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The Power Report: July and August 2023

John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal | Published on 10/15/2023

2023.10.08 Power Report Jul-Aug 2023

Iyama rallies, but Ichiriki takes Honinbo title

This report continues from my report of August 31.


The fifth game of the 78th Honinbo title match was held at the Jakkoji temple in Kyoto on July 4 and 5. The name of the tournament comes from a pagoda named "Honinbo" (no longer existing) in the grounds of the temple; at one time it was the dwelling place of Sansa (1559~1623), who was the first head of the traditional Honinbo house. 

In the fourth game, Iyama had suffered his third loss, so in this game he faced his first kadoban (a game that might lose a series). However, he showed no signs of being affected by the pressure. Playing with black, Iyama took the lead in territory, then skillfully parried his opponent’s attacks in the middle game. 

The sixth game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on July 11 and 12. Taking white, Iyama adopted a bold strategy: this was his second kadoban, but the pressure didn’t seem to affect his play. In the middle game, Ichiriki seemed to have a small lead, but he missed the best attack against a weak white group. The move he chose presented Iyama with the chance to play a brilliant combination to save a weak group under attack without sacrificing any points. Ichiriki confessed that he had overlooked this combination. He resigned after 182 moves. Iyama had finally drawn even.

In his winning streak of 11 terms, Iyama had been pushed to the seventh game only three times; his average score was 4 wins to 1.45 losses.

The final game of the best-of-seven was held at the Todaya, a mixed Japanese- and Western-style hotel in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, on July 19 and 20. The nigiri was held again and Iyama (Honinbo Monyu) drew black. On the first day, Iyama took the lead, but there were problems with his middle-game strategy that let Ichiriki stage an upset. Iyama played some do-or die moves, but Ichiriki parried them skillfully and kept a firm grip of the lead. Black resigned after White 218.

Ichiriki was successful on his second challenge for the Honinbo title. He made a good comeback from a 0-4 defeat last year. This is his third big-three title and his 19th title overall.

This victory also gave Ichiriki a chance of winning the final possible Major Triple Crown if he could win the Meijin League and take the title. That did not work out. So far, Ichiriki has not adopted a special name as Honinbo.


Biggest gap in age between players

A game was scheduled in Preliminary B of the 35th Women’s Meijin tournament on July 13 between Sugiuchi Kazuko 8-dan, who at 96 is the oldest active player at the Nihon Ki-in, and Yanagihara Saki 1-dan, at present the youngest player at the Ki-in. She was born on October 6, 2010, so she was 12 years nine months to Sugiuchi’s 96 years four months on the day of the game, a gap of 83 years seven months. On the day, unfortunately, Sugiuchi was ill and had to forfeit the game. Even though no moves were made, a forfeit counts as an official win for Yanagihara, so a new record was set.

The previous record was set by Suchiuchi’s late husband, Masao, who died on November 21, 2017. On March 10, 2016, he played a game with Onishi Ryuhei 1-dan in preliminary C of the 65th Oza tournament; Sugiuchi was 95 years four months and Onishi 15 years 11 months, so the gap in age was 79 years four months. (Taking black, Onishi won the game by resignation.) 


Iyama defends 48th Gosei title

The result of the first game was given in my previous report (September 1), but I’ll repeat it here. On June 27, playing white, Iyama Yuta, the defending Gosei, beat the challenger, Ichiriki Ryo Kisei, by resignation after 170 moves. The game was a good one for Iyama.

The second game was played in the North Country Newspaper Hall in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, on July 15. This was a very busy month for both these players, mainly because they were also contesting the Honinbo title. The sixth game of the Honinbo was held on July 11 and 12, so the players would barely have had time to return home before setting out for the Gosei game. This was soon followed by the final Honinbo game, played on July 19 and 20.

The newspaper commentator Sada Atsushi 7-dan commented that it was a good game for Iyama (B) in which "there were no questionable moves whatsoever." A public commentary by Michael Redmond 9-dan and Tsukuda Yuko, an amateur, was held at the venue and it was well attended. The usual party on the eve of the game was also held, so the title-match routine seems to be back to what it was before the corona virus.

The third game was played at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on July 28. Playing white, Iyama forced a resignation after 196 moves, so he defended his title with three straight wins. He also won his third Gosei title in a row and took his cumulative total to nine, which extends his record for this title. He also maintained his dual crown, so he ranks as number three in Japan. First prize is ¥8,000,000 (equivalent to $53,690 at $1 = ¥149).


Meijin League ends in tie

The final round of the 48th Meijin League was held on July 24. Only two players were in the running to win the league and become the challenger: Iyama Yuta and Ichiriki Ryo, who were both on 6-1. Iyama’s winning streak in the league had been stopped by Ichiriki in the precious round. 

Results since my last report (September 7).


(July 6) Yo Seiki 8-dan (B) beat Cho U 9-dan by resig.

(July 10) Fujita Akihiko 7-dan (W) beat Sada Atsushi 7-dan by resig.

(July 24) Ichiriki Ryo Kisei (W) beat Yo Seiki 8-dan by resig.; Yamashita Keigo 9-dan (W) beat Fujita Akihiko 7-dan by resig.; Iyama Yuta Oza (W) beat Kyo Kagen 9-dan by resig.; Shida Tatsuya 8-dan (W) beat Cho U 9-dan by resig.

48th Meijin League
Title-holder: Shibano Toramaru

Rank Player/opponent  IY  IR  YK  ST  YS  KK  CU  FA  SA  Score 
1 Iyama Yuta -- 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 7 - 1
1 Ichiriki Kyo 1 -- 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 7 - 1
4 Yamashita Keigo 0 0 -- 1 0 1 0 1 1 4 - 4
-- Shida Tatsuya 0 0 0 -- 0 0 1 1 1 3 - 5
3 Yo Seiki 0 0 1 1 -- 1 1 1 0 5 - 3
5 Kyo Kagen 0 1 0 1 0 -- 0 1 1 4 - 4
-- Cho U 0 0 1 0 0 1 -- 1 1 4 - 4
-- Fujita Akihiko 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 1 1 - 7
-- Sada Atsushi 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -- 1 - 7


Iyama wins Meijin League play-off

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 48th Meijin title was held in the Tokyo Nihon Ki-in’s top playing room the Yugen (meaning something like "mysterious and profound") on July 30. Ichiriki Ryo (B) built a large moyo, but Iyama Yuta plunged right in, leading to some hectic fighting. In a large-scale reading contest, Iyama outplayed his opponent and rescued a group under attack. The best-of-seven started on August 24.

Usually a game is held on the home ground of the player who is higher-ranked in the league, but just two days earlier these two had played the third game of the Gosei tournament and two days later they were scheduled to catch a flight at Haneda Airport to participate in an international tournament, so playing this game in Tokyo made a lot of sense.

Incidentally, by losing this play-off Ichiriki lost his chance to become the last player to win a Major Triple Crown, that is, to hold the top-three titles of Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo at the same time. The term "major" is applied because these tournaments, with their two-day title-match games, have been considered to be in a different class from the other titles. Ichiriki’s reign as a Major Double Crown will continue for a year after his winning the Honinbo title. There are no signs yet that he is going to adopt a special name as Honinbo.


Shibano makes best-four in 9th Kuksu

The 9th Kuksu Mountains International Strongest Professional Go Player, a Korean-sponsored tournament, was held in the Shin’an County Ramada Plaza Hotel in Shin’an County, Jeonnam, Korea, from July 26 to 28. Japan had only three slots in the 16-player knock-out tournament, but one of its representatives, Shibano Toramaru, reached the semifinals. Unfortunately for Japan, he was eliminated, but this is the best a Japanese male player has performed for a while on the international scene. (I hope Korean fans will forgive my putting Shibano in the headline.)

Below I give the detailed results of the Japanese players and details of the semifinals and final. Please note that the organizers have put up an excellent chart in English on the net and have included the final rounds of qualifying tournaments in Korea, China, and Taiwan (Japan doesn’t hold a qualifying tournament). The time allowance is just 30 minutes + byo-yomi of 40 seconds x 3 per player, which allows the organizers to cram the first two rounds into one day.


Round 1 (July 26). Shin Minjun 9-dan (Korea) (B) beat Sada Atsushi 7-dan (Japan) by resig.; Shibano (Japan) (W) beat Park Junghwan 9-dan (Korea) by resig.; Shin Jinseo 9-dan (Korea) (W) beat Ida Atsushi 9-dan (Japan) by resig.

Round 2 (July 26). Shibano (B) beat Kim Jiseok 9-dan (Korea) by 1.5 points.

Semifinals (July 27). Shin Jinseo (B) beat Shibano by resig.; Shin Minjun (W) beat Byun Sangil 9-dan (Korea) by resig. 

Final (July 28). Shin Minjun (W) beat Shin Jinseo by resig.


This is Shin Minjun’s third international title, following the Globis Cup in 2019 and the LG Cup in 2021. First prize is 75,000,000 won (about $55,800 at $1 = 1,344 won). 


5th MLily Cup

The 5th MLily Cup is a Chinese-founded international tournament that is usually held in Shanghai. Officially, it is organized by the China Weiqi Association and the International Go Federation. The group photo before the first round, in which 64 players participate, shows the title name as written by the organizers and gives a hint about a corporate sponsor. The name reads: "The 5th MLily Pressure-Relieving Mattress" Cup World Go Open Tournament. The time allowance is three hours per player in the final and two hours in the other games, with byo-yomi of 60 seconds x 5. The final is a best-of-five. First prize is a generous 1,800,000 yuan ($250,3247 at $1 = 7.19 yuan). 

As background information, here is a review of the results to date.

1st (2013). Mi Yuting 4-dan (China) beat Gu Li 9-dan (China) 3-1.

2nd (2016). Ke Jie 9-dan (China) beat Lee Sedol 3-2.

3rd (2017). Park Junghwan 9-dan (Korea) beat Park Yeonghun 9-dan (Korea) 3-0.

4th (2021). Mi Yuting 9-dan beat Xie Ke 8-dan 3-2.


The tournament has a HP with a large tournament chart and also gives charts of some of the preliminary tournaments, so my report focuses on the Japanese participants. Japan did quite well in the opening round, with six wins to five losses, but all its players were eliminated in the second round.


Round 1 (Aug. 3). Ichiriki Ryo 9-dan (Japan) (W) beat Lian Xiao 9-dan (China) by resig.; Shibano Toramaru 9-dan (Japan) (W) beat Yang Dingxin 9-dan (China) by resig.; Yang Kaiwen 9-dan (China) (W) beat Iyama Yuta 9-dan (Japan) by resig.; Tan Xiao 9-dan (China) (W) beat Seki Kotaro 9-dan (Japan) by resig.; Yamashita Keigo 9-dan (Japan) (W) beat Hu Yuqing (amateur) (China) by resig.; Gu Jihao 9-dan (China) (B) beat Kyo Kagen 9-dan (Japan) by resig.; Yu Zhiying 7-dan (China) (W) beat Ida Atsushi 9-dan (Japan) by 2.5; Motoki Katsuya 8-dan (Japan) (W) beat Zhao Chenyu 9-dan (China) by 0.5; Yo Seiki 8-dan (Japan) (W) beat Xie Ke 8-dan (China) by resig.; Onishi Ryuhei 7-dan (Japan) (W) beat Wang Shunbo 1-dan (China) by resig.; Li Xuanhao 9-dan (China) (B) beat Ueno Asami 5-dan (Japan) by resig.


Round 2 (Aug. 4). Liao Yuanhe 8-dan (China) (W) beat Ichiriki by resig.; Li Xuanhao 9-dan (China) (B) beat Shibano by resig.; Mi Yuting 9-dan (China) (W) beat Yamashita by 1.5; Yu 7-dan (B) beat Motoki by resig.; Ke Jie 9-dan (China) (B) beat Yo by resig.; Tang Yifei 9-dan (China) (W) beat Onishi by resig.


Round 3 (Aug. 6). Of the 16 players who made this round, 13 were Chinese and three were Korean. Eight Chinese players won their games, so China has taken all the quarterfinal places. I do not know the schedule for the remaining rounds.


Shibano makes good start in 48th Meijin best-of-seven

This is already the fifth best-of-seven between these two players. Iyama has the lead 3-1, having beaten Shibano twice in a row in the Honinbo title, but sharing the honors 1-1 with Shibano in the Meijin title.

The first game was played at the now customary venue of the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo on August 24 and 25. Shibano (W) beat Iyama by resignation after 246 moves.

The second game was played in the guest pavilion at the Kirishima Shrine in Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, on September 2 and 3. Taking black Shibano won by resignation.

The third game was played at the Kakujoro, a traditional Japanese inn in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture, on September 19 and 20. Playing white, Shibano won by resignation after 168 moves. With this excellent start, Shibano’s chances of defending the Meijin title look very good.


Ichiriki to challenge for Tengen

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 49th Tengen title, held by Seki Kotaro, was held at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on August 31. Taking black, Ichiriki Ryo Kisei defeated Fujita Akihiko 7-dan by resignation (the game lasted 161 moves). Seki took the title from Ichiriki in 2021, so this is the latter’s chance to take revenge. The best-of-five will start on October 10.


Ueno to challenge for Women’s Honinbo

Another play-off to decide a title challenger was held on the same day and at the same location as in the previous article. However, the Ueno is not the same Ueno who features in so many women’s titles, but rather her younger sister, Risa (born on June 24, 2006; Asami was born on October 6, 2001). Taking black in the play-off, Ueno Risa 2-dan beat Takao Mari 2-dan (born on May 10, 2001) by resignation after 181 moves and so will make her first title challenge. The title-holder is Fujisawa Rina. The best-of-five title match will start on October 12.


Nyu repeats in Senko Cup

The semifinals and finals of the 8th Senko Cup were held at the Geihin’an Akekure (literally, "Guest-welcoming hermitage Dawn and Dusk"), a high-class traditional inn in Omi City, Shiga Prefecture, on July 21 and 23. This was Nyu Eiko’s first title when she won it last year. The champion has to start out in the first round of the main tournament in the next term, which makes Nyu's success in winning the title for the second year in a row (the first player to accomplish this) all the more commendable. She beat Ueno Asami in the final. Results of the semifinals and final are given below. This is the richest of the domestic women’s titles, with a first prize of ¥8,000,000 


Semifinals (July 21). Nyu Eiko, Senko Cup-holder, (B) beat Suzuki Ayumi 7-dan by resig.; Ueno Asami, Women’s Meijin, (B) beat Xie Yimin 7-dan by resig.

Final (July 23) Nyu (W) beat Ueno by resignation


48th Kisei S League

Below is a list of results in the S League since my last report. On 4-0, Iyama has the sole lead.


(July 6) Shibano Toramaru Meijin (W) beat Yamashita Keigo 9-dan by resig.

(July 7) Iyama Yuta (still Honinbo Monyu) (W) beat Kyo Kagen 9-dan by resig.

(July 20) Takao Shinji 9-dan (W) beat Kono Rin 9-dan by 5.5 points.

(Aug. 14) Kyo (B) beat Shibano by resig.

(Aug. 24) Takao (B) beat Yamashita by half a point.

(Aug. 28) Iyama beat Kono Rin.

48th Kisei S League (as of August 28 2023)
Title-holder: Ichiriki Kyo

Rank Player/opponent ST TS KK IY YK KR Score
1 Shibano Toramaru -- 1 0 0 1
2 - 2
2 Takao Shinji 0 -- 0
1 1 2 - 2
3 Kyo Kagen 1 1 -- 0
1 3 - 1
4 Iyama Yuta 1
1 -- 1 1 4 - 0
5 Yamashita Keigo 0 0
0 -- 1 1 - 3
6 Kono Rin
0 0 0 0 -- 0 - 4


Yo wins A League

The 48th Kisei A League was decided on August 10. Only two players were in the running to win the league: Yo Seiki 8-dan and Son Makoto 8-dan, who were both on 5-1. Yo (B) beat Suzuki Shinji by 2.5 points, so he ended on 6-1. As he was the top-ranked player, this result secured first place for Yo regardless of Son’s result (there are no play-offs in this league). In any case, Son (W) lost his game to Ida Atsushi 9-dan by half a point, so he ended up on 5-2. Both Yo and Son will be promoted to the S League in the next term of this tournament.

48th Kisei A League
Title-holder: Ichiriki Kyo

Rank Player/opponent YS MD SM ST SS FA CU IA Score
1 Yo Seiki -- 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 6 - 1
5 Murakawa Daisuke 0 -- 0 1 0 1 1 0 3 - 4
2 Son Makoto 0 1 -- 1 1 1 1 0 5 - 2
8 Shida Tatsuya 0 0 0 -- 0 0 0 1 1 - 6
7 Suzuki Shinji 0 1 0 1 -- 0 0 0 2 - 5
3 Fujita Akihiko 0 0 0 1 1 -- 1 1 4 - 3
6 Cho U 0 0 0 --  3 - 4
4 Ida Atsushi 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 -- 4 - 3

Sumire’s progress

The Nihon Ki-in has announed that Nakamura Sumire will transfer to the Korean Go association next year. I will give more detail on this in my next report. In the meantime, she is not having as good a year as usual: as of the end of August, her results were 18-18. Below are her results since my previous report (September 7).


(July 27) Sumire (B) beat Sugimoto Akira 8-dan by 4.5 points (Prelim. B, 79th Honinbo).

(July 31) Sumire (B) lost to I Ryo 2-dan (Prelim. B, 72nd Oza).

(Aug. 3) Sumire (B) lost to Son Makoto 7-dan by 2.5 (Prelim. A, 62nd Judan).

(Aug. 24) Sumire (W) lost to Kono Rin 9-dan by 2.5 points (Prelim. A, 49th Gosei).

(Aug. 28) Sumire ( ) lost to Yamashita Keigo 9-dan (Prelim. B, 79th Honinbo).



To 7-dan (120 wins): Yamada Shinji (as of Aug. 18)

To 5-dan (70 wins): Ueno Asami (as of July 4). As far as dan rank goes, Ueno is 22nd among women players. There are 56 women players ranked beneath her, making a total of 78 women players at the Nihon Ki-in. (In 1973, the year I came to Japan, there were only 17 active women players at the Nihon Ki-in.)

To 4-dan (50 wins): Torii Yuta (as of July 28); Oomote Takuto (as of Sept. 19)

To 3-dan (40 wins): Aoki Hirotaka (as of Aug. 18); Terada Shuta (as of Aug. 22)

To 2-dan (30 wins): (Ms.) Yokota Hinano (as of July 21); Rafif Shidqi Fitrah (as of Aug. 8. Fitrah became 1-dan in 2020. He is the first Indonesian professional)



Kanazawa Makoto 8-dan retired as of July 5. Born in Kanazawa Prefecture on May 24, 1992, he became 1-dan in 2007 and was awarded 7-dan in 2014 for winning a seat in the 40th Meijin League. After retiring, he was promoted to 8-dan. He won the 37th King of the New Stars title in 2012. 


Most wins (as of August 25)

1.     Ichiriki: 38-14

2.     Ueno Risa: 28-12; Ueno Asami: 28-14; Shibano Toramaru: 28-16

5.     Oba Junya 8-dan 24-7

6.     Mutsuura Yuta 7-dan: 23-4

7.     Iyama Yuta: 22-11

8.     Takao Mari 2-dan: 21-11; Cho Zuiketsu 6-dan: 21-12; Fujita Akihiko 7-dan: 21-15


Most successive wins (as of Aug. 25)

7: Yokotsuka Riki 7-dan

6: Ogata Masaki 9-dan


Recently ended winning streaks

The date in parentheses indicates when the streak ended.

12: Fukuoka Kotaro (July 3)

9: I Ryo (Yi Lao) 2-dan (July 20); Koyama Kuya 5-dan (Aug. 10)

8: Cho Zuiketsu 6-dan (July 6); Ogaki Yusaku 9-dan (July 17)

7: Ohashi Hirofumi 7-dan (July 17), Kazama Jun 4-dan (July 20); Shimojima Yohei 8-dan (Aug. 10); Inaba Takahiro 4-dan (Aug. 14); Otani Naoki 4-dan (July 6), Ito Yoji 9-dan (July 17); Mutsuura Yuta 7-dan (Aug. 10): R.S. Fitler 2-dan (August 24),

(July 6), Byan Wenkai 3-dan (July 3)

6: Kyo Kagen (July 7), Motoki Katsuya 8-dan (date not known to me), Yoda Ozora 1-dan (July 20); Ito Satoshi 5-dan (Aug. 14); Yamada Kimio 9-dan (Aug. 24)

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