Japan’s great hope
Iyama’s rise in the world of Japanese Go has been nothing short of meteoric.
When Iyama was promoted to 9p, he was the youngest pro to reach 9p in Japan (at the time).
Back to the Asian TV Cup…
Yuki won the NHK Cup in 2012 and 2013, and also successfully challenged Iyama for the 51st Judan earlier in 2013 – frustrating any ambitions Iyama may have had of monopolizing all seven Japanese titles simultaneously.
After Japan’s recent good results in the 18th LG Cup, another good showing on the international stage adds some credence to those who are attributing the improvement to Japan’s new national study group initiative, called Go 碁 Japan (pronounced ‘Go Go Japan’), and hoping for sustained improvement.
But Iyama Yuta himself is surely another factor.
The Lee Changho effect
In fact, many Go fans are hoping that Iyama can continue his good form and make his mark on the international Go scene.
If, for argument’s sake, Iyama wins the 18th LG Cup (the final will be in February, 2014), it could be the catalyst for a grassroots resurgence in the popularity of Go in Japan – in other words, the Lee Changho effect.
The popularity of Go in Korea increased markedly from the mid 80s onwards as, first Cho Chikun, then Cho Hunhyun, and finally Lee Changho dominated the Go scene.
Lee Changho became a household name and scores of Korean children became interested in and learned Go because of his success.
Those who wish to see a more level playing field in the Go world again are hoping something similar could happen in Japan soon.
The Asian TV Cup
The Asian TV Cup is a lightning Go tournament open to the winners and runners up of domestic Chinese, Japanese and Korean lightning tournaments.
The name ‘Asian TV’ came about because the domestic lightning tournaments were all sponsored by local broadcasting stations – CCTV, NHK and KBS respectively.
However, in 2013, China’s spoiled the party by changing the sponsor of their qualifying tournament to CITIC Bank.
Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul take turns as tournament hosts.
The previous year’s winner is seeded into the semifinals while the other six players battle it out for the three remaining semifinal places.
The players receive 10 minutes main time and 30 seconds byo-yomi for their games.
Where’s the defending champion?
As I mentioned, the defending champion is traditionally seeded directly into the semifinal. However, last year’s winner, Baek Hongseok 9p was a notable absence at this year’s tournament.
Baek is currently completing compulsory military service and was therefore unable to participate.
The coveted seeded spot was given to Park Junghwan and, since Park had also already qualified for the tournament in his own right by winning the KBS Cup, Lee Sedol received a wildcard to make up the draw.
Will Iyama’s run continue?
There are a lot of hopes resting on Iyama Yuta’s shoulders and, as a child prodigy who’s now grown up, he’s carried that weight of expectation for years now.
Do you think that Iyama can maintain his momentum and win the LG Cup? Do you think he’ll be able to bring about a Lee Changho effect in Japan?
Join the conversation and leave a comment below!