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Teen prodigy awes with record Japanese chess streak

Shogi player Sota Fujii, who has extended his winning streak to 29, in the first round of the Ryuo championships in Tokyo on Monday (Photo: AFP

Shogi player Sota Fujii, who has extended his winning streak to 29, in the first round of the Ryuo championships in Tokyo on Monday (Photo: AFP

TOKYO, Japan | AFP – Japan on Tuesday was transfixed by a 14-year-old prodigy who smashed the record for consecutive wins in a chess-like board game called shogi.
Junior high school student Sota Fujii notched up his 29th straight win late Monday, earning him rock-star media coverage with his face splashed across every major newspaper and the stunning feat topping newscasts.
Japanese media described the gruelling 11-hour match as “extraordinary” and “historic,” while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also celebrated the win by Fujii, who trains against a computer.
The wunderkind only debuted on the pro shogi tour in December and has not been beaten since.
“I really couldn’t imagine I would win 29 straight,” he said after defeating a 19-year-old opponent.
“I’m delighted and very surprised,” he added.
In his first match in December, Fujii defeated a now 77-year-old who set the previous record for the youngest-ever professional decades earlier.
The game, which is usually played atop a wood block set on a tatami-mat flooring, is similar to chess with players vying to capture their opponent’s king. Unlike chess, captured pieces can be reused.
Fujii’s stunning victory comes after Google’s computer programme AlphaGo beat the world’s top-ranked player in the ancient Chinese board game Go last month.
AlphaGo took the first encounter in a three-game series against Chinese world number one Ke Jie in a highly anticipated match, a year after it trounced South Korean grandmaster Lee Se-Dol — the first time a computer programme beat a top player in a full contest.


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