reiwa era on May 1.

Ke Jie wins new tournament: The first Japan-China-Korea Ryusei tournament was held in the Ryusei Studio, located in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in, from April 11 to 13. This is where the Go and Shogi Channel, which sponsors the Ryusei tournament, makes many of its go programs. The new tournament is for the holders of the Ryusei titles in the above-mentioned three countries and follows the NHK format (30 seconds per move plus ten minutes thinking time to be used in one-minute units) and is an irregular knock-out. Previously it was the China-Japan Ryusei Play-off, but recently a Korean Ryusei tournament was also founded, so it has become a three-way play-off. The tournament started well for Japan, with Ichiriki Ryo 8P defeating Ke Jie 9P of China, who is one of the world’s top two, but Ke survived the play-off with Kim Jiseok 9P of Korea and took revenge on Ichiriki in the final. The tournament proceeded as follows.
Round 1 (April 11). Ichiriki (W) beat Ke by resig.
Round 2 (April 12). Ke (W) beat Kim Jiseok 9P (Korea) by resig.
Round 3 (April 13). Ke (W) beat Ichiriki by resig.
It’s hard for a knock-out among three players to be fair. The players in the first game get two chances, but the player seeded into the second game gets no second chance if he loses.

Takao wins 1,000 games: Takao Shinji 9P scored his 1,000th win on April 18 when he beat Onishi Kenya 3P in Preliminary A of the 75th Honinbo tournament (Takao had white and won by resig.). He is the 26th player to reach this mark. He has 468 losses, two jigo and one no-contest, for a winning record of 67.9%

Tomorrow: Shin Minjun wins 6th Globis Cup; China starts well in 9th Huanglongshi Cup; Nakamura Sumire makes pro debut; Gosei challenger: Ichiriki or Hane

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The Power Report (1 of 2): Takemiya and Kikuchi receive awards; World Go Championship results; Fujisawa defends Women’s Meijin; Ichiriki wins NHK Cup

Friday April 12, 2019

by John Power, Japan Correspondent of the E-Journal

Takemiya and Kikuchi receive awards: 
Every year awards are presented by the Agency for Cultural Affairs honoring persons and bodies who have made significant contributions to Japanese culture. This year the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Awards for 2018, as they are called, were given out at a ceremony held on March 18 and for the first time go players were included. Takemiya Masaki 9P, who, as the great exponent of cosmic or center-oriented go, has been one of the most popular Japanese professionals over the last four decades, was recognized for his success in local and international tournaments. Also receiving an award was Japan’s top postwar amateur player, Kikuchi Yasuro, who has made major contributions to spreading go. As a player, he won many Japanese amateur championships and also won the World Amateur Go Championship. He has held posts in a number of organizations, including one that is active in popularizing go amongst children. He is probably best known for founding the Ryokuseien Go School, whose most famous graduate is Yamashita Keigo. He will turn 90 on August 20. Kumasu Ken’ichi, a maker of traditional go and shogi boards, also received an award. Three honorees in the go world may sound good, but actually awards were handed out to 86 individuals and three organizations. If that many people get awards every year, it’s a little strange go has had to wait so long.

World Go Championship results: A report on this tournament was given on March 20 in the ejournal. Some time has passed, but, for those interested, here are details of the results.
(March 18) Iyama Yuta 9P (Japan) (B) beat Jiang Weijie 9P (China) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9P (Korea) (W) beat Cho U 9P (Japan) by resig.; Park Junghwan 9P (Korea) (B) beat Liao Yuanhe 7P (China) by resig.; Ke Jie 9P (China) (W) beat Yu Changhyuk 9P (Korea) by resig.
(March 19) Ke (B) beat Iyama by resig.; Park (W) beat Shin by resig.2019.04.12_WomMei Fujisawa
(March 20) Park (B) beat Ke by 1.5 points.
First prize is 20,000,000 yen (about $180,000).

Fujisawa defends Women’s Meijin: The third game of the 31st Women’s Meijin title match was held at the headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 22. Fujisawa drew white in the nigiri and won by resignation after 282 moves, so she defended her title 2-1. She won this title for the third year in a row. Xie Yimin remains in her unaccustomed state of having no title to her name.

Ichiriki wins NHK Cup: The final of the 66thNHK Cup was telecast on March 24. The finalists were Iyama Yuta, Quintuple Crown, who was bidding for his third successive cup, and Ichiriki Ryo 8P, who was hoping that this would be third time lucky. Ichiriki lost the 62nd final to Ida Atsushi in 2015 and the 64thfinal to Iyama in 2017. The latter is part of a 2019.04.12_66nhk_1lopsided record against Iyama of six wins to 18 losses. Ichiriki, aged 21, is often spoken of as the top player of the post-Iyama generation; fittingly, he beat two other top players of that generation on his way to the final: Yo Seiki in the quarterfinals and Kyo Kagen Gosei in the semifinals. As usual, the opening showed the influence of AI go in various places. Ichiriki (white) did well in the early fighting and took the initiative, but the lead then changed hands a number of times. Iyama took the lead, thanks to a slip by Ichiriki, but his policy of always playing the strongest move backfired, letting Ichiriki back into the game. To save a group, Iyama had to resort to a gote seki, which meant that Ichiriki scored a success. In turn, the latter chose the strongest move: instead of solidifying territory with a safety-first move, he made a strong attack on a black group. There were more twists and turns, but in the end the game was even on the board, so Iyama resigned after move 182. This is Ichiriki’s second title win against Iyama, following the 25thRyusei final in 2016. In “fast” games (defined as two hours and under), he now has a lead of 4-1 against him. First prize in the NHK Cup is 5,000,000 yen (about $46,000). Both players will represent Japan in the 31st TV Asia Cup.

Tomorrow: Murakawa wins second Judan game; Kono leads Meijin League; Change at top of Nihon Ki-in board

 

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Kono to challenge for Honinbo title

Thursday April 11, 2019

The second game in the play-offs to decide the challenger to Honinbo Monyu, otherwise known as Iyama Yuta, for the 74th Honinbo title was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on April 10. Kono Rin (W) beat Shibano Toramaru by 1.5 points after 294 moves. Kono will be making his first challenge for the Honinbo title. Kono won the 31st to 33rd Tengen titles (2005 to 2007), the Agon Kiriyama Cup once, the Ryusei twice, the JAL New Stars once, and the NEC Cup twice, for a total of nine titles. This will be his fifth title match with Iyama Yuta. He lost the 39th Meijin (2014) 2-4, the 41stKisei (2017) 2-4, and the 38th (2013) and 39th (2014) Gosei, both 2-3. He always picks up two wins.
– John Power

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The Power Report: Honinbo League ends in three-way tie; playoff April 10

Tuesday April 9, 2019

by John Power, Japan Correspondent

Honinbo League ends in three-way tie; playoff April 10: The big news is that there’s a three-way tie in the Honinbo League and the deciding game will be played on April 10; I’ll report the result as soon as I hear it. Here’s the result of the last game in the sixth round. On March 21, Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yamashita Keigo 9P by resig. This was Yamashita’s third loss, so 2019.04.09 Honinbo leagueit put him out of the running to win the league.

The final round of the 74th Honinbo League was played at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on April 4. Following the lead of the Meijin League, all the games in this round were played on the same day. As this round started, four of the eight members of the league were still in the running to become the challenger: Hane Naoki 9P, on 5-1, and three players on 4-1, Kono Rin 9P, Ichiriki Ryo 8P, and Shibano Toramaru 7P. If he won, Hane would clinch the challengership, but if he lost there would a play-off: Kono and Ichiriki were playing each other, so there would be a least one other player on 5-2.

The results:
Yamashita Keigo (B) beat Hane by resig.
Shibano (W) beat Ko Iso by resig.
Kono (W) beat Ichiriki by 1.5 points.
Yo Seiki 8P (W) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by resig.

The result was that Shibano, Hane, and Kono ended in a tie and qualified for the play-off. Usually only the two higher-ranked players in a multiple tie make the play-off, but Hane and Kono had the same rank. They played each other on April 8, with Kono (B) winning by resignation. Hane either had the sole lead or shared the lead nearly all the way in the league, but he stumbled at the end. Kono’s win continues his superb form: his record this year is 13-1.

Kono will now play Shibano on April 10. The latter was seeded into the second stage of the play-off because of his higher ranking in the league. At the other end of the league, there are no play-offs for retaining your place. Yamashita, Yo, and Ichiriki all finished on 4-3, but Yamashita’s number one ranking gave him priority over the other two. This was a tough result for Ichiriki: one game made the difference between tying for first and losing his place in the league.

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The Power Report: Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin; Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go; Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League; Kono leads 44th Meijin League; Promotions & retirements

Thursday March 21, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal2019.03.21_womens meijin 2

Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin
In recent years, the first game of the Women’s Meijin title match has been linked with the first Judan game, being held at the same venue, the Osaka University of Commerce, on the following day. This year it featured yet another title-match clash, the eighth, between Fujisawa Rina, holder of three women’s titles, and Xie Yimin 6P, who has had no title to her name since she lost the Women’s Honinbo to Fujisawa last December. She has memories of this title, as she held it for nine years in a row, so she will be hoping to make a comeback. Fujisawa actually had the better start, but Xie caught up by living inside White’s sphere of influence, then took the lead by reducing White’s main territory. Fujisawa resigned after 241 moves.
The second game was played in the Arisu Pavilion on the campus of Heian Jogakuin University (also known as St. Agnes’ University) on March 14. Fujisawa (black) beat Xie by resignation after 189 moves. Xie took the initiative in the opening, but Fujisawa made a successful attack in the middle game and drew level with her. At the end, Xie slipped up in time trouble, so Fujisawa took a big lead. Up to this loss, Xie had won nine games in a row. The third game will be played at the Nihon Ki-in on March 22.

Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go
The final of the Professional Pair Go Championship 2019 was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 3. Taking white, the pair of Fujisawa Rina and Ichiriki Ryo beat Osawa Narumi and Kyo Kagen by resignation.

Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League2019.03.21_Honinbo League
This is one of the closest leagues in memory, with six players still in contention after five rounds; after three games in the sixth round, that number has been reduced by only one. These days, according to a new rule, only the top two players in a multiple tie qualify for the play-off, but in an earlier decade there was a five-man play-off, so it was like a mini-tournament in its own right.
With two wins since our last report, Hane Naoki 9P has improved his score to 5-1, giving him the sole lead. If he can beat Yamashita Keigo in the final round in April, he will be the challenger. Still in the running if he slips up are Shibano Toramaru 7P and Ichiriki Ryo, both on 4-2, and Yamashita and Kono Rin 9P, both on 3-2. One of these four players, though, will lose his place in the league, joining Ko Iso and Anzai Nobuaki. Actually, at this point Hane is the only player immune from demotion. For the first time, all of the games in the final round will be held on the same day, April 5, at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo with a public commentary being held from 6 to 9 p.m. (to be extended if necessary).
Recent games:
(Feb. 11) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Yo Seiki 7P by resig. This was Yo’s second loss, so he fell behind Shibano and Kono (both on 3-1 at this point).
(Feb. 21) Hane Naoki (B) beat Ko Iso 8P by resig.; Yamashita Keigo 9P (W) beat Shibano Toramaru 7P by 3.5 points.
(March 7) Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Anzai Nobuaki 7P by 3.5 points.
(March 14) Hane (B) beat Ichiriki Ryo 8P by resig.; Shibano Toramaru (B) beat Yo Seiki 8P by resig.

Kono leads 44th Meijin League2019.03.21_Meijin League
After three and a half rounds, Kono Rin, on 4-0, is the only undefeated player, so he has a theoretical chance of playing in two best-of-sevens this year. His March 14 win detailed below is also his 13thwin in a streak that began last December. The Go Weekly report on the league went off topic in an interesting aside. The reporter wrote that if you were to publish a new book on josekis, the star point would probably take over half the space, as recently star-point variations have evolved a lot and become remarkably complicated. A novel variation appeared in the Kono v. Murakawa game.
Recent results:
(Feb. 21) Kono Rin 9P (B) beat Suzuki Shinji 7P by resig.; Mutsuura Yuta 7P (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke by resig. At this point, Kono, on 3-0, was the sole undefeated player.
(March 7) Shibano Toramaru 7P (W) beat Son Makoto 7P by resig.
(March 14) Kono Rin (W) beat Murakawa Daisuke 8P by 2.5 points.

Promotions  
To 9-dan: Komatsu Fujio (200 wins, as of Feb. 26)
To 8-dan: Sano Takatsugu (150 wins, as of March 5)
To 2-dan: Kuwabara Shun (30 wins, as of March 15)

Retirements
Kusunoki Teruko 7P will retire as of March 31. Born on September 3, 1939, she became 1-dan in 1956 and reached 7-dan in 1984. She won the Women’s Honinbo three years in a row and five times overall and the Women’s Kakusei two years in a row. She is one of the three Honda sisters; her oldest sister, Sugiuchi Kazuko 8P, is still active at the age of 92. The second sister, Honda Sachiko 7P, aged 88, retired in 2000.
Yoshida Harumi 1P will also retire at the end of this month. Born on November 28, 1957, she became a disciple of Iwamoto Kaoru 9P and became a professional in 1981.

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

Wednesday March 20, 2019

by John Power, Japan correspondent for the E-Journal

Ueno & Xie join C League
The Kisei qualifying tournament had a big day on February 14, with seven play-offs for seats in the C League, which is a five-round Swiss System. Places in the other leagues are decided by promotions and demotions within the leagues, but 16 players drop out of the 32-player C League, giving a lot of chances to the participants in the massive “First Tournament,” as the qualifying tournament is called.
Two woman players were vying for a place on the above date, with mixed results. Fuijisawa Rina lost to Hirose Yuichi 3P, but Ueno Asami beat Hashimoto Yujiro 9P. She will be the second woman, after Suzuki Ayumi 7P, to make the C League. (By the way, this was her seventh win in a streak that started last year.)
On February 21, Xie Yimin 6P (W) beat Otake Hideo 9P by resig. and also gained a seat in the C League.

Iyama defends Kisei title 2019.03.20_43kisei7 Iyama defends
Iyama Yuta defended the 43rdKisei title but not before being given a scare by the tenacious challenger Yamashita Keigo. After four games, Iyama had a 3-1 lead, so the match seemed as good as over. But Yamashita had other ideas.
The fifth game was held at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on February 27 and 28. The game was a kadoban for the challenger, so he was under a lot of pressure. Playing white, Iyama sacrificed a small group in return for outside thickness, and Yamashita seemed dissatisfied with his opening, judging by the fact that he declined to 2019.03.20_43kisei6 Yamashitamake what looked like an advisable reinforcing move and instead played aggressively in an attempt to counteract White’s thickness. However, Iyama made an overplay in the ensuing center fight, so Yamashita was able to pull off an upset. He won by 6.5 points. With his Judan title defense due to start soon, Iyama, must have been disappointed to let slip this chance to reduce the burden on himself.
The sixth game was held at the Kagetsuen inn in the town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture on March 7 and 8. This was the second kadoban for Yamashita. Starting in the opening, he played an aggressive, attacking game with white and turned the game into one large confused fight. Iyama is at home in this kind of game, so Yamashita was unable to turn it in his favor. However, right at the end he was able to put a large black group into ko and pull off an upset. White won by 6.5 points after 250 moves. Iyama will regret not being able to hang on to the lead, but the mutual aggression made this a very entertaining game.
Yamashita had finally drawn level with Iyama; usually the player catching up has better momentum, so there seemed to be a good chance of Iyama’s being dethroned. The final game of the series was played at Ryugon, a Japanese inn in the city of Minami (south) Uonuma in Niigata Prefecture on March 14 and 15. Yamashita drew black in the nigiri. This was yet another fierce fighting game, with Yamashita making an all-out attempt to capture a large white group. However, he made a mistake in timing, losing two points by failing to make a forcing move. After this slip, he began playing erratically, so Iyama was able to seize the initiative. In the end, he won by 6.5 points, the same margin as in the sixth game.
This is the seventh year in a row that Iyama has won the Kisei title. One more defense and he will match Kobayashi Koichi’s record of eight in a row. He has maintained his quintuple crown. It is his 55thtitle and his 45thtop-seven title, the latter extending his record.

Yu repeats in Senko Cup2019.03.20_Senko Tsukuda Choi Yu Hei
The Senko Cup World Go Strongest Woman Player Tournament 2019, to translate the name literally, was held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo from February 22 to 24. It is the only international professional women’s tournament sponsored by a Japanese company. The inaugural tournament was held last year and was won by Yu Zhiying 6P of China. She again demonstrated overwhelming strength and repeated as champion. This year she defeated Choi Jeong 9P of Korea in the final. First prize is 10 million yen (just under $90,000). Full results are given below.
Round 1 (Feb. 22). Yu (China) (B) beat Mannami Nao 4P (Japan) by resig.; Tsukuda Akiko 5P (Japan) (W) beat Nataliya Kovaleva 5D (Russia) by resig.; Choi (W) beat Nyu Eiko 2P (Japan) by resig.; Hei Jiajia 7P (Chinese Taipei) (W) beat Ueno Asami 2P (Japan) by resig.
Semifinals (Feb. 23). Yu (B) beat Tsukuda by resig.; Choi (W) beat Hei by 2.5 points.
2019.03.20_Judan1 Murakawa IyamaFinal (Feb. 24). Yu (B) beat Choi by 3.5 points. Play-off for 3rd place: Hei (W) beat Tsukuda by resig.

Iyama makes good start in Judan
The 57th Judan best-of-five title match got off to a start on March 5. It was played on the campus of the Osaka University of Commerce. The challenger, Murakawa Daisuke 8P, was playing in his fifth top-seven title match, his opponent in each case being Iyama Yuta. So far, he had succeeded just once, winning the Oza title from him in 2014, but losing it back to him the following year. As he put it last year before his unsuccessful challenge for the Judan title, Iyama is “an extremely large barrier that you can’t avoid.”
Iyama Yuta played positively and took the initiative. Murakawa launched a fierce attack late in the game, but Iyama countered forcefully in rescuing a group under attack and prevented an upset. The second game will be played on March 29. Murakawa has now lost 13 games in a row to Iyama, all in title matches.

Tomorrow: Fujisawa evens score in 31st Women’s Meijin; Fujisawa & Ichiriki win Pair Go; Hane takes sole lead in 74th Honinbo League; Kono leads 44th Meijin League; Promotions & retirements

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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

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