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Oldest pro shogi player to retire after tournament losses

Ninth-dan shogi player Hifumi Kato (Mainichi)

Ninth-dan shogi player Hifumi Kato, 77, the oldest professional shogi player in Japan, will be required to retire after losses put him among the bottom contenders at an ongoing tournament on Jan. 19.

    Kato is currently competing in the 75th Meijin tournament, hosted by The Mainichi Newspapers and The Asahi Shimbun Co. Because Kato has fallen from the C-2 division of players, rules state that he has to retire. He will be able to play in a few more official matches.

    Kato, who has one win and seven losses in the tournament, did not have a match on Jan. 19, but due to a competitor winning that day, he fell into the bottom 10 of the 51 players in the C-2 division. Due to point losses from his defeats, Kato would have entered into a "free class" division. However, due to an age-limit in that division, he was instead automatically made to retire, ending his some 63-year pro career.

    Kato released a statement saying, "I still have matches left, and I want to put my all into them, so I want to wait until the final match to comment about retirement."

    Kato was born in Fukuoka Prefecture. In 1954 he became a professional player at age 14 and 7 months -- then a record for the youngest pro player. His record stood until 2016, when Sota Fujii went pro at age 14 and 2 months.

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