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Kyoto Gion Open 2 in OcToBer resumes Japan chess

by Mayur Gondhalekar - 24/10/2021

The best way to resume over-the-board would be to have it in a very unique, beautiful setting that helps the participants relax and yet concentrate on the task at hand. This is exactly how it all resumed with the Gion Open 2, held in a very unique setting in Kyoto, Japan. Mayur Gondhalekar, currently residing in Japan, sends us a pictorial report of the tournament including games of the event too. If you are interested in taking part at a FIDE-rated event tournament in Japan, check out the announcement and invitation of the next edition at the end of this article. Photo: Akai/Takashima

Tetsuo Higashino wins

After nearly half a year hiatus, which saw a fair number of Indian players participate in various online events hosted by NCS Japan, like GM Swayams Mishra’s 5/5 heist in Summer Chess, or ChessBase India’s own WIM Angela Franco in Autumn Chess, the real thing finally saw light of the day. Over-the-board chess resumed in Japan, fittingly in the month of OcToBer 2021, at a very unique, and beautiful location in the ex-capital city of Kyoto in central-west Japan. The event Gion Open, named after Gion – Kyoto’s famous area that still continues the tradition of Maiko and Geisha performances, with traditional Kyoto food – took place from October 9th to 11th at Chion-in Buddhist Temple complex, in the Higashiyama area, near Gion.

Who wouldn’t love playing in this setup!

This was the second Gion Open tournament, directed by Mr Akai Kiyotaka of Osaka Abeno Chess Club. It was a FIDE (and NCS Japan) rated tournament, having time control of 60 minutes + 30 seconds / move from move one, comprising of seven rounds. The rounds were split as 2R, 3R, 2R over three days.

The winners! L-R: 2nd: Bibby Simon; 1st: Higashino Tetsuo; 3rd: Otawa Yuto

The Gion Open 2 was won by Higashino Tetsuo, while FM Bibby Simon, and Otaya Yuto were 2nd and 3rd respectively.


Akai-san and Takashima-san were kind enough to provide all the photos as well as the games from the event. I considered long and hard to participate and finally get a FIDE rating (what better place to make a debut, than Kyoto…) or at least go as a photographer, but another chess event made sure that I stayed back in Tokyo.


Anti-covid countermeasures like wearing of masks, disinfection of hands, and chess sets between rounds, social-distancing, temperature check etc were followed.


Enjoy some of the stunning photographs (all credits to Osaka Abeno Chess Club, Osaka, Japan unless mentioned otherwise)

The event poster

Amazing, isn’t it, to be greeted by an entrance like this, to a chess event?

This is Kachozan – one of the entrances to the Chion-in Temple.

All about Chion-in temple (tournament was held at Wajun-kaikan)

The battleground is ready

This type of room is called "Wa-shitsu" (Japanese style room) and contains "tatami mats" mats” – approx. 6 ft x 3 ft in size. In Japan, room sizes are often expressed by number of tatami mats (measurement unit is jo). Eg: 8-jo room (approx. 144 sq ft)

Anti-corona measures, of course

The tournament is underway!

An example of Shojin Ryori – which is usually vegetarian (aka Buddhist Monks’ meal). This particular set uses some fish, though.

Disinfection between rounds

Surrounded by the masters! | Photo: Takayasu Melody

L-R: WCM Kojima Natsumi, Takayasu Melody, Misawa Yuki and WCM Sakai Azumi.

L-R: Takayasu Melody, Shiomi Ryo and Takayasu Nobuyuki

A place to analyze your games after the match (inside Chion-in temple complex) | Photo: Donaldson Sheldon

Sheldon has kindly annotated his game against Yuta Karasawa.

Replay all games

Final Standings

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgIRtgNClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
13Higashino TetsuoJPN206921736,027,530,024,50
21FMBibby SimonJPN21592285R4 Bye5,529,533,024,00
32Otawa YutoJPN212521505,528,030,021,75
410Nodon JeremiJPN180018315,028,031,020,75
54Shiomi RyoJPN204121355,027,529,518,00
69Takahashi HideakiJPN181418815,027,029,520,50
730Wakamori TsuyoshiJPN016575,026,529,519,50
85Noguchi KojiJPN196821205,025,027,517,50
97Jones TiborSCO187118715,024,527,018,75
1031Kuroda YunosukeJPN014705,023,525,516,50

Complete standings

Wouldn’t you love to play chess in such a stunning setting? Well, here’s how - Any GMs (and others) interested in making their Japan debut: an invitation for the next event in Kyoto, Gion Open III

Gion Open III, at Wajun Kaikan (Chion-in) will be held on November 29, 30, and December 1, 2024

It will be six rounds with a time-control of 90 min + 30 secs/move; will be FIDE rated, limited to 48 participants.


Tourism to Japan should (hopefully) resume by then, so we should see some GM participation. After seeing these photos, I am surely tempted to play next time! Must start preparing already.


Lastly, special thanks to Akai-san, Takashima-san and Melody-san, Sheldon-san for the games and wonderful photos.

Gion Open II vlog by WCM Natsumi Kojima | Video: Kojinatsu Channel

About Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan, located in the Kansai area, close to Osaka and Kobe. It served as Japan’s capital city until 1869. It is often called as the cultural capital of Japan, having a lot of very old temples. Kyoto has a good mix of urban life as well as a lot of nature close by, some of it within walking distance from the city center. Kyoto has a lot of unique food styles, including several vegetarian dining options. Enjoy some photos

Kinkakuji (golden temple/pavilion) | Photo: Mayur

The brilliant orange ‘torii’ gates at Fushimi-Inari | Photo: Mayur

Closest ‘nature’ to Kyoto – the Kamogawa river to the east. (Kamo coincidentally means ‘duck’) | Photo: Mayur

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.

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