Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Shogi Pros Visit Philadelphia

In December 2012, the Swarthmore College Shogi Club was delighted to host a visiting group of five professional shogi players. The delegation was led by Mr. Hatasu Itoh (7-dan, retired), who was accompanied by four of his former students: his daughter, Ms. Asuka Itoh (1-dan, retired); Ms. Ayano Nodasawa (1-kyu); Mr. Takuma Oikawa (4-dan); and Ms. Hatsumi Ueda (3-dan).

The visiting pros began their U.S. tour in New York City and then headed to Philadelphia, where they spent a day on the campus of Swarthmore College. Swarthmore is the only college in the U.S. with its own shogi club, and it was exciting for the student shogi enthusiasts to have the chance to interact with the professional players.

The visitors on the Swarthmore College campus

The event was historic not only because of the large number of pros visiting at one time, but also because one of the delegation, Ms. Ueda, is currently a title holder (of the 'Queen' title), and -- shortly before her visit -- won the right to challenge for the Ladies Meijin (world championship) title.

The visiting pros began their visit by meeting with the Vice-President of Swarthmore College, Maurice Eldridge, and presenting him with an autographed fan:

After chatting with students studying Japanese, and having lunch at the Japanese language table, the pros attended a special meeting of the Swarthmore Shogi Club in the afternoon. After formal introductions, each pro played three handicap games simultaneously against Shogi Club members.


 Mr. Itoh

Getting ready for the simultaneous games

Ms. Ueda in action, with Ms. Itoh in the background

Mr. Oikawa making a move

General view of the simultaneous games

Postgame analysis with Mr. Oikawa

Postgame analysis with Ms. Nodasawa

Following the games, Mr. Itoh gave out prizes to those Club members who had managed to win their handicap game against one of the pros. These prizes included autographed and hand-lettered tsume problems by Mr. Itoh himself, who is a well-known composer of tsume problems.

Mr. Itoh giving out prizes

The visitors with the organizers, Josh Onishi and Alan Baker

Following the events at Swarthmore College, the shogi pros headed into central Philadelphia to visit the historic Athenaeum Library, where in 2010 we had held an event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first recorded shogi game played in America.

While at the Athenaeum, Mr. Oikawa challenged current Pennsylvania state chess champion (and Swarthmore Shogi Club member), Tom Bartell to a game of chess on the Athenaeum's historic chess table. Tom took a queen handicap, since Mr. Oikawa had spent only a couple of weeks learning chess, and they played to an exciting and hard-fought draw. [See here for Tom's account, and the moves of the game.]

Tom Bartell vs. Mr. Oikawa

The final event of the day was a reception organized by the Japan-America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP), where various gifts were exchanged, and where a representative of the Mayor of Philadelphia formally welcomed the visiting shogi players to the city.

This short video was taken of the pros' visit to the Swarthmore College campus, and is currently on the College homepage.