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Karolina Styczynska [STEH-chen-skah], a 25-year-old Polish woman, was recently declared as the first foreign professional shogi player.
In her most recent win during the 44th Women’s Meijin tournament, Styczynska beat a higher-ranking shogi player. This victory came with her promotion to the 2-kyu rank, qualifying her to become a professional.
Shogi, often called Japanese chess, has a distinct set of rules different from Western chess. Styczynska explained that shogi allows players to use captured pieces and that it has a dynamic final stage. These features are what she finds most interesting about the game.
At 16 years old, Styczynska learned about shogi through the popular comics Naruto. She narrated that she studied how to play the game through the Internet. Eventually, she met a professional shogi player online who first invited her to Japan in 2011.
During an official shogi tournament in 2012, Styczynska made headlines by beating a professional player. Since then, she pursued her dream of becoming a professional shogi player. In 2013, she moved to Japan and joined the Japan Shogi Association.
Styczynska said that she trained for three hours a day and spent her weekends at the Japan Shogi Association. That time was difficult for her since she is also a graduate student. She even mentioned that she used to cry out of frustration, thinking that her goals were impossible to reach.
Even after winning the tournament, Styczynska said that she will continue training to achieve the next professional rank. She also intends to promote shogi worldwide.