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Advancing Women in the Worlds of Shogi and Go Seen as Key to Greater Popularity

As women make more inroads, Kana Satomi is challenging the field of shogi in August in a bid to become the first professional Japanese female player ever.

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Kana Satomi, who won the qualifying final to take the shogi professional transfer exam, at the Kansai Shogi Kaikan in Fukushima Ward, Osaka, on May 27.

The winners of the 167th Akutagawa Prize and the Naoki Award will be announced on July 20. Looking at the 2022 list of candidates, the Akutagawa Award nominees are all women, and with the exception of one lone male nominee, the Naoki Award nominees are women, too. 

In the literary world, the word “female style” has long since become an obsolete word.  

Women in Shogi and Go

On the other hand, in the world of shogi and go, the distinction is still very much used. In order to become a professional female go player, one enters tournaments for the general bracket or the “joryū (women’s style) bracket.” 

In most general shogi tournaments, not to mention women’s tournaments, the women’s style players are in general measured the same way as male players. This also holds true for promotion rules. 

Female go player Sumire Nakamura, 2nd dan rank, is the youngest player in history to win 100 official games.

In the case of go, however, there is also another option. Sumire Nakamura, who became the youngest professional go player in 2019 at the age of 10 and holds the rank of second-dan, entered the professional world through the “genius bracket.” It is a system newly established with the aim of discovering young prodigies and does not require a proficiency test. 

In 2021, Nakamura’s record was 43 wins to 18 losses, placing her in 3rd place in the ranks of combined men’s and women’s combined titles. Performing as expected, she has qualified in 2022 as a challenger for the women’s Meijin title. 

Sumire Nakamura, second dan, achieves her 100th win in defeating Keiko Kato, 6th dan, in the 2nd round of the 41st Women’s Honinbo battle on June 6, 2022 in Tokyo.

Rankings in Shogi

With shogi, professional male players and women’s shogi players are distinctly categorized. The ranking system is also different. 

In order to obtain professional status in shogi, women players must move up the ranks in the 3-dan league of the shōreikai apprentice school or pass the professional transfer examination. 

Kana Satomi talks about her enthusiasm for taking the professional transfer exam in a press conference at the Kansai Shogi Kaikan, in Osaka, on July 6, 2022. (Photo by Miyako Nagumo)

Even the women’s four-titleholder shogi player, Kana Satomi, 30, who had many women’s titles to her name, was one step short of achieving professional status through the shōreikai league, and finally had to withdraw due to the age limitation. However, due to her winning record, Satomi has since qualified to take the professional transfer examination.  

In contrast to the world of go that opens its doors to women, meritocracy and gender equality seem to be more rigid in the shogi world. However, both go and shogi are suffering from declining numbers of competitors. At the same time, they share a common desire to reinvigorate their popularity through more focus on the success of women in their games.  

Satomi is one hope. If she succeeds in winning three matches out of five during the August tournament, she will become the first female professional shogi player. 

Satomi released a statement asking us to “observe the situation calmly.” But without a doubt, if she wins it will be the biggest frenzy since the Sota Fujii fever.   

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(Read the article in Japanese at this link.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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