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EDITORIAL | Sota Fujii Is Now the Youngest Shogi Player in History With Six Major Titles

As Sota Fujii pursues the path to mastering the ideal game, such as visualizing shogi from a bird's eye perspective, others, too, should take up the challenge.



Sota Fujii
Shogi player Sota Fujii shows off the calligraphy of his new "Six Crowns" title at a press conference one day after winning the Kio title. In Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. (© Sankei by Hideo Iida)

How much stronger will he become? Sota Fujii, a young man who is attracting much public attention and expectations, has achieved another "youngest ever" title.

Fujii became the second player in professional shogi history to hold six major titles. He took the Kio title in the best-of-five Kio title series, defeating the defending champion Akira Watanabe (Meijin titleholder), who was aiming to win the tournament for the 11th consecutive time.

At 20 years and eight months old, Fujii is the youngest player ever to win six major titles, far surpassing the record held by Yoshiharu Habu (9-dan titleholder). Habu achieved the milestone in December 1994 at the age of 24 years and two months.

Sota Fujii
Sota Fujii, the new Kio title holder, defeats Akira Watanabe (right) at a match at the Nikko Kinugawa Onsen Hotel in Tochigi Prefecture on March 19 (© Kyodo)

Measuring a Remarkable Potential

Fujii's achievements are so outstanding that words of praise cannot keep up with him. He became the holder of five major titles in February 2022. Since then, he has defended his titles five times against some of the best players. 

For example? They include Oza titleholder Takuya Nagase in the Kisei title match and Osho titleholder Habu in the Osho title match. He defeated all of them. And he maintained a winning percentage of 80% in the 2022 fiscal year.

He also won all four professional tournaments of the year. They included the NHK Cup TV Shogi Tournament, in which all top-ranked professional players and high-ranking amateur players were eligible to participate. This is the first time in history that one player has won all four tournaments in the same fiscal year.

​​On the other hand, he has also taught us the true joy of shogi beyond winning and losing. 

During the Osho match, a post-game analysis of Fujii and Habu smiling and explaining each other's moves was streamed online and became a hot topic on social networking sites (SNS). It was a great scene that showed the vigorous inquisitiveness and passion of two great minds of the Reiwa and Heisei eras.

Fujii said that there were many occasions during the matches when he felt Habu's superb strength. Winning the long-awaited "golden card" that fans have been anticipating may have further broadened his range as a professional shogi player.

Sota Fujii
Shogi marvel Sota Fujii (right) and former Kio titleholder Akira Watanabe look back at the game at the in a large-scale commentary venue. On the afternoon of March 19 at the Nikko Kinugawa Spa Hotel in Tochigi Prefecture (© Kyodo)

What's Next?

The remaining two titles are Meijin and Oza. He is scheduled to challenge Watanabe, the Meijin titleholder, in the best-of-seven title series in April. 

If his challenge for the Oza ("king's seat") title is also realized, he could hold the eight major titles this fall. 

But the path to that goal is a steep one. The Meijin title series will be held at the same period of time as the Eio title series (which Fujii currently holds and is expected to defend) this spring. 

In the summer, the matches to defend the Kisei and Oza titles will follow. In addition to his shogi ability, it will be essential for him to have both mental and physical strength.

Pursing the Ideal of Shogi

The day after winning the sixth title, Fujii expressed his desire to "continue to strive in order to play in a manner worthy of the titles." 

He also said rather than focusing on the number of his titles, he would like to focus on working on developing some of the remaining areas. For example? The ability to look at the game in a bird's eye perspective, he said. 

He should pursue the path to his ideal shogi. And he should do so without being distracted by the voices of those who are waiting for him to win the eighth major title. 

In the Kio title series, he was seen drooping his head after realizing that he had missed a decisive move. Fujii is not perfect, and other players should pursue their chance to break the status quo. While we keep our eyes on Fujii's challenge for the eight major titles, we also look forward to seeing some surprises.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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