"All right players", Hikaru called out, "the first round of the Waya Cup will now begin!"
Five other people in the room joined Hikaru in laughter with Ochi, who seemed too serious and focused to join in, and Waya as the only ones not laughing. "The Waya Cup! Just what do you think this is Shindo?"
"It's a Go tournament of course" Hikaru replied. "Even if it's not sanctioned by the Go Association, it's still a Go tournament amongst us pros. It needs a name, makes it more fun, not to mention now it sounds serious."
"Yes, that's right" Isumi chimed in, "and if we all start to improve our games and people start to hear about this, who knows, the Waya Cup could become famous."
It was Saeki's turn to join in. "Yeah, and then one day great players will battle for the opportunity to win the title of Waya! Who knows, maybe I'll be the first person to hold the Waya title!" This caused the group to burst out into even louder fits of laughter, with even Waya joining in with a soft chuckle. They had the right idea after all. While he'd wanted this to be a serious tournament, Waya also wanted everyone to have fun playing it. Go was supposed to be fun.
Glancing down at the tournament schedule he'd drawn up for this round robin tournament, Waya grinned evilly. "Well future first Waya, I hope you're feeling good today, because your first opponent is Shindo."
Saeki blanched, which caused Waya, Hikaru, and Isumi to laugh. Honda and Kadowaki's expressions only darkened though. They, like everyone else in the room, knew Hikaru's strength, and it was far beyond their own. While Hikaru was definitely fun and helpful in the advancement of their games, it was hard to call someone that much better than them a rival the way Waya and Isumi did.
"All right, let's have a great game then Saeki." Hikaru then walked over to one of the folding Go boards they had all gathered together for today. Saeki smiled, then replied, "Yes, I look forward to it." Before joining Hikaru however, Saeki glanced down at the schedule Waya had created.1) Isumi - 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
2) Nakayama - 1 8 3 4 5 6 7
3) Saeki - 7 1 2 8 4 5 6
4) Honda - 6 7 1 2 3 8 5
5) Ochi - 8 6 7 1 2 3 4
6) Kadowaki - 4 5 8 7 1 2 3
7) Shindo - 3 4 5 6 8 1 2
8) Waya - 5 2 6 3 7 4 1
So he played Hikaru, followed by Isumi, Nakayama, Waya, Honda, Ochi, and at the end Kadowaki. Well, it certainly sounded like fun. Now though, he had to focus.
"After black went here, white went here, but that's not a good move. All black has to do is respond here, and then he can expand his central territory, and this stone becomes useless." Kadowaki nodded at Hikaru's comment, then replied, "Yeah, I wanted to cut black off here, but this shape didn't feel right."
All the first games were over, and discussion on several of them had begun. Isumi and Nakayama had volunteered to go pick up lunch for the rest, as their game had been the first to finish, Isumi having forced an early resignation off Nakayama's misread. While Hikaru's game against Saeki had probably been the highest quality, and thus the initial topic of discussion, Honda and Kadowaki's game was the most interesting.
"That first move just really surprised me, and my rhythm got thrown off. After that it was hard to catch back up."
Hikaru smiled. "Yeah, Honda tried opening with tengen against me in the first round preliminary for the Hokuto Cup too. That was a fun game."
Waya chimed in, "Yeah, and then you went to tengen on the second move against Yakiro in the final preliminary match after he went to 5-5 on you. That was crazy."
Hikaru grinned. "Still Honda, you've gotten better with the tengen opening, just don't do it all the time, or it becomes predictable. Also, while your move here was good, it would have been better to attach here."
There was a collective 'ohhh' from the group. Ochi then replied, "That is good, but what if white responds here, then it doesn't work how you want it to."
"Then I'd go here and gain territory in the upper right. White has to then protect here, and uses extra moves while black consolidates the center."
Waya watched Hikaru curiously. It was hard to believe this was the same kid who'd struggled for months in B League as an insei. Not just here, he'd seen Hikaru's ability to read in Morishita's study group on many occasions, most notably when they had discussed the game between Koyo Toya and Sai. The fact that Hikaru had noticed something that even Koyo Toya had missed was… scary.
Just then the door opened and they heard Isumi call out, "We're back." Everyone began to get up from around the Go board to make room for Isumi and Nakayama to set down the lunches. As Waya did so his foot brushed a copy of the latest Weekly Go.
Eyes widening, he turned to Hikaru and said, "Shindo, did you see Weekly Go this week? There's an article in it about you."
Looking very serious all of a sudden, Hikaru answered, "Yeah, I saw it."
"Well I haven't", Saeki replied, "what's it say?"
"It was by the new guy, Kosemura. Talks about Shindo's heroic game, despite losing to Ko Yeong Ha. Also mentions that game he won against Hon Suyon when they were insei. He really praised Shindo."
Isumi took the magazine and flipped to the article. "Whoa, he even has Kurata defending the first chair decision, saying anyone who understands Go should understand after seeing the game record. Wow." Isumi then glanced over at Hikaru and saw that he was looking taut and a little angered. "Shindo, what's the matter? This article is acknowledging you, aren't you always saying you want that?"
Walking over to the window, Hikaru gazed out it and said, "Read the last part."
Isumi scanned down and then stopped. "Despite the obvious talent that Shindo Beginner – Dan has shown, many still wonder how Akira Toya 3 – Dan would have faired, given his superior abilities. While these questions remain unanswered, it is likely we will see more of this rising young player in the months and years to come." Now it all made sense, it was about Akira Toya.
Isumi was about to respond, but Waya beat him to it. "Oh come on Shindo, who cares what the reporters think about Akira Toya. That Toya, he's just a jerk."
Hikaru remained silent. Toya. You are my rival, and I know the difference in our skill is negligible, but no one else seems to know that. I have to show them, everyone, that I can beat you. Somehow. Turning to face the others, Hikaru said, "I'm going to beat him, I have to beat him."
"Well," Isumi replied, "you might have your chance in the next couple of weeks."
Kadowaki looked over at Isumi confused. "What are you talking about Isumi?"
Hikaru answered it for him. "The Young Lions Tournament. I won't be able to play him until the last day though."
"Oh yeah, that thing between pros and insei. Are you in it Isumi?"
Isumi nodded. "Yes, this is my last chance to enter it, and the only time I'll be able to as a pro. I'm really looking forward to it."
Saeki then interjected, "Yeah, I can't enter it this year, so Waya and Shindo have to represent Morishita's group. Which reminds me, Shindo, don't focus on Toya and forget about your match this Wednesday against Ashiwara. Morishita-sensei will be furious if you lose to him."
Hikaru just stared off with a distant, yet determined gaze. Then he said, "Don't worry Saeki, I won't lose."
Sitting before the goban, Hikaru waited for Ashiwara, his opponent in the Kisei Tournament 1st Preliminary finals. The loser would start over next year, the winner moved onto the second preliminary, to the higher Dans. He felt calm, ready for the challenge before him. Of course, it would be nothing like the game he'd played against Ko Yeong Ha, Ashiwara 4 – Dan, for all of Morishita's theatrics at the need to beat him, was not on the same level as Ko Yeong Ha, Akira, or himself.
Movement at the entrance caught Hikaru's eye, but it was not his opponent. He watched as Tadao 2 – Dan made his way to another goban on the other side of the room, sitting down with a rather dismal look on his face. The reason for that look entered moments later in the form of Akira Toya, Tadao's opponent today in the 1st Preliminary for the Judan Tournament 2nd round.
Akira. He had already advanced to the 2nd preliminary for the Kisei Tournament, and if he won today, Hikaru would join him. There they would face the higher Dans, and while Hikaru was now able to cause a great many of the lower Dans to tremble with the thought of playing him, he didn't have the effect that Akira had, which caused even some of the higher Dans to worry. That was why he had to win, to play more games, to face the higher Dans and show them what he could do, to gain strength and progress down this endless path of Go he had chosen.
His attention left Akira as Ashiwara entered the room, looked around, and upon spotting Hikaru began to make his way over. Something about Ashiwara seemed different to Hikaru though. The last few times he'd seen Ashiwara he had shown a rather cheery demeanor, one that seemed to spook out Saeki. Today though he seemed tense, even a little nervous. That was fine though with Hikaru, if he was nervous then Hikaru would just crush him quickly.
Kneeling before the board, the two watched each other silently, while a bead of sweat slid down Ashiwara's cheek. So, today I finally face Akira's rival, Hikaru Shindo. The game record from his game in the Hokuto Cup… I doubt I could have played like that. Not to mention the way Kurata talked about him. I must stay calm, and play a cautious game.
Finally the buzzer went off, and the pair moved to nigiri. Half a minute later the pair traded bowls, and after saying, "Onegaishimasu" Hikaru went first, moving to the 3-4 point. The game began to progress, seemingly peaceful until Ashiwara placed a stone in the upper right. Hikaru's eye's flashed and his hand darted in, placing his stone with deadly precision. Klak.
Ashiwara moved to counter, then Hikaru moved with great speed, not even taking time between his moves. Ashiwara was perplexed. Hikaru was pressing in hard and attacking, but he seemed so focused on taking that one stone. Sure it was important, but not vital. He'd let him push there, and while that happened he'd cut Hikaru's stones off and secure the upper right.
Klak. Ashiwara gasped. That stone that Hikaru had been pushing for, it hadn't been for what he'd thought. He'd never even considered attacking that way. How could he have misread that. He'd have to endure, make a light exchange, and try to work his way to the center if he wanted to recover.
Klak. But Hikaru kept pushing, not relenting on the misread, and before Ashiwara's eyes white began to die in the center, just as it was already dead in the upper right.
Ton. Hikaru had begun to tap his fan on the stone bowl, apparently not worried in the least. Ashiwara looked up from the board at his opponent, and gasped. The look in Hikaru's eyes, the same he'd seen before in Akira. That look of confidence and superiority. The absolute belief that he was as above Ashiwara as the board seemed to indicate.
Closing his fist and feeling the sweat on his palms, Ashiwara looked again at the board and sighed. Lowering his head, he closed his eyes and said, "I resign."
Hikaru thanked him for the game, and with the same nonchalant expression, but all the intensity and presence of a moment before gone, he said, "So Ashiwara, would you like to discuss the game?"
Ashiwara just stared at Hikaru for a moment, and his eyes widened as he realized just how much that article might have understated this boy. The game record had been the most accurate part by far, and now he understood why it was that Akira had begun to drive himself so hard, stretching the limits of his game. There truly was someone coming up after him.