Sumire Nakamura said she will work hard to become a strong go player at a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 5 on her professional debut in spring at age 10. (Tsubasa Setoguchi)

Elementary schoolgirl Sumire Nakamura will debut as the youngest professional go player ever in Japan in spring, when she turns 10, carrying Japanese hopes for a return to world supremacy in the board game.

The Nihon Ki-in (The Japan Go Association) announced Jan. 5 that it will accept Sumire, an Osaka fourth-grader, as the first pro under a special program for elementary school go players “with the potential for becoming the world’s No. 1.”

She will set a new record as the youngest professional go player in Japan for the first time in a decade.

Previously, Rina Fujisawa, 20, held the mark when she turned pro at 11 years, six months in 2010.

Starting from April 1, Sumire will become a member of the association’s Kansai branch, based in Osaka, playing in various competitions, including female-only ones.

“I want to win a title while I am in junior high school,” Sumire, accompanied by her parents, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 5. “I am aspiring to become a go player like Yuta Iyama.”

Iyama, 29, currently holds the titles of five of the seven major go competitions in Japan. He received the People’s Honor Award last year.

Sumire challenged Iyama in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, on Jan. 6, but the two left the match unfinished.

When Cho U, one of the leading players, faced off against Sumire last month to gauge her skills, the child prodigy stunned association officials by holding the 38-year-old pro to a draw.

“I have heard of her reputation before, but she proved to be a lot stronger than I had imagined,” said Cho after the game. “I played with Iyama when he was in elementary school, but I am under the impression that she is better than he was back then.”

Cho added that he has great expectations for her to successfully compete on the global stage.

Sumire’s feat is not unexpected, though, given her family background.

She is the only child of professional go player Shinya Nakamura, 45, holder of the ninth-dan, and wife, Miyuki, 38, a former go instructor.

When she was 3, Sumire was introduced to the game by her mother.

When she was 7, her family moved to Seoul for Sumire to undergo go training, traveling back and forth between Japan and South Korea since.

South Korea, along with China, has spawned an army of formidable players since 1990s, eclipsing Japan, which was once the world’s strongest.

Sumire won the championship for children in the lower grades of elementary school in South Korea in 2017.

Last year, the Korea Baduk Association accepted her as a candidate for a professional go player.

After Japanese players had lost world titles by 2005, an alarmed Japan Go Association set up a special program to allow extremely gifted children to play as a professional without requiring them to pass a pro test.

The association is hoping that Sumire will land a world title in the future.