WASEDA ONLINE

RSS

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > News

News

【Waseda University Public Relations Magazine "Northwest Wind Vol.12" (Issued in September 2012) Special Project】
Discussion among Mr. Akihito Hirose, Mr. Taichi Nakamura and Professor Takenobu Takizawa

Waseda's professional shogi players: Providing momentum for the future (second installment)

Waseda University graduates Akihito Hirose and Taichi Nakamura are young and prominent professional shogi (Japanese chess) players. They were invited to participated in a discussion moderated by Professor Takenobu Takizawa (Faculty of Political Science and Economics), Chairperson of the Computer Shogi Association and developer of computer shogi programs. Hirose turned professional upon entering university and was the first student in history to capture a title (oi or "position of king"). Nakamura turned professional during his 2nd year of high school and made his first title attempt in 2012. In this article, we examine the inner workings of two outstanding shogi players from Waseda University.
Discussion Venue: Tokyo Shogi Kaikan Dojo (Sendagata, Shibuya Ward)

Participants

Mr. Akihito Hirose
Professional Shogi Player (7th Rank)
Japan Shogi Association

Born in Koto Ward, Tokyo in 1987. Graduated from the School of Education, Waseda University. In 2005, became a professional shogi player in the same year that he entered university. In 2009, won his first shogi tournament by defeating Taichi Nakamura in the finals of the 40th New-Player King Tournament. In 2010, became the first university student in history to capture the title of oi by defeating meijin Yoshiharu Habu and oi Koichi Fukaura at the 51st King Tournament. His teacher is Osamu Katsuura (9th rank).

Mr. Taichi Nakamura
Professional Shogi Player (6th Rank)
Japan Shogi Association

Born in Fuchu City, Tokyo in 1988. Graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University. In 2006, turned professional while enrolled at Waseda Jitsugyo High School. In 2011, recorded the 2nd highest win percentage in history. In 2012, won the challenger's final at the 83rd Shogi Kisei Tournament and attempt to capture his first title, ultimately losing to kisei Yoshiharu Habu. His teacher is Kunio Yonenaga (permanent rank of kisei).


Professor Takenobu Takizawa
Faculty of Political Science and Economics
Chairperson, Computer Shogi Association

Born in 1951. In 1980, completed the Doctoral Program in mathematics (specialization in computational mathematics) at the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. Held positions such as Full-Time Instructor at the College of Engineering, Tamagawa University and Professor at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University before assuming his current position in April 2004. His research themes include application of artificial intelligence and intelligence engineering to game software, as well as the application of fuzzy logic to educational engineering. Known as the pioneer of computer shogi development.

Having a "heart of steel"
Nakamura

Actually, computers play very strong shogi. They absolutely never put their position into disarray. I felt like I may be able to play a computer to a draw, but winning would be very tough. Shogi games last a long time and it is difficult for human beings to continually make perfect moves throughout the game.

Hirose

Human players are always so looking for a way to improve their position even more, so it's possible for the computer to take advantage of mistakes brought on by over-exuberance. The computer attacks in ways that a human never would.

Takizawa

Of course, even though computers have become stronger recently, they still lose. In 2010, the computer "Akara 2010" attracted a lot of attention when it played Joryu-Shimizu. However, "Akara 1/100," a simplified version of that computer, lost to a former player from the amateur Ryu-O Tournament at a recent workshop. Until then, this software had won more than 100 consecutive games against amateur opponents. A computer uses random sampling of numbers to decide on its position. For this reason, the computer occasionally selects a disadvantageous position. Still, shogi is a game in which even one bad move will result in a loss. So, I heard that the former amateur played very carefully and nervously until he won the game.

Hirose

A computer plays with a unique persistence. You could call it a special sense which human players lack. Particularly in the endgame, humans tend to gamble on a single move which will win or lose the game. I think that such risk-taking makes games between human players interesting. Computers, on the other hand, never gamble. That may be the reason that games with computers have a different feeling.

Nakamura

It's also necessary to be careful about time when playing against a computer. It only takes a computer a few seconds to make a move which we would spend an hour considering. And a computer never doubts its moves. I wish I had that heart of steel.

Takizawa

I think that games between human players are interesting to watch because of the large role played by psychology. Incidentally, how do the two of you feel about each other's style of play? Basically, it seems that both of you push forward and play aggressively.

Hirose

It's true that people often describe my style of play as aggressive. In Taichi's case, he played a particularly extreme style of attacking play when he had just turned professional.

Nakamura

That's right. I often described my style as "over-aggressive attacks," but I was adept at a violent style of shogi. Recently, I have realized the importance of absorbing my opponent's attacks and my style has changed a little. I guess I have grown up!

Shogi is conversation
Takizawa

If I may ask, why did you start playing shogi in the first place? Considering your age, I guess you were part of the generation which started playing out of admiration for Mr. Habu.

Hirose

My father taught me to play when I was young. I didn't know about Mr. Habu until after I started to play.

Nakamura

The same for me. I developed an admiration for Mr. Habu after I had already started playing. It just made me engrossed in shogi even more. Recently, I am happy to hear that a growing number of children are starting to play shogi due to the influence of manga.

Takizawa

Shogi players also have to travel a lot depending on the venue where they are playing. The games are long and physically demanding. How do you take care of your health?

Hirose

When I was a young player, we often had matches at this Tokyo Shogi Kaikan Dojo. To be honest, it's tiresome when I have to travel around and play multiple matches in a row. Although I realize the need to build my physical strength, I don't do anything except try to sleep a lot. When I was a student, I often used the gym in the student building. I don't go to a gym now, though.

Nakamura

I don't do anything either. However, I am careful to keep the same pace even when going to a venue for the first time. Generally speaking, professional shogi players operate at their own pace, some of them even to a surprising degree. I try to be the same way.

Hirose

Taichi, I think that you always move at your own pace! In any case, people who move at their own pace have a definite advantage at shogi.

Takizawa

To give you advice from the perspective of an older player, I think that you should do some kind of physical activity in order to maintain your own pace. After all, you lose stamina as you age. Winners must be tough both mentally and physically. On a different note, what is the appeal of shogi to you?

Hirose

Shogi is a truly complex and deep game. Even professional players don't understand all the nuances. It's so intricate that I sometimes question the "god of shogi." Sometimes, I make a move without knowing what is best. To me, that uncertainty is appealing. Another good point of shogi is that it allows competition among people of all ages. I don't think that there are many other games in which such a wide range of age groups can compete.

Nakamura

What you say is true. I find it appealing how shogi can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups and how it is a communication tool. Through the movement of pieces and within the confines of the board, you express yourself and face the expression of your opponent. Every day, I find a lot of truth in the phrase that "shogi is conversation."

Takizawa

In closing, could you please discuss your future goals?

Hirose

8th rank Takanori Hashimoto once said "having no goal should be your goal." I want to follow his advice. In other words, I just want to concentrate on one game at a time. I want to remain positive even if I lose and work hard to win a lot of games.

Nakamura

Firstly, I would like to compete in a title match once again. I think that the next few years are important if I am going to win a title. I want to reaffirm my conviction and play as hard as I can.

Takizawa

Both of you have already achieved a great deal. I think that there is a good chance of you capturing a title and competing in a title match. Also, as both a shogi fan and a Professor at Waseda, I would like to see you the two of you play each. Thank you very much for your time today.

(to first installment)