Yoshiharu Habu, Shogi World Champion
In april 2001, Yoshiharu Habu comes to France to play a chess tournament at the end of the 59th Junisen. Yoshiharu chooses the 4th Saint Quentin en Yvelines Chess Tournament, near Paris. This town is in the Yvelines, the same department than the Versailles town. The players can visit the famous castle between the rounds !
The tournament takes place in a very nice chapel, the playing conditions are perfect from the top to the last tables. It is only at a half an hour trip by car from home with no traffic jam ! This gives me the possibility to visit the tournament's place several times. Another feature of this tournament is that I know a quite good number of the participants : some are friends, some are from my chess club, other have names I regularly see in parisian chess tournaments reports.
Two views of the tournament's place
Many chess tournaments take place in France during the year. Most of them use the swiss system pairing system, with the Fide and French elo ratings order. Yoshiharu has none of them, so his initial elo is set to 1499. This means that his first opponents have no idea of his real chess strength. But this surprise occurs no longer than the first rounds ! After that, all players take care of his chess skills, even IGM and IM, as we will see later.
The Japanese delegation includes four players from the Asaka chess club, near Tokyo. This chess club was founded by Jacques Pineau, a French living in Japan for many years. Jacques has played for Japan on the top board in the Chess Olympiads. The shogi champions Toshiyuki Moriuchi and Yasumitsu Sato play in his club as well. Jacques trains regularly Yoshiharu and Toshiyuki. Joël Lautier played simul chess games in june 1999 and october 2002 against those three shogi champions.
The 15 april 2001
I think that his very first opponent has a big surprise : usually, players starting as non rated players are much weaker than their first round opponents. Gérard Drogou is a good regular player in the parisian tournaments. I first played against him about twenty years ago, he has a good chess experience. And all his hopes vanish in a mutual attack game of only 31 moves (chess counting way) !
The 16 april 2001
Yoshiharu confirms his very good start by winning his second straight game. Most pieces are rapidly exchanged and Yoshiharu shows his skills in the endgame.
Yoshiharu playing against Barbini
The 17 april 2001
In the third round, Yoshiharu plays against Bertrand Valuet, a good French young player, who has already won several times the Yvelines department champion title. Yoshiharu gets a convincing win as black with the sicilian defense. This game is analyzed by Laurent Vérat, an experienced French player from the strong Clichy chess club. Give a look at the gamescores file to read his comments in French.
In this tournament, 110 players compete. After the first three rounds, only the contenders for the final victory have a perfect score. Yoshiharu is still among them ! From this point, his opponents don't give a look at his estimated elo rating anymore, they study his previous games instead ! But even there, it is not easy to get prepared before the game : Yoshiharu has almost no published games, his opponents don't know his style, and Yoshiharu already have shown a lot of imagination in his previous games.
Now, most of the particpants know that he is the Shogi World Champion. Some journalists ask for interviews : "Le Monde", the main daily French newspaper publishes an article about Yoshiharu Habu playing chess.
The 17 april 2001
The fourth round is too big step for Yoshiharu. He plays against Alexander Delchev, a IGM Bulgarian player among the top 100 players in the world. The IGM uses all his knowledge to get the advantage and to convert it into a win. Habu's magic is of no help now against a such high class player. We will see in few years !
IGM Alexander Delchev, winner of the tournament
The 18 april 2001
In the fifth round, Yoshiharu is paired against Roza Te-Lallemand, GMF and one of the strongest female French players. Yoshiharu on the black side makes his pieces efficient and builds a decisive attack.
After this round, Yoshiharu is equal fourth in the tournament. The Frenchs IGM Manuel Apicella and IM Luc Bergez lead the tournament with a perfect score of 5 points. The Bulgarian IGM Alexander Delchev is third with 4.5 points. And Yoshiharu Habu shares the fourth place with 4 points with the IGM Vereslav Eingorn. He is ahead of the IGM Andrei Shchekachev and the IGM Nikolai Legky. At this point, we hope that the parings will give him other IM or IGM players to allow him to perform an IM norm.
Yoshiharu playing against GMF Roza Te-Lallemand
The 19 april 2001
Yoshiharu plays on the table 5 with the white pieces against the French Nicolas Gérard. Yoshiharu misses good opportunities and the game ends with perpetual checks.
The 20 april 2001
This round sees Yoshiharu playing against one of the top player of Le Vésinet, my chess club : Émil Bogdanov, an experienced Fide Master player. Yoshiharu plays the same opening than against the IGM Alexander Delchev. Émil makes an early big mistake and is defeated in only 18 moves.
The 21 april 2001
This round sees a Kamran Shirazi vs Yoshiharu Habu encounter. Kamran Shirazi is a american IM player who lives in France. Shirazi likes to play one day chess tournaments. He is known to play fastly and to stand up often during the game. This time is not the same at all : the IM chess player remains sitted from the beginning until the end of the game, showing that he takes seriously the level of his opponent into account. The IM doesn't want to be the first title holder player being defeated by the shogi champion in this tournament. Yoshiharu sacrifices a knight in the attack but gets no compensation for it and can not save the game.
IGM Alexander Delchev playing against IM Kamran Shirazi,
both won their game against Yoshiharu
The 22 april 2001
The final round results are always important for the final rankings. Many chess players usually choose this round for offering a draw to their opponent before the real battle starts. Yoshiharu is here for playing all games until the very end, like in shogi. And this last game makes no exception. Yoshiharu plays against another top player of my chess club : Ratko Krivokapic. Yoshiharu takes a decisive advantage early in the game by preventing his opponent from developing his pieces. Yoshiharu easily builds a mating attack with his powerful queen and rooks.
With a convincing last round win, Yoshiharu concludes an excellent tournament by finishing 7th among a field of strong IGM and IM chess players. His overall performance is enough to perform an IM norm. This is probably the first time that a non rated Fide player performs an IM norm !
The prize giving ceremony
Several shogi players from the Paris shogi club attend the tournament this last day, the last chance to meet Yoshiharu Habu who offers to us his last book in English "Habu's Words" with an autograph. For the record, a year later at the shogi simul day just after the Second NAO Chess Masters, I get another copy of this book with the autographs of Yoshiharu Habu, 4 Crowns, the former World Chess Champion Boris Spassky, the chess legend Mark Taïmanov and the strongest French chess player Joël Lautier ! All those names on the first page of Habu's book :-))
IGM Alexander Delchev playing against IGM Manuel Apicella,
first and second of the tournament
The prize giving ceremony starts with two blitz games between Yoshiharu and Jean-Claude Moingt, a Fide Master from the Clichy chess club. Jean-Claude Moingt takes part in this tournament as an organizor and has a big chess experience. The games are displayed on a big screen, allowing everyone to follow the games.
The first one, a spectacular game, ends with perpetual checks. The second one is a French defense, Yoshiharu chooses to play an opposite castles game, the best way to play a shogilike game : both players aiming at the other king and taking care of the balance between attack and defense. The shogi champion builds a strong attack and his opponent has no other choice but to resign at his 32nd move, seeing a black pawn being promoted on the h file at the next move. This is final diagram of this game and of the tournament as well.
A report about this tournament has been published in the july 2001 issue of Shogi Sekai, pages 196 to 199. Shogi Sekai is the 276 pages monthly magazine published by the Japanese Shogi Association. I never have heard about a national chess magazine with such a high number of pages ! You can imagine the number of shogi enthousiasts in Japan !!
Yoshiharu's participation in this chess tournament is a very good chance for us to popularize shogi among the chess players. At the start of the following Saint Quentin en Yvelines tournaments, some chess players ask the organizors if Yoshiharu Habu will come again !
Yoshiharu Habu has shown in this tournament that his imagination and calculation abilities, his game skills acquired through the highest level of shogi practice helped him to get rapidly a high chess level. Even without the same skills of this exceptional player, the pratice of shogi can help a chess player to improve in his favorite game.
Finally, here is the file with all the gamescores, you can then replay all his games including both blitz games. And the top of the final results table :
Title Name Elo Pts Dep1 Dep2 PElo 1 GMI Delchev Aleksander 2587 8 39 2695 2734 2 GMI Apicella Manuel 2518 7.5 42 2587 2610 3 MI Bergez Luc 2426 7 40 2540 2573 4 MI Shirazi Kamran 2402 7 35 2467 2547 5 GMI Shchekachev Andrei 2537 7 33.5 2450 2475 6 GMI Eingorn Vereslav 2589 7 32.5 2498 2504 7 Habu Yoshiharu 1499 6.5 35 2463 2455 8 CF Callet Emmanuel 2158 6.5 33.5 2283 2395 9 CF Leroy Didier 2345 6.5 33 2338 2354 10 GMF Te-Lallemand Roza 2291 6.5 33 2331 2369 11 CF Goulenok Eric 2188 6.5 31 2269 2280 12 CF Stroppa Daniel 2161 6.5 30 2228 2259 13 MI Pira Davoud 2449 6 37 2419 2439 14 GMI Legky Nikolay 2477 6 33 2406 2405