So great is his dominance of this traditional Japanese game that Habu is regarded as possibly the smartest person in Japan, to such an extent that his brain is being analyzed to see why it works so much better than anybody else's.
Having no worlds left to conquer in the field of shogi, Habu recently decided to take up a similar game called chess. Habu is not the first Japanese professional player of go or shogi to take up chess. There have long been rumors that several famous go players were masters at chess, such as Fujisawa Hosai, who is it said briefly took up chess after World War II because he feared that General McArthur would make go illegal. However, Fujisawa Hosai and the others never played a public game of chess, because they were not grandmasters and if they faced world-class competition they would only embarrass themselves and Japan.
It was thus a great surprise which Habu showed up at the Chicago Open in May, prepared to do battle with some of the world's leading chess grandmasters.
Organizers of the Chicago Open could not understand why so many Japanese journalists showed up to cover the event. Nobody told them who Habu was.
This month's August Chess Life, page 36, just out, carries the game Habu played against Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky. Chess Life makes no mention of who Habu is.
The game is really wild. Habu plays in a style reminiscent of Duncan Suttles. Suttles used to say "The strongest square for the knight is king's bishop two." Sure enough, Habu plays 23. Nf7.
In time trouble, Habu missed a fantastic move. He could have played 40. .... Nxe4 threatening mate on f2. The resulting position is so complicated that nobody can say what the outcome would have been.
Habu lost the game, but this was quite a good effort for an absolute beginner at chess playing for the first time against one of the world's leading grandmasters.
[Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2000.05.29"] [White "Yermolinsky, Alex"] [Black "Yoshiharu, Habu"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E99"] [WhiteElo "2642"] [BlackElo "2357"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2000.05.29"] 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 O-O 6.Nf3 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.Rc1 Ng6 14.c5 Nxc5 15.b4 Na6 16.Nb5 Bd7 17.Nxa7 h5 18.a4 Rf7 19.Nd3 Bf8 20.Nb5 Rg7 21.Kh1 Nh8 22.g3 fxg3 23.Bxg3 Nf7 24.Rg1 Rc8 25.Bf2 Qf6 26.Be3 Rg6 27.Qd2 Be7 28.Nc3 Kh7 29.b5 Nc5 30.Nxc5 dxc5 31.d6 Qxd6 32.Nd5 b6 33.a5 Ra8 34.a6 Bd8 35.Rcd1 Be8 36.Qb2 Qe6 37.Bd2 Nd6 38.Bc3 g4 39.Bxe5 gxf3 40.Nf4 fxe2 41.Nxe6 exd1=Q 42.Nf8+ Kg8 43.Rxd1 Kxf8 44.Bxd6+ cxd6 45.Qh8+ Ke7 46.Qh7+ Bf7 47.e5 Ke8 48.Rxd6 Rxd6 49.exd6 Ra7 50.Kg1 c4 51.Qe4+ Kd7 52.Qc6+ Ke6 53.Qc8+ 1-0
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