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High school shogi star Fujii advances to Osho challenger league for 1st time

Sota Fujii, right, reflects on his game against Koji Tanigawa, left, at the Kansai Shogi Kaikan hall in Osaka's Fukushima Ward on Sept. 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Yusuke Komatsu)

OSAKA -- Teen shogi star Sota Fujii has for the first time made it into the challenger league of the Osho tournament, one of the traditional Japanese board game's major titles, following his victory over a higher-ranked opponent in the tournament's second preliminary round here on Sept. 1.

Fujii, 17, who holds a seventh-dan ranking in shogi, or Japanese chess, advanced to the challenger league of the tournament by defeating 57-year-old Koji Tanigawa, a powerful professional shogi player who holds a ninth-dan ranking, in their match at the Kansai Shogi Kaikan hall.

Fujii and six other players will compete against each other in the challenger league, and the winner will go up against the current title holder Akira Watanabe, 35.

The record youngest age for a player to earn the title of challenger in shogi is 17 years and 10 months, achieved by Nobuyuki Yashiki, who as a fourth-dan player made a challenge for the Kisei title. As the last game of the Osho tournament's challenger league is due to be held in January next year, if Fujii, who is now aged 17 years and 1 month, were to win, he would become the youngest challenger for a shogi title.

"I'm looking forward to competing against top shogi players in the league," Fujii commented. "I hope I can go into it full on."

The Osho tournament is sponsored by The Mainichi Newspapers Co. and Sports Nippon Newspapers and is supported by Osaka Osho, operated by Eat & Co.

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

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