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The Power Report: 2023 Meijin, Tengen, Oza, Women's Honinbo, and more

John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal | Published on 2/10/2024

This report covers the final third of the 2023 tournament year. I apologize for its lateness and hope that it is still of interest. Note that results of title matches are given in chronological order of the deciding games. Promotions etc. are grouped at the end of the report. 2024 news will be given in a later report.

Shida wins 6th SGW Cup Golden Mean Tournament

This tournament is for players aged 31 to 60 (as of April 1) who have never won a top-seven title or the Ryusei, Agon Kiriyama, or this title itself. It follows the NHK format: 30 seconds a move, plus ten minutes to be used at will in one-minute units. There are 16 players in the main tournament, which is a four-round Swiss System. This year the third and fourth rounds were held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on October 28 and 29. After three rounds, only Shida Tatsuya 8-dan and Adachi Toshimasa 7-dan were undefeated. Their fourth-round encounter was regarded as the "final." Taking black, Shida won the game and became the 6th champion. On SOS, Adachi dropped to third place; Mizokami Tomochika 9-dan came second, and Ogata Masaki 9-dan tied for third. First prize is ¥2,000,000 ($13,600 at $1 = ¥147).

Shida Tatsuya Wins 6th Golden Mean

Iyama becomes Kisei challenger

Iyama Yuta is almost as closely associated with the Kisei title as with the Honinbo title. He set a record by winning the latter 11 years in a row, but he won the Kisei nine years in a row, from 2013 to 2021, which is also an impressive feat. He also challenged unsuccessfully in 2011. He has now won the right to challenge for the 48th Kisei title. The match started on January 11.

The final stage of the Kisei tournament is an irregular knock-out among the winners of the leagues (including the number two player in the S League). Details follow:

(Oct. 6) Adachi Toshimasa 7-dan (winner of B League) (B) beat Hirata Tomoya 8-dan (winner of C League) by 7.5 points.

(Oct. 12) Yo Seiki 8-dan (winner of A League) (B) beat Adachi by resig.

(Oct. 23) Kyo Kagen (2nd in S League) (B) beat Yo by 2.5 points.

(Oct. 30) (“best of three” play-off, game 1) Iyama (B) (first in S League) beat Kyo by resig. Since the winner of the S League starts with a one-game advantage, Iyama won the play-off 2-0. The 34-year-old Iyama is now challenging the 26-year-old Ichiriki Ryo.

Shibano defends Meijin

Shibano Toramaru, the defending titleholder, made a good start to the 48th Meijin best-of-seven title match by winning the first three games (details are given in my report of October 15), so the challenger, Iyama Yuta, was already faced with a kadoban. In the fourth game, played at the hotel Agora Osaka Moriguchi on October 12 and 13, Iyama, taking white, picked up his first win in the series.

The fifth game was played at the Hotel Tokiwa, in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on October 23 and 24. Iyama (B) forced Shibano to resign after 211 moves. Iyama took a big lead in territory on the first day. On the second day, instead of cruising to a win, he played the strongest moves, overwhelming Shibano. In a large fight, Iyama had the option of living, but, taking advantage of a superiority in ko threats, he aggressively started a ko fight. He won this fight, confirming his lead, but again he played aggressively, laying waste to White’s moyo. Shibano's last throw of the dice was to start yet another ko, but a scarcity of ko threats left him with no choice but to resign. Shibano: "The game got really tough for me on the first day. I tried to find some tricky positions but couldn't."

The sixth game was played in the town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture on November 2 and 3. After Iyama's convincing wins in the previous two games, Shibano fans felt that he had to decide the series in this game. If Iyama won three in a row, he might build up irresistible momentum. On the opening day, Iyama (W) played a brilliancy and took a big lead. At this point, AI rated Shibano’s chances of winning as below 10%. However, Shibano managed to catch up on the second day and make the game a half-pointer. He then took the lead in the late endgame. The Nihon Ki-in HP report commented that Shibano showed "astonishing tenacity" in pulling off an upset in a game that had been bad for him for most of its duration. Shibano: "The game felt bad for me at the beginning. I thought that I had to attack rapidly. There were many tough games for me in this series. I'm lucky I was able to defend the title." Iyama: "The game wasn’t bad for me on the first day, but I stumbled of my own accord. There was a problem with the precision of my play." Kono Rin 9-dan (the referee): "For the Meijin, with the damage inflicted on him in the opening, it was a very difficult position for him in which to pull off an upset. He managed to turn the game around by playing with great patience. After the 4th and 5th games, in which the results and the contents were very unfavorable, the wind was clearly against Shibano, but inside the Meijin’s heart the seas were calm and there was no wind. He defended the title with all his consciousness completed focused on the board."

This is Shibano’s third Meijin title. First prize is ¥30,000,000 (about $204,000 at $1 = ¥147).

(The reports on the 5th and 6th games are based on the Asahi Newspaper reports.)
Shibano Toramaru defends the Meijin Title

Fujisawa defends Women's Honinbo

Ueno Risa 2-dan made a good start in her challenge for the 42nd Women's Honinbo title, which for the last three years had been held by Fujisawa Rina. The first game of the best-of-five was played at the Kashoen, a luxury traditional-style inn, in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 12. Taking black, Ueno won by resignation.

The second game was played at the Bokoro inn in Yurihama Town, Tottori Prefecture, on October 16. Taking black, Fujisawa Rina won by resignation, evening the series.

The third game was played at the Sakaide Grand Hotel in Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture, on October 21. Ueno (B) won by resignation after 215 moves. At this point, Risa seemed to have a good chance of emulating her sister, Asami, as a youthful title-winner.

The fourth game was played at the Nihon Ki-in headquarters in Tokyo on November 7. Fujisawa (B) won by resignation.

The final game was also played at the Nihon Ki-in on November 15. In the nigiri, which is redone for the final game, Fujisawa drew black. She won by resignation after 267 moves. This took her score to 3-2, so she won this title for the fourth year in a row. It is her 23rd title, so she is steadily catching up with Xie Yimin 7-dan, who holds the record for women with 27. First prize is ¥5,500,000 (about $37,400) (from the 15th to the 34th terms, it was ¥5,800,000). Incidentally, the win in Game 5 was her sixth in a winning streak.
Fujisawa Rina defends Women's Honinbo

Ichiriki takes 49th Tengen title, secures Triple Crown

In this year's Tengen title match, Seki Kotaro (aged 21) was trying to complete his second successful defense. The challenger, Ichiriki Ryo Kisei (aged 26), was seeking revenge for the loss of this title to Seki two years earlier. Before the match, Seki commented: "Almost all of my study is AI-based. I think my understanding of the opening is more profound that it used to be." In individual encounters between the two, Seki had the edge, with four wins to two losses. The time allowance is three hours per player, with the last five minutes being allocated to byo-yomi. First prize is ¥12,000,000 (about $81,600).

The first game was played at the Tatsuki Shrine in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, on October 10. Taking white, Seki secured a resignation after 208 moves. Both players were down to the final minute of byo-yomi.

The second game was played at the Sapporo Hotel Emisia in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, on October 17. Ichiriki (W) won by resignation after 208 moves. Seki took the lead in the middle game, but he started a fight in the endgame. Ichiriki turned it into a ko. He managed to stage an upset by capturing a black group in the center. Seki: "My play in the endgame was erratic."

Many local bodies were credited with special sponsorship of this game; this may be one of the Nihon Ki-in’s strategies for coping with declining interest from large-scale sponsors: spread the burden widely.

The third game was played at the No (also spelled Noh) hall in Ohori Park in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, on November 22. No is a form of traditional drama—a net search will readily find photos and background information. Seki took the lead in the middle game, but Ichiriki started a ko fight in which he caught up. Seki: "The game developed along the lines I had visualized, but I played erratically in the endgame."

The fourth game was played at the Hotel New Awaji in Sumoto City, Hyogo Prefecture, on December 6. Ichiriki (white) won by resignation, improving his score to 3-1 and taking the title. He also holds the Kisei and Honinbo titles, so he secured his first triple crown of top-seven titles. He ended the year as the indisputable number one player in Japan.
Ichiriki Kyo regains the Tengen title

Ida wins Crown title

The Crown title is a minor title open only to members of the Central Japan (Nagoya) branch of the Nihon Ki-in. Fifty-five members are listed in the current Kido Yearbook. The one-game final of the 64th title was held at the Hotel Hodaka in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture, on November 30. Ida Atsushi 9-dan (B) beat Matsuura Yuta 8-dan by resignation after 157 moves. Ida has now held this title for eight years in a row: he extended his record. First prize is ¥1,700,000 (about $11,560).

Ueno Risa to challenge for Women's Kisei

The play-off to decide the challenger to Nakamura Sumire for the Women's Kisei title featured a showdown between sisters. The younger sister, the 17-year-old Risa, has shown marked progress over the last year or so and is gradually catching up with her older sister, Asami, who is 22. Taking black, Risa beat Asami by resignation after 275 moves. Nakamura is 14, so this is the first-ever title match between teenagers. (It's already underway; I will give details in my next report.)

Iyama defends Oza

With a first prize of ¥14,000,000 (about $95,240), the Oza or Throne title was ranked fourth in the top seven, but it moved up to number three when the Honinbo title reduced its prizemoney and dropped down to fifth place. (A slight complication in this ranking change is that Ichiriki Ryo is entitled to be considered as the holder of the Honinbo title as "number three" for one year from July 20, when he won the seventh game of the Honinbo title match.) The time allowance is three hours per player, with the final five minutes being allocated to byo-yomi.

In the 71st Oza best-of-five title match, Yo Seiki 8-dan of the Kansai Ki-in challenged Iyama Yuta 9-dan for the second year in a row. Last year, he was unable to make any headway, suffering three straight losses. This year he improved on this performance and even took the lead in the title match, but in the end he was unable to dislodge the title-holder. Details of the games follow.

The first game was played at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on October 20. Having five elements in the name is by no means unusual for a Japanese hotel. Yo got black in the nigiri, but Iyama made a good start to his defense and won by resignation.

The second game was played at the Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto in Kyoto City on October 27. Taking white, Yo won by half a point.

The third game was held at the Hotel Okura Kobe in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, on November 14. Taking black, Yo won by resignation after 221 moves, so he took the lead in the title match.

The fourth game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on November 30. Playing black, Iyama won by resignation, so the score was even. The colors were also even.

The fifth game was played at the Jinya hotel in Hadano City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on December 8. Again, Yo drew black in the nigiri, but Iyama outplayed him with white, forcing a resignation. With this win, Iyama maintained his status as a double-crown title holder. It is his ninth Oza title, second only to Kato Masao, who won 11. This is Iyama’s 73rd title; he needs just four more to surpass Cho Chikun (assuming Cho doesn't win any more titles in the meantime). He ended the year with two top-seven titles, the other being the Gosei, and a firm hold on the third place in the Japanese go hierarchy after Ichiriki Ryo and Shibano Toramaru.
Yo Seiki wins Game Three of the Oza title match

Ichiriki wins Agon Kiriyama Cup

The 30th Agon Kiriyama Cup was held in the Yugen Room at the Nihon Ki-in on December 24. It was actually scheduled to be held at the Kyoto headquarters of the Agon sect at an earlier date, but the finalists, Ichiriki Ryo and Iyama Yuta, both caught covid after participation in an international event, so it had to be put off and held at the Ki-in. Taking white, Ichiriki won by resignation after 222 moves. This was Ichiriki’s second win in this tournament (Iyama has won it five times). First prize is ¥10,000,000 (about $68,000).
Ichiriki Kyo wins the 38th Agon Kiriyama Cup

1,600 wins for Cho Chikun

In a game played on December 25 in Prelim. C of the 50th Meijin tournament, Cho Chikun (W) beat Kubo Hideo 7-dan by resignation and became the first player to win 1,600 games in Japan. His record was 1,600 wins, 899 losses, 3 jigo, and 4 no-contest, for a winning record of 63.8%. Some statistics: at this point, Cho was 67 years six months old and had been a professional for 55 years eight months.
Cho Chikun reaches 1,600 wins

1,000 wins for Ogata

On November 2, Ogata Masaki 9-dan (W) beat Bian Wenkai 4-dan by resignation in Prelim. A of the 79th Honinbo tournament and became the 31st player in Japan to reach the milepost of 1,000 wins. His record at this point was 1,000 wins, 553 losses, and 6 jigo, for a winning record of 64%.

Name change and increased prizemoney in women's tournament

A number of tournament sponsors have reduced the scale of their financial support for long-running professional tournaments recently, so it’s nice to be able to report the opposite case. The full name of the Women's Meijin tournament was the Hakata Kamachi Women's Meijin Tournament. A small change has been made: it is now the Women's Meijin Hakata Kamachi Cup. The prize money for first place was ¥7,000,000 ($47,620) and for second ¥2,000,000. That has been increased to ¥10,000,000 ($68,000) and ¥3,000,000 respectively. This is the most generous for a domestic women's tournament, but it is still ranked as number two.


To 4-dan: Byan Wenkai (50 wins; as of Sept. 29)

To 3-dan: I Ryo (40 wins; as of Oct. 13)

To 2-dan (30 wins): Kawahara Yu (as of Nov. 24); (Ms.) Omori Ran (as of Dec. 1); Nakahama Konosuke (as of Dec. 12)

Sumire's progress

As mentioned in my last report (Oct. 15), Nakamura Sumire is going to transfer to Korea at the end of February this year. She will conclude the initial Japanese phase of her career and become a guest member of the Korean Kiwon. More details are given in the article that follows. I know of no way to obtain domestic Korean results, so this will probably be one of my last reports on her progress.

Sumire's record as of October 15 was 18-18, probably her lowest winning record at any point in her three-year career. However, after a blank from August 29 with no games until November, her form improved and she ended the year on a good note with a 3-2 record in the Teikei Young Stars league. Her final record for the year was 27-22. Details available follow.

(Nov. 2) Beat Hoshiai Shiho 3-dan (35th Women's Meijin League).

(Nov. 13) Beat Cho Koharu 1-dan (3rd Teikei Young Stars Prelim.).

(Nov. 13) Beat Ueno Risa 2-dan (as above)

(Nov. 30) Beat Aoki Hirotaka 3-dan; lost to Taniguchi Toru 5-dan (33rd Ryusei).

(Dec. 4) Beat Onishi Ryuhei 7-dan (3rd Teikei).

(Dec. 7) Beat Obuchi Kotaro 5-dan (Prelim. C, 50th Meijin).

(Dec. 11) Lost to Fujisawa Rina 6-dan (35th Women’s Meijin League).

(Dec. 21) Lost to Cho Zuiketsu 6-dan (3rd Teikei league).

(Dec. 22) Lost to Shibano Toramaru Meijin (ditto above)

(Dec. 23) Beat Otake Yu 7-dan (ditto above).

(Dec. 25) Beat Fujisawa Rina (ditto above).

(Dec. 26) Beat Watanabe Yu 3-dan (ditto above).

Nakamura Sumire to transfer to Korean Kiwon

On October 30, Nakamura Sumire held a press conference at the Nihon Ki-in. She commented: "I thought that it was necessary for me to study in a higher-level environment. I need to make greater efforts in a more rigorous environment than hitherto.

"Korea has many strong players and there are more games. I can spend my time under constant tension, which I think will lead to my getting stronger . . . I hope to be able to play in the Korean [women's] league. I will transfer in March, after which I won't play in domestic Japanese tournaments.

"At some point, I hope to be able to come back and to make myself useful in the Japanese go world."

Obituary: Ishii Mamoru

Ishii Mamoru 9-dan, the older brother of Ishii Kunio 9-dan, died on Nov. 13, aged 86. He was a member of the Tokyo branch of the Nihon Ki-in.

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