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Yoroku: The dignity of a shogi player

Last year a chess grandmaster from Georgia was captured cheating at a tournament in Dubai. He made frequent trips to the bathroom during a match, where he is said to have analyzed the game using an app on a smartphone he had hidden there.

Hearing recently in Japan that professional players of shogi, or Japanese chess, have been banned from bringing smartphones to official tournaments and using them at such events, one is caught between the thought, "Is this the age we are living in?" and the feeling that in shogi, such an act would be deplorable. Computers have of course already surpassed humans in chess, and they are heading that way in shogi, too.

Coming as a shock recently was the sudden news that Hiroyuki Miura, a ninth-dan shogi player who was supposed to be the challenger at the Ryuo championship tournament starting on Oct. 15, was banned from taking part in official competitions until the end of the year. The reason for his punishment was put down to procedural inadequacies, but it is said the background to the issue is that the Japan Shogi Association investigated him over suspicions that he illicitly used shogi software. Miura argued that suspicions over the fact he unnaturally left the board many times during a game were "completely unfounded."

The truth remains unknown, but certain words come to mind. Eleven months before his death, former Lifetime Kisei title holder Kunio Yonenaga, a master of shogi, shared his thoughts on the day that computers would overcome human shogi players. He wrote, "Even if that day comes, it is my sincere hope that professional shogi players will still be respected and loved, and will still win the hearts of fans for the way they make their moves, the way they rack their brains, their stance of agonizing as humans and their powers of concentration on the game."

To think that such players could be mere computer puppets ... We hope that the latest commotion will be settled with a display of the dignity of a professional shogi player that will sweep away such a nightmare for fans. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

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