FOR THE AFTERWORD
“Is the absolute answer to Shogi a victory for the offense or the defender?”
I think this question has been debated since the very moment Shogi was created and has spanned fourteen centuries to today.
It was also the main theme for Book 5 of The Ryuo’s Work Is Never Done! …… But the idea came to me after reading a book of Meijin Yoshiharu Habu quotes so I didn’t have anything to add to the discussion myself.
When it comes to what is closest to finding that absolute answer nowadays, I doubt anyone would disagree that supercomputers are closer than human beings.
So I tried asking the leading authorities on Shogi software development for myself.
The question: What do you think is Shogi’s answer?
I got many different responses.
But if there was anything they all had in common, it was———
“A definitive answer will come out in the next few years.”
The specific number for the next few years varied.
Also, the content for said answer was just as varied.
Since Shogi software development has historically been open-source, the individual developers have been able to make use of their personal talents to push the technology along.
It only makes sense that they would have their own opinions on the answer.
My conversations with them branched out beyond the realm of Shogi.
The excitement in their voices was palpable when the latest cutting-edge technology came up and their creativity constantly left me in awe.
Interviewing in person to gather information became a much bigger challenge due to Covid-19, but the power of technology made it easy to bridge the gap.
A computer-based Shogi tournament known as the Denryu-sen took place completely online (and almost completely automated), and it is now possible to grab pieces using a headset and a glove in the Metaverse.
Of course, I focus on Shogi when out gathering information.
But at the same time, I got to learn about the latest happenings within virtual reality as well as the scope of deep learning software and supercomputers.
Shogi is, without a doubt, an analog game. However our conversations veered to the latest technology circles before I knew it.
I wanted to express that unusual sensation in novel form and used Book 17 to show a version of the future using Shogi.
A long-awaited match is coming up next.
Ai vs. Ai.
They haven’t collided since Book 2.
How will Yaichi feel when he sees his more mature apprentices go head to head? And Ginko———
Don’t miss it!
“Hiuuuma! How about lunch?”
Hiuma Kagamizu, crouched over the soil, stood up at his childhood friend’s call.
Nothing but green fields as far as the eye could see.
This year there was a bountiful harvest of satsumaimo sweet potatoes.
Kagoshima prefecture was synonymous with sweet potatoes, but when it came to producing them for alcoholic drinks like shochu, Miyazaki prefecture sat alone at the top.
No matter how many were produced, it would never be enough to fill demand for shochu.
Looking over the fields his lifelong friend’s father had entrusted to his care, Hiuma felt satisfied.
The very sweet potatoes he grew with his own hands were distilled into shochu, which made many people happy. He could never feel this type of fulfillment by playing Shogi, which didn’t create anything tangible.
His childhood friend came right up next to him with a picnic basket. The two sat down to eat and she leaned in to strike up a conversation.
“Um, Dad said he wanted you to teach him some more Shogi today.”
“And to spend the night at our place.”
Hiuma silently nodded along with her sweet voice as his thoughts turned toward the future.
———It wouldn’t be all that bad, would it? Working the land and settling down with her.
He loved the competitiveness of the Shogi world.
He’d also loved the version of himself who lived in that world.
But now that he was free of the constant tension and pressure that came with belonging to the 3-dan division, he found that he also loved this version of himself.
Hiuma even pondered if he had been cut out for that cutthroat environment in the first place.
The young woman at his side gazed upon his profile and whispered, “…… You’ve changed, Hiuma.”
“Yep. You had this scary look in your eyes when you first came back.”
“I did ……?”
“But, this new you ………… it’s, um ……”
Her face turned an almost aggressive shade of pink as she finished that sentence.
“…… It’s like …… the Hiuma I loved has finally come home ……♡”
She was clearly making a big move, one that could seal victory. However, Hiuma didn’t make any attempt to avoid it.
Happiness had fallen into Hiuma’s lap like a sun-kissed mango, and all he had to do now was reach out and take it.
A happiness that had eluded him during all those years playing Shogi could be his, and it would be so easy ……
That happiness was mercilessly smashed by a boy dressed in a junior high school uniform appearing out of the blue.
“Oh, there you are. Heeey! Mr. Kagamizu!”
“……………… Sota?” Hiuma muttered in disbelief.
He thought it was a mirage. After all, that boy couldn’t possibly be here.
“S-Sota Kunugi 4-dan?! Is that actually him?!”
His childhood friend positively glowed with reverence, as if an angel had descended upon the sweet potato fields.
“Th-The prodigy everyone in Japan is talking about ……? What’s he doing here ……?”
“Work, what else?”
The only person not covered in sweat beneath the sweltering southern island sun, for whatever reason, stepped right into the fields in his leather shoes.
“Miyakonojyo City hosts the Women’s King Tournament every year, remember? I’ve been asked to do big board analysis. I didn’t think the mass media would follow me all the way to the boonies like this and, what do you know, it’s been an absolute circus with all these small, local news stations and papers hounding me. People in the Shogi Journalist Club follow the rules. But it seems like everyone in the countryside doesn’t have a clue what the rules are.”
Sota never stopped talking, not even after coming up to Hiuma’s side.
“Anyway, I had a terrible time there. Nobody’s heard of Women King Something-something zaka and challenger What’s-her-face, so aaaaaall the reporters swarmed me instead. On top of that, the shochu makers keep asking me to do commercials for them …… And that company president, his speeches last an eternity. I’ve never seen someone open a scroll like that before!”
Indeed, the owner of the shochu brewery that sponsored the Women’s King Tournament was known for long-winded speeches during the Open Night Party and he’d become famous for unrolling his notes for the opening address.
What’s more, Hiuma had attended many of those parties while working as a match recorder during his time in the Sub League …… A new wind blew into the weak spots of his heart, reigniting the old flame from back in those days.
“By the way, Mr. Kagamizu.”
“Yeah? What is it, Sota?”
“Who’s that woman there?”
“O-Ohh ………… She’s, yeah. This is ……”
Now suddenly embarrassed, Hiuma stepped forward as if to hide his childhood friend from Sota’s view. The boy quickly walked around to the other side, but Hiuma still tried to hide her ……
After a brief moment of consideration, Hiuma answered Sota’s question.
“My lifelong friend. Her father hired me to work these fields.”
“Hmmm? A lifelong friend, is she ……?”
Sota studied her from head to toe, much like an appraiser would.
Until finally, “Heh.” Sota was assured of his own victory and declared, “You’re ugly.”
Hiuma’s childhood friend gasped after witnessing the boy prodigy’s true face, the one that would never be shown on TV. Hiuma panicked, knowing full well what the boy was likely to say next———
“I far outclass her in looks, Shogi sense and personality! Your standards have fallen hard since you left, Hiuma. Have you spent so much time looking at potatoes that you find people who look like them attractive now?”
Then Sota Kunugi takes a step beyond Hiuma’s expectations.
“Now, come on back to Osaka.”
Both Hiuma and his friend gasp in unison.
“W-Wait just a minute there! …… Are you listening, Sota? Stepping away from Shogi, I feel like I’ve got something really good started here. You’re going to live out my dream, right? I don’t need to be———”
“Yes, that’s what you said before you left, and I made a brand new Shogi boom just like I promised, haven’t I? I kept my word, so now it’s your turn to keep yours.”
“You promised to play Shogi with me again! Now that there’s a Professional Entrance Exam, go meet the qualifications and play against me!”
“Slow down, slow down. Nothing has been decided for an exam———”
“It’s inevitable. I already volunteered to be an examiner,” Sota stated innocently, as if he truly believed there was nothing in this world that wouldn’t go exactly as he imagined.
“Th-That’s not your decision to make! You might be the wonderboy everyone’s talking about, but that doesn't change the fact that Hiuma and I are going to be very happy together!”
“Hah! Mr. Kagamizu could never be happy away from me, without Shogi in his life. You can’t understand something that obvious? Don’t be so dumb when your face sets you up for enough jokes already.”
The young woman screamed at the top of her lungs, but Sota was prepared to land the final blow.
“It’s time we visit your parent’s house, Mr. Kagamizu. Show me the way.”
“M-My parent’s house? Why would you want to go there ……?”
“To meet your parents, of course. I’ll be taking care of your son from now on. You have my word, I'll make him into a professional Shogi player. It’s only courteous, right? Oh, and you can have them ship your things to Osaka later.”
The prodigy didn’t hesitate for an instant, grabbed the dirt-covered Hiuma Kagamizu and pulled him out of the field with the same absolute confidence as when he walked in.
“This is just how it is!”