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Hirata Tomoya New Japanese Star
Hirata started at the early age of three. He was already playing Othello, but when he went to his grandfather's house he saw that granddad would watch the NHK (Speed Go tournament) games on TV. At first he thought it was giant Othello, but granddad taught him the rules of go, and soon he was taking lessons at a local Go school. It possibly helped that this was in Hiroshima city, which is historically noted as a prime centre for go in Japan. It's where legendary Honinbo Shusaku came from.

Even in kindergarten Hirata began taking part in local Go tournaments. He claims he was weak, but he was beating university students and so getting his games published in Go Weekly magazine. Equally engagingly, he admits to reading those reports.

A turning point for him was when his father changed jobs and moved to Tokyo. He was thus able to dream of becoming an insei (Nihon Kiin student, willing to become pro). He actually became a pupil of So Kofuku, 9p instead, as a result of meeting him at an amateur tournament, and he also kept up his schooling. He was in his first year of high school when he became pro at the age of 15. Hirata said the school was very understanding, sanctioning his absences for official games and (very interesting this - suggests it's seen as part of training) game-recording duties. He said this was because the school saw go as part of traditional Japanes culture.

Hirata has a nice line in comments: "All my moves in the upper right were careless mistakes". His natural-sounding honesty thus makes his assessment of his strengths believable, too, and this is the promised tailpiece. Asked whether he was confident about his endgame, his eyes lit up and he said, "Yes" and then added: "Even in games at 10-seconds a move I know what the points difference will be at the end of the game." This is the first time that I at least have seen specific confirmation of something I imagine most of us have always suspected. Even after "knowing" it already, I still found this eye-popping.

asd 2012-02-07 02:02

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