National

Record-setting winning streak of shogi prodigy Sota Fujii halted at 29 games

by Kakumi Kobayashi

Staff Writer

A record-setting winning streak by 14-year-old shogi prodigy Sota Fujii ended Sunday with his defeat at the hands of Yuki Sasaki, 22, in a high-profile match of the traditional chess-like game.

Fujii, who is the youngest shogi pro and holds the lowest rank of fourth dan, caused a nationwide sensation with his 29-game unbeaten streak in official matches that began with his pro debut in December.

Fujii, a junior high school student from Seto, Aichi Prefecture, set the all-time record for most consecutive wins last week by beating fellow fourth dan Yasuhiro Masuda.

Ahead of Sunday’s match, Sasaki, a fifth dan player, said he was determined to halt Fujii’s streak in a match for the Ryuo Sen championship, known as the highest prize among shogi’s eight major titles.

His first victory of the streak came against the oldest top-ranked player, Hifumi Kato, a ninth dan player, who recently retired.

The winner of the Ryuo final takes home the largest prize purse of the year, around ¥43.2 million in addition to anything earned from previous matches in the tournament.

Fujii broke the consecutive-win record by Hiroshi Kamiya, a 56-year-old eighth dan player, who won 28 straight matches in 1987.

Professionals are ranked between fourth dan, the lowest, and ninth dan, the highest.