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The Power Report: Early 2024 - Women's Kisei, Kisei, NHK Cup, Judan, and More

John Power, Japan Correspondent for the E-Journal | Published on 3/24/2024

This report covers the Japanese go scene from January to mid-March. It will be followed by a report on international go. Tournament results are given more or less in chronological order.

Automatic promotions

Every year, the players who won the most prizemoney in the previous year are awarded automatic promotions that take effect on January 1 of the new year. The players who qualify are the top 6-dan and the two top players from 1- to 5-dan. The list for 2023 follows.

To 7-dan: (Ms.) Fujisawa Rina

To 6-dan: Koyama Kuya, Onishi Kenya

To 5-dan: Fukuoka Kotaro, Sakai Yuki

To 4-dan: Ikemoto Ryota, Nishioka Masao

To 3-dan: Mito Shuhei, (Ms.) Tsuji Hana

To 2-dan: Xiao Yuyang, Konishi Yoshiakira

57th Kido Prizes

The magazine Kido is long gone but its prizes live on. A committee of go reporters and Nihon Ki-in staff met on February 1 to choose the prizes for the best performers of 2023. There were no surprises.

Most outstanding player: Ichiriki Ryo, for winning the Kisei, Honinbo and Tengen

Outstanding player: Shibano Toramaru, for winning the Meijin and Judan

New Face: Hirose Yuichi 7-dan, for winning the Young Carp

Women’s: Ueno Asami, for winning the King of the New Stars, the Women’s Meijin, and the Hollyhock

International Prize: Fujisawa Rina, for making the final of the 6th Go Seigen Cup and the semifinals of the 10th Bingsheng Cup

Most wins: Ueno Risa 2-dan (49-19)

Best winning percentage: Hirose Yuichi: 76.47% (39-12)

Most successive wins: Shida Tatsuya 8-dan, 20 (Aug. 7~Dec. 4)

Ueno Asami

Top prizemoney winners in 2023

Iyama Yuta has finally been dethroned after topping this list for 12 years in a row. Taking his place is Ichiriki Ryo, holder of three top-seven titles, including two top-three: the Kisei, Honinbo, and Tengen. Another first is that four women have made the top ten - the previous record was two.

Just for the record, Iyama was number one from 2011 to 2022. In the first and last years, the amount was almost identical, being just over ¥91,500,000, but in the ten intervening years he reached nine figures each time. His record was ¥172,124,104 and he averaged ¥131,597,774 over the whole 12-year period. With the reduction this year of the Honinbo first prize from ¥28,000,000 to ¥8,500,000, making nine figures will be harder in the future.

1.     Ichiriki Ryo: ¥119,721,810 (about $798,000 at $1 = ¥150)

2.     Shibano Toramaru: ¥67,943,877

3.     Iyama Yuta: ¥63,180,655

4.     (Ms.) Ueno Asami: ¥28,376,426

5.     Kyo Kagen: ¥20,843,795

6.     (Ms.) Fujisawa Rina: ¥15,116,000

7.     Seki Kotaro: ¥11,726,400

8.     (Ms.) Nakamura Sumire: ¥11,493,560

9.     (Ms.) Nyu Eiko: ¥11,488,750

10.  Shida Tatsuya: ¥11,398,000

Best winning rates for 2023

(Among players of 28 games or more)

1.     Hirose Yuichi 7-dan: 76.5% (39-12)

2.     Ryu Shikun 9-dan: 75% (21-7)

3.     Adachi Toshimasa 7-dan: 74.5% (35-12)

4.     Ichiriki Ryo: 73.99% (48-17)

Kansai Ki-in prizes

Most wins: Yo Seiki 8-dan (35)

Most games played: Yo

Best winning percentage: Okawa Takuya 3-dan (74.2%)

Most successive wins: Imamura Toshiya 9-dan, Okawa, and Imabun Taro 3-dan: 11

Iyama becomes Judan challenger

The play-off to decide the challenger for the 62nd Daiwa House Cup Judan title, held by Shibano Toramaru, was held at the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in in Osaka on February 1. Taking white, Iyama Yuta defeated Kyo Kagen 9-dan by resig. This will be Iyama's first appearance in a Judan title match since he lost the title to Murakawa Daisuke in 2019. He has won it five times. The result of the first game is given later in this report.

Ueno Risa takes Women’s Kisei

In the 27th Dokomo Cup Women's Kisei Challenge Match, Ueno Risa 2-dan successfully challenged Nakamura Sumire 3-dan in the latter's last title match before she switched membership to the Korean Baduk Association. As mentioned in my previous report (February 10), this is the first-ever title match in Japan played between two teenagers - Sumire is 14 and Risa is 17.

This is a haya-go (fast go) title, following the NHK format, namely, 30 seconds per move plus ten minutes thinking time to be used at will in one-minute units. First prize is ¥5,000,000 (about $33,333, at $1 = ¥150 - the yen is still falling). It ranks fourth among the women's titles, but has the lowest prize money of what I am tempted to call "the women’s top five titles." Just for the record, here is a listing, giving terms, current holder, and prizes.

1.     41st Women's Honinbo, Fujisawa Rina, ¥5,500,000

2.     34th Women's Meijin, Fujisawa Rina, ¥7,000,000 (¥10,000,000 from 35th term)

3.     9th Hollyhock Cup, Ueno Asami, ¥7,000,000

4.     27th Women's Kisei, Ueno Risa, ¥5,000,000

5.     8th Senko Cup, Nyu Eiko, ¥8,000,000

The first game of the Women's Kisei title match was played at the Hotel Sun Life Garden in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 18. Taking white, Sumire won by resig. after 238 moves.

Game Two was played at the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in on Jan. 25. Risa (W) beat Sumire by resignation after 168 moves. This was the first time Risa had won a game with Sumire.

The third game was played at the same venue on February 5. Playing black, Risa won by resignation after 233 moves. This gave her a 2-1 lead and made her the second title-holder in her family. Her older sister, Asami, aged 22, has won 13 titles, so she has a big lead, but Risa has started the chase.

To be honest, most go fans expected Sumire to win this match. There was a lot of speculation about how her next title defense would be arranged, as the tournament schedules of two countries would have to be taken into account. Risa's victory avoids all those complications.

Because Sumire had to play the match a little earlier than usual, this is the first time for a long time that the Yomiuri Kisei title is not the first title of the tournament year to be decided.

Ueno Risa and Nakamura Sumire
Ueno Risa and Nakamura Sumire

Ichiriki defends Kisei

Although Ichiriki had won the Kisei title only twice so far, he seemed to have a strong affinity with it. In 2014, at the age of 16 years nine months, he became the youngest player ever to secure a seat in one of the 39th Kisei Leagues (the system was a little different then: the final stage of the tournament consisted of two six-player leagues, the A and B, that were on an equal footing: the winners of each league met in a play-off to decide the challenger). This success earned Ichiriki promotion to 7-dan. In 2017, he became the 42nd Kisei challenger, which earned him promotion to 8-dan (the current system, with S, A, two B, and C leagues started in the 40th Kisei). On his first challenge he was outclassed by Iyama and unable to win a game. When he made his second challenge to Iyama, for the 45th Kisei in 2022, he was much stronger and took the title 4-3. The following year, he rebuffed the challenge of Shibano Toramaru 4-2.

This year, he faced the challenge of a player who was identified with the title for a decade. After a failed challenge in 2011, Iyama took the Kisei title from Cho U in 2013, then held it for nine years in a row (the 37th to 45th titles). That broke Kobayashi Koichi’s record of eight successive Kisei titles. The question now is whether Ichiriki will start a dynasty of his own. Just for the record, Ichiriki is 26 and Iyama is 34.

The first game was played at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo in Bunkyo Ward on January 11 and 12. It established a pattern that continued during the match in which Iyama went for territory early on and Ichiriki built thickness. Ichiriki (W) took a small lead in the fighting and converted that into a win. Iyama resigned after move 264.

The second game was played at the Kofukuji Temple, a world heritage site, in Nara. In the opening stages of the game, Iyama (W) caught a black group. As compensation, Ichiriki secured influence in the center, but he was unable to make a dent in White’s lead, so he resigned after 218 moves.

Kisei Game Two was played at Kofukuji in Nara.

Game Three was played at the Hotel Senhime Monogatari in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, on January 27 and 28. On the first day, Iyama (B) took the lead in territory, but Ichiriki was able to take advantage of a slack move Iyama played in the endgame. Iyama resigned after 214 moves.

The fourth game was played at the Miyagi Prefectural Governor Public Building in Sendai City, which was home ground for Ichiriki. Iyama (W) took an early lead in profit while Ichiriki built thickness. White was able to break into a black territory, so Ichiriki resigned after 166 moves.

The fifth game was played at the Mikazuki (Crescent) Sea Park Hotel Katsuura in Katsuura City, Chiba Prefecture, on February 15 and 16. Playing white, Ichiriki won by resignation.

Ichiriki takes the lead in Kisei Game Five
Ichiriki takes the lead in Kisei Game Five

The sixth game was played at the Hotel Kagetsuen, Hakone Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, on February 29 and March 1. In the middle game, a white group in the upper right corner came under severe pressure, but Iyama sought a powerful sabaki (settling a group). A ko fight developed; Iyama won the ko and killed a black group. Ichiriki tried to take compensation by attacking a white group in the bottom left, but Iyama played with precision and rescued it. Iyama (W) won by resig. after 198 moves; the game was a showplace for his sabaki and shinogi skills. That again evened the score, with White preserving its winning streak. Incidentally, 117 moves were played on the first day, a new record for this title.

Iyama evens the score in Kisei Game Six
Iyama evened the score in Kisei Game Six

The seventh game was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on March 6 and 7. Iyama drew white in the nigiri. If he won, then White would have won every game in a seven-game match, which surely would have been a first.

In a reading contest in the middle game, Ichiriki played decisively and aggressively and took the lead. For the rest of the game, he maintained strong pressure on Iyama and gave him no chance to get back into the game. Iyama resigned after 285 moves. White's winning streak finally came to an end. Incidentally, the record set in the previous game for most moves played on the first day was extended to 126.

Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu, site of Kisei Game Seven
Kisei Game Seven was played at the Tokiwa Hotel in Kofu City.

Iyama submits a sealed move in Kisei Game Seven
Iyama submits the sealed move to O Meien for Kisei Game Seven

Ichiriki defends the Kisei title
Ichiriki defends the Kisei title

This was Ichiriki's third successive victory in the Kisei, so he maintained his place as Japan's number one. Ichiriki: "This was a long, tough fight lasting two months, so my main feeling now is one of relief. Little by little, the reality of having defended my title is sinking in . . . Rather than thinking of the opponent, I focused on how well I could perform."

So Yokoku 9-dan, the newspaper commentator: "I felt Ichiriki's self-confidence as the number one player that he could not be outread by Iyama."

Ichiriki again: "From the beginning (of the match) I played resolutely. Being able to play with resolution, without fearing the result, represents progress for me."

This is Ichiriki’s 23rd title. (Based on reports in the Yomuri Newspaper)

Kobayashi Izumi wins Teikei Women Legends

The final of the 3rd Teikei Group Cup Women Legends Tournament, which is for players 45 years or older, was held in the Ryusei Studio in the basement of the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on February 25. Kobayashi Izumi 7-dan (W) beat Koyama Terumi 7-dan by resig. This is Kobayashi's first title after a 17-year blank (she took some time off to look after her family, including a period living in Taiwan so her children could learn her husband's native language). This is her 11th title; she ranks 5th after Xie Yimin 7-dan (27), Fujisawa Rina 7-dan (23), Ueno Asami 5-dan (13), and Aoki Kikuyo 8-dan (12). First prize is ¥2,000,000 (about $13,333).

Ichiriki wins Shusai Prize

This prize, which commemorates the last hereditary holder of the Honinbo title, is awarded to a player who posted outstanding results in the previous year and showed promise for the future. Ichiriki won five titles last year—Kisei, Honinbo, Tengen, Agon Kiriyama Cup, and the Teikei Cup Young Stars - so there was no serious competitor. (Note that the last-mentioned title was the 2nd term; in the 3rd term, "Group" has been inserted after "Teikei.")

Shibano makes good start in Judan defense

The first game of the Daiwa House Cup 61st Judan title match, held at the Osaka University of Commerce in East Osaka, was played on February 27. Iyama drew white in the nigiri. The opening was peaceful. When a fight started, Iyama seems to have tried too hard in seeking the best move for 143 and it turned out to be a bad move. Shibano Toramaru, the defending champion, secured a resignation after 160 moves. The second game will be held at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on March 25.

Shibano wins Judan Game One

Shibano wins Judan Game One

Ichiriki wins NHK Cup

The top three players in Japan all made the semifinals of the 71st NHK Cup. In the first semifinal, Shibano Toramaru Meijin beat Shida Tatsuya 8-dan (telecast on Feb. 25); he reached the final for the first time, his previous best being making the quarterfinals. In the other semifinal, Ichiriki Ryo Kisei beat Iyama Yuta Oza (telecast on March 3). Ichiriki made the final for the sixth year in a row and the eighth time overall. Iyama missed out this time, but he has made the final six times and won it three times.

In the final, telecast on March 10, Shibano, who drew black, started aggressively, setting up a moyo, then strongly attacking a white invader. This fight spilled all over the board and much of it was played in byo-yomi. At one point, AI assessed Black’s winning chances at 80%, but Shibano slipped up under time pressure. When he resigned, after White 238, the game was even on the board. Ichiriki won this title for the fourth time; he now has six titles, so he is becoming more and more dominant in Japanese go.


To 7-dan (120 wins): Araki Issei (as of Jan. 19)

To 4-dan (50 wins): Seki Tatsuya (as of Jan. 12); O Keii (Wang Jingyi) (as of Feb. 6). O is the daughter of O Rissei 9-dan and is married to Yamamori Tadanao 7-dan (both are members of the Nagoya branch of the Nihon Ki-in).

To 3-dan (40 wins): (Ms.) Cho Chien (as of Jan. 12)

Sumire's progress

Sumire has just lost her Women's Kisei title, but her two losses in the title match are her only losses. Otherwise, she has done well and her record as of February 19 is 8-2. Sumire won her game in the final round of the 35th Women's Meijin League, so she finished on 5-1. Fujisawa Rina has the lead with 5-0, but if she loses her final game, with Izawa Akino 5-dan, she and Sumire would be tied, so normally there would be a play-off, but with Sumire now in Korea, she has probably forfeited her right to play in a play-off. The game between Fujisawa and Izawa is scheduled for March 21.

(Jan. 8) Sumire beat Ueno Misa 2-dan (35th Women's Meijin League).

(Jan. 11) Sumire beat Xie Yimin 7-dan (ditto above).

(Jan. 18) Sumire (W) beat Ueno Misa by resig. (27th Women's Kisei title match).

(Jan. 22). Sumire beat Mannami Nao 4-dan (49th Kisei First Tournament).

(Jan. 25) Sumire (B) lost to Ueno Misa (27th Women's Kisei).

(Jan. 29) Sumire beat Izawa Akino 5-dan (35th Women's Meijin League).

(Feb. 5) Sumire (W) lost to Ueno Risa by resig. (27th Women's Kisei - Sumire lost the title).

(Feb. 8). Sumire beat Okuda Aya 5-dan (49th Kisei First Tournament)

(Feb. 12) Sumire beat Ryu Shikun 9-dan (Prelim. C, 50th Meijin).

(Feb. 19) Sumire beat Nyu Eiko (35th Women's Meijin League).

According to a net site that has tracked Sumire's results throughout her career, she will forfeit her next games when they are scheduled in the Meijin, Kisei and King of the New Stars titles. According to the Nihon Ki-in, her professional record to date in Japan is 164 wins to 88 losses, which translates to an excellent 65% winning record. Sumire officially transferred to the Korean Baduk Association (Hanguk Kiwon) on March 2.

Nakamura returns to Kansai

On March 1, 2022, Nakamura Shinya 9-dan, the father of Sumire, transferred to the Tokyo headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in. This followed Sumire’s move to Tokyo from Osaka in January 2021. On January 1 this year, with Sumire scheduled to move to Korea, he returned to the Kansai Headquarters of the Nihon Ki-in.

Kobayashi Satoru scores 1,200 wins

On January 22, Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan (B) beat Oomote Takuto 4-dan by resignation. This was Kobayashi’s 1,200th win in professional go. At this point, he had 665 losses and 1 jigo, for a winning record of 64.3%. Kobayashi has won 11 titles, including the Kisei, and has been chairman of the board of directors of the Nihon Ki-in since 2019.

Kobayashi Satoru

Kobayashi Satoru

Kudo Norio scores 1,100 wins

Also on January 22, Kudo Norio 9-dan beat Nobuta Shigehito 7-dan by resignation in Preliminary C of the 50th Meijin tournament. This gave him 1,100 wins to 733 losses and four jigo, a winning percentage of 59.8. Kudo won the 25th Oza title in 1977 and the 23rd Tengen title in 1997, at the age of 57. He has served many terms as a Nihon Ki-in director.

Kudo Norio
Kudo Norio

Retirement of Ito Yoji

Ito Yoji 9-dan retired as of December 31, 2023. Born in Aichi Prefecture on December 31, 1958, Ito became a disciple of Sakai Toshio 8-dan. He made 1-dan in 1975 and reached 9-dan in 1994. He won the 1-dan section of the 1st Kisei tournament in 1976 and the 2-dan section of the 2nd Kisei tournament the following year. He came third in the top section of the rating tournament in 1992. In 1980, he scored 33-9 and won the Kido New Face prize.

Death of Hirata Hironori

Hirata Hironori, one of the top Japanese amateur players in the postwar period, died of pneumonia on February 11. He was 97. Hirata was born in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu on June 20, 1926. His family moved to Tokyo, where he became an insei at the Nihon Ki-in. He qualified as 1-dan in 1942, when he was 15, but the times were not propitious for following a go career, so after the war finished he pursued an academic career as a mathematician. He became a professor at Showa Pharmaceutical University, then an emeritus professor. He was very active in amateur go, winning the Amateur Honinbo tournament four times and the Amateur Best Ten five times. He was one of a group of four players called the "four strong (amateurs)" that dominated amateur go for decades, the others being Kikuchi Yasuro, Harada Minoru, and Murakami Bunsho. He won the 17th World Amateur Go Championship at the age of 69 in 1995, then took 5th place in the 32nd WAGC at the age of 84.

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