Two games down and on the ropes, it looks as if the wheels are about to fall off of Mizusawa's national team tournament campaign. However, with passion still burning strongly in the three remaining members of the team whose games are not yet decided, the match as a whole is far from a foregone conclusion.
With the end of the match in sight, this week's episode of Chihayafuru ramps up the tension to eleven, pure and simple, starting with a focus upon Taichi as he eschews some of his teachings and goes for broke to force his way back into his game - something which he manages to go with a mixture of mind games and (unusually for him) blind luck.
Meanwhile, Chihaya has finally gained the upper hand against Rion, and she forces home her victory to make it 2-1... not that she has time to celebrate when there's sleeping to do. With Nishida also coming back from the brink in his game, we're suddenly all set for a nightmarishly tense finale, with the two deciding games coming down to the final card and a luck of the draw face-off. Given their previous experiences however, this time around Mizusawa have done everything right to put themselves into as healthy a position as possible - from there, it's just up to the heavens to decide on which way the drawing of cards should fall.
You really couldn't ask for Chihayafuru to bring this particular tournament to an end in a more compelling fashion than this - much like onlookers within the episode itself, I could barely watch the final moments before the game came to a close, and the outpouring of emotion when it was all over was also something I ended up sharing with the on-screen cast, such was the power and thrall it had held over me. As I've mentioned previously, when it wishes to do so this series can engender emotions that fans of any game or sport will be able to recognise, and it's this ability which is one of Chihayafuru's strokes of genius, bringing us the equivalent of a penalty shoot-out and dragging us into all of the tension and emotion that goes with it. It's stupendous stuff, and it works wonders on a pure, emotional level. What other series could make you cry at the end of a game of la-di-da Snap?