Chess and Shogi – Chernin in Japan (Part 2)

5/7/2012 – When Jacques-Marie Pineau, chess enthusiast and trainer in the emerging western-chess nation of Japan, invited grandmaster Alexander Chernin to take part in a good-will tour, which involved lectures and simultaneous exhibitions in a country mainly fascinated with Shogi. Jacques-Marie starts his final report with a description of how a young Shogi talent can take to chess. Impressive.

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GM Alexander Chernin in Japan

Report by Jacques-Marie Pineau from Kawagoe, Japan

A few years ago I introduced my chess student from Japan, Toshiyuki Moriuchi, to grandmaster and acclaimed chess coach Alexander Chernin. They were soon on friendly terms: GM Chernin taught the importance of pawn structure and positional play to Moriuchi in Budapest six years ago, and gave some lessons to Yoshiharu Habu last October shortly before another event held at my friend (and French Chess Federation President) Henri Carvallo's Villandry Castle, during which French Champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave faced both Habu and Moriuchi simultaneously. We reported recently about this event.

Following these intriguing exchanges, I began to entertain the thought of inviting GM Chernin to Japan, and have him share his deep positional chess understanding with the small but dedicated local chess community. Especially when Chernin and his wife said to me their dream to come in Japan. I described the first part of their trip in this report.

I take up the narrative of chess interest and talent in Japan with an experience I had last Christmas, when I taught a young Japanese boy some basic chess principles. He really consumed everything I said. What takes usually one week was understood in less than one hour. I showed him some openings and mate patterns. To my surprise he was able to solve a mate in six in just a few minutes.

1.Qa2+ Kh8 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Nh6+. I was especially surprised that the young boy didn't fail in the trap 3.Nd6+? Kh8 4.Nxb5?? Rf1#. 3...Kh8 4.Qg8+ Rxg8 5.Nf7#. The position is mate in six if Black sacrifices his queen on move one.

His obvious joy assured me it was really the first time he saw this mate. Later I showed him few endings. I taught him the Durand rule of a pawn ending and sensing a trap, after a deep though he solved this one fairly well.

My student actually found 1.Kb1! I was especially surprised that young boy who had learned how chess pieces move 30 minutes ago, consuming all I said about basic pawns endings, recognising the trap and not going for 1.Kc3? a3! 2.b4, after which White must take the pawn and cannot get the opposition 2...Ke5 3.Kb3 Kd5 4.Kxa3 Kc6 5.Ka4 Kb6 draw! 1...a3! 2.b3! Again thinking conscientiously! 2...Ke5 3.Ka2 Kd4 4.Kxa3 Kc5 5.Ka4 Kb6 6.Kb4. With Black to move White wins. Bravo!

After this it took him less than fifteen minutes to learn how to win the ending king, knight and bishop vs king. The reason for his remarkable talent: this young boy was already a shogi champion.

A meeting with a Naohiro Sanada

We visited Naohiro Sanada, the President of a non-profit organization called ISPS (International Shogi Popularization Society) in order to explore avenues for future collaboration could be possible between chess and shogi communities in a near future. Sanada, a former classmate of His Majesty the Emperor, received us with his usual, great simplicity. He then proceeded to show us his historical town (and major tourist attraction) of Kamakura.


The Buddha Daibutsu in Kamakura, Japan [photo: Dirk Beyer]


The Chernins with Naohiro Sanada at the foot of the 13.35 metres statue

Tanya Chernin was fortunate enough to enjoy the much-famed Cherry blossom season in this majestic setting, since this year sakura trees blossomed one or two weeks later than usual around Tokyo.

A simultaneous exhibition at The French Institute of Tokyo

For this last occasion I wanted to field the best Japanese chess players against the grandmaster. The 15 opponents included nine Japanese top players, among them twelve-time Japanese champion Gonda, five-time champion Kojima, and the reigning national champion Ryuji Nakamura. In addition to what basically amounted to two full olympic squads, the field also included six guests, most of them of first category players like Verheyden, a diplomat at the embassy of Belgium (I might add that Mr. Verheyden is a strong shogi amateur himself, rated 3 Dan).

In the above picture I am introducing Chernin to the Japanese champions, from left to right: my friend Hiroshi Takemoto, who already knew GM Chernin quite well, Gentaro Gonda, Ryo Shiomi, Ryuji Nakamuma, the current champion – the average of these nine boards was 2200 Elo – not an easy task, especially the last day of an hard schedule.

The guests side: the Ambassador of Greece, Mr. Tsamados, the Minister Counsellor of Belgium Embassy, Mr. Verheyden, Mr. Ozawa, Professor of Economy at Keio University, Mr. Matsuura, Poet, Sams Richard, translator and also fan of Shogi, Madoka Kitao, Shogi professional who put a lot of fight during his chess game.

Richard Sams has translated many Shogi books into English, and Madoka-san had already participated to a chess/shogi event in France, where she assisted IM Almira Skripchenko in a Shogi simul given by the current world champion Toshiyuki Moriuchi


Hisaki Matsuura, a famous poet and novelist in Japan (and a chess fan), put together
the young team that challenged GM Chernin in our previous report

This strong opposition, together with the heavy schedule which had preceded grandmaster Chernin's exhibition, took their toll, as Chernin conceded two losses and three draws out of 15 boards.

I should show some wins of GM Chernin (I was particulary impressed by the way he won vs Gonda and Iwasaki) but the opportunity to show Japanese chess players performing well is seldom. Thus I selected the next game, which was played by one of the most promising chess talents in Japan, the young Kojima (to this list I should add young chess talents such as Nanjo, who also won his game during the simultaneous exhibition, and Baba, who could reach a level of up to 2350, if he had more opportunities to participate in international tournaments I suspect). Shinya Kojima came especially well-prepared because he had lost recently to Habu's Catalan. Even so, he displayed some beautiful chess skill in this game:

[Event "Chernin's Sumil"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.03.28"] [Round "?"] [White "Chernin, A."] [Black "Kojima, S."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2400"] [BlackElo "2400"] [PlyCount "46"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] 1. d4 e6 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. c4 dxc4 5. Qa4+ c6 6. Qxc4 b5 7. Qc2 Bb7 8. Nf3 (8. Nc3 $5 {might be an interesting gambit.} b4 (8... Qxd4 9. Nxb5 Qb6 10. Nc3 c5 (10... Ng4 11. Nh3 Bc5 $6 12. O-O)) 9. Ne4 Qxd4 10. Be3 Qe5 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 ( 11... gxf6 12. Nf3 Qc7 13. O-O c5 14. Rfd1 Nd7 15. Rd2 Nb6 16. Rad1 Bd5 (16... Nd5 17. Nd4 Rc8 (17... Nxe3 $2 18. Nb5) 18. Nf5 $1) 17. Nh4 Bxg2 (17... Qc6 18. Bxd5 Nxd5 19. Qe4) 18. Nxg2 {The d-file might be a good compensation for the pawn.}) 12. Nf3 {with compensation for the pawn.}) 8... Nbd7 9. O-O c5 $1 10. Bg5 Rc8 {Black's position is already more fluid.} 11. Bxf6 $6 Nxf6 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qb3 a6 14. Ne5 $6 Bxg2 15. Kxg2 O-O 16. Nc3 Bd4 $1 17. Nf3 Bxc3 18. bxc3 Ne4 19. Rfc1 Qb6 20. e3 Qb7 21. Kg1 Rfd8 {Reaping the full benefits from his fine play.} ({Instead} 21... Nxc3 {would only net Black a pawn.}) 22. Qb2 Nxg3 $1 23. hxg3 Qxf3 {The threat is Rd5-Rh5-Rh1} 0-1

In conclusion, I wish to express my thanks to all the people who made these events possible and helped to put Japan on the world chess map during a short week. First and foremost, I am thankful to GM Chernin for his visit to Japan and the opportunity he gave many Japanese chess players to experience high-quality games. I also grateful to the shogi Champions Yoshiharu Habu and Toshiyuki Moriuchi, who in spite of their intensive preparation for the upcoming Meijin title match found the time to meet with their chess coach. My thanks also go to Mr. Sanada, Mr. Watanabe Hisaki, Mr. Oi, Mr. Kimura, Mrs Kambegawa, Mr. Matsuno, Mr. Matsuura, Mr. Kojima, Mr. Wakashima, Mr. Yoshi, Mr. Akai, Mr. Fujisawa, Mr. Iwasaki, Mr. Aizawa, Mr. Terao, and the lady Shogi professional Madoka Kitao, who does so much to connect Chess and Shogi communities. They helped me a lot.

Copyright Pineau/ChessBase


Previous ChessBase articles on Shogi

Chess and Shogi – GM Alexander Chernin in Japan
04.05.2012 – It is astonishing that Japan, the third largest economy on the planet, with a population of 127 million, ranks at a paltry 92th on FIDE's chess world rankings, just behind Monaco. On the other hand the national version of chess, Shogi, is played by millions. Jacques-Marie Pineau has tried to rectify the situation by inviting a strong GM and trainer to motivated students – with resounding success.

Chess-playing Japanese Shogi champions
15.04.2012 – The Japanese chess variant Shogi is the most popular board game in the country. In recent years some of its greatest contemporary champions have started taking up chess, and two intersting experiments were recently conducted: a top GM played a chess simul against two Shogi masters, and the top Shogi champion a three-board Shogi handicap against chess masters. Illustrated report with games.
Garry Kasparov – taking up Shogi?
01.04.2008 – It was an interesting experiment: the former World Champion has, after his retirement from chess, tried his hand at the Japanese version of the game. Shogi is played on a 9 by 9 uncheckered board with flat wedge-shaped pieces with Kanji characters written on them. In his very first game Kasparov came ominously close to humiliating a three-dan player. Report and game.
800 Wins at 32 Years Old!?
25.02.2003 – It's chess all right, but Japanese chess, or shogi. The popular sport has its own icon, Yoshiharu Habu, whose games are regularly on TV in Japan. On Sunday Habu became, at 32, the youngest player ever to reach 800 career victories, breaking the record by six months. Kasparov has yet to reach that number in competitive play. More..
Joel Lautier's Shogi simul
06.11.2002 – He is by his own admittance a "patzer-level" Shogi player. But chess grandmaster Joel Lautier, whose mother is Japanese, recently took on three of the best Shogi players in Japan in a clock simul. In chess naturally. It was not, however, a trivial task. Japan's top Shogi player, Yoshiharu Habu, is of IM strength. More
When a Shogi champion turns to chess
17.05.2002 – Michael Jordan tried it with baseball – it, like, didn't work out. But what about a professional Shogi champion switching to chess? Yoshiharu Habu, one of the most gifted players in the history of the ancient Japanese game, has taken a casual interest in chess – and already reached IM strength. He is currently playing in a tournament in Paris, where Joel Lautier interviewed him.

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