The Japanese contestants in the women’s individual and mixed pairs events at the 2014 SportAccord World Mind Games had a tough time. They consistently lost to opponents from the other Far Eastern countries. On the other hand, they consistently beat opponents from North America and Russia. Ranka spoke afterward with the two women, Fujisawa Rina and Okuda Aya. They are rivals who, earlier in the year, had played the final game for the Aizu Central Hospital Cup, and the final game that decided which of them would become women’s Honinbo challenger.
(Fujisawa won both games, and also won the women’s Honinbo title match.)
Ranka: Okuda-sensei, this is your second SportAccord World Mind games. What impressed you this time?
Okuda: Getting a chance to play Rui Naiwei. She’s had such a fantastic career!
Ranka: Do you have any general comments about the games themselves?
Okuda: Well, the one hour of basic clock time was a lot shorter than the three hours we’re used to in Japan. The main issue becomes how much accurate reading you can do in that limited time. The Chinese and Korean players are very good at this. Particularly in the opening, with only one hour you can’t afford to take time to think things out. You have to rely on prior research, and theirs is more advanced.
Ranka: So was time a major factor in your losses?
Okuda: No, it wasn’t. I actually managed my one hour pretty well, saving some of it for the endgame when I knew I would need it. I lost because of mistakes in the middle game and thereafter. I need to work on my reading skills.
Ranka: How did you prepare for the Mind Games?
Okuda: I had already played most of my prospective opponents in other international tournaments, so I went over my games with them, trying to find better moves.
Ranka: Please tell us about your first game, in which you defeated Russia’s Svetlana Shikshina. Was she one of the players you had played before?
Okuda: No, I don’t think so, but I knew she had a professional ranking from Korea, so I expected her to put up a strong fight. I didn’t expect to be demolished, however.
Ranka: Surely that’s not what happened.
Okuda: It was. I had a terrible opening, and for a long time after that I was in a losing position. I won in the end, but not by playing winning go.
Ranka: If not by playing winning go then how?
Okuda: I guess my opponent was too relentless. She never let up. If she had restrained herself and compromised a bit, on the left side, for example, she could have won easily. The game would have been utterly hopeless for me. But she kept choosing the strongest possible moves, and that gave me some chances.
Ranka: Did you ever consider resigning?
Okuda: Many times! The reason I didn’t was that I couldn’t bear to lose in such a humiliating way. This was my worst game of the tournament.
Ranka: Fujisawa-sensei, how was your game with Russia’s Natalia Kovaleva?
Fujisawa: She had beaten a player from Taiwan, so I expected her to be strong, but I was surprised at how strong she was.
Ranka: Still, you won.
Fujisawa: I guess I played fairly well, for me.
Ranka: How were your other games in the women’s tournament?
Fujisawa: My first opponent, Yu Zhiying, is one I wanted to meet because she’s about the same age as me but she’s so strong. I was badly beaten. I’m going to have to work hard to reach her level.
Ranka: Well, she won the gold medal. How was your game against the silver medalist, Kim Chaeyoung?
Fujisawa: Beaten again, but not as badly.
Ranka: Aside from those losses, you’ve had a very successful year in 2014. What do you think is the reason?
Fujisawa: I haven’t changed the way I study and practice, but I’ve been getting more opportunities to play in international tournaments, and that’s been a real stimulus. Maybe that’s why my results have improved.