National

Shogi whiz Fujii becomes youngest promoted to seventh dan

JIJI

Breaking yet another record, shogi pro Sota Fujii became the youngest to attain the third-highest rank in Japanese chess on Friday after winning a qualifying match for the Ryuo tournament in Osaka.

Fujii, the game’s youngest professional player, thus won promotion to seventh dan at the age of 15 years and 9 months, versus the previous record of 17 years and 3 months set 61 years ago by Hifumi Kato, 78, who retired last year.

On Friday, Fujii beat sixth dan Kohei Funae, 31, in the semifinal of the fifth Ryuo qualifying group, winning a ticket to join the fourth group.

The win met the requirement for seventh dan — advancing to a higher qualifying group for two years in a row after reaching sixth dan.

“I didn’t think I could climb the rank system at such a fast pace,” Fujii said at a news conference after the match. “I’m happy to see the promotion as a result of doing my best in every match so far.”

He now holds the same rank as his mentor, Masataka Sugimoto, who is 49.

Fujii became the youngest person to become a professional shogi player in October 2016. In June 2017, he achieved a record winning streak of 29 matches without a single defeat after his professional debut.

In February this year, Fujii won the 11th Asahi Cup tournament, becoming the youngest to win a major shogi competition other than title matches.