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Teenage Japanese chess prodigy’s winning streak grinds to a halt


· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

Fourteen-year-old Sota Fujii, a professional shogi (Japanese chess) player, smashed a 30-year shogi record and took his country by storm by pulling off a record-breaking 29-match winning streak.


Fujii, who practices extensively using computer chess software — and is Japan’s youngest professional shogi player, on June 26 broke the 30-year record in shogi of 28 consecutive match wins.


For Japan, a country which has been stuck in a trap of deflation and economic stagnation for more than 15 years, Fujii’s brilliant performance has attracted a posse of diehard fans from all walks of life — and even won him acclaim from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Speaking to reporters, Abe said: “The power of youth has made history. His victory is like a dream that gives hope to the Japanese people.”


Fujii, who battled for 11 hours against a 19-year-old pro, was as cool as a cucumber during the post-match interviews. “I never imagined that I would win 29 matches in a row. I feel very happy, but also extremely surprised.”


Fujii is coached by a veteran professional shogi player. However, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, after starting to practice with computer software around a year and a half ago, Fujii’s chess skills improved dramatically.


Training with a computer is frowned upon and viewed as unorthodox by many professional shogi players. However, a member of the Japan Shogi Association noted that, “During the course of his or her lifetime, a professional shogi player will be extremely fortunate to participate in as many as 1,000 matches. By using artificial intelligence chess programs, it is possible to play several thousand times more this number and accumulate professional-level skills.”


On July 2, Fujii was beaten while attempting to win a 30th consecutive victory, halting the new record at 29 matches. After the match, Fujii said: “A winning streak always comes to an end eventually. I was utterly defeated.”


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