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Chapter 5

Page history last edited by katsu8 14 years, 1 month ago

Chapter 5: A Piece of Art, Born in Paris - Commentary on the Ryuoh Title Match


(Game Record)

(1) In the City Right Things Are Being Rightly Done

Paris 09:29, 18 Oct, 2008 

Japan 16:29, 18 Oct, 2008


Ever since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers was announced on September 15, the problems inherent in the financial industry, which originated from subprime loans started to become evident all at once, plunging the world into a global economic crisis. Everyone across the globe is busy dealing with it. I suppose that this fairly severe economic situation will last for a while.


Come to think about it, for "the latter seven years" of the fourteen years since I moved to Silicon Valley, the frontier of the business world, I was forced to live being overwhelmed by many adversities, which started with the September eleven attacks, followed by two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and this global economic crisis. In the midst of those horrendous events successively happening, which is completely different from the bright future I was picturing when I had moved to Silicon Valley fourteen years ago, I somehow managed to survive using all the knowledge I possessed. 

There is one thing I have learned from these experiences. 

That is, there is not so much an individual can do against those uncontrollable hardships. It goes without saying that it is important to do our best. However, it is far from achievable for us to think about how to survive twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year.

Were terrorist attacks to happen, wars to begin or the global economy to completely collapse, we would still need to manage to survive by maintaining our mental balance through profound cultures such as listening to music, reading novels or watching baseball. Cultures, the severer the situation of an era becomes, play all the more important roles in enriching our daily lives.


Shogi is a brilliant culture we Japanese should be proud of. And we should be also proud of the shogi players, who embody that brilliant culture. Playing shogi, watching shogi and talking about shogi and the shogi players are a brilliant gift innately given to us. And to share this gift with people from the world over is to globalize shogi.

The fact that the first round of the twenty-first Ryuoh title match, what is more, "the duel for the entitlement of Permanent Ryuoh" between Ryuoh Watanabe and Meijin Habu, which all the shogi fans have been waiting for, is to be held in Paris, while the global economy and the world as a whole are riddled with many seemingly unsolvable problems, seems to me to represent "something" which is important in the present world. The two players, the young Ryuoh Akira Watanabe and the challenger Meijin Yoshiharu Habu, and as an official watchman and commentator, Kunio Yonenaga, the president of the Shogi Association, and Kio Yasumitsu Sato. Now, all the great unprecedented shogi players have gathered here in Paris. Come to think about it, the EU15 emergency summit was held at Palais de l'Élysée in Paris last week, where the action plan to combat the financial crisis by granting government guarantee to inter-bank transactions and conducting capital infusion to financial institutes was announced, to some extent placing the last week's worst market situation under control for the time being.


In the midst of this global financial crisis, I will go to Paris to watch shogi.

As the departure for such a strange travel was drawing near, the tension was being accumulated in me day by day.

It reminds me of seven years ago, right after September 11 attacks. While many Japanese companies were still issuing overseas-travel bans, America was brimming with the idea that "leading our daily lives as if nothing had happened is what we can do to combat against terrorism at an individual level." I sympathized with the idea and did not cancel my planned business trip to Japan. Despite this, I could not help but think that the day could be my last the instant my plane took off from San Francisco Airport.

Of course I did not have any such physical fear on my way to Paris this time. However, that I am trying to deal with this economic crisis by "leading our daily lives as if nothing had happened" might be the same as that time. It seems the tension is arising from here.


It was July 5, 2001, when I first met Habu. That was because I was to watch the third game of the seventy-second Kisei match taking place in Hakone the following day.

Two months prior to this, I had a dialogue with Mr. Junichi Imakita in Paris under the theme "What is the real strength of Europe?" At the beginning of the dialog, I talked as follows.


It might be because I had been working around the clock in Silicon Valley, where time passes seven times faster (on a dog-year basis), for the past several years, but I felt a sudden and very strong shock when I was walking from Rue de Buci towards Rue Jacob on the south coast of the River Seine at Paris last November. If I were to forcefully put the feeling into words, I felt that "right things are being rightly done in this city." Without waiting for another half a year, I insisted and took a break, and came to Paris again.


I and Imakita talked about attractiveness of the American venturesome competitive society, and as a comparison to its fierceness and severity, the hidden strength of mature Europe, especially the resolutely unchanging scenery of Paris regardless of what happens, and attractiveness of the people living there.

Imakita is a business-consultant residing in Paris, who co-authored a book From Fixed Patterns to Visions with Habu and had been friends with him since then. (The first dialogue between them also took place for the Ryuoh title match in Paris fourteen years ago.)

So, when I met him for the first time in the platform of Tokyo Station, I greeted him by saying "It is great honour to see you. My name is Umeda. I had a dialogue with Junichi Imakita-san on the latest Chuo Koron." Of course it was the last thing I had expected that Habu had actually read the dialogue, but I just hoped Imakita, a common friend, would work as a trigger for our conversation.

Unexpectedly though, his first words were,


"Ah, Yeah, I remember. I read the dialogue. It is great pleasure to meet you, too."


I remember me being taken aback to find him reading such things in the midst of fierce battles.

We have known each other for more than seven years since then. Since our first conversation was about Paris, where "right things are being rightly done," I came to promise to him that "for the next title match in Paris, I would be more than happy to go watch it," on the tacit assumption that the challenger was Habu.


And on June 12th this year, the next morning after I wrote the commentary for the first round of Kisei title match, in the Shinkansen (bullet train) back from Tsubasa Sanjo to Tokyo, Habu abruptly said to me,


"This year's Ryuoh title match is going to take place in Paris."


It was five days before he retrieved the seat of Meijin and accomplished the entitlement of Permanent Meijin.

I was unable to answer clearly, and just murmured, "Oh, is that so?" It was because no one could imagine who was to become the challenger to Ryuoh Akira Watanabe at that stage, and it was just three days before that (June 9) when he had finally qualified for the Challenger-Deciding Tournament with the rank of 5th in the 1st group. There was no guarantee that "the match Watanabe vs Habu was sealed."

However, Habu kept on enthusiastically talking about Paris in the Shinkansen. And right after we parted at Tokyo station, he went so far as to send me an e-mail with the information regarding the match in Paris attached to it.


"Alas, Habu-san is determined to seize both Meijin and Ryuoh, and become entitled permanent seven crowns."


So I thought.

As if overwhelmed by his determination, as soon as I returned to Silicon Valley I booked a round ticket between San Francisco and Paris for the Ryuoh title match in Paris.


Not surprisingly, he successively defeated Tetsuro Itodani (5 dan), Oi Fukaura, Tadahisa Maruyama (9 dan) and proceeded to the challenger deciding final match (both of the duels against Fukaura and Maruyama were a great upset victory). He also won in the best of three matches against Kazuki Kimura (8 dan) and qualified for Ryuoh title match against Ryuoh Watanabe, succeeding in creating a tremendously spectacular stage of "whoever wins becomes entitled Permanent Ryuoh."


Right now, at 9 p.m, on October 18, 2008, in the playing room specially set up for this purpose in a suite room on the ninth floor of Le Meridien Etoile at Paris, the twenty-first seven-round Ryuoh match, where Meijin Habu challenges Ryuoh Watanabe, has begun.

The main observer is Kunio Yonenaga, the president of the Shogi Association, the sub observer is Kio Yasumitsu Sato, and the scorer is 4-dan Taichi Nakamura (20) who has studied under Yonenaga. A scorer is normally a member of Shoreikai (Apprentice Professionals' Association) in a domestic title match, but a young professional often serves as one in an international match. 4-dan Nakamura, who has been ready in Kimono since 7:30 a.m., is determined to face the match without sitting at ease even for once for the coming two days. In Furigoma of tossing five pawns, four Pawns faced upward, making Ryuoh Watanabe the Sente (First mover). With more than 40 shogi fans from Japan and all over Europe in the playing room, Ryuoh Watanabe played his first move of P-7f followed by challenger Habu's second move of P-3d. This will not become Yagura Opening. The challenger Habu traded Bishops at the 6th move of the first game, which many people were anticipating, and proceeded to Itteson Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange with a tempo loss).


"What the interesting parts of shogi where two human beings confront each other are."



(2) Enjoy Shogi of Human versus Human

Paris 10:51, 18 Oct, 2008

Japan 17:51, 18 Oct, 2008



The match is proceeding with the latest strategy of Itteson Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange with a tempo loss).

In a match of two days with eight hours of allotted thinking time, time seems to pass slowly compared to a title match of one day with four hours.

Regarding the shogi of Itteson Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange with a tempo loss) which Habu chose, Yonenaga in the waiting room predicts as follows.  "Were thorough research to be conducted on Itteson Kakugawari, the conclusion would be likely that the Sente is in favor. But I am not sure if I can live to see this question answered."  Are drastic changes beyond Yonenaga's prediction about to happen in the modern shogi? No one would be able to answer at this stage. All the leading professionals, including the two currently playing before my very eyes, are diligently working on it day in and day out. Yasumitsu Sato, one of them, says that "Even I will not be able to live to see it solved. In fact, I am also in favor of being Gote (Second mover) (laugh)."


I am absolutely sure that Meijin Habu is going to give his very best as usual. If I cannot catch up with him, then the series will bore the spectators. It will be up to whether I can give my best, and I am determined to do so.


Here, I would like to make a detailed introduction of Ryuoh Akira Watanabe, who declared his determination as such in The Shogi World October 15 Issue, so that those who are not so familiar with shogi can also have interest in him.


Ryuoh Akira Watanabe, who is confronting challenger Habu, is a genius destined to fight against Habu for the inter-generation battle.

It was in the spring of 1995, when he was merely 10 years old, when shogi fans, including me, became aware of his existence.

It was because 7-dan Toshihiko Kawaguchi wrote as follows in his popular series "New-Match Diary" on The Shogi World (Diary of April 18, 1995)


There appears a genius in the shogi world once in ten years. I am sure you already know, but I will still name them. Hifumi Kato, Kunio Yonenaga and Makoto Nakahara, Koji Tanigawa and Yoshiharu Habu. Following this theory, it has been nine years since 4-dan Habu debuted. I knew it was about time for the next genius to appear.

History is never to be wrong. A genius certainly appeared.

His name is Akira Watanabe, and he enrolled in Shoreikai (Apprentice Professionals' Association) as 6-kyu last year. After merely half a year, he has already become 2 kyu. He is the fifth grade and at the age of ten. ...

Using my business as a pretext, I went to Ginza and dropped off at Mankuma restaurant finding Nakahara, Sato (Yoshinori) and Ogura there.

I ended up talking with them overnight, but when I mentioned that Watanabe kid, Nakahara's eyes glittered and he immediately said "Habu-kun will be defeated by him." These words are worth taking notes of.


This is a famous anecdote inside the group. But I wanted to be absolutely accurate about it word by word considering its famousness, so I looked for the back number of The Shogi World and transcribed the concerned part before departing. It seems he was still of his surname 渡邊 at that time (translator's annotation: he is currently using a surname 渡辺).

In 2000, he had become 4th dan before he graduated from secondary school. There had been only three players, Hifumi Kato, Tanigawa and Habu, who had become 4 dan before graduating from secondary school in the past, and Watanabe was the fourth. It was five years after Kawaguchi had written this text.

It is hard to believe that Watanabe grew up unaware of Nakahara's prediction that "Habu-kun will be defeated by him."

Fifteen-year old Watanabe, who had become 4 dan, knowing that he would be the prodigy destined for the inter-generation battle, was, expectedly, bursting with confidence.


I believed that I would be able to become a leading professional at the age of around twenty five even without putting much effort, when I was 15 years old. (The Shogi World, November 2006 issue)


So Watanabe reminisces. However, when he confronted Osho Yasumitsu Sato after three years since he had become a professional, he finally experienced the strength of the Habu-generation and began to hold a growing sense of crisis.


When I played with Sato-san in my third year, I thought "it will be unwise to leave myself untrained." I was leading by a small margin, yet could not maintain the lead and lost. It was a close match if closely looked at later on, but he was way ahead of me in deep reading. He played many moves I had least expected. I certainly will become strong, but so will the seniors. I thought this power relationship would remain unchanged. Having had that sense of urgency in the match with Sato-san was a great luck for me. (Ibid.)


He did not specify in this interview, but I may be right to assume that he is referring to the Challenger-deciding-tournament for Oza title on May 29, 2002, where he was defeated by Sato. Watanabe earnestly trained with the sense of crisis and expectedly began to stand out before long. He won the challenger-deciding-tournament for Oza title in the following year, achieving himself a chance to challenge Oza Habu. This first challenge for a title was in the summer of 2003, when he was nineteen years old. Although he could not win the title, it is still a fresh memory that he cornered Habu to the limit in the Oza title match five years ago. 9-dan Teruichi Aono, who was in charge of the commentary of the last round, wrote as follows,


Still, Habu's finger shaking in the final phase of the endgame was extraordinary. They were shaking so hard that he could not even hold a piece and the monitor caught him pulling his hand back again and again. That spectacular scene I have seen for the first time in my life gave a hint for us to know how much stress this defending match had placed upon even Habu. (The Shogi World, December issue, 2003)


It was the final round of this Oza match against Watanabe when he first experienced shaky fingers, which occurs when he becomes sure of a massive upset victory.


And Watanabe defeated Ryuoh Toshiyuki Moriuchi and attained his first title at the age of twenty (December 2004). He was seated as Ryuoh. Since then he defended the title for three successive years and will be able to become entitled to "Permanent Ryuoh by defending the title for five successive years." And he is now confronting Habu, who will also be able to be entitled "Permanent Ryuoh by retaining the title for the total of seven years."

Watanabe and I became close friends when I wrote a word of recommendation on the band of his first book Duel of Brains, which was published in November 2007 and was targeted for ordinary readers.


In the same November 2007, I also published my second book The Web for the Rest of Us from Chikuma Shinsyo. My The Web for the Rest of Us and Watanabe's Duel of Brains were shelved next to each other as new titles of the month from Chikuma Shinsyo, and I was asked to write the recommendation, which was of great pleasure to me.


And when I read his draft of Duel of Brains, I was struck by his sense of duty and crisis. I was also impressed to find that the fourteen years of difference between Habu would manifest itself in such places.


Simply put, Watanabe is a young leader who anticipates that the premise that "a professional shogi player can live off as long as he is strong enough" might become unsustainable if "leaving himself untrained" in his era. He is filled with sense of duty and responsibility to earnestly confront this severe reality.


For example, he started a blog earlier than anyone else, where he makes professional shogi players' days open to the fans and makes honest comments on his own shogi for the fans the next day of a match regardless of whether he wins or loses. It was a manifestation of his strong desire for a broader range of fans to feel that the shogi world was more familiar.


In the "Preface" of Duel of Brains he writes as follows


We professional shogi players make our living by playing shogi. It is made possible because there are those fans who value the shogi played by professionals. Like sports, shogi would not exist were it not for spectators.


However, I assume there are a large number of fans who think "shogi is difficult" or "we cannot understand it without special knowledge" and "the threshold to enter is much higher than sports." It is certainly true that shogi is difficult to play. However, it is anything but difficult to enjoy it. It would be regretful if people were watching our shogi and just feeling "it looks difficult." I would like more people to know how attractive shogi actually is and this brought me to write this book. 


If I am allowed to be so bold as to say this, I assume that there has been this prevalent thought that "if you love shogi, please just go ahead and play it. And just get strong. I will measure your love towards shogi by how strong you are."


Of course the world of the tournament professionals can be like this. However, I think that there existed the hierarchical structure predicated only on how strong one is among all the people involved in shogi, including media, amateurs and fans, and it led to the situation of "the threshold to enter being so high" that Watanabe mentions.

In order to seek a better future for shogi, the number of "non-playing shogi fans" and "those fans who are not good at playing but can enjoy watching shogi" must be increased. So thought Watanabe and he published Duel of Brains. Furthermore, this Duel of Brains depicts interestingly the mental battles between players, thereby brooding over "what the interesting parts of shogi where two human beings confront each other are." His wishes that even those who are not quite familiar with shogi can enjoy more than enough the attractiveness of supreme shogi where two human beings confront were evident. In Watanabe, who had to write this kind of book at as early as twenty three years old, did I see a glimpse of solidarity, which is of stark difference from the leading professionals of the Habu-generation. Why he particularly seeks "the interesting parts of shogi where two human beings confront each other" and writes about it is because there is a severe reality where the computer shogi is becoming stronger and stronger. In March 2007, he accepted a serious match against "Bonanza," a computer shogi. "A win will be taken for granted; a loss will lose face as a top player." He took on such an unworthy match where he could have lost much more than he could have gained.


Considering the current shogi world, I thought I would be most suited for this match age-wise. Professionals in their 30s and 40s would be hindered by their past achievements. I am not certain yet as to how much I will be able to achieve in the future, but I thought it would be now or never to play against it. ...


I believe that computer against human will be one of the most important contents in the future shogi world. This will be the first time to play against it on a proper stage. Therefore as a first step, I am very eager to win regardless of how (laugh). Were it to so easily surpass us, then it would not serve as a contest. It would entertain both players and fans if we could hold it off as long as possible. (The Shogi World, April 2007 Issue) 


I would like to praise Watanabe, who talked as above just before the match against Bonanza. He won against Bonanza. And in a book which he co-authored with the developer of Bonanza, he talked as follows.


The day might come when the representative of human beings loses. Even so, I believe that we need to keep honing our skills so that we can put off the day for as long as possible.

Bonanza has already reached the level where it is very likely for it to defeat a professional in a one-round match. What if it were allowed a chance to participate in the 6th group of Ryuoh Ranking, which is the lowest group? It is not unusual at all for it to defeat a professional once in several games if it participates every year. Were it to be permitted to join every formal match likewise, and to play some thirty matches a year, some professionals would be defeated.

However, it does not necessarily mean that it is already better than human. Though this might sound strict about computers, it is finally possible to say that they have reached the professionals' level when they can be one of the leading contenders in the 6th group of Ryuoh match. In order for someone from the sixth group to proceed to challenge my title Ryuoh, he needs to have more than ten consecutive wins.

Computers have surely become strong. However, I predict that it would still take a while for them to reach the top-professional player's level. (Bonanza vs. Ryuoh's Brain)


When the day finally comes when a computer defeats the best and brightest of human, then how would it alter the lives of professional shogi players?

It is a matter of life and death for young professional shogi players who need to think about their lives in the much longer run than veteran professional shogi players. Therefore his generation must not run away from facing computers, Watanabe has so determined. At the same time, it might be possible to interpret that he is asking the computer software developers if they are also determined to study the techniques of top professionals (of course top professionals also study the techniques of the software in earnest), and to keep seriously competing with the professionals. If so, he is declaring to accept the challenge. It is not merely about winning or losing in a one-round match, but are they (computers) sincerely ready to fight to the death in the system where the geniuses of the same level (so far, they are all humans) are aiming for the top? So asks Watanabe. He is absolutely certain that his mission as a leading figure of the shogi world is to take full responsibility for asking this question.

A brilliant figure surely appeared after the Habu-generation.

I wholeheartedly think so.



(3) A Formula One Car and an Armored Car

Paris 12:40, 18 Oct, 2008

Japan 19:40, 18 Oct, 2008


I went into the playing room when Habu played P-7d, but Watanabe keeps pondering and is hesitating to play the next move. Only the time passes, ten minutes, twenty minutes and thirty minutes. There is no visible change in the two players. They heave a deep sigh from time to time, and shift their stares from at the board up into the empty air.

This experience of putting myself in the silent playing room, where time is controlled by the two pondering players, gives us a completely different perception towards time.

Ryuoh Watanabe mulled over the moves for forty-one minutes and played P-2e (21st move) . Habu then played S-3c (22nd move). Then the next move of S-2g (23rd move) from Ryuoh indicated Bogin (Climbing Silver). Then Habu responded with N-7c (24th move) . It has been already three hours since the match commenced. In this dense flow of time, each has played only twelve moves.

Board: the 24th move at the Ryuoh match, game 2, Watanabe v.s. Habuand its Japanese version
[The 24th move △N-7c]


In shogi, one move is extremely important and valuable.

I had a chance to think it over again when I had a following conversation with Fukaura.

Fukaura, who defended Oi and prevented Habu from accomplishing the Grand Slam, engaged in a dead heat battle with Habu over this summer. He predicted that "Watanabe would defend with the score of 4-3" in the round-table talk published by Yomiuri Shimbun. I took the opportunity and sent him an email asking what would be worth paying special attention to in this Ryuoh title match and what are the differences between the two.

His reply was as follows,


Even Habu-san might be swung around by Watanabe-san. Therefore, I would like to pay close attention to his (Habu-san's) strategies. How he will deal with Watanabe's "solidity and attacks." However, Watanabe-san's countermeasure for avoiding being left behind in the opening and middle game might be more serious. I would like you to have a look at the fourth round of Watanabe-Sato match last year, if possible. It was a game where Watanabe-san built an Anaguma castle with no feeling against Sato-san's Kakugawari Mukaibisha (Opposing Rook with Bishop Exchange). The generation of Habu tends to think about gaining even one move to contribute to the sense of speed in the middle game and the endgame, while Watanabe-san did not drop the Bishop on 6e in the opening and was consistent with his shogi (Anaguma). The position in the opening symbolizes it. There are some positions where their sheer differences are even comparable to an F1 car and an armored car. I would be unable to say anymore until the match begins, but I am looking forward to watching the match, and it has been a while since the last time I was so excited about a match except for my own.


Sincerely Yours,


Koichi Fukaura


Habu is an F1 car and Watanabe an armored car.

When I was studying the "Watanabe-Sato match from last year," Fukaura had mentioned, I came across a dialogue between Fukaura and Watanabe recorded in The Shogi World, June 2008 issue.


Fukaura: ... Trading Bishops from Gote's side and choosing Mukaibisha (Opposing Rook). It's the strategy to intentionally allow Sente to play B*6e if he likes. However, I felt impressive that Watanabe responded to it with no feeling to build Anaguma. Gote chose an extensively challenging opening. But I think it's a pity to manage to have the position to this degree as a result of such a challenging opening. Though it was one of the themes last year if Itteson Furibisha (Ranging Rook with a tempo loss) should make sense, I think Itteson Kakugawari Furibisha (Ranging Rook with Bishop exchange with a tempo loss) has been getting less popular since that game.  

Watanabe: Yeah, I admit it's not satisfactory to allow Gote to transfer his Rook to 2b in a move indeed, but I did not think I had to drop a Bishop on 6e with anger. From Gote's point of view, he should worry about both risks of allowing B*6e and allowing Sente to build Anaguma.  The recent Gote's tendency is to seek for another shogi in consideration that such risks exist.


The minute detail on the board aside, from their discussion regarding the difference just one move might make, and from Fukaura's sense to be able to feel the two (Habu and Watanabe) are "different as an F1 car and an armored car," I thought that unlike one movement in sports such as baseball (a pitch and a swing), there is surely tremendous value and weight in one move in shogi.


By the way, there is a book named Men at Work. This is an immortal great book written by George F. Will, a baseball enthusiast and political critic, who had close interviews with four baseball intellectuals and reached the soul of the modern baseball. He remarks in the book as follows:


Being a serious baseball fan, meaning an informed and attentive and observant fan, is more like carving than whittling. It is doing something that makes demands on the mind of doer. Is there any other sport in which the fans say they "take in" a game? As in, "Let's take in a game tomorrow night." I think not. That is a baseball locution because there is a lot to ingest and there is time — although by no means too much time — to take in.


Watching professional shogi players ponder and making a guess about the next move in a difficult position in the opening and middle game is surely fun. However, this way of enjoying a match is only privileged to those who are a strong shogi player him/herself.

But there are much more ways than this to enjoy shogi. Is it possible to become "a shogi fan who has a vast amount of knowledge about it, a rich imagination and sharp powers of observation," although he is not so good at playing?

There are many things we can "take in" from one game of shogi by watching the infinitely diverse shogi; stimulate our thought by recollecting rich words that has described shogi, associate shogi with other art and extract their common nature, or turn the essence of those ideas into our intellectual nourishment for living the modern society. 

If I substitute baseball with shogi in George Will's words, then it would go as follows.


Being a serious shogi fan, meaning an informed and attentive and observant fan, is more like carving than whittling. There is a lot to ingest and there is time — although by no means too much time — to take in.


Unlike baseball, it takes two days for a game. "Take in" is more suited for shogi than for baseball.

Incidentally, Habu's goal for this match is "to play an artistic shogi in Paris."



(4) Kio Sato's Commentary During Lunch Break

Paris 14:39, 18 Oct, 2008

Japan 21:39 18 Oct, 2008


During the lunch break, I asked Kio Yasumitsu Sato for "a commentary for 5 kyu," "a commentary for 1 dan" and "a commentary for 5 dan" in the position that follows.

Board: the 28th moveand its Japanese version
[The 28th move △S-4d]


<Commentary For 5 kyu>

As you can see Sente's formation, Ryuoh Watanabe solidly protect his King with S-7g, G-7h and G-5h. "Defending the King with three generals" is a proverb of shogi, and he is following that. Also, his attackers are on the right side. The defenders are on the left, and the attackers are on the right. The Gote, challenger Habu has a formation difficult to explain. Well..., basically Gote is going to counter attack seeing how Sente attacks, so Gote does not make definite distinction between attackers and defenders. ...Does this work of 5 kyus?

Watanabe-san wants to attack. We usually go P-1e, Px1e and Sx1e; attack with larger quantity. On the other hand, the silver cannot advance with P-3e, Px3e; the Pawn would be simply lost. Therefore the Sente move forward with P-1e. If Sente goes like P-1e, Px1e and Lx1e, then the Silver will not advance more if Gote drops a defensive pawn on 1c, though if Gote takes it by Lx1e, then the Silver can advance further by Sx1e. Therefore, if using Silver such as Sx1e is often found in the attacking way of this Bogin (Climbing Silver). After that,  Lx1e and Lx1e will invite a loss of material because of trading a Silver for a Lance. But attacking that way is the purpose of Bogin (Climbing Silver) strategy.

This is for 5 kyu. In fact, I do not believe that Watanabe-san will start attacking in that way, but I recommend this strategy to beginner-level amateurs since that attacking way is easier to understand.


<Commentary for 1 dan>

The position favors Ryuoh Watanabe (Sente) in the perspective of commentary for 5 kyu spectators. It's apparent. In the perspective of 5 dan, it's even. In perspective of that for 1 dan spectators, it may be for Sente. It's not so easy to think about the commentary for 1-dan spectators.

Oh, I came up with an explanation of the commentary for them.

What will happen if Sente plays K-8h entering to the castle? Gote has a good move for that case. Jumping the Knight to 8e! Yeah, this is a good commentary, even if I do say myself (laugh). It's good since it's right after Habu-sen pulled his Rook back.

Sente would like to make the King safer. It's generally good to enter the King into the castle so he wants to do so such as K-8h to develop Yagura castle. But at this position, Gote's trap will be to force such as N-8e. If you let the Silver escape to 8f, then B*5e forking the King and Rook will come. Dropping a Bishop forking the King and Rook will ruin you. If you pull back your Silver to 6h responding to N-8e, B*5e will be forking the King and Rook again. So you have to move up the Silver to 6f against N-8e, then the successive P-6e is a good move. If you takes it by Sx6e, B*5e will be forking the King and Rook again. Habu-san (Gote) pulled back his Rook to 8a (26th move) in advance and it works in this position. If it is the position just without pulling back the Rook to 8a, then B*7c will fork Gote's King and Rook after Sente's K-8h and Gote's jump of N-8e. Gote will suffer from forking the King and Rook in contrast.R-8a has such a deep meaning.

In case that Sente plays K-8h, he should block the possible Bishop diagonal line, that is, it's good sequence to play K-8h after advancing his pawn to 6f. It's a solid procedure to play K-8h into the castle after advancing the

pawn to 6f in order to make a double-block of  the possible Bishop diagonal line, hence S-7g is less safe since it's a single block.

Oh, What a nice commentary for 1-dan spectators came to my mind! (laugh)


<Commentary for 5 dan>

This position is fairly unprecedented. There are ones that resemble it, but rarely in the opening of Itteson Kakugawari (Bishop Exchange with a tempo loss). 

I think Habu-san is likely to choose Migigyoku (Right King) strategy. Watanabe-san's purpose of adopting Bogin (Climbing Silver) is not to break through at once, but to invite Habu-san's King to choose Migigyoku (Right King) with satisfaction and pull it back to 3g for further development of the formation to gain positional advantage. His plan seems to have a winning development of making his King safer. Building Anaguma will be possible.

I don't expect they make many moves in the afternoon since things change delicately move by move. 

I think Watanabe-san will try to trade Rook pawns after pulling back his Silver to 3g. But I don't think Habu-san will allow that. This position can be often seen with usual Kakugawari (Bishop exchange) opening. But the location of Gote's Rook pawn is different. Which is the best location of Rook pawn in the Migigyoku Strategy, 8c, 8d or 8e? Each has various pros and cons, but keeping it on 8c has no capability of counter-attack, so I think it will be advanced to 8d in due course.



(5) Watanabe and Habu; Visiting Paris at the Age of 24

15:59, 18 Oct, 2008

22:59, 18 Oct, 2008


At 3:30 p.m., the position on the board is deadlocked a little with the 42nd move of G-6b.

"There are few choice of moves," "I don't think they will choose draw, but this is merely my ideology, so it is hard to tell" explains Kio Sato. Under the rule of Ryuoh title match, the match resumes after a short while of break, if they reach draw by the morning of the second day. However, if a game become draw in the afternoon of the second day, the administration are going to hold a meeting to determine how they proceed the match. 

"The next move and the following one are extremely difficult. I could think of nothing but G6g-6h" so predicted Sato, only to see Ryuoh Watanabe play L-9h. "Wow, this is his true strength" said Sato. Ryuoh Watanabe, asked for his own evaluation in an interview for Weekly Shogi, answered as follows.


I would say my shogi is modern if asked so. My shogi might be fairly predictable because I like to build a robust castle. My strategies are seen through by others (laugh).


Expectedly, he is trying to build a robust castle.

"How is he going to build Anaguma? The balance of the pieces is not good. But Habu-san will prevent it." Murmured Sato. How will Habu-san do? The president Yonenaga, back from lunch outside, is staring at this position and predicted "Habu is considering both S-5e and B-6i, but will not choose either of them."

Habu might take a long time.


By the way, Habu and Watanabe are fourteen years apart.

And this is the first Ryuoh title match in Paris in fourteen years. (The last one was between Ryuoh Yasumitsu Sato and Challenger Yoshiharu Habu in 1994).

That means Habu also visited Paris at the age similar to that of Watanabe, now.

Watanabe is now famous for writing a blog, but fourteen years ago is when the internet was just born. People in Japan started using the internet in 1995, and it goes without saying that blogs did not even exist.

However, Habu was writing a blog at the time.

I would call it a printed blog.

He was publishing a diary series on a monthly magazine called Shogi Magazine.

This series was subsequently published as a book titled Koki No Shiten (Vision of Favorable Opportunity) in 2003. This book is fairly interesting and comparing this book and Watanabe’s blog will provide you with a clear idea regarding the difference of their personalities.

And Habu is slightly embarrassed about it later on.

This book was made by compiling a series I was writing for a magazine called Shogi Magazine in my early twenties.

Reflecting back upon it from the present perspective, there are a fair number of parts I am so embarrassed to show you, and I would be willing to seal it off somewhere, if possible.

There are several reasons for this, the first of which being that those games are emitting the impression of youthfulness, in other words, roughness.

I assume that I was trying new strategies and techniques, but if looked at from the present perspective, there are many which seem rather reckless.

In addition to this, partially because I was fairly pressed by match after match, I was writing the drafts without putting much thought on them. I remember struggling to write each series despite its not so massive amount per draft.

Having said that, I am extremely pleased to be able to publish in the form of a book those game records and drafts, which are the traces of mine at the time. (Koki no Shiten, preface)

I recommend to Habu fans to look for the book in a book shop.

I wondered if Habu-san had happened to write something about Paris and looked. Here it is. I will transcribe it.

Prior to departure, I heard that it would be fairly cold in Paris, which made me bring sweaters and coats. But the temperature was more than 20℃ upon our arrival, which was completely unexpected.

Under the name of taking photos, I went to standard sightseeing places such as the Arch of Triumph, the Louvre and the Hill of Montmartre.

What strongly struck me there was the difference of profound history between Japan and those places. I assume that European people have a stronger desire to leave historic values than Japanese people, which has kept the scenery and atmosphere of the town unchanged from a long time ago.

Compared to this, in Japan there is a strong likelihood that a certain place transforms into a completely different place in the time span of merely 10 years, which I suppose derives from cultural differences.

The philosophy to try to sustain great traditions and the philosophy to keep seeking new and better, these two distinct philosophies have considerable influence on the evolutions of chess and shogi. (Koki no Shiten, item of October, 1994)


This is the impression of Paris Habu had when he was twenty four years old.



(6) The Brimming Vigor, Fragrant Matureness

Paris 17:17, 18 Oct, 2008

Japan 00:17, 19, Oct, 2008


Shortly past 4 p.m., Habu played N-3c (44th move).

Board: the 44th moveand its Japanese version
[The 44th move △N-3c]

According to Kio Sato and President Yonenaga, "Sente's K-9i is expected. If Gote allows Sente's one more move of G6g-6h, he has no measure. Therefore, considering that he played N-3c before, Habu-san is about to enter into hostilities here."

It seems like this is the turning point of today. After memorizing the moves in their investigations, I entered the playing room, wanting to be there until Habu plays. Ryuoh Watanabe just played K-9i (45th move), and Habu was pondering over his next move, with his stare fixed on the board and his legs crossed in Agura way.

"Something is different." This thought occurred to me the instant I entered the room.

I kept staring at the two, wondering what the "something" might be.

Then the answer popped out.

Youthful, invigorating air is out flowing from Watanabe.

And mature, experienced air is wrapping Habu.

Watanabe, who was said to resemble late Meijin Oyama since his childhood and still looks mature despite his youthfulness, was brimming with the stoical aura of a monk in his teens. Compared to this, Habu, who has been a superstar for a long time and still maintains his youthful appearance, was displaying the patina of an adult. It was then that I could finally understand their age difference of fourteen years.

After all, this match was definitely an intergenerational battle.

Habu kept thinking for twenty seven minutes without breaking his stern look, and finally picked up the Silver on 4d to put it back to 5c.

Not taking the challenge from Sente, he patiently held back the Silver, and gave the turn to the youth Watanabe. Watanabe, looking at Habu's S-5c, crossed his legs, with his whole body over the board. Habu fiercely fanned his face with his folding fan, and gave a slightly tired look. I stood up and left my seat.

When I was reading the commentaries of the game record, I found these words from Yonenaga.

"Let me humbly apologize" said president Yonenaga. "I suppose that there might be something wrong with my big picture that it's not interesting to let the Gold back to 6h. I would like to praise him for holding back here, where normal people would want to move forward. "

Watanabe entered into the pondering.

After thirty minutes since he started to ponder, it was now 5:10 p.m. There was fifty minutes left until the sealed move, but it may be possible that he would keep thinking until then.

This was without a doubt a battle between youth and maturity.



(7) The Mutual Reliability Among Habu-Generation Players

Paris 08:42, 19 Oct 2008

Japan 15:42, 19 Oct 2008


Meijin Habu made the sealed move at 6 p.m sharp yesterday. One and half hours after, at 7:30 p.m, the players and the tournament officials reunited in a restaurant in the hotel, where we were to have dinner.

The dinner on the first day of a two-day title match is held among the officials, including the two players.

Of course the dinner proceeds in a very lively atmosphere, but the officials are divided into two groups so that the players in the midst of a match do not have to talk to each other. Last night, Yonenaga and Sato, the main observer and sub-observer, respectively, were seated next to each other in the centre, with Watanabe sitting next to Yonenaga and Habu next to Sato. They took suitable seats around them and had a pleasant chat. In other words, they were separated into the Watanabe group and the Habu group.

I joined the latter.

I have watched two matches between Habu and Sato (the Kisei matches in 2005 and 2008). As Watanabe and Habu are being put in separate groups this time, Sato and Habu were being in different groups at those times.

Therefore I was unable to observe it at those times, but I found out that those two are actually very friendly to the point of me feeling envious towards them. There is immeasurably deep trust between them, which other people could not possibly imagine. I could strongly feel it even without words.

There is a word "Habu-generation."  Habu, Sato and Moriuchi who occupy almost all the titles in the current shogi world, are all at similar ages and they have kept competing with and improving each other since their childhood. Habu is the most prominent, but I would say that they have accomplished it as a group. Therefore, many have already written about the "Habu generation."

However, the most impressive account of the Habu-generation I have read so far was the one written by then nineteen-year-old 8-dan Namekata, who is three to four years younger than the Habu-generation (By the way, I always make sure to transcript every part I feel moved by or impressed with when I am reading a shogi book or magazine, and keep them "on the other side" of the web. Therefore, I can refer to them whenever necessary, even from Paris.)

I have to bear the sheer weight of the existence of "the players who became 4 dan in 1982" such as Meijin Habu or Ryuoh Sato. Unlike me, who aimlessly spent days of Shoreikai (Apprentice Professionals' Association), they were innately gifted with the very best environment, where they could maintain a rivalry relationship for more than 10 years from when they entered Shoreikai, or even before that. By putting themselves in a kind of utopia even before the awaking of consciousness, they succeeded in spending a realistic childhood without drowning in daydreams. They already knew what they wanted. By following the already well-laid path, they were able to live much more interesting lives than most adults. A conceited child would become too proud of himself and fail to take his life seriously, but they prevented it by controlling themselves further. If one had become conceited, then he would have been immediately left behind. Obsessed by shogi, their bodies began to feel heavy and incompatible with the air of the town. But because nothing was more interesting than competing with each other in Shoreikai, the did not pay even the slightest attention to their daily lives. They sometimes had disdainful admiration for being normal, but reading Weekly Jump was the last thing they could have imagined.

Then they became professional shogi players, exerted their influence in the whole shogi world and finally were given a brand name.

I was very fortunate to be able to have a glimpse of something common only in Habu and Sato, who together grew up with a childhood where "reading Weekly Jump was the last thing they could have imagined." Seeing is believing. No words would be able to describe this.


By the way, 4-dan Taichi Nakamura (20), who is determined to serve as the scorer of this match without unfolding his seiza even once during the whole two days, is four years younger than Ryuoh Watanabe. I assume Nakamura holds the deepest respect for Ryuoh Watanabe, but does he have the same complex feeling towards his seniors including Watanabe, as the one 19-year old Namekata was holding towards "the depth of the Habu-generation"? I doubt it because there is no depth which might be called the Watanabe generation, and Watanabe looks like a maverick.

4 days ago, while we were walking in the public square in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai, I said to 4-dan Nakamura "I am looking forward to seeing you playing in a title match."

"I appreciate you saying so. Certainly. As soon as possible."


There was no worry in his voice. It is not yet decided that Watanabe is the only one following the Habu-generation.

Including this "invisible battle against the younger generation," this Ryuoh title match is, even beyond the entitlement of Permanent Ryuoh, tremendously important for Watanabe.



(8) Repeating Battles Between Youths and Matured

Paris 10:00, 19 Oct 2008

Japan 17:00, 19 Oct 2008


Challenger Habu's sealed move was Px2d (50th move). The battle of the second day starts with this move. Ryuoh Watanabe took the Pawn immediately with the Rook (Rx2d). Those were obvious moves.

Board: the 50th moveand its Japanese version
[The 50th move △Px2d]

For the next move at the position of Rx2d, there was the difficult choice between P-4e and P-6e, Habu, who made a sealed move at the position of Px2d was given a night to think about his move at the position of Rx2d. And he soon played P-6e. In order for Ryuoh Watanabe to have avoided this position, he would have had to make a sealed move at some position before P-2d (position with options). But if he had done so, then there would have been one and half hours of difference in the allotted thinking time on the second day. Ryuoh Watanabe prioritized his time and played P-2d between 5 and 6 p.m yesterday, giving Habu the right to seal his move.

This was the tactic between the two over the sealed move and the allotted thinking time.


By the way, I became keenly aware of "the youthful Watanabe" and "the matured Habu" in the strained playing room yesterday, which left me wondering which among his matches in his youth would be "the battle between the youthful and the matured" for Habu, which is comparable to this Ryuoh match for Watanabe.

It is, without doubt, the Meijin title match of 1994, where he challenged Kunio Yonenaga, who was the Meijin at the time, currently the President of the Shogi Association and the main observer of this match.

Habu, twenty-three years old at the time, declared that "he would not play usual shapes of standard sequences" and immediately take up a vanguard position on the central file and played Nakabisha (Central Rook) as Sente. I heard that many veteran professional players were upset with Habu's altitude to play "Furibisha (Ranging Rook) despite being Sente" and "not playing Yagura" against a great senior Yonenaga on such a spectacular stage of the Meijin title match; they thought the choice of the strategy itself was indignant. This irrational ideology was rampant in the shogi world until only 10 or so years ago, but he empathized "the freedom on the board" in the Meijin title match.

By the way, 6-dan Kiyokazu Katsumata, than whom no one is better at explaining and evangelizing the modern shogi, refers to the first round of the 1994 Meijin-sen at the beginning of the fifth chapter "Gokigen Nakbisha no Hanashi " in his book A Story of the Modern Strategies.

It's a beautiful formation with all the Golds and Silvers being connected and advancing a vanguard pawn on the central file. Habu made people recognize the superiority of Nakabisha (Central Rook) with advancing a vanguard pawn on the central file as a strategy again. Habu's philosophy, that it would not be better to be a specialist of specific strategies and that you should choose any good strategy no matter what playing style you have, is becoming widespread gradually. Thus top players' way of thinking about strategies is changing.

By saying so, he analyzes that the idea of Nakabisha (Central Rook) with advancing vanguard pawn on the central file, which Habu threw at Yonenaga in the first round of Meijin title match led to the idea of Gokigen Nakabisha which has become very popular since the late 90s. Habu, at almost the same age as Watanabe, opened the door to the modern shogi by winning "the battle between the youth and the matured" against Yonenaga in the Meijin title match.

Habu himself also writes mostly about the 1994 Meijin title match against Yonenaga in the preface of his bestselling book Determination (Kadokawa one theme 21). As I understand quite well as a writer, the preface of a book is where he/she most carefully develops plans. Determination was published in July 2005, which is more than 10 years after the Meijin title match. Therefore it was not necessarily the most natural thing for him to write about the Meijin title match considering that he had even achieved a Grand Slam during the period. That he cited the Meijin title match against Yonenaga in the preface of Determination, despite all of this, shows very well how important that match was for his life. Looking back at those times, Habu writes as follows.

The public opinion was filled with "Hang on, Yonenaga!" These voices naturally reached my ears.

It was the first time that I experienced such "repercussions" before a match.

A battle between a young professional shogi player aged twenty-three, who has reached the top without any struggle, and a senior professional shogi player aged fifty, who, after repeated challenges and failures, has finally reached glory— If framed like this, a normal person would want to support Yonekura-Sensei. In addition to this, I had spurred some controversies before the Meijin title match. … Most public opinions were 

"Yonenaga, defeat Habu." 

The sixth round was about to begin in this atmosphere.

During the three days prior to the match. I felt as if I was wandering alone in the complete darkness.

It would seem that this match between Habu and Watanabe was, being still in the first round, far from this degree of tension. However, watching the swell of voices for "Habu’s Grand Slam, again" which started since this spring, Watanabe might be having the same feeling as Habu was holding at the time.

Had Fukaura (one year younger than Habu) not defeated Habu and defended the Oi in the Oi-sen this summer, Habu would have been holding five titles now and have come to Paris to retrieve the sixth title, namely "a further step towards the Grand Slam." In this position, the public opinion would have been further against Watanabe.


When I returned to my room after dinner last night, there was an email from Oi Fukaura, who had prevented Habu’s Grand Slam (I mentioned in the third entry "(3) A Formula one car and an armored car" that he predicted that Watanabe would defend the title).

When I saw the sealed move, my instinct told me that Watanabe would win. But something is bugging me regarding Habu-san's behavior (For example, his independent actions in Paris). The first win is crucial, but to be absolutely honest, I have become less and less sure who wins through the whole series. I was taken aback by Habu-san’s strategy against Watanabe’s "solidity and attacks" and also felt from the opening Habu-san’s confidence that he could handle any strategy. The second day will be all about how Habu-san is going to dodge Ryuoh Watanabe’s attacks. I am composing this message with my family soundly sleeping next to me (around 6 a.m.) Another title holder is here (laugh). I will enjoy myself at Disney Sea, but I assume that I will be unable to keep my eyes away from the Ryuoh match live broadcast. It is fairly unusual, considering that I usually want to enjoy myself to my heart’s content during my private vacation.

Yes, among the seven titles of the shogi world, six (Yoshiharu Habu, Akira Watanabe and Yasumitsu Sato) have all gathered here in Paris, and only Koichi Fukaura, "another title holder," is staring at this match through the screen of his mobile phone from the "Disney Sea" in Japan.

Yes, the only title held by someone except the Habu generation is Watanabe’s Ryuoh.

Upon reading his commentary, President Yonenaga sent him a one-line email.

"It seems you have finally understood what shogi is like."



(9) What is the True Meaning of the Fully Confident Motion?

Paris 11:37, 19 Oct 2008

Japan 18:37, 19 Oct 2008


Although the positions of the game were slowly shifting on the first day, from Ryuoh Watanabe's fifty-third move of B*2c which he played after a long pondering, the match transformed itself into a fiercely flowing stream. This is "the move to knock out" (Yonenaga), meaning the severe battle has just begun, but for some strange reason, Habu also increased his pace.

It took three minutes for Gx2c, no time for Px6f, one minute for P-6g+, one minute for B*6i, three minutes for Bx4g+, and four minutes for B*6d. Despite being in the difficult position of the middle game, he seems as though he were saying "I am seeing through all of your moves." Especially, the 64th move of B*6d was played slowly, full of confidence. "Ryuoh Watanabe was caught off balance. He will take more than 30 minutes here." is what Yonenaga remarked. As he expected, Ryuoh Watanabe started to ponder here.

Board: the 65th moveand its Japanese version
[The 65th move ▲P-7e]


On his way to the Ryuoh match, Habu experienced unbelievable turnaround wins against Fukaura in the quarter final and against Maruyama in the semi final.

5-dan Daisuke Katagami, under the title "Shock," wrote about the match against Maruyama in his blog.


I do not have even the slightest idea as to how I could express this surprise. It was the first time I was that surprised watching a live broadcast. ...

It seemed as though the match had finally become clear after a great length of difficult positions. Then the prompter abruptly read "Maruyama, Defeated".. I actually screamed in front of the screen. ... I was really really stunned yesterday. I thought Meijin Habu was supernatural.


The previous match against Fukaura was also a surprising setback win (the title of Weekly Shogi, August 20 Issue was "Habu Setback Win, One Move Collapse Favoured Fukaura"). When I compared the web-live comments and post game analysis, I could not help but feel deeply impressed by Habu's battle tactics.

The 19th move of that shogi, Sente Fukaura's K-2h against Gote Habu's B-2f+ was a bad move which led to Habu's setback win. If Fukaura had dropped a Silver on 4i, then the winner would have been probably Fukaura, eliminating Habu's chance to challenge Ryuoh.

The real time live commentary read "B-2f+ with a powerful manner."

Nevertheless, Habu's commentary in the post game analysis on this move was "I was reluctant but needed to choose B-2f+,;since P*3g would be in vain to block my Bishop's line after G-2g."

Habu, while being "reluctant," moved B-2f+ "with a powerful manner," leading to Fukaura's mistake.

Staring at B-6d, Watanabe was still pondering. He had been pondering for more than one hour.

What would be the true meaning behind Habu's move which was played "slowly, full of confidence"?



(10) Eyes of the Game record-Keeper-4-day Taichi Nakamura

Paris 13:09, 19 Oct 2008

Japan 20:09 19 Oct 2008


The match entered a lunch break at the 65th move of P-7e.

4-dan Taichi Nakamura, the game record keeper, came back to the waiting room.

He was also thinking together with the players in the playing room, where all the information of the examination in the waiting room did not reach.

So I asked him for his opinion as soon as he entered the waiting room.

It is not the best idea to ask a scorer for his opinion in the middle of a match, but since 4-dan Taichi Nakamura is an apprentice under president Yonenaga, under the agreement to post it in my blog, I asked him for his current positional judgement, which was as follows.


Yonenaga: Taichi Nakamura, the scorer, has kept silent towards his seniors' moves. But since his master President Kunio Yonenaga insists for him to say his opinions, he can do nothing but obey the master's order. Well then, speak about the position and which (Sente or Gote) do you prefer.


Nakamura: I would be on the side of Habu-sensei. If I were to give reasons for this B*6d. Let me see... I assumed that B*6d was a good move. (To the question as to whether he had expected this move) I had this move in mind as one of the possible moves, but thought that S5c-6d would be more usual. However, Ryuoh was pondering for 88 minutes after the move. I assume that Ryuoh did not take B*6d so seriously.


Yonenaga: Well then, give Taichi Nakamura's next move!


Nakamura: I would say that the most natural move would be +Bx4f. But P*6g would be also a possibly. Sacrificing P-8f might be another. I suppose those are the three possibilities. And I did not expect Ryuoh's 53rd move of B*2c. I was expecting he would advance a pawn like P-3e.


Yonenaga: Not bad! Would you write in your blog that "his master Yonenaga is certain that Taichi Nakamura will qualify for a title match in the near future"? It is surely a brilliant relationship between the master and an apprentice, is it not?


P.S. The first move after the match had resumed was P*6g. It transitioned to G6hx6g (67th move) and P-8f (68th move) as 4-dan Nakamura predicted.



(11) President Kunio Yonenaga's Commentary During Lunch Break

Paris 13:40 19 Oct 2008

Japan 20:40 19 Oct 2008


"A commentary for 5 kyu," "A commentary for 1 dan" and "A commentary for 5 dan" which I asked Kio Yasumitsu Sato in a lunch break yesterday were so popular that I would like to ask president Kunio Yonenaga, instead of Kio Sato, who is away for teaching games, for his "commentary for 5 kyu," "A commentary for soy-dan" and "A commentary for 5 dan" in a lunch break on the second day.


"A commentary for 5-kyu"

It is the current position that Ryuoh Watanabe's King is more robust and Meijin Habu's king is a little in danger. Dropping a Bishop on 6d intends to be completely defensive and shows the strength of Meijin Habu. Since the square of 5c has become more robust with the bishop drop, Ryuoh Watanabe changed the attacking course by advancing the Pawn of P-7e. It is a difficult position.


"A commentary for 1-dan"

This is the position that Ryuoh Watanabe is attacking and Meijin Habu is defending. You will not run out of gas with the four attacking pieces and run out with the three ones. Watanabe's attacking pieces on the board are two, such as the promoted Rook and the Gold and a knight in hand. He needs one more piece for attacking. In order to do that, make the Knight take part in the battle by S-4e Px4e Nx4e might be recommended instead of advancing the pawn to P-7e.

Furthermore, he could have simply jumped the Knight to 4e to be taken by Px4e, then drop a pawn on 4d to the president of "Tokin Manufacturing Ltd.," to materialize the attack with four pieces.

And also he could have played N*4e Px4e Nx4e to take the Silver to realize the attack with four pieces. But he judged all of them unsatisfactory thus P-7e means to put a base pawn on 7d in the future to realize the attack with four pieces. Another consideration is about whether to activate the two pieces of the Silver on 4f and the Knight on 3g by moving them or by being taken while advancing the pawn at P-7e. Habu can neglect the pawn at this position. But if his pawn on 7d is taken by Px7d and he takes it back by Bx7d, then the dead Silver on 4f and Knight on 3g will become alive again.


"A commentary for 5-dan"

I would say that Habu is in favour at this position.

The focal point of this game was a battle on the square of 5c, but now it moves to which player controls the 7th file at this position. The one who control the 7th file will be the winner of this game. Which player will do that? This will determine superiority and inferiority.

Here is an example of the development from this position. +Bx4f will be a natural move and after that both will try to control around the square of 7e. And then Sente will have a good sequence of Px7d Sx7d N*6f. Therefore, instead of +Bx4f, how about dropping a sacrificed pawn on 6g and then 6f if the first one is taken by G6hX6g? This will make it impossible for Sente to play N*6f and intend to win in the attacking race. For instance, if Sente responds to it by Sx6f, Gote will instantly be in a winning position with the line of P-8f Px8f +B-6i G6g-6h P*8g.

I have a feeling that Habu leads the position now.



(12) Kio Sato Describes Modern Shogi

Paris 16:17 19 Oct 2008

Japan 23:17 19 Oct 2008


Ryuoh Watanabe advanced his pawn to 7e at the 65th move after his 88 minutes of pondering in the morning, and then it was Habu's turn to take time to read. He spent 84 minutes for the 70th move of P*6f. It is 4:10 p.m. It is estimated that the match will finish after 7 p.m. This breathtaking moment will last for more than 3 hours.

Board: the 70th moveand its Japanese version
[The 70th move △P*6f]

Kio Yasumitsu Sato and president Kunio Yonenaga are still examining the position in the waiting room. I could hear in the conversation that "bad aspects of modern shogi might be manifesting themselves (on the part of Watanabe)." So including these things, I tried to interview Kio Sato.


Umeda: I heard you mention that "bad aspects of modern shogi" might be manifesting themselves.


Sato: It would be more accurate to say side effects, instead of bad aspects. People sometimes feel overconfident of Anaguma, which makes it easier to calculate the how fast to approach the King. It's robust and distant. The King on 8h will be trapped one tempo earlier than that on 9i. Such games are not rare at all. The most remarkable example would be the 5th round of the Oi sen. Some might easily conclude to be able to win by this robustness and long distance of the King. Especially modern professional shogi players.


Umeda: Could you tell me what you meant by modern professional shogi players?


Sato: Certainly. Watanabe-san would be also included. I am not absolutely sure about Habu-san. But Watanabe-san who was Gote would not take the style of playing which Habu-san took today. I would say most young professional shogi players would not. Watanabe-san dropped an attacking Bishop on 2c, which I also thought was the best instead of P-3e. If I were the Sente, I suppose I would choose that move.


Board: the 53rd moveand its Japanese version
[The 53rd move ▲R*2c]


Umeda: Some said that 64.B*6d was a good move.


Sato: Instead of B*6d itself, I would not think that he had a sense that it would be the time to take a pawn by Px6f (58th move), sacrificing it by P-6g+ (58th move) and dropping a Bishop on 6i (60th move) which I admire the most. B*6d was mandatory or so. It's the move to squeeze out of that position. But not so many people have a sense of thinking that P-6g+ and P*6i would do.


Umeda: May I suppose you meant Habu-san's sense by this?


Sato: It is hard to answer. I assume that Habu-san might be thinking that he made some mistakes in the opening. He might be playing thinking that "I could not have done any better than this even though I lost," but other professional shogi players might have already ruined himself. They might think "there is no chance anymore" when they saw B*2c They might play more suicidally.


Umeda: Habu-san, since B*2c until B*6d spent little time.


Sato: This shogi is not so optional from the beginning. It might be easier to think about the position in the middle game. This shogi is difficult to give a subtle flavour. Watanabe-san is choosing Anaguma and would like to seek for a game with less flavour.



It took half an hour to compile the interview draft into this text. Sato, keeping his examination during that thirty minutes, said "I am beginning to believe that Habu-san might be leading, though I am not so certain."



(13) Meijin Habu, Victory of the Whole-Board Perception

Paris 19:58, 19 Oct 2008

Japan 02:58, 20 Oct 2008


The clock pointed to 4:45 pm, I receive information that it was closer to the end of game. Then, I entered the game-room. When I was in the room, the atmosphere was very intense, so once I turned green and got back to the common room to take a little rest. But, the rest of time, I have looked at these two players.


"I resign,"


said Ryuoh Watanabe. Several moves before resigning by Ryuoh Watanabe, Meijin Habu, after the game, who told us "When S*6g (86th move) was moved, I was sure I could win," never trembled his fingers during the last three moves.


 The entire time I've told you, in the common room, everyone agreed "This is a very brilliant game." and stirred. Nevertheless, Ryuoh Watanabe repeated with regret in the post-game analysis "It was really a bad game."


 I was surprised to hear that. Meijin Habu, showed consideration for Watanabe and said, "Not really. If you moved like this... How would it go?"  time and time again until the post-game analysis finished.


 A few minutes after the tough game, Habu became a so-called "Good senior".

 Put simply, Ryuoh Watanabe said nearly the same thing as Kio Sato said in "(12) Kio Sato Describes Modern Shogi."


Sato: "Instead of B*6d itself, I would not think that he had a sense that it would be on time to take a pawn by Px6f (58th move), sacrificing it by P-6g+ (58th move) and dropping a Bishop on 6i (60th move) which I admire the most. ... But not so many people have a sense of thinking that P-6g+ and P*6i would do."


Watanabe energetically dropped an attacking Bishop on 2c, but Habu's plan of countermeasure was totally beyond his prediction.


"That was beyond my expectation, so I stroke up. Having dropped a Bishop on 6d, I couldn't develop any tactics. I looked for a good move again, but I could have no choice. Damn. My perspective was wrong. I dropped a Gold, he dropped a Bishop, at once I had an uneasy feeling... After he dropped it, I was looking beyond again, but no answer. It's awful. It's too bad that I did not notice I was in trouble until the Bishop was dropped. I realized the fact that I should have all the choice to attack on ahead. When I played P-6g+, I didn't know I was in bad position. If I could have understood my bad position then, I would not have dropped a Bishop on 2c. I thought about what the attacking race would be after B*2c. However, I never imagined that I would have no way at all after he turned the course into defense thoroughly with P-6g+ and B*6i."



These were Watanabe's remarks I wrapped up. And, the last words, in the post game analysis, he said with emphasis were


"But, if I could play again, I would drop a Bishop on 2c..."


Chairman Yonenaga, who was a referee, asked Habu "It's usually good to trade a Bishop for a Gold and a Knight for a Rook promotion, isn't it?," and Habu answered, "Yes, that's usually right, but... this was not the case."

The game can be summarized as follows. Watanabe took two pieces for one and let the Rook get promoted. Everybody thought it should have been the development favourable beyond Watanabe's expectation, but only Habu had a different perspective that in this position it was not necessarily the case that Sente was in the better position.

Before the game started, Habu said "We are in Paris now, so I want to play Shogi as if it looks like a kind of art." Ultimately, this game can be called an art created solely by Habu.



The 21th Ryuoh Match, Game One: 18-19th October, 2008

Location: Le Meridien Etoile, Paris, France
Available Time: 8 hours each
Sente (first mover): Ryuoh Akira Watanabe
Gote (second mover): Meijin Yoshiharu Habu
1.P-7f   P-3d     2.P-2f   G-3b     3.G-7h   Bx8h+    4.Sx8h   S-4b   
5.S-3h   S-6b     6.P-1f   P-1d     7.K-6h   P-6d     8.S-7g   S-6c   
9.G-5h   G-5b    10.K-7i   P-7d    11.P-2e   S-3c    12.S-2g   N-7c   
13.S-2f   R-8a    14.P-3f   S-4d    15.S-3g   K-6b    16.S-4f   P-8d   
17.P-6f   P-9d    18.P-9f   P-5d    19.G5h-6g P-8e    20.N-3g   K-7b   
21.K-8h   G-6b    22.L-9h   N-3c    23.K-9i   S-5c    24.G6g-6h P-4d   
25.P-2d   Px2d    26.Rx2d   P-6e    27.B*2c   Gx2c    28.Rx2c+  Px6f   
29.+Rx3c  P-6g+   30.G6hx6g B*6i    31.G6g-6h Bx4g+   32.G*4c   B*6d   
33.P-7e   P*6g    34.G6hx6g P-8f    35.Sx8f   P*6f    36.G6g-7g +Bx4f  
37.Px7d   Sx7d    38.P*7e   P*7f    39.Gx5c   Bx5c    40.Px7d   Px7g+  
41.Nx7g   Bx8f    42.Px7c+  +Bx7c   43.N-6e   S*6g    44.Nx7c+  Gx7c   
45.Gx6g   G*8h    46.Kx8h   G*7h    47.resigns
Gote won.


Board: resignation diagramand its Japanese version

[The resignation diagram]

Next > Chapter 6 




Comments (8)

Jun Koda said

at 7:10 am on May 10, 2009

英語でも Rue de Buci と書くことが多いみたい。日本語にとっての中国語みたいなものですか?


takodori said

at 2:56 pm on May 19, 2009

「関係者」を tournament officials としました。短い間に繰り返し使われているので、2度目以降は、単に officials とか they(them) とかにしています。

Leonard Hirsch said

at 6:51 am on May 20, 2009

Wasn't sure if "The God" was referring to the Christian "God" or Shinto "the Gods"

Jun Koda said

at 10:51 am on May 20, 2009

Thanks for making improvements.
I don't think the "God" is about the Christian "God".
Here, because Habu's victory was so miraculous, 5-dan Katayama thought Habu was possessed or inspired by something, maybe a (japanese) god of shogi.

shenqi said

at 4:42 pm on May 20, 2009

I agree with Jun, when we say "a god", we refer to Shinto gods, not Christian one.
I guess it is safe to say "a god", without any capital letter.
Anyway, we'd better hear more opinions from people.

takodori said

at 3:27 pm on May 21, 2009

The sentence is in question is like this.

>>The only reasonable explanation for this would be "it was done by a god."

"It was done by a god" is a translation of Kami Gakatte iru. I think it should be replaced by "supernatural" without using the word the God, the Gods or Gods"

Jun Koda said

at 9:29 pm on May 21, 2009

The word "Kami Gakatte" is originally used for (Japanese) Shamanism. So,
a) It was really supernatural. or (Habu-san was) supernatural(?).
b) (Habu-san) was possessed (by some spirit).

The problem of (b) is that, with the word "possessed" alone, the meaning is not specific enough, but to be more specific, we are not sure what possessed him.

Also the statement "The only reasonable explanation for" may seem too rational. It should be an emotional rhetoric rather than reasoning. What about,
c) I can't believe it, it was supernatural!

Jun Koda said

at 12:08 pm on May 23, 2009

Is Paris a city of a town? I think "city of Paris" is most natural. (I haven't replaced all the "town"s yet.)

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