The youngest shogi professional player in history, 4-dan Sota Fujii (15), has successfully claimed a victory with 114 moves against 4-dan Hirotaka Kajiura on the ninth round of the class C2 Meijin ranking tournament at the Shogi Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo. With this being Fujii’s ninth consecutive victory, his advancement to class C1 has been guaranteed without him having to wait for the last round. At the same time, this advancement has also fulfilled the condition for him to be promoted to rank 5-dan. This is the first time in history that a middle school student has managed to achieve both of these accomplishments.
Of the four players who made their professional debut in middle school before Fujii, only 9-dan Hifumi Kato (78) managed to advance to class C2 and reach rank 5-dan in a single year. However, while Kato’s promotion had also been decided when he was still in middle school, Fujii holds the record of being the youngest person with the achievement because Kato was officially promoted on April 1 when he was already a high school student. In terms of age, Kato was still the youngest to achieve the feat (15 year-old and three months) with Fujii coming in second (15-year old and six months). It took 9-dan Koji Tanigawa (55) and Ryuuou Yoshiharu Habu (47) two years to get promoted, while it took three years for Akira Watanabe (33).
Fujii who was clearly exhausted after the 13-hour long match commented that “he was losing a bit in terms of strategy” and that “things developed intensely in the middle which was extremely difficult”, but he was glad that “he managed to push forward”. When asked about what he thought about his promotion, Fujii responded by saying that he was genuinely happy since he has been fighting for the promotion, but he is still willing to do his best for the last match.
On February 17, 2018, Fujii will be facing the Eternal Seven Crowns and current Ryuuou Yoshiharu Habu in the Asahi Cup Shogi Open Tournament semifinals. The final match of the tournament will be held in the same day, and if Fujii manages to win, he will be the first middle school student and the youngest professional shogi player to ever win an official general tournament. According to the promotion rule, this victory will instantly allow him to promote to 6-dan. Faced with such a great opportunity, Fujii proclaimed that he will be giving his best in the semifinals.