Ida surrenders lead in Honinbo league to Yamashita: Ida Atsushi 8P (right) held the sole lead after the first four rounds in the 70th Honinbo League and seemed to be headed for a rematch with Iyama Yuta Honinbo. However, he has stumbled badly in the latter part of the league, with successive losses. As reported previously, he lost his fifth-round game with Kono Rin 9P in February. In his sixth-round game with Takao Shinji Tengen, played on March 12, Ida lost by resignation. This follows on his loss to Takao in the first game of the Judan title match. Takao already had no chance of retaining his league place, so, as the Japanese idiom has it, Ida was “kicked by a dead horse.” Go Weekly conjectured that Takao perhaps wanted to make sure Ida didn’t get into the habit of winning against him. On 4-1, Yamashita Keigo finds himself in similar position to last year, that is, in the sole lead after five rounds, with the difference that he has already got his game with Ida out of the way. Ida is on 4-2 and his remaining game is against Yo Seiki 7P. Yamashita has two games left and will play Ryu Shikun 9P and Cho U 9P. Cho and Kono are both on 3-2 and also have a chance of winning the league outright or ending in a tie for first.
Ida wins NHK Cup: Although he lost two important games in the Honinbo League and the first Judan game, not everything went wrong for Ida Atsushi recently. In the final of the 62nd NHK Cup, telecast on March 15, Ida beat Ichiriki Ryo 7P and set a new record for the youngest player to win this title. Ida is 20 and he beat the 17-year-old Ichiriki. The game was a fiercely fought one, but Ida, playing black,
forced Ichiriki to resign after 257 moves. This is Ida’s first win in an official tournament.
Meijin League: Two games were played in the 40th Meijin League on March 12. Kono Rin 9P (W, left) beat Hane Naoki 9P by resignation and Murakawa Daisuke Oza (B) beat So Yokoku 9P by resignation. Kono and Murakawa both go to 3-1 and share the provisional lead. Another game was played on March 19. Ko Iso 8P (B) beat Kanazawa Makoto 7P by 8.5 points. Ko joins Kono and Murakawa on 3-1. They are followed by two players on 2-1: Yamashita Keigo and Takao Shinji.
Go lessons in train station: The headline is a little misleading, but that’s how Go Weekly reported it. To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the opening of the Japan Railway station at Ichigaya (the closest station to the Nihon Ki-in), go lectures and teaching games by professionals were staged in an Italian restaurant on the second floor of the building over the station on March 6 and 7. Around 30 people attended the introductory lectures given by Mizuma Toshifumi 7P. About the same number of people played teaching games with five professionals. Not only were these events free of charge, there were also complimentary drinks and snacks.
Iyama defends Kisei title: Iyama Yuta (right) emerged from one of the worst slumps of his career just in time for the 7th game of the 39th Kisei title match. After Iyama started the match with three wins, Yamashita fought back. Last year, the Kisei title match between these two followed the same pattern, but Yamashita ran out of steam in the sixth game, letting Iyama clinch his title defence. This year, Yamashita won three games in a row and his momentum seemed to be unstoppable. There were bad omens for Iyama. At the end of last year, he took a 2-1 lead in both the Oza and Tengen title matches, but went on to lost both by 2-3. Now he had missed three chances to defend his Kisei title. In short, he had missed seven chances to clinch a title win. Also, in the past there have been nine best-of-sevens in which one player won the first three games and the other the next three and in six cases the player making the comeback has won the seventh. It’s unlikely that players pay as much attention to statistics like these as go journalists or fans, but Iyama was certainly looking vulnerable. The game was played at the Ryugon inn in Minami Uonuma City in Niigata Prefecture on March 19 and 20. Being the seventh game, the nigiri to decide the colors was held again, and Iyama drew black. It may sound like a contradiction, but he played calmly but aggressively. Yamashita also fought hard, so the game became a very complicated one, with strategic sacrifices being made by both sides. The turning point seems to have come when Iyama played a move that looked like bad style but that cut off some white stones and made them heavy. They became a burden on Yamashita, and thereafter Iyama held the initiative. Despite attempts to complicate the game by white, he held on to the lead and won by 5.5 points after 216 moves. This is Iyama’s third Kisei title in a row and his 28th title overall. He also retains his quadruple crown. Having turned the corner with this win, he will probably face his Honinbo and Meijin defences with renewed confidence. The Age of Iyama continues!
57-year gap in women’s game: Sugiuchi Kazuko 8P (left) is 88 years old but still an active player (as is her husband Masao, who is six years older). In the final of Preliminary A in the Women’s Honinbo tournament, Sugiuchi (B) beat Nagashima Kozue 2P, who is aged 31, by 2.5 points, so she won a place in the main tournament for the first time in 15 years. Sugiuchi won the predecessor of this tournament, the Women’s Championship, four times in a row (from 1953 to 1956). I don’t know what the record age gap is (it’s probably held by her husband), but it would be nice to see a game between Sugiuchi Kazuko and the 16-year-old Fujisawa Rina.
Retirements: Two players are retiring as of March 31. They are Su Kaiseki 7P and Sato Machiko 2P. Both will be promoted by one rank. Su was born in Shanghai on September 22, 1948 and qualified as a pro at the Nihon Ki-in in 1968. He reached 7-dan in 2000. Sato was born on January 20, 1949. She became a disciple of Kitani Minoru, qualified as a pro in 1972 and was promoted to 2-dan in 1981. She is the wife of Sato Masaharu 9P.
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