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Chapter 2

Page history last edited by Jun Koda 14 years, 11 months ago

Chapter 2: Yasumitsu Sato's Maverick Brain - Commentary on the Kisei-title match


Comparing Kisei Sato to a Knight and Challenger Habu to a Silver

The event took place at Takashimaya in Niigata-shi, at nine am on 11th June 2008.*1 (Game Record)


Yoshiharu Habu (Oza and Oshox, holding two titles) was challenging the defending title holder of the seventy ninth Kisei-senx, Yasumitsu Sato (Kisei and Kiox, holding two titles).


To place myself in the same scene, to view, and to report the fierce match of these top players of the world of shogi, I have flown to Japan from Silicon Valley. The trip to Japan this time was only for this purpose. I now have been away from Japan for fourteen years, but this time was my first returning back to Japan for purposes unrelated to business.


About six months have passed from when Sato Kiseix has asked me, "please come to see us in this year's Kisei-sen, and write an online report of the shogi game that will be played." He said to me after an interview with Sankei Newspaper, an interview to be printed in their New Year's day issue. He seemed to be relieved from any tension from the interview.


I certainly have an attachment and love for shogi and I am confident in saying that I possess passion for watching games as a viewer. However, since I have been away from playing shogi for over twenty years, my ability to play it seems to be somewhat opposite from being confident. It may be now of the level of an amateur 1 dan. After hearing the offer from Sato, what was in my mind was, considering my position in shogi, if I were at all qualified to be at the same scene of such a prestigious event.


Suddenly though, I realized that there may be unexpectedly many people like me. That is, people who like watching but are not frequent players themselves.


The stunning culture of shogi, I see it as one that has deeply rooted itself in society and the minds of the Japanese. While at the age of attending elementary and junior schools, there are many that have become attracted to shogi from the enjoyment of playing. I fit in this group.


However, not many continue to play well into their adulthood. Although some enter shogi clubs at their high schools and college, public shogi clubs and shogi dojosx, or even subscribe to the Shogi Club 24 on the internet to keep on improving their skills and techniques, many are drawn away from shogi from their lack of time, ending up as general viewers. The truth is, there are many underlying fans of shogi who passionately follow the professional players closely, however unseen they seem to be. 


There is evidence to support this. The viewing figures of both the popular TV program Professional - Methods of professionalism (Shigoto no Ryuugi), in the episode where Habu has appeared, and of Passionate Continent (Jonetsu Tairiku) in the episode where Sato has appeared, has been recorded as higher than usual. In the case of the former, it has recorded viewing ratings of the highest in the history of the program.


I had made clear in my mind that the next time my old friend Habu was to play against Sato in the setting of the Kisei-sen, I would withhold all my business offers and come to Japan to represent for the enormous group of underlying shogi fans who still hold passion about the game of shogi regardless of their busy lives. I had pledged to take this opportunity if it arose to watch the match in Japan. And just as I had consolidated my decisions, this opportunity arose. Today, Habu has won the right to challenge Sato.




Just a few days earlier, I received a message from a reader of my blog who teaches at Rwanda. The message read, if stories on shogi were publicized on the web, it could potentially deliver some value to people who not only reside in Japan, but to people across the globe who are passionately attached to shogi but are busy themselves with everyday work. Many of the fans may return back to realize how much they loved shogi. In the hope of such, I am fully devoting myself to writing a real-time record of the games of shogi. 

"Isn't shogi hard to understand?" "Shogi requires specific knowledge, doesn't it?" Those were views towards shogi when compared with, say, sports. Presumably, they perceive the threshold of entry to shogi fairly high. Shogi is a difficult game to play and it is understandable why such comments arise. However, to enjoy watching the game, is not at all difficult.


To "watch and enjoy" shogi, does not require any hard skills nor ability to play the game well. When fans watch a professional baseball match, they often shout, "he shouldn't have gone for that ball!" or "That was an easy one to catch!" In the case of soccer, "Don't pass to that guy. The right was free!" It is quite usual to hear these comments while watching games. My suggestion is to do the same while watching a shogi game. People do shout "That was an easy one!", though if they were to be put in the same position as the players, it is unlikely that they would be able to do what they initially shouted towards the player on the field. The same applies to people who shout out "you should've scored that one!" I want viewers and spectators to enjoy watching shogi games with equally irresponsible commentary.

These are the words of Akira Watanabe, the leader of the younger generation of shogi - Duel of Brains (Zuno Shobu), (Chikuma Shinsho).


I truly agree with his words.


For the future of shogi to flourish, it is a requirement to increase the number of fans who "do not play" and "who can extract enjoyment without having to actually play shogi well." Those fans ought to appear on the surface and be seen. Consciousness of these problems is seen more in the younger generation of shogi players, such as Akira Watanabe, who must carry a long-term outlook for the future of themselves and shogi as a whole, than do the Veteran players. I would like to contribute in giving support to them however small in magnitude.


In a single game of shogi, there is "unlimited spread and depth." I would like for the stunning game of the fascinating intellectual sport of shogi to be enjoyed, not only by the competent core fans who may be able to take in all depths, but to be enjoyed more casually by people as they do so for their weekly Sunday family baseball games. I wish sincerely for the fans to discover more diverse ways in enjoying watching shogi games.


During the morning of last Saturday, as I was preparing to depart to Japan, I was reading through the articles written by Habu and Sato at home until the final hours. The words that I encountered then are as below.


In my case, according to a person who analyzed the statistics, I tend to use my Silver(銀) most frequently in my games. If asked what I think I use the most, I would agree with that person. After constructing a castle and in transition to the phase of developing my offensive strategy,  the Silver(銀) functions somewhat like a "glue" to stick each turn together to make a sequence of movements. In making a successful sequence of these movements, ample amount of "glue" must be applied. While positioning my pieces, I often try to construct the best of these sequences, and hence, the Silver(銀) is used more often than other pieces in my games. - Brain of future outlook (Saki wo yomu zunou) (Sinchosha).


While talking to him I often feel that Habu is an expert at making an abstract of anything, picking up common properties and putting them in words. He has represented the Silver(銀) as a "glue" to connect each turn to make the whole sequence.

Even while being driven to San Francisco by my wife, I happened to be thinking which piece for Sato is the equivalent to the Silver(銀) for Habu. Strike while the iron is hot. As these words suggest, I connected my laptop to the internet from the lounge at the San Francisco Airport. And before rushing to the departure gate, I sent an email asking the question to Sato. My expectation of receiving a clever reply was high since Sato has much appreciation for his fans.


After almost half a day, just as I was checking-in at a hotel in Tokyo, I received an email from him.


Thank you for your email. For an answer to your question, that piece for me would be the Knight(桂).


The piece possesses movements that are very unique and unexpected and also it requires the greatest attention and I feel I must be most careful in positioning it.


No player has a choice how to use the King(玉), Rook(飛), Bishop(角), 金 and Silver(銀), and for the Lance(香), it is very difficult to use well. It is often left at the position where it is. The pawn(歩) has the highest frequency of usage, and it is the most difficult piece to be played at the professional level. However, the Knight(桂), can be moved or left rooted in one place as the player desires (This could depend on how much the player is in favor of this piece).


Nevertheless, forcing a move of this piece may result in adverse consequences due to its characteristics of being vulnerable at the head (頭が丸い) hence being targeted by the opponent. In fact I often encounter such cases in attempts to deliberately use my Knight(桂) I often design a whole game of shogi in such a way.(将棋の創りをそうする) (In using the Ibisha [Static Rook] strategy, the trigger piece of the right-hand side Knight(桂) is often targeted.)


Above all, there are positions or strategies where the Knight(桂) does not even come in to consideration of moving from the position where it already is, or where it is better not to be moved at all, therefore decisions at such points in a game are crucial. Considering all of this, however, I seem to use the Knight(桂) more often.



One suggestion to "fans who cannot play well" or "non-playing fans," is to observe the transition of today's "match of the century," particularly paying attention to whether Habu uses his Silver(銀) as the "glue that structures the sequence" and whether Sato uses his Knight(桂) "deliberately"  as part of his strategy in this game. These are just examples of things to look for.


Whether to read writings on shogi, or to watch a shogi game, is up to us, each and every shogi fan, to decide what to do and how to enjoy shogi.


The time is now 8:40 am and the game is about to start. I have entered in to the playing room and am waiting for Kisei Sato and challenger Habu. Wearing a dark navy colored kimono, Kisei Sato steadily enters the room. He sits down at the head-side of the table. He places his sensux (a Japanese light folding fan), handkerchief and his clock around him, he closes his eyes and keeps calm and still. Three minutes or so later, Habu enters the room swiftly, wearing a vivid pale yellow colored kimono. The dark navy and the pale yellow make it seem as if flowers just bloomed in the room. At the side of both players are bottles of water and tea and a thermos bottle of coarse tea. Only on Kisei Sato's side, are three bottles of Perrier and a pack of vegetable juice (Vegetable life, Yasai Seikatsu manufactured by Kagome) which he probably requested in advance.


As Habu places his sensu in front of the zabutonx (a Japanese cushion for sitting), the two bow to each other, and without making any sound, they start placing their shogi pieces on to the board in preparation for the game to begin.


What could be the reason why Sato and Habu have always appeared at the summit. I have been seeking the answer to this question every time I meet the two privately. The answer that I can put forward now is because of the degree of their immense passion toward shogi that could even seem an obsession, a degree of devotion, attachment and fascination to the depths of shogi, which is present at an extraordinary level. This could be the way to surpass other geniuses in the field.


During my New Year's interview with Sato, he said,


"Shogi definitely is a game created by someone, but I sometimes think it is a game created by god."


This game has been analyzed over a time span of over six hundred years by many predecessors, who have devoted their minds and souls,  and the mystery of the game shogi has yet to be uncovered. Could such a game with the degree of sophistication and depth of fascination, be created by the hands of a human? I cannot help to believe that it is created by the "hands of god." The words of Sato hold such meaning.




When Sato talks about his life and shogi, he sometimes says, "why has such a game (shogi) been brought to this world?" Since he has been deeply fascinated by shogi for thirty years, I think these words come from the underlying truth of his feelings.


The same holds true for Habu.


One time while having a meal with Habu, we conversed about taking a very long time thinking on a position in the middle-game. The conversation extended to the topic where in one incident Habu, after thinking long and hard during the middle game, swiftly took victory after that.


One person on the same table said, "You must have seen all the moves and the victory ahead at the time when you were in deep and long thought during the middle-game." It was then when Habu suddenly changed the look on his face. I remember the scene clearly since even some fear crept into my mind looking at him then.


Habu is capable of detecting misconceptions of the "depths of shogi," how subtle they may be  when they arise in conversations (even of those that praise himself). With his slightly high-pitched voice, but with a firm and concrete tone, he said,


"It is in all cases impossible to foresee all the different strategies and moves, and be convinced of the victory, at any point in the middle-game. Shogi is not as simple and straight-forward as that."


Habu emphasized this point.


Looking back to the history of research done into the various strategies of shogi, he stressed that not even one ultimate understanding of strategies emerged even with considerable amount of time of few decades, due to its depth and complexity. He presented this in a manner very considerate and detailed so to be comprehensible to amateurs, and with this strong mindset he was unwavering. (これだけは譲れないことなんだ、という強い意志をもって). He delivered this talk taking fifteen or twenty minutes talking about this as if he was obsessed with this idea.


The above is a scene that emerged from my memory, while staring at the dignified postures of the two players in the room.


The first game of the Kisei title match has begun.


The Kisei title match is a "best of five match."


At the start of the first game, and also in the case where wins are even after four games, the player of the first move is decided by a toss of five pawns(振り駒).


3-dan Jo Tajima (Shoreikai, The Apprentice Professionals' Association), the game-record keeper of this game, takes five of Sato's Pawns(歩), tosses them in the air after a shuffle of his hands, and lets them land on a white piece of silk cloth.

With four "(と金) Tokins" and a single Pawn(歩), Habu, the challenger, is to take the first move.


Shortly after, with an announcement by Osamu Nakamura, an official observer, the game begins with the challenger Habu's move of P-7f, opening his Bishop's diagonal line. Instantly, flashes from cameras of photographers fill the room. Following this is P-8d, a move by Sato after a brief think.


Today could be a game with the Yagura Opening, I thought.


However, Habu reacts to this not by S-6h which would lead to Yagura Opening, but with P-2f advancing the Rook Pawn. "I won't play the Yagura Opening, but instead the shogi of Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange)."


Behind the first three moves above, underlies such meaning. Thus today's game started with a Gote's Itteson Kakugawari (Second mover's Bishop Exchange With Tempo Loss).


In the Kisei title match, with a time allocation of four hours to each player, the pace of the game tends to be faster, swiftly exchanging turns from the start, as soon as strategies (戦型) are decided. Only twenty minutes into the game, there have been seventeen moves already made. The game seems to unfold to a Hayaguri-gin(quick manipulated Silver) by the Sente (First mover) of challenger Habu.


The game proved to be one that will require keeping an eye on Habu's Silver (銀)already. Nineteen moves into the game, Habu's Silver (銀) has already advanced to 4f.




Is Challenger Habu Guiding Sato to the scenario of a position that he has in mind? 


If I confess the truth, components of the last entry posted titled "Comparing Kisei Sato to Knight and Challenger Habu to Silver" were prepared in advance from half past 4 in the morning. In addition to this, I spent the thirty minutes from 8:40 am to 9:10 am observing the atmosphere of the playing room, before returning to the common room where I wrote new additions and combined them with the previously prepared components of the text from earlier. The entry was posted briefly before half past nine after deciding on an appropriate structure and reviewing the whole text.


After this entry, I returned to the playing room.


It was just when Habu stood up from his seat after confirming the 24th move of P-8e played by Kisei Sato,


The game that has been flowing seamlessly from the beginning, has, for the first time, paused after twenty four moves.




For an hour from this point onwards, I have put myself in the same room, at the same place where both of the players continued to ceaselessly think for their moves. It was during this time when I finally understood the meaning of a remark previously made by Habu.


He once told me something really unexpected.


"This may occur to you as a surprise, but, shogi, in fact, does not require a fighting spirit. It is completely unnecessary for one to put himself in the mindset of defeating the opponent."



I asked him, "Why is that so?", and his reply was that a game of shogi is constituted of a sequence where each player moves a piece at a time. Once a move is made by one player, total control of the board is passed on to the other.


"At this point, there is nothing you can do to affect anything on the board. It is similar to saying, please do whatever you will. Shall I put it as 'depending on the other player(他力本願).'"




Since I am only relying on my memory, the above may be slightly off from the actual dialogue, however, I could not wholly understand what those words were meaning at the time I first heard them.


All this being said, this morning while placing myself in the immense pressure of a condensed flow of time, whereby each player takes ten to fifteen minutes per move, it seems as though the true meaning behind the words, 'depending on the other player(他力),' of Habu is appearing in front of me.


In fact, only five moves were played in the hour commencing 9:37am. It went like P-2d Px2d P-3d S-2b Rx2d.(▲2四歩, △同歩, ▲3四歩, △2二銀, and ▲2四飛.)


On the 29th move of Rx2d challenger Habu has spent seventeen minutes. Seven minutes later during the same move, he makes a sound, "Hya-". Eight minutes later, he makes yet another loud growling sound while Kisei Sato was away.



He resembles a person who just appeared on the surface of water after holding his breath for a while. It was a sound composed subconsciously arising on return from extreme concentration.


Returning to the common room, the main discussion taking place here was that, at this instant, the positions of the pieces were exactly the same as the game of the Oui-sen challenger deciding White League played by 6-dan Takayuki Yamasaki(Sente) and Kisei Yasumitsu Sato (Gote), three years ago, on 12th May, 2005. Three years back, Kisei Sato made the move of P*2e. Just as anticipated, after Twenty one minutes of consideration on the move, the move he made was P*2e (30th move), the same move he made three years ago.

Board: 30th move and its Japanese version
[The 30th move △P*2e]

In my PC, there are 14,567 records of past games in chronological order. The exact game above was present when searching through those records (by the way, Kisei Sato had won on the 90th move). I return to the playing room after memorizing the subsequent ten moves that had been played at that time.


In contrast to the past hour with hardly any moves, the exchange of moves occurs rapidly like a process of successive reactions, with moves from the 31st move, Rx2e B*3f R-2f Bx4g+ B*3h +B-1d P-1f (▲同飛、△3六角、▲2六飛、△4七角成、▲3八角、△1四馬、▲1六歩) being played to the 37th move. This succession was identical to the Yamasaki-Sato game.


The strategy of Gote's Itteson Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange with Tempo Loss, 後手一手損角換わり戦法) is the most recently developed strategy of modern shogi. Progress in advancement and development of this has occurred constantly, within a time frame of days and months, and even this second may have resulted in some progress. Yet, challenger Habu seems to be guiding his opponent to the position of the present scenario (局面), that has not appeared in the past 3 years since the Yamasaki-Sato game. 


Apologies in introducing jargon from my profession of IT and the web, but we often come across the term "Dog year." The concept is that since the lifespan of dogs is roughly one seventh of what we humans may live on, it represents a rapid change in the state of the world at speeds of seven times the normal pace. In the world of shogi, however, that speed of development is accelerated. Three years of time in such a world, is a long way back in the past.




Are the two players, even aware of the fact that they are recreating the game of Yamasaki - Sato or are they deliberately retracing the path made in the past? Has challenger Habu guided Kisei Sato, having devised a strategy which could enlighten the future of a shogi position derived from a game played and won by his current opponent three years ago. If I have a chance, I am willing to ask this question to both of the players.


Kisei Sato stops making moves now, and is concentrating uninterruptedly. Occasionally, Kisei Sato will ask 3-dan Jo Tajima, the game-record keeper, "How many minutes have I used, in total?" Without any delay he answers "You have used one hour and one minute," "You have used one hour and eleven minutes", in a precise and a clear tone.  


Kisei Sato in the New Year's interview with me, said,


In shogi, it is difficult to tell where the decisive moment lies. It is commonly thought that this moment is towards the end of the game, in a position whether mate is possible or not. Understandably, if any slips are made at this stage, defeat is certain.


However, in playing against a professional player, the winning margin is so minuscule, that it is unpredictable when this decisive moment will occur. There are games where this moment comes completely out of surprise, but in others, the turnaround in the dominance of the game could go unnoticed while the game continues. This can occur during the first twenty moves or in the very last moment before admitting defeat.


To anticipate these moments, acute senses are necessary. Opportunities cannot be seized without them. The result of finely honed senses of both players, and their abilities to overcome critical moments, is a masterpiece-on-the-board. This may be different from saying there is tension building up between the two, but that kind of sense creates the foundation of a masterpiece.


I stared at Kisei Sato as I imagined that he must be fully using his acute senses thinking that this is the decisive moment.

Fifteen minutes before the lunch interval, Kisei Sato makes the move S-4e (38th move) after thirty minutes of uninterrupted thinking. This move still follows the Yamasaki-Sato game. The challenger Habu, looking at this move, nods heavily. Kisei Sato, on the other hand, intensely coughing, stands up and heads for the bathroom.

What a dense flow of time and an intense atmosphere filling this space.

While challenger Habu ponders the 39h move, Tajima 3-dan announces the intermission.

"Ah, Yes" is Habu's response, with his slightly high-pitched voice, and stands up straightaway. After a while, Kisei Sato also stands up from his seat to return to his own room, though climbing the wrong stairs he comes back down hitting his own head before stumbling into the wall of the inn, tottering slightly as he walks. He seems to be suffering from extreme strain.

What could be the first move to be made by challenger Habu after the interval. The next move from the Yamasaki-Sato game was P-1e (39th move).



Entering an Untrampled Area. A Title Holder's Explanation about The Beauty of Balance. 

With the 39th move of B-2g played by Habu shortly after the lunch break, this shogi has entered a completely untrodden area. Is this move the one Habu had prepared?

I would like to publish today’s third article (on the first half of the afternoon match) from the waiting room.

Ryuoh Akira Watanabe has arrived in Takashimaya after noon to study the match for the commentary in a weekend program Igo, Shogi Journal.

In addition to him, Oi Koichi Fukaura and 4-dan Yusuke Toyama, whom I get along with very well, heard my story about this real-time commentary and came all the way down to Niigata, saying "well then, I shall give you commentaries on the spot!" I suppose they cared about me. I really appreciate it.

As a result, except for Meijin Toshiyuki Moriuchi, all the other title holders (six titles held by the two players, Ryuoh and Oi) have gathered here.

The examination in the waiting room is being largely made by talkative Ryuoh Watanabe, who slouched in front of the shogi board.

From the 40th move to the forty-sixth, the game smoothly proceeded as predicted by Ryuoh Watanabe, who said "there is nothing much to think here. It will proceed like this; P-1e P*2e R-1f +B-2c P*2d +B-1b." But when the screen showed Habu’s 47th move of S-7g, a great cheer arose in the waiting room.

They were impressed by Habu’s battle tactics of investing one move to his castle here (freeing up the Wall Silver), and giving the next move to the opponent.


Board: 47th move and its Japanese version
[The 47th move ▲S-7g]

Here Kisei Sato pondered for a long time, and played the next move of K-4b after forty two minutes.

"I did not think of this move even for a second!," shouted Ryuoh Watanabe.

"It is a very unusual move. I wonder if this was Sato's style. I assume even Habu-san did not think of this move for a second." (Ryuoh Watanabe)

And Habu also made the move K-7i to adjust his castle. Kisei Sato responded with G-5b  … "It is the calm before the storm." Said 4-dan Toyama.

It is half past two p.m. now.

I was seated next to Kisei Sato while dining last night. When I asked him "will the game reach its climax between 4 and 5 p.m. tomorrow?" he answered "I would like to avoid falling into an uncontrollable position between 2 and 3 p.m. Were it to become a good shogi game, I assume the climax would be between four and five p.m."

It is half past two p.m. now. The position is evenly balanced. The "beauty of balance" is without a doubt maintained.

Here, I would like to introduce the impressions of this match so far by Oi Fukaura and 4-dan Toyama.

Oi Fukaura: I arrived at the playing room after a lunch break. My first impression of the position is that they have chosen a style of shogi with ample strategies available for each. In other words, there are many choices. By which I mean that this style of shogi is not a psychological battle which drives you onto the edge, but is where you must choose only one move from several good moves. There are usually two or three possible moves in the middle game, but I can easily come up with three or four in this shogi. The existence of this one more move makes it a completely different world. This type of shogi will surely entertain the players in terms of reading and at the same time test their sense of shogi. Therefore I assume that the players are playing this shogi with high intensity(緊張感), which also means that viewers can enjoy the styles of the two to a great extent. The decisive point of this match is, I would say, whether…

4-dan Toyama: I arrived at the playing room before lunch break since I woke up early this morning, only to become surprised to find out how much the position had progressed in the morning. I would assume that the players had been to some degree on the same wavelength, which we cannot possibly know. Getting back into their castles simultaneously after entering into hostilities shows that they are masters on the same wavelength.  The game is in this position after the 50th move of G-5b, where I think the position calls for the style of shogi where taking action would lose balance. Taking their playing styles into account, there is great likelihood that it is Sato who will take action. It is a position which demands skills. The current position is very well balanced and beautiful.




An infinite of possibility of moves generated by Sato's Maverick Brain

After the 50th move of G-5b was played, Habu sank into a long ponder. After fifty minutes of careful consideration, he picked up the Bishop on 2g, and moved it to 3h. It is now Kisei Sato's turn to go down into a lengthy ponder.

It is 3:30 p.m. Kisei Sato asks 3-dan Tajima, the scorer, "how much is remaining?" "There is one hour and twelve minutes left."

I went back to the waiting room, and sat down in front of my PC, rousing myself to draw up another article.


Kisei Sato, after a further consideration, played S-3d (at the 52nd move) at 3:52 p.m.


"The time has finally come for the decisive battle" so cheered up everyone in the waiting room. It was based on the expectation that Sente would fiercely attack were he to go with R-3f and S-3c.


However the game proceeded with the 53rd move of R-3f and the fifty-fourth, S-4e, with almost no time spent. The judgement from the waiting room is that Kisei Sato might choose S-4e instead of S-3c, anticipating that the position where the defensive development after S-3c would not be desirable.


After a long period of ponder, Habu just played R-6f. It is 4:15 p.m now. People in the waiting room are starting to say that Habu might have a slight advantage (B-3h might be a good move). I wonder what is really happening.


The maverick brain.

Watching the two players, I came up with such a term.

Board: 55th move and its Japanese version
[The 55th move ▲R-6f]

Ryuoh Watanabe, occupying a space in the waiting room, wrote something as follows in his blog a while ago.

It is surely fun to discuss the moves in a title match, but as I am certain that our insight cannot be better than the insight of the players, who are much more serious and concentrated, I sometimes feel vain in doing so. The moves played when I am in a real match, where there exists fear of "losing," and when I am merely watching a match are considerably different. Therefore, even though we might detect some better moves than the ones actually played in a match, this would not have any significant meaning. (Akira Watanabe's blog, 28th March, 2008)

Moving back and forth between the playing room and the waiting room, I cannot help but be again impressed by "the maverick brains" of the players, who only trust their own brain and ponder about the best possible move in everyone’s view.

I always daydream of the existence of a book, which has been exhaustively written of all the "infinite expansion" of a match. What would it be like if it was possible to write everything the two players thought throughout a match?


"Would it be the size of around a hundred volumes of a thick encyclopedia?"


I once asked this to Kisei Sato.


"I would assume so. It would amount to that degree of massiveness."


Answered Kisei Sato, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.


Of course it would be still impossible to explain a match even with a hundred volumes of  an encyclopedia. But I wish someday I would be able to read a long, long commentary on a supreme shogi game, which could only be written by professionals.


Watching "maverick brains" in the playing room, I was lost in such



The Happiest Time for Both Players is their Quest for the Truth after the Game

It is 5:00 p.m. After publishing the fourth article, I enter into the playing room. Kisei Sato is pondering his move for the sixty-sixth move. There are thirty three minutes remaining for Kisei Sato. Challenger Habu has one hour and five minutes left.

At the first glance, Kisei Sato looks very troubled.

The essence of the modern shogi is said to "leave what can be left for later left for later." Recently in my business, I try to bear in mind this "prioritization" which I learned from "the essence of modern shogi."

Well then, where would be the best place for me to be and what would be the best thing for me to do until the match ends? I would like to apply the "essence of modern shogi" to this decision.

With my current shogi skills, I would not be able to understand what is really happening in the endgame of this difficult shogi even if I were watching it in the playing room, where we must remain silent (In the playing room, I cannot ask for others' commentaries or explanations, which I can in the waiting room). However, I would be able to "leave" "asking for others' explanations" "for later".

The only thing I should be doing at this moment would be to stay in the playing room, to stare at Sato's and Habu's faces, burning the atmosphere of this match clearly in my mind.

That is what I decided to do from five p.m until the match ended at 7:16 p.m. During both players' explaining their comments in the room of the commentary show using a demonstration board, and until the following post game analysis ended at 8:40 p.m, I kept my eyes fixated on the two.

My impressions while watching the two until challenger Habu declared his defeat in a quite loud voice are as follows.

Even though I am not sure about the reasoning of this shogi move, with the 92nd move of +N-1h as a trigger, I observed Kisei Sato, who kept looking troubled and panting all the time, start to become filled with vigor.

On the contrary, there had been no spectacular change in challenger Habu's face until the match ended. However, after looking at the 88th move of N*2g (Kisei Sato's Knight (桂). Please refer to the 1st article), while pondering about the 89th move spending eleven minutes of the remaining nineteen minutes, he was under deep consideration uttering some sound 'Ummm (ううーん)'.

Some change in the position might have happened between the 88th and 92nd moves. As I was thinking that I would ask about this after the match, I was sitting next to the board.

Board: 88th move and its Japanese version
[The 88th move △N*2g]


After challenger Habu declares his defeat, the two players move to the room of commentary show using a demonstration board in the hotel, where they appeared in front of fans and stated their after-match thoughts before the post game analysis.

Kisei Sato said,

"It had been difficult since the middle game, and I had not been quite sure what the best moves were. I assume that the Promoted Bishop (馬) was fairly effective."

and challenger Habu said "That promoted Bishop was so powerful (手厚くて) that I did not have the slightest idea as to how I could attack. The 88th move of N*2g turned out to be very harsh (厳しい)."

Kisei Sato, answering to Habu's impressions, said "I thought that the knight drop on 2g was not the best move, but I did not know how to play otherwise..."

"Losing my Bishop expectedly had a great impact later on. That hit me hard. Without the Bishop, it became much harder to attack" said Habu.

"Losing the Bishop(角)" refers to the 96th move.


I would like to briefly add the results of the post game analysis (the turning point of the match). It should have been better for Sente to play R-1f instead of L-1f as the 86th move. Even if he played L-1f, The 93rd move of G-4e instead of P-7d should have made the battle more complicated for a while. Those two are the decisive points of the match.

What struck me as most impressive beyond those conclusions was that the instant the match ended the winner Kisei Sato and the loser Habu started to have an appropriate distance from the game record, which is the work they had created together, and to talk about it with an objectively critical attitude, as if they were a third party. This lasted until the end of the post game analysis. I was under the illusion as if I were watching European scientists lively discussing their own work, with an objectively critical attitude. 


In the post game analysis, the two players just continued to say,

"It is fairly difficult"

"I do not understand"

"I am not so sure, but I gave it a try"

"There is no effective move"


"It surely is difficult"

"I was wondering what I should do here"

"I could not find the defensive move"

"I suppose it is not right to drop a Knight(桂) here"

"I could not calculate the safety of my king"

"I did not have even the smallest amount of confidence"



The post game analysis made by the two was just a repetition of these words.

"The conclusion" which I put together in the previous pages was surely made, but all that the two kept saying was, even if R-1f instead of L-1f or Px7d instead of G*4e were played, "It would have been nonetheless difficult."


The post game analysis must be the happiest time for both Kisei Sato and challenger Habu.

Watching the two from close by, I whole heartedly believe so.

There were no winners nor losers. There were only scientists questing for the truth.



The 79th Kisei Match, Game One

Date: 11th June, 2008
Location: Niigata city Takashimaya
Available Time: 4 hours each
Sente (first mover): Oza-Osho Yoshiharu Habu
Gote (second mover): Kisei-Kio Yasumitsu Sato
  1.P-7f   P-8d     2.P-2f   G-3b     3.G-7h   P-3d     4.P-2e   Bx8h+  
  5.Sx8h   S-2b     6.S-3h   S-3c     7.K-6h   S-7b     8.P-3f   P-6d   
  9.S-3g   S-6c    10.S-4f   S-5d    11.P-3e   Px3e    12.Sx3e   P-8e   
 13.P-2d   Px2d    14.P*3d   S-2b    15.Rx2d   P*2e    16.Rx2e   B*3f   
 17.R-2f   Bx4g+   18.B*3h   +B-1d   19.P-1f   S-4e    20.B-2g   P*3f   
 21.P-1e   P*2e    22.R-1f   +B-2c   23.P*2d   +B-1b   24.S-7g   K-4b   
 25.K-7i   G-5b    26.B-3h   Sx3d    27.Rx3f   S-4e    28.R-6f   S-5d   
 29.N-3g   P*3d    30.S-4f   S-3c    31.Rx6d   S-6c    32.R-6e   Sx2d   
 33.S-5e   R-8d    34.S5e-6f P-7d    35.P-7e   P*6d    36.R-4e   N-3c   
 37.R-4h   S-3e    38.N-4e   Nx4e    39.Rx4e   S-3f    40.R-5e   P-5d   
 41.R-5f   S-3g+   42.N*2d   +B-2c   43.Nx3b+  Kx3b    44.B-2i   N*2g   
 45.L-1f   N-1i+   46.B-3h   +N-1h   47.Px7d   Rx7d    48.R-4f   +Sx3h  
 49.Gx3h   +B-2d   50.R-4e   P-6e    51.P*3c   +Bx3c   52.Rx6e   N-7c   
 53.Rx2e   P*2d    54.R-2g   P*6e    55.S*8c   Px6f    56.Sx7d=  Px6g+  
 57.Gx6g   Sx7d    58.resigns
Gote won.


Board: resign diagram and its Japanese version
[The resignation diagram]

Next > Chapter 3


1: Translators' comment: HIDETCHI is explaining this game on You Tube. An annotated game record is also available here.


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