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Team Japan at the 44th Chess Olympiad 2022

by Mayur Gondhalekar - 27/07/2022

Japan, the “land of the rising sun” is very well known for its technological advances, the Shinkansen (bullet train), old temples, beautiful cherry blossoms and regular achievements at the Olympics. Yet, with its relatively small chess playing community, Japan is still something of an enigma in the chess world. The upcoming Chess Olympiad to be held in Chennai, India being in everyone’s focus, I am going to attempt to share a little about Japan’s diverse chess players who are representing their country at the Olympiad. All information, photos, achievements and introductions are based on the text provided by National Chess Society of Japan (NCS) with a few modifications from me where necessary. NCS has permitted use of all the information for this article. Photo: japanchess.org

Japan is one of the lesser-known countries in the Chess world. With this year’s chess Olympiad around the corner, and happening in Chennai, India, this is a great opportunity to get to know Japan’s Chess teams. Special thanks to FM Bibby, Simon who proof-read and improved this article.

Team Japan Open and Women at 44th Chess Olympiad 2022 | Photo: japanchess.org

Japan’s performance at the previous three Chess Olympiads:

Year/Place: 2014 - Norway (Tromso)

Open - Starting Rank 90, Final Rank 73

Women - Starting Rank 104, Final Rank 97

 

Year/Place: 2016 - Azerbaijan (Baku)

Open - Starting Rank 97, Final Rank 68

Women - Starting Rank 96, Final Rank 96

 

Year/Place: 2018 - Georgia (Batumi)

Open - Starting Rank 97, Final Rank 58

Women - Starting Rank 96, Final Rank 102

 

Year/Place: 2022 - India (Chennai)

Open - Starting Rank 81

Women - Starting Rank 92

 

Further, let us take a look at Japan’s Chess Olympiad teams for 2022, starting with the Women’s section.

The Teams

Women section: 5 members

 

Sakai, Azumi (Woman Candidate Master) - Age 31

Achievements

Women section

- Japan Women’s Chess Champion – 2019

- Japan Chess Championship: Best Women player – 2022

- Asian Online Nations Cup: Japan Representative – 2020

- Online Olympiad: Japan Representative (2 times) – 2020, 2021

- Chess Olympiad: Japan Representative (4 times) – 2014, 2016, 2018, 2022

 

Open section

- Japan Club Chess Championship: A Class winner – 2019

- Tokyo Chess Championship: A Class 3rd prize – 2021

 

Introduction

Azumi has the most experience as a member of Japan's national team and brings a lot of tenacity to the chessboard. Azumi shows a lot of fighting spirit over the board and doesn’t let her opponents escape easily, regardless of their strength. Her tenacity comes from her strong ability to calculate and should help to bring home the points.

 

Kojima, Natsumi (Woman Candidate Master) - Age 28

Achievements

Youth

- Japan School Chess Championship: Winner – 2005

 

Women

- Nagoya Open: Best Women player – 2018

- Japan Chess Classic: Best Woman Player – 2019

- 13th World University Chess Championship: Japan Representative – 2014

- Asian Continental Chess Championship: Japan Representative – 2019

- Asian Amateur Chess Championship: Women 4th place – 2019

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative (3 times) – 2016, 2018, 2022

 

Open

- Japan Students’ Chess Championship: New participant prize – 2013

- Japan Championship Sapporo Qualifier: Winner – 2022

 

Introduction

Natsumi is the Women’s team leader. She forms the ‘top two’, the two most experienced players, alongside Azumi. She is a chess coach as well and works hard to promote chess in Japan. Her playing style is one of steadiness, and a resilient “don’t give up” spirit. She has a lot of experience, not only as a Japan team member, but also playing individual tournaments overseas, which should help her performance in this Olympiad.

 

Misawa, Yuki - Age 31

Achievements

Women

- Asian Online Nations Cup: Japan representative – 2020

- Online Chess Olympiad: Japan representative – 2021

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative – 2022

 

Open

- Japan Club Chess Championship: A Class winner – 2019

- New Year Chess Festival: A Class 3rd place – 2020

- Tokyo Chess Qualifier: B Class 2nd place – 2021

 

Introduction

Yuki Misawa makes her debut for the Japan national team this year. While the Olympiad is a long-play event, Yuki particularly loves blitz chess! Recently, though, she has been practicing hard playing the longer format. This will be her first overseas chess trip. Let us cheer and support her fighting spirit, and we hope to see her do well in her first international team event. Good luck Yuki!

 

Arai, Yuki - Age 29

Achievements

Women

- World University Chess Championship: Japan Representative – 2014

- Asian University Chess Championship: Japan Representative – 2015

- Chess Olympiad: Japan Representative – 2022

 

Open

- Rapid Chess Challenge: 3rd place – 2019

 

Arbiter

- FIDE Arbiter Norms – 2018

- Japan Chess Classic: Deputy Chief Arbiter – 2020

- Japan Qualifying Tournament for Asian Games: Deputy Arbiter – 2021

- Japan Chess Championship: Arbiter – 2022

 

Yuki Arai is not just a player, but also an arbiter, working at many of the country’s main events. Prior to being selected as Japan’s Olympiad representative, Yuki has participated in various chess tournaments in Japan. She should find the Chess Olympiad particularly enjoyable as she prefers to play the longer format of the game and has scored victories against stronger players in this format. We wish her all the best!

 

Mitsuyama, Rikka - Age 12 years

Achievements

Youth

- Japan Cadets Chess Championship: U10 winner – 2019

- SG City Chess open: Girls U10 winner – 2019

- Singapore National Age Group Chess Championship: Girls U10 runner-up – 2019

- Singapore Amateur Chess Championship: Girls U10 runner-up – 2019

- Hong Bao Invitational Rating Tournament: Girls U12 Winner – 2021

- CASPL New Year Chess Challenge: Girls Winner – 2021

- FIDE Online World Cup Cadets: Girls U12 Japan Representative – 2021

- Asian Schools Online Chess Championships: Girls U13 Japan Representative – 2021

 

Women

- Online Chess Olympiad: Japan Representative – 2021

- Chess Olympiad: Japan Representative – 2022

 

Introduction

The youngest member of the team, Rikka is certainly a rising star. From a young age, her powers of concentration have been putting adults to shame. Though still only twelve years old, she already has plenty of international chess experience. She has a dynamic playing style, and is sure to make a strong impression at the Chess Olympiad. A player to watch, for sure!

 

Open section: 5 members

Kojima, Shinya (International Master) - 33 years

Achievements

Youth

- Japan Junior Chess Championship: 1st place (3 times) – 2005, 2006, 2007

 

Open

- Japan Chess Championship: 1st place (5 times) – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010

- Asia Championship: Japan representative (2 times) – 2006, 2010

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative (8 times) – 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2022

- IM title: 2015

 

Introduction

Shinya Kojima is one of the very few professional chess players in Japan, making a living mainly from coaching. He is the leader of the open team and has the most amount of Olympiad experience. He performed particularly well at the previous Olympiad in 2018, with a high points score and a high TPR. He has a classical, solid playing style, which should help him hold his own and bring in the points against stronger opponents.

 

Tran, Thanh Tu (Candidate Master) - 31 years

Achievements

Youth

- Vietnam Youth Championship: 1st place: 5 times – 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

- Vietnam Youth Rapid Championship: 1st place: 4 times – 2001, 2005, 2008, 2010

- Vietnam Youth Blitz Championship: 1st place: 2 times – 2006, 2007

- South East Asia Youth Championship: 1st place in Standard/Rapid/Blitz: 9 times – 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

- Asia Students’ Championship: U15 championship 2005

 

Open

- Vietnam Championship: 1st place – 2015

- Japan Championship: 1st place: 3 times – 2016, 2018, 2021

- Japan Rapid Championship: 1st place: 2 times – 2017, 2022

- Online Chess Olympiad: Japan representative: 2 times – 2020, 2021

- Asian Online Nations Cup: Japan representative – 2020

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative – 2022

 

Introduction

Several times Japan Chess Champion, he appeared in Japan like a blazing comet from Vietnam. He works as a software engineer, and in his free time, he is a strong and fiercely competitive chess master. He has his own unique playing style, relying on his strengths during the course of the game to bring home the victories. He can hold his own against strong Grandmasters, as shown in the two online Olympiads. In addition to the wins for the team, he will also be aiming for a GM norm. On a side note, Tran Thanh Tu was kind enough to give an interview to FI Atul Dahale.

Chess Show with Japan no.1 CM Tran Thanh Tu feat. FI Atul Dahale | Video: Chess Olympiad 2022 Chennai

Bibby, Simon (FIDE Master) - Age 48

Achievements

Youth

- England U11 representative – 1986

- England U19 representative – 1991

- First win against Grand Master in England Championship – 1990

 

Open

- Japan Chess Championship 2022 - 1st place

- Japan Club Chess Championship 2018 - 1st place

- World Prestigious University Chess Invitational Championship 2019: Japan Representative

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative: 2004, 2022

 

Introduction

The oldest member of the team at 48, this gentleman from England is very enthusiastic about chess and is highly motivated to participate in team events. A former England junior international, he has now been playing chess in Japan for more than two decades. He works full-time as an academic, playing chess when he can find time. A theoretical and dynamic player, and something of a risk-taker, he has deep knowledge of chess and offers his services not just as a player but also as the team’s theoretician. Representing Japan again after 18 years, with his knowledge and enthusiasm, he will be of immense help to the team.

 

Kobayashi, Atsuhiko - Age 30

Achievements

Youth

- U16 Chess Olympiad: Japan representative: 2007

- U16 World Junior Championship: Japan representative: 2008

- World University Chess Championship: Japan representative: 2014

 

Open

- Japan Open: Runner-up 2-19

- Online Chess Olympiad: Japan representative: 2020

- Japan Chess Championship: 5th place finish: 2 times – 2020, 2022

- Chess Olympiad: Japan representative: 2022

 

Introduction

Atsuhiko Kobayashi is the youngest member of the Open team, and is making his over the board Olympiad debut this year. He has good theoretical knowledge and has been putting in a lot of good performances in tournaments in the last few years. He was set to participate in the 2020 Olympiad, which was affected due to corona, and thus is highly motivated to perform in this year’s Olympiad. We wish him well on his debut!

 

Averbukh, Alex (Candidate Master) - Age 39

Achievements

Open

- Japan Chess Championship: Runner Up – 2012

- Tokyo Open: Winner – 2012

- Japan Open: Winner – 2012

- 百傑戦:Winner (2013)

- Chubu Rapid Open: Winner (2 times) – 2012, 2013

- Japan Rapid Chess Championship: Winner – 2016

- Chess Olympiad: Japan Representative (4 times) – 2012, 2014, 2016, 2022

 

Introduction

Alex ‘Sasha’ Averbukh has a lot of Chess Olympiad experience. He has a unique and unorthodox playing style. A resourceful player, he has the ability to understand unusual and complicated positions, and has the ability to manoeuvre the game into his own preferred position types, to outwit his opponents. Alex is equally strong in the end-game and middle game.

 

Coaches

Japan’s women’s and open teams will be captained and coached by GM Petrov Marian and GM Stojanovic Mihajlo respectively.

 

And finally, all this would not have been possible without the active and tireless support of the Director of NCS Japan – Mr. Manabe, Hiroshi

Mr. Hiroshi Manabe is the Director of the National Chess Society of Japan (NCS). He was elected unanimously in 2022, and took over the reins from Ms. Yumiko Heibert who had founded the new national organisation in 2019, and led so professionally and effectively since the founding. Fellow director Mr. Akihiro Yamada has provided consistent support for both.

 

Mr. Manabe works as an Executive officer at SMBC Trust Bank in Japan. He is a chess enthusiast and has a FIDE rating (standard) of 2006.

 

Mr. Manabe will also be joining Japan’s Olympiad teams to India, and looks forward to interacting with players, coaches, staff from India and around the world. Let us wish him and team Japan all the very best, and hope they have a strong, top 50 finish.

 

Author’s note: Most of Japan’s chess players make their living through working full-time jobs. As such, they have had to face challenges regarding getting so many days off, visas, financial and other personal challenges, and such like. While IM Nanjo Ryosuke’s presence would’ve bolstered the Open team, let us appreciate and cheer the fighting spirit of Japan’s Olympiad teams, and wish them all the best.

 

Source

Japanchess.org and camp-fire.jp

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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