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The Power Report: Seki wins NHK Cup; Yoda’s suspension ends; Shibano wins Judan title; Cho Chikun wi

Chris Garlock | Published on 8/26/2023

John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal


Seki wins NHK Cup

When the finalists in the 70th NHK Cup were decided, there was no doubt about who was the favorite. Ichiriki Ryo Kisei (aged 25) had played in nine successive NHK Cups and had reached the final seven times. He had won it three times, with successive wins in 2021 and 2022. However, his 21-year-old opponent had an impressive record in his own right: he had never lost a final. He started by becoming the first Japanese player to win the World Youth Championship (he was playing table tennis with Shibano Toramaru, who also competed, when someone reminded him about the final—a mad dash got him there on time); as a professional he had won the King of the New Stars and two Tengen titles. 

The game was telecast on March 19. Ichiriki drew white in the nigiri. In the first major fight, he played tenuki twice, letting Seki put his top left group into ko. At this point, Seki commented that he felt he had the lead. Ichiriki fought hard and got back into the game, but Seki again took the lead in the late middle game. He later made some dubious moves, turning the game into a half-pointer. In Seki’s words, “I was just lucky I ended up a half-point ahead.” According to Go Weekly, Seki held the initiative for almost all the game, so he deserved the win. This is his fourth title.


Yoda’s suspension ends

On March 20, Yoda Norimoto (W) beat Hane Naoki 9-dan by resig. in the B2 League of the 48th Kisei tournament. This game marked his return to tournament play after serving a six-month suspension imposed upon him by the Nihon Ki-in board of directors. His sin was making critical comments about the directors on SNS. The month before his comeback, he had to forfeit a game in the Kisei B League.


Shibano wins Judan title

The semifinals of the Daiwa House Cup 61st Judan tournament accurately reflected the balance of power in Japanese go these days: they featured three of the top players of the younger generation and a slightly senior player who is still hanging on at the top. 

In one semifinal, Iyama Yuta beat Ichiriki Ryo and in the other Shibano Toramaru beat Yo Seiki. In the play-off to decide the challenger, held on January 30, Shibano (W) beat Iyama by 3.5 points, earning the right to challenge Kyo Kagen Judan, who was the fourth-ranked player in Japan. Shibano lost the 59th Judan title match to Kyo, so this was his chance to take revenge. In all their games so far, Kyo had a 21-17 lead.

The best-of-five title match started at the Osaka University of Commerce on March 7. Shibano, who drew white in the nigiri, prevailed in a game marked by fierce fighting. Kyo resigned after 266 moves.

Kyo took revenge in the second game, played at the Hotel & Resorts Nagahama (name as given on their HP) in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture, on March 23. The Go Weekly reporter commented that Shibano was his usual cheerful self and didn’t seem to be suffering any aftereffects from his Kisei defeat. In the game, Kyo had the better of the opening, but he was subjected to a severe attack in the middle game. However, Kyo responded with some sharp play that earned him victory. Shibano resigned after White 208. This was a good win for Kyo and leveled the match.

The venue of the third game had a long name, even by the standards of Japanese hotels. It was the ANA Hotel Inn Resort Shinano Omachi Kuroyon. Omachi Town in Nagano is a self-proclaimed go-playing town; it has facilities for visitors to play go and to take lessons, though the scenic beauty of the Northern Alps may militate against indoor amusements. 

The third game was played on April 6. In the middle game Shibano (white) put a black group under severe pressure. Kyo managed to save the group, but fell behind, so Shibano chalked up his second win.

The fourth game was played at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on April 20. Shibano (black) took advantage of a momentary gap in Kyo’s defences, built a lead and maintained it to the end of the game. Kyo resigned after Black 225. Shibano won the title match 3-1 and again became a dual title holder.

In autumn 2019, Shibano  became the first teenaged Meijin. Wthin a year, he also annexed the Oza and Judan titles, making him the youngest-ever holder of a triple crown, but he failed in all three defences. After winning this game, Shibano was surrounded by reporters. He commented: “When I won the Meijin back last year, I thought to myself that if I ever became titleless again, I’d give up go.” He’s safe for the time being.


Cho Chikun wins Teikei Cup Legends Tournament

The final of the 2nd Teikei Cup was held in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in’s Tokyo headquarters on April 8. This is a tournament for veteran players, with a prize of ¥5,000,000. The inaugural tournament last year was won by Sonoda Yuichi 9-dan of the Kansai Ki-in. This year the final featured a clash between the player who still holds the record for most titles won, Cho Chikun, and the chairman of the Ki-In’s board of directors, Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan. Taking black, Cho forced a resignation after 209 moves. This increased his tally of titles to 76.


Ichiriki wins last Honinbo League

All four games in the final round of the 78th and last (see article below) Honinbo League were played on April 13. Only two players were still in the running to become the challenger: Ichiriki Ryo Kisei, who had not lost a game, and Shibano Toramaru Meijin, who was on 5-1. The two were playing each other, so Shibano would have to beat Ichiriki in the league and then in a play-off. As it happened, Ichiriki’s remarkable form this year continued and he convincingly defeated Shibano. (This win made his record against Shibano this year 6-2 and 15-11 overall.)

Below are all the results in the league this year.


(Jan. 6) Kyo Kagen Judan (W) beat Shibano Toramaru Meijin by resig.

(Jan. 12) Otake Yu 7-dan (B) beat Tsuruyama Atsushi 8-dan by resig.

(Jan. 19) Yo Seiki 8-dan (B) beat Motoki Katsuya 8-dan by resig.

(Jan. 26) Ichiriki Kisei (B) beat Fujita Akihiko 7-dan by resig.

(Feb. 2) Fujita (W) beat Kyo Kagen Judan by resig.

(Feb. 9) Shibano (W) beat Yo by resig.

(Feb. 16) Motoki (B) beat Tsuruyama by resig.

(Feb. 20) Ichiriki (W) beat Otake by resig.

(March 2) Kyo (W) beat Motoki by resig.

(March 6) Ichiriki (W) beat Yo by resig.

(March 9) Fujita (W) beat Otake by resig.

(March 30) Shibano (W) beat Tsuruyama by resig.

(April 13) Ichiriki (W) beat Shibano by resig.; Kyo (B) beat Yo by resig.; Tsuruyama (B) beat Fujita by resig.; Otake (W) beat Motoki by resig.


Final places:

1. Ichiriki: 7-0

2. Kyo: 5-2

3. Shibano: 5-2 

4. Yo: 4-3

2-5: Motoki, Fujita, Otake

1-6: Tsuruyama

photos: top: Honinbo game 4 Ichiriki (L) wins; bottom right: Shibano wins 61st Judan Game 4; bottom left: Teikei Legends Cho (L) wins

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