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Japan Chess Championship Qualifiers - Part II

by Mayur Gondhalekar - 16/04/2021

The months of February and March are quite busy with excitement in Japan's Chess calendar. Qualifying tournaments are held by various regional chess clubs, to select candidates for the strongest event of the year, held in May – the Japan Chess Championship (FIDE rated). Mayur Gondhalekar brings you all the news and updates from Japan in this two-part series. Part II covers events from Tokyo, Hokkaido and Hyogo (Kobe). Check out this report containing few games and beautiful photos from the events along with an annotated game by Japan no.3 IM Shinya Kojima. Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Nakamura wins Tokyo Chess Championship

Japan Chess Championship Qualification criteria: One person qualifies for every eight (or part of) participants. Any already qualified players, or anyone who decline the invitation are skipped. The host club can nominate one additional person.


Compared to last year's disruptions due to covid, this year has been kinder, with the qualifying tournament schedule as follows:

• Chiba Qualifying tournament (February 27, 28)

• Aichi Qualifying tournament (February 28)

• Osaka Qualifying tournament (March 7)

• Tokyo Qualifying tournament (March 20, 21)

• Hokkaido Qualifying tournament (March 27, 28)

• Hyogo Qualifying tournament (March 28)


Part I covered tournaments conducted in Osaka, Chiba, and Aichi (Nagoya); Part II covers tournaments conducted in Tokyo, Hokkaido and Hyogo (Kobe).


All tournaments followed the Anti-covid guidelines as follows:

- No participation if body temperature is above 37.5 C

- No handshakes, avoid post game discussions

- Disinfection of chess pieces between rounds

- Limited number of participants

- Disinfection of hands

- Wearing of mask at all times


Note: All tournaments are conducted as part of National Chess Society of Japan, Japan's FIDE affiliated organization.

Part II: Tokyo, Hokkaido, Hyogo (Kobe)

Japan map | Photo:

Tokyo Chess Championship (Tokyo qualifying event)

Tokyo Chess Championship, as the qualifying event at Tokyo was named, was played over two days, with six rounds, using the 30+30 time control. This was the biggest event (in terms of number of participants) by NCS Japan since the start of the Corona-era, featuring 64 participants, from absolute beginners to very strong players. The top seeds were FM Mirai Aoshima and CM Alex Averbukh.


This tournament was won by Nakamuka Naohiro, who lived up to the reputation of his more famous namesake, with a sterling performance of four wins, two draws, scoring 5.0/6. Ambrona Miguel stood second, while CM Averbukh Alex finished third both with scores of 4.5/6.


The top five finishers, including FM Mirai Aoshima and Ryo Shiomi, completed the tournament unbeaten.

Overall Winners: Miguel Ambrona, Naohiro Nakamura and CM Alex Averbukh | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

The overall winners:

1st - Naohiro Nakamura 5.0/6

2nd - Miguel Ambrona 4.5/6

3rd - CM Alex Averbukh 4.5/6

U1800 category winners: Nobuyuki Koyama, Seiichi Ogasa and WCM Azumi Sakai | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Top three in U1800 category:

1st - Seiichi Ogasa 4.0/6

2nd - Nobuyuki Koyama 4.0/6

3rd - WCM Azumi Sakai 3.5/6 (She represented Japan in FIDE Online Olympiad 2020 and Asian Online Nations Cup 2020)

U1400 category winners: Terumasa Kano and Yuki Misawa | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Top three in U1400 category:

1st - Terumasa Kano 2.5/6

2nd - Yuki Misawa 2.5/6 (She represented Japan in Asian Online Nations Cup 2020)

3rd - Daijiro Kikuchi 2.5/6


I had a mixed bag, scoring 3/6 (three wins, three losses), which included a bad blunder in round one, being totally crushed in round 6, and pulling off a miraculous win in round 5.

Photo Gallery

Tokyo Qualifiers playing area | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Disinfection of Playing Area and Pieces between rounds | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Mayur Gondhalekar faces Mirai Ishizuka in Round 5 in an otb event after a gap of seven and a half years | Photo: NCS Japan

Mr. Shinoda Taro promoting his youtube channel | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Mr. Shinoda Taro is an avid follower of Chessbase India content, one of the many players from Japan who do so. He also streams on NCS Japan's official youtube channel along with FM Yamada Kohei.

Replay few games from Tokyo Championship

Final Standings

Rk.SNoNameGrRtgNPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
13Nakamura Naohiro22345,018,021,017,759209544,09-0,0920-1,8
258Ambrona Miguel21904,521,525,518,751039153,53,63-0,1300,0
32CMAverbukh Alex23184,521,023,517,0010196543,670,33206,6
41FMAoshima Mirai24674,520,523,517,00967564,55,41-0,9120-18,2
56Shiomi Ryo21194,520,523,016,251033564,53,401,102022,0
67Tang Tang20864,519,522,015,251001253,53,280,22204,4
74Higashino Tetsuo21814,518,021,015,25944753,53,63-0,1320-2,6
85Ogawa Tomie21744,518,020,515,00973364,5
99CMOsaka Takuma20254,518,020,014,00957564,54,200,304012,0
1018Nodon Jeremi18004,019,522,013,009875321,230,772015,4


Hokkaido Qualifiers

I was seriously thinking of participating in this two-day, five-round tournament (35+30), held on March 27 and 28, but considering the distance between Sapporo and Tokyo, and the corona virus situation, decided not to travel all the way.

The playing area of Hokkaido Qualifiers in "Kaderu 27" center | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Overall winners: Nakamura Mitsuru and Drakakis Athanasios | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Class A winners: Watanabe Katsumi, Al Jabrat Thamer, Takeuchi Hiroshi | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Class B winners: Kawamura Takuto, Shimomura Kensei | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Group photo after the event | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Mr. Sugimoto Koichi, the organizer of this tournament (he has played with GM Anish Giri in the past) | Photo: Sapporo Chess Club

Sapporo Chess Club, which conducts the Hokkaido Qualifiers, is where GM Anish Giri played when he was around 9 years of age, and later became the Hokkaido Chess Champion. Mr. Nishimori and Mr. Sugimoto, who had played with Anish then, were among the 16 participants in the 2021 edition. Drakakis Athanasios won the tournament with a score of 4.0/5.

Replay all games

Final Standings after Round 5

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
12Drakakis AthanasiosJPN19044,014,5410,50
25Takahashi RyunosukeJPN16574,012,5410,00
38Nakamura MitsuruJPN13543,514,539,50
414Kawamura TakutoJPN03,014,536,50
54Nishimori ToshiyukiJPN17123,014,027,50


Photos of Sapporo, and northern Hokkaido, with thanks to my friends Amruta Abhyankar and Saurabh Srivastava.

This is a good representative picture of Hokkaido during winter (not as cold during the qualifiers)

Statue with “Dango” - a food item in Japan

Otaru near Sapporo

Hyogo Qualifiers (in Kobe)

Conducted by Mr. Okada Mitsuhiro on March 28 near Kobe, this four round tournament (35+30) featured IM Shinya Kojima, one of Japan's top players, who also won the tournament with ease. The event was restricted to around 16 participants, and also featured the unique clash between the chess couple IM Kojima Shinya and his wife WCM Kojima Natsumi.

IM Shinya Kojima annotated his fourth round win over Hideyuki Yokoo.

Replay few games

Final Standings

IM Kojima Shinya



Okada Mitsuhiro



Yokoo Hideyuki



Kojima Natsumi



McLeod Hugh



Tomii Yoshikatsu



Maeda Kazuki



Fujisaki Tatsuro



Harada Kazuki



Fujisaki Asato



Iizuka Hiroshi



Diba Syed Reza



Kikkawa Kei



Nakata Reito



Zhong Wen Yuan



Morishige Yusei



Photos from Kobe and Kansai area:

Chess Mate coffee introduced by UCC Coffee (Kobe) in 1972 | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Inspired by the chess cafes in Europe, UCC introduced this to promote the “drink coffee and befriend intelligent people” concept. Coincidentally, 1972 is the famous Fischer vs Spassky match year.

Sakura at Kyoto's famous Fushimi Inari shrine. | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

A little bit of India (Ashok stambh) at Todaiji temple, Nara | Photo: Mayur Gondhalekar

Now that all the participants in this year's Japan Chess Championship have been decided, expecting to see a cracking event. Wishing the participants, all the best.

About the Author

Mayur is an IT engineer and a chess enthusiast from Mumbai, working in Japan since 2013. He has played over-the-board tournaments in India, USA and Japan. He has also been a top three finisher in a one-day OTB events in Japan in 2013, 2015, 2017 and online blitz in 2020. Currently he is making use of online platforms for chess improvement and learning Ayurveda. He loves salsa dancing, reading, traveling and teaching.


EDIT: Hokkaido Qualifiers photos and games added on 20th April 2021

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