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Yoshiyaki Yokota wins Osaka Chess Championship 2024

by Sheldon Donaldson - 25/03/2024

Mayur Gondhalekar and his good friend, Sheldon Donaldson regularly keeps us updated about the Japan chess scene. Sheldon writes a blog about his experience playing at Osaka Chess Championship 2024. The Canadian origin, currently residing in Japan, Sheldon's article is full of high quality photos and some interesting moments from his games. He loves playing, analyzing and making us enjoy various moments from his games. Check out his experience taking part in the tournament which took place in Osaka city, Japan. Yoshiyaki Yokota won the tournament scoring an unbeaten 4.5/5. Takahiro Mizumoto and Melody Takayasu scored 4/5 each to secure second and third place respectively according to tie-breaks. Photos: Sheldon Donaldson

The Thin Line between Victory and Absolute Disaster

Hello, my fellow OTB fanatics, and welcome to another edition of the Osaka Papers. The Japanese chess calendar is broken up into two distinct sections: qualifying tournaments for the Japan Chess Championship... and the rest of the year.

L to R: 2nd Takahiro Mizumoto (JPN) 4/5, 1st Yoshiaki Yokota (JPN) 4.5/5, 3rd Melody Takayasu (JPN) 4/5

Winter and Mate are coming...

Certainly, there are other important tournaments and events, but they all play second fiddle to the Japan Chess Championship. Yet, in order to be invited to this prestigious event one has to qualify through rating, results in other national events, or placing near the top of one of the regional qualifying tournaments.


I narrowly missed out on qualifying for last year's championship and have been working all year to rectify that result. Hence, I entered the Osaka Chess Championship, with high hopes and adamantine determination.


The Osaka Chess Championship is of course the qualifying tournament for the Osaka region. The tournament consisted of five rounds and was held over the weekend of March 2nd and 3rd, time control was 35 min + 30 seconds bonus.


With some players having already qualified through other means, and yet others not interested or able to attend the Japan Chess Championship, the results needed to progress were not at all clear, which just added to the whimsical nature of the event. I estimated that I would need at least 3 points out of a possible 5 to be in contention.


That shouldn't be that hard, right? But as the title suggests the line between victory and absolute disaster is thin, sometimes it comes down to one instant, one piece, one square on a chessboard.


But, before we get into all of that, how about some pics to prove that any of this actually happened.

The site

Caissa, Goddess of Chess overlooking the world ~ probably

My objective...

These enthusiastic participants demanded I take their picture...

The Yodo River... but everyone calls it the Yodogawa river

All-Out Attack

“To play for a draw, at any rate with white, is to some degree a crime against chess.”

– Mikhail Tal


Round 1 passed without much incident, I played an unrated newcomer, and although he played well, I was able to get the full point without much difficulty. Round 2, however, was a very different matter.


I was once again paired against my good friend Flipi, who I narrowly lost to in the Tokai open, which took place in January. In this encounter, I decided to go on the attack straight away, giving up three pawns for a bishop, however I failed to calculate Black bringing his knight into the attack.

Sheldon - Flipi, Round 2

Position after 11...Nxe4

Black threatens a grand fork on f2 and a check by capturing the g3 pawn, how should White respond?

The Drawback Principle

“Suppose we can identify the drawback of the opponent's previous move and can do something about it to our advantage. This is called the drawback principle.”

- GM R B Ramesh


Coming into round 3, I had two points, meaning I only need one more point over the course of three games in order to qualify. Easy enough, right?


In the following position, Black has just played f5 in order to defend the bishop on g7 from a possible rook sacrifice, followed by the White queen coming to the h-file. But what is the drawback of this move?

Sheldon - Takahiro, Round 3

Position after 28...f5

The bishop on e4 is under attack, should we meekly defend or go on the attack? (Well, obviously we should attack, but how?)

The Thin Red Line

“Sometimes a Pawn is enough to change the whole game and those who ignore the importance of it, are liable to lose their Queen.”

- Sandeep Sharma


Losing in round 3 was painful, not once but twice I had winning tactics that I failed to see over the board. But I still only need 1 point from my last two games...O_o...


In the fourth round, I played against Yoshiaki Yokota, a player I have played at least a half dozen times over the last two years. I knew it would be close, but I was rather confident that the result would go my way.

The What if's of Chess

“A win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror.”

- Wilhelm Steinitz


I was absolutely crushed after my defeat in round 4, but I still have one more chance to qualify. I'm paired with an unknown low rated player for the final round. Far from giving me hope for an easy win, this filled me with trepidation. Japan is filled with these low rated players who are actually just as strong as any experienced club player, moreover, he drew with a really strong player in the first round of this tournament, so I knew he would be no pushover.


In the following position, everything seems primed for a tactical shot, my bishops and queen are targeted at the Black kingside, and if the position opens up, my rooks can come to the g-file to deliver the coup de grâce.

Sheldon - Dai, Round 5

Position after 21...c5

White looks set to blow open the position, but should we deal with the c5 push before proceeding? Sadly, I went onto lose this game, tilt, inaccuracies and shoddy endgame play led to my demise.

Final standings

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
16Yokota, YoshiakiJPN15794,59,510,59,75
24Mizumoto, TakahiroJPN1625413,515,511,00
32Takayasu, MelodyJPN17044111310,00
41Takashima, BunjiJPN18553,511,51410,00
512Ishii, HibikiJPN1424314157,00
615Diba, Seyed RezaJPN1231313,514,58,00
714Yamada, MisakiJPN1325311,5137,50
817Yoshizawa, KazufumiJPN1069311,511,53,50
98Sawamura, TetsushiJPN1500310,512,56,50
107Wolter, NoaJPN1506310,511,56,00



And that was it, that was the Osaka Chess Championship. I'm very disappointed to have not qualified for the Japan Chess Championship. Chess is a game of inches and the line between victory and absolute disaster can seem microscopic. If I played one or two moves differently, I may have been in contention for winning the tournament. But chess isn't about what you almost did, it is about what actually happened.


There is however, one silver lining to the story, the Kobe Chess Championship is just around the corner, and I will have another opportunity to qualify for the Japan Chess Championship. I'm hoping to learn from my mistakes and come away a stronger player for it.


As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to share these games with your friends and the local chess community.


Cheers, SheldonOfOsaka.

The Osaka Chess Community

About the Author

SheldonOfOsaka is a 42-year-old chess player originally from Canada, who has lived in Japan for the past 13 years; he took up chess 10 years ago, but only began to play over-the-board tournaments last year.

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