15-Year-Old Wins 2018 U.S. Shogi Championship
In Tournament Hosted by Chicago Shogi Club
" Fifteen-year-old Hana Wada from Houston, Texas is the 2018 U.S. shogi champion, winning the tournament held at Sysmex America Inc. in Lincolnshire on April 14 and 15.
" The U.S. Shogi (Japanese chess) Championship Tournament is held annually, organized by shogi clubs across the country. This year, the 22rd tournament was hosted by the Chicago Shogi Club, which also hosted a tournament back in 2013.
" Every year, the tournament invites professional shogi players from the Japan Shogi League. This year s visiting professionals were Akio Ishikawa (7-dan), Masakazu Kondo (6-dan) and Asuka Ito (Ladies 1-dan).
" A total of 32 players from across the U.S. competed
in the individual matches as well as team matches. The three-round qualifying
matches for individual players were held in Day 1 to determine A class
players (those who won two rounds) and B class players (the rest of the
players). In Day 2, the players competed in the final matches for the
first place for each class.
" The winner of the individual A class was the 15-year-old Hana Wada, securing the title of the 2018 U.S. shogi champion. Yoshiro Yamashita, manager of the Chicago Shogi Club, said that Wada beat her opponent, a highly competitive former member of the Osaka University shogi club, completely.
" Wada, whose older sister, Aki, is a professional shogi player in Japan, currently lives in Houston with her parents. She plans to follow her sister s footsteps after returning to Japan later this year.
" Another 15-year-old player, Sota Fujii, has recently become the center of national attention in Japan with his 29 consecutive wins since his 2016 debut as a professional player.
" The U.S. Shogi Championship Tournament boasts a high level of competitiveness in its own right: Keiji Tomita of the Los Angeles team is the winner of the A class at the 7th International Shogi Forum, which was held last October in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka; Yoshihisa Suzuki of the New York Shogi Club is the B class winner of the same world tournament.
" Koji Nozawa, president of the Chicago Shogi Club, has
won the U.S. championship several times since 2001 and is now considered
as 4-dan in the U.S.
" Also remarkable about this year s tournament is that three children participated from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to Yamashita, the Fujii effect is helping expand the population of young shogi players.
" One of the visiting professionals, Masakazu Kondo,
tutors future professional players at the training organization Shorei-kai
in Japan. He was pleased to see the three young players competing in the
" Shogi is supported in the U.S. not only by Japanese
players but also American shogi enthusiasts. The Chicago Shogi Club itself
was founded by Americans. David Rockwell, one of the founders, thinks
it s great that the U.S. tournament attracts so many high-level players.
" Danny Dowell, a first-time participant from Chicago,
loved to play chess. Then he discovered the game of go, which he s been
playing for the past 15 years. It was his go playmate who introduced him
to the world of shogi about five years ago.
" While players were engaged in quiet but fierce battle, the tournament also featured demonstrations of koma (shogi piece) making by four members of the Osaka-based Kansai Koma Club, a koma making group. It offers a set of handmade pieces to shogi lovers upon request.
" The preferred material for quality koma is hon-tsuge
(box tree), whose hardness and color patterns vary depending on where
it came from.
" Yamashita owns a set made by Hideo Hayashida, former
president of the Kansai Koma Club. He uses the set when competing in a
final match in the tournament every year.
" Hijimaro Kobayashi from the Kansai Koma Club began
playing shogi when he was a little boy and still enjoys playing it today.
" Photo caption:
Interview with a Professional Player:
A total of approximately 200 young hopefuls are currently trained by the Japan Shogi League s Shorei-kai, 100 in Tokyo and 70 in Osaka. Kondo, who is a tutor of Shorei-kai, says out of the 200 trainees, only two are promoted to 4-dan and become professional players every six months.
Q: What kind of training do you provide at Shorei-kai?
Kondo: Regardless of the ranking or ability, you must be able to conduct yourself properly in everyday life, including proper greetings, speech, the way you dress, how to behave, and so on. It s a common sense. You need to understand that first, before learning how to play shogi. We keep telling that to the trainees.
Q: Shorei-kai is said to accept many young shogi geniuses, yet I heard that 80 percent of them don t make it. It s such a competitive world.
Kondo: In the world of shogi, talent, effort and luck are everything. You must try hard, that s obvious. Talent means the love for shogi; if you don t love it, you won t try hard. And in the end, luck the god of shogi values those who work hard. A child in a lower rank can grow a lot if he or she works hard. You can beat the odds only when you combine effort, talent and luck.
Q: The power of concentration the players demonstrate in a game which lasts for hours while surrounded by the press and spectators that s amazing.
Kondo: They train for it at Shorei-kai. Plus, they have
pride as professionals they are on the edge of winning or losing each
game. You can t survive without the ability to concentrate.
Q: Thank you very much.
Interview with Asuka Ito:
Ito: Currently about 60 women professionals are active
in Japan, and they belong to Joryu Kishi-kai (the women shogi players
association). I am a board member and primarily responsible for training
young female players.
Q: Are there any differences that separate men and women players?
Ito: Of course there are. Men and women are offered different training structures, and, overall, men are required more than women to become a professional. I think that makes men more competitive and better equipped as professional players.
Q: What s it like to play in this tournament?
Ito: It s not possible to play all the participants one
on one, so I m playing against two different players in one setting. This
is a multiplayer game where one player plays against a multiple of players,
and when a professional player does this in Japan, the norm is usually
one against six to eight [amateur] players. The pro can keep track of
all of the pieces and their moves.
Q: Thank you very much.