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Japanese girl, 10, becomes youngest player to win official Go match

Sumire Nakamura, right, smiles at a press conference after clinching her first official match victory since her debut as a professional Go player in April, in Osaka's Kita Ward on July 8, 2019. At left is her opponent, fourth-dan ranked player Chieko Tanaka, and in the center is ninth-dan ranked Kunio Ishii, who acted as an observer of the game. (Mainichi/Rei Kubo)

OSAKA -- Ten-year-old Go prodigy Sumire Nakamura scored her first victory in an official match when she beat a fourth-dan ranked opponent in a preliminary round of the 23rd female Kisei tournament here on July 8, breaking the record for the youngest player to triumph in an official game.

Nakamura, who in April became the youngest ever professional of the traditional board game in Japan, defeated Chieko Tanaka, 67, in a preliminary match at the Kansai Office of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) in Osaka's Kita Ward. It was Nakamura's second official match since her pro debut.

Nakamura registered the achievement at the age of 10 years and 4 months, breaking the record previously held by Rina Fujisawa, who won her first official match at the age of 11 years and 8 months. Fujisawa, now aged 20, holds the prestigious female Honinbo title.

In the July 8 match, first-dan ranked Nakamura and Tanaka faced off in a fast Go game, with each allotted one hour on the clock. The two players drew for colors through the "nigiri" selection method to decide who would have the black stones and play first. The 10-year-old drew white, losing the initiative, and her opponent gained the upper hand in the opening. But Tanaka made a bad move in the middle game, which Nakamura capitalized on to turn the tables. The young player went on to win the game in 146 moves, with Tanaka resigning.

The venue was crowded with some 60 members from 25 media organizations present. At a press conference following the historic match, Nakamura remained too shy to answer reporters' questions, except for when she was queried about breaking the record to become the youngest winner of an official match. "I'm happy," she said.

Tanaka, meanwhile, heaped praise on Nakamura. "She played calmly, not like a child. I want her to become Japan's leading Go player," she said.

Kunio Ishii, 77, a ninth-dan player who acted as an observer of the game, commented, "It was a thrilling game, but Nakamura mustered her powers to achieve an upset."

Nakamura's father Shinya, 46, also a ninth-dan player, appeared relieved. "I'm happier for her than I would have been if I had won myself," he said.

The wunderkind will next take on fourth-dan ranked Kim Hyun Jung, 40, in a match scheduled for Aug. 5, vying for a berth in the female Kisei tournament.

Nakamura is the first player to have been selected for the Nihon Ki-in's special new program to recruit and train young talent to compete globally. In her debut match on April 22, she lost to the equal-ranked Ran Omori, 16.

(Japanese original by Hiroaki Niidoi, Osaka Cultural News Department)

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