Trip to Japan, October 2005

I spent five days over the weekend of October 22 / 23, 2005 in Tokyo participating in the 3rd International Shogi Forum (ìshogiî being the Japanese term for Japanese chess). This brought together teams from 8 countries, and individual players from a further 12 countries, to play in what amounts to the (international) World Amateur Championship of shogi. Also in attendance as observers and commentators were many top shogi professionals (all Japanese), including the reigning World Champion. Alongside the main team and individual tournaments there was also a computer tournament featuring the 8 strongest computer shogi programs. [Back in April I had won my section of the U.S. Shogi Championships in New York City, and this had netted me a free ticket to Japan and an official invitation to the Shogi Forum as part of the U.S. squad.]

In the team tournament, the U.S. pulled off a surprise victory, beating Brazil in the final, and Sweden, France, and Germany in earlier rounds. This is a big deal for U.S. shogi, and the first time the U.S. has made any significant mark on the international shogi scene.

I also played many individual games, winning some and losing others. My most memorable loss was to a 12-year-old girl (from Tokyo, and apparently one of Japan's top junior players).

Before and after the tournament I managed to fit in a bit of sightseeing, including a pre- dawn visit to Tokyo's wholesale fish market to see the auctioning off and slicing up of huge, $10,000 tuna. I also visited several local shogi clubs, full of old, chain-smoking Japanese men playing speed shogi games and talking loudly throughout.

Below are five pictures from the tournament. Pictures 1 and 3 show action from two of the individual games I played (note the traditional attire of my opponent in Picture 3). Picture 4 shows me posing with the professional World Champion, Moriuchi, in front of the team tournament scoreboard, and Picture 5 shows me presenting Moriuchi with a Swarthmore souvenir. [Note my proactive attempts to promote the Swarthmore brandname in Japan ... .]

Action from an individual game played

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Action from an individual game played

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Posing with the professional World Champion, Moriuchi, in front of the team tournament scoreboard

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Presenting Moriuchi with a Swarthmore souvenir

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