Chapter 3 – The Young Lioness Appears
Fast-paced Go, now this brought back memories. As Hikaru placed stone
after stone, Fuku responded with equally quick play. It was just like
back in their insei days, always quick to move, and equally just as
quick to finish.
Klak. Klak. Klak. Klak.
The stones hit the
board again and again, and Hikaru could see that Fuku's skills had
improved in the last two years. In fact, there might even be a few pros
present, like Mashiba, whom Fuku could beat.
Klak. Klak. Klak.
for Fuku though, he was playing Hikaru. With a grin Hikaru began to
lead Fuku into a complicated game, something that he remembered Fuku had
struggled with in the past. At first Fuku's moves kept their usual
pace, but soon enough there were long pauses between moves as Fuku
struggled to keep up.
Fuku sat there looking at the board, sweat dripping down his cheeks and
frowned. This was the longest pause he'd had all game. At first he'd
been thrown off by how quickly Hikaru had played that last move after
his own, as if he'd been waiting for him to do that.
had begun to tap his fan on the Go board again, and it caused a shiver
to run up Fuku's spine. It was like Hikaru had just told Fuku that he
was getting impatient. Should he resign now? Was there any chance left?
Fuku looked at the board again, and surmised his position. Black was
cut off, and if he didn't act soon, would be separated in the center.
There was still room to work in the corner, but it was close to the end
game now, and that was an area he still struggled in.
glanced up, and saw that instead of tapping his fan, Hikaru had now
opened it, holding it up to his face as he gazed down at the board, then
looked up to give a sharp glare at Fuku, who quite literally jumped. It
wasn't just Hikaru's skills that had improved, but his presence too… it
was like Fuku's mind had gone blank. Hikaru was telling him that it was
time to resign, that defeat was inevitable. The force of that glare,
the tapping of the bowl, but more importantly the disparity appearing on
Bowing his head, Fuku closed his eyes. "I resign."
the fan to reveal a warm smile that totally belied the intensity and
presence of moments before. Hikaru was back to how Fuku remembered him,
as someone who loved Go and found the very idea of playing fun.
was a good game Fuku. Your reading of the game has gotten a lot better.
When you played here for instance, it made my shape difficult to
"Yeah, but then you went here, and it got complicated. Do you think I should have gone here instead?"
shook his head, "No, that was a good move, but after you went there,
you should have gone here to force me to protect these stones. I think
the only real problem you had was that while you play your best at that
fast pace, you have to be able to slow it down when you need to as well.
Rushing into here wasn't smart, it would have been better to make a
hane here and then pull back. Even a light exchange would have been
manageable. Your ability to read hasn't quite caught up to the speed at
which you play, so you make moves like this one because it seems good at
the time, but if you keep looking ahead it becomes a liability."
nodded. Then smiling in his usual way thanked Hikaru and began to put
away the stones. "I was playing this new insei the other day. He likes
to play fast too, or at least he does against me."
"Yeah, I played
a lot faster than I normally did against you too. I think it's an
advantage if you can throw off your opponent's rhythm, but speed Go is a
specialty of mine so it was just a bad match up for you. So, how did
you do against that new insei."
Fuku sighed. "I lost by two and a half points. He took them from me in the end game."
Hikaru nodded then began to look around. "Is he playing here today?"
Fuku shook his head. "No, he just got into A League so he hasn't gotten up the ranks just yet. He will though."
Hikaru cocked an eyebrow. "Really, is he that strong?"
nodded. Then glancing off towards another table, Fuku said, "I'm going
to go watch Waya's game now." Hikaru nodded and watched Fuku walk off. A new insei that's really strong huh? Sounds fun, I'd like to play him sometime.
up, Hikaru glanced over at the table across the way where Akira was
playing. Many viewers surrounded it; Akira was always popular. One day
though they'd watch his games with the same desire. Waya's table was
also getting crowded, though mostly by the insei, only a few that he
recognized. It'd never occurred to him that the ranks of the insei would
change, that new players with the same desire as him would continue to
arise. Even as he'd chased after Akira and the pros, so now were new
players chasing after him.
Turning around, Hikaru looked over at
the game going on behind him between Nase and Tajima 2 –Dan. It didn't
take Hikaru long to surmise the situation on the board. As it stood Nase
was currently ahead by a few points, although the game was still too
close to call. It might even go all the way to the end from the look of
things. Still, Nase was playing very well, much better than he
remembered her playing before. And he didn't mean just by the type of
improvement he'd just seen in Fuku either.
Tajima wasn't giving up
though. His most recent move had been good, and now threatened black's
shape. If black lost those stones it would spell Nase's doom, but if she
could hold onto them, especially given the effort that Tajima was
making to take them, she should win. Still, that stone was a problem, as
it couldn't just be taken, but something had to be done.
Wait. Hikaru's eyes caught onto one spot on the board, and immediately read ahead. What if she…
for her bowl, Nase stretched out her arm and gently set the stone down
right where Hikaru had just been eyeing. The expression now on Tajima's
face said it all, and Hikaru grinned. So, she was able to see it too. Or was it just luck?
After a short pause, Tajima moved, then Nase followed suit.
was no use though and Hikaru knew it. Tajima had played a strong game,
but his counter to Nase's move had been too timid. It had been quite
obvious that Tajima had not seen that move, which meant that for at
least that moment, Nase had been above him.
At last Tajima lowered
his head and resigned. As the pair thanked one another, Hikaru
commented, "That was a really nice game Nase. I'm very impressed."
turned to look up at Hikaru and blushed. "T-thank you Shindo. I'm
really surprised that I did so well. How much did you see?"
"Just the very end. This move here, I was especially impressed with it."
Tajima nodded. "Yeah, that was a very good move. I didn't even notice it until after she played it. It really threw me off."
face beamed. "Yeah, I was just looking at the board, I looked at that
spot, and suddenly it occurred to me. Shindo, did you…"
commotion across the way halted Nase's question. As the trio turned to
look, they saw it was coming from around Waya's table. Suddenly a
thought hit Hikaru, and he muttered, "No way." He then walked over
towards the table, followed closely by Tajima.
Nase remained in
her seat for a moment, reserved, then finished, "Did you see the move?"
Sighing, Nase got up and walked over to see what the commotion was
When she arrived, standing next to Hikaru who was now
taller than her, Nase tried to see what was going on from around the
people in front. Frustrated, she turned to Hikaru and whispered, "What
Hikaru leaned close to her and whispered back, "It looks like Komiya just defeated Waya."
it, I can't believe I lost!" Scowling in frustration, Waya took a bite
out of his cheeseburger. All from one mistake. He'd nearly come back in
the end, just a half a point shy. It was really vexing, losing to an
insei in the first round of the tournament. This must be how all the
pros that lost to insei felt.
Looking over now at the others
sitting in the booth with him, Waya felt like he was in a flashback.
Isumi, Honda, Hikaru and Nase were all there, just like they were during
their insei days. Fuku was absent, but that was due to a bathroom break
that he would shortly return from. "So, the rest of you won huh?"
They all nodded, and Hikaru added, "Fuku lost though."
Waya's frown only deepened. "Of course, he was playing you Shindo!"
Nase interjected, "But Waya, Fuku really has gotten a lot better since you were an insei."
agreed, then added, "And so have you Nase. The way you played, you were
certainly above Tajima today." Nase's face flushed and she grinned
"So Tajima lost huh? Which other pros lost?"
answered, "I think Murakami 2 – Dan lost to Adachi. I don't know if
anyone else lost to the insei, I haven't checked the first round results
Taking a sip from his soft drink, Waya asked, "Now that I think about it, does anyone know how Ochi-"
"So Waya," a smug, superior voice interrupted, "I heard you lost to Komiya. And you call yourself a pro Go player?"
Fuming, Waya shouted back at the kid, "Shut up Ochi! I can still beat you!"
chuckled, then pushed his glasses back up and replied, "Heh, you only
beat me once as a pro, and you couldn't beat me in the preliminaries for
the Hokuto Cup. I guess this just shows the difference in our current
"Waya, calm down." Isumi interjected. "He's just trying to provoke you. It's not worth it."
Waya glared at Isumi, then back at Ochi before leaning back in his seat and exhaling. Easy for you to say Isumi. You won your game.
Ochi meanwhile just chuckled again, then his eyes fell on Hikaru, and
his expression went taut with seriousness. Without saying another word,
Ochi then walked off.
Watching him leave, Nase then said, "I guess that means Ochi won. I wonder who he plays after lunch?"
Hikaru took a sip from his drink then said, "Me."
Waya's face lit up with excitement. "All right Shindo, kick his ass, send Ochi to the bathroom!"
awkwardly, Hikaru replied, "I'll do my best." He then turned to Nase
and said, "So, who do you play in the second match?"
Nase's expression went serious, and her eyes lowered slightly. "Honda."
glanced up, surprise evident on his face. It seemed apparent that he
had not checked beforehand to see whom his second round opponent would
Ten minutes later the group had made its way back to the game
room, and they splintered off towards their respective game tables. Ochi
was already waiting for Hikaru, and as Hikaru sat down Ochi sent a hard
glare at his opponent. This was not an opponent that Ochi could take
lightly. More importantly, if he ever wanted to prove how good of a
player he was, he couldn't lose to Hikaru.
As the games started,
Waya stood by Hikaru's table to watch. While he wanted to see Ochi get
his ass whooped badly, watching Hikaru play was a sight all its own.
Especially since returning from the Hokuto Cup. Waya hadn't been the
only one to notice the rise in Hikaru's play either. Both Shirakawa and
Saeki had made similar comments.
The game was progressing slowly.
Ochi was using his time cautiously, something that Waya could sympathize
with when it came to playing Hikaru. Of course Waya hadn't played
Hikaru yet as pros in an official game; the match they would have played
being a forfeit during Hikaru's stint of no shows. Another move by
Ochi, and now Waya was fairly certain that Ochi had changed his strategy
at least twice already. Hikaru was simply countering every move Ochi
made, as if waiting for something while he continued to amass territory.
Several of Hikaru's moves had made no sense to Waya at first, only to
come to light five or six moves later when the purpose became clear with
an attack here or there. Ochi was barely hanging on at this point, and
the sweat dripping down his face told Waya that he knew it too.
more Waya thought about it, the more Hikaru's moves began to remind him
of the games he'd seen Sai play on the internet years before. He was
certain that Hikaru wasn't Sai, but the idea that Hikaru might know Sai,
might even be his student, was appealing. Then again, it might just be
appealing because it would make the impossibility of someone like
Hikaru, having only started playing Go three years ago, becoming a pro
only two years later and reaching such a level with no mentor, existing
seem more plausible. If it wasn't the case, then Ochi's favorite
question became all the more intriguing, 'Who is Shindo?'
Waya was not the only person watching, Akira had joined in to watch as
well. Having won again easily, Akira now seemed focused on observing his
rival's game. It was one of the few times he could do so, given the
lack of game records kept for the lower rounds of the tournaments.
Watching would be a good way to measure Hikaru, even if his opponent was
Glancing back to the board, Waya grinned, as it was now
clear with that last exchange that Hikaru would win. Capturing that
corner had gained him eight points, and with nothing but the end game
remaining, it was unlikely that Ochi could catch up. Hearing something,
Waya glanced over to Hikaru and saw him tapping his fan against his hand
again and again.
A low growl traveled over the board as Ochi's
fists tightened in anger and frustration. Finally, sweat dripping off
his chin, he said, "I resign."
As Hikaru thanked Ochi for the game
Waya caught Akira mutter under his breath, "As expected" before turning
to leave. Waya however, did not appear to be the only one to hear
Akira, as with a sharp yet defeated glare, Ochi stood up and took off,
struggling to hold back the rush of emotions and tears.
Hikaru looked up at Waya and said, "Well that was a good game. Ochi's
getting better too, everyone seems to be getting better. Maybe I need to
start looking out for everyone more." As Hikaru began to clear off the
board, Waya just stood there watching his friend. Was he serious? Did
Hikaru not realize just how strong he was? Surely he knew, yet there he
was saying he'd have to watch out for Ochi and everyone else here. It
was hard to believe that this was the kid whom he'd taken under his wing
when he first arrived as an insei two years ago. Hikaru was like a
little brother to him, but now here he was, having surpassed him and
still saying he needed to look out. He was either very naïve or else
As Hikaru finished cleaning up, they both glanced over
towards Honda's table in time to see Honda shakily lower his head. The
pair just watched in shock for a moment, then Hikaru said, "Did Honda
The pair looked at one another for a moment then took off
at a quick pace for Honda's table. They got there just as Nase was
finished commenting on one of Honda's moves. Scanning the board for a
moment before Honda ruined it by gathering the stones together, Hikaru
had seen what appeared to be a very exquisite game. He'd have to get
Honda to recreate the game afterwards.
When they finished putting
the stones away, Nase got up and pulled out her cell phone so that she
could call her folks up to give them the results. This was a ritual that
both Waya and Hikaru recognized from before. As Nase walked off, Hikaru
looked back to Honda and the board and asked, "I didn't see it for long
but it looked like a good game. Did you open at tengen?"
shook his head. "No, I opened up on the upper right star point. I
started out strong and I thought I had a good position going into the
middle game, but then she just started pushing and pushing. It reminded
me of how you played me during the pro exam Shindo. I fought back, but
then she did this move I didn't even think of and my center started to
Hikaru nodded, and glanced at Waya who was wearing a
rather amazed yet worried expression. Hikaru however, was more intrigued
than he was worried. "I saw her do something similar in her game
against Tajima earlier. She saw a path to survival that a lot of the
lower Dans might have missed. It was impressive. Still, I didn't get to
see much of it."
Honda, sweat dripping from his face still, looked
up at the two and said, "I'll say this, I played her on the third to
last day of the Pro Exam, and beat her then by 4 and a half points. Now
though…" He looked back down at the bare Go board, "She's stronger.
She's gotten a lot stronger since then."