It should have been an easy victory.
New Team Chihayafuru is up against a team that, in all rights, should give them an easy victory. They have three players — Chihaya, Taichi and Nishida — who are damn good at karuta, which should be enough to give them an edge and propel them to the finals. But they had a tiff earlier with the frustrated Tsutomu, and their minds are elsewhere, particularly Chihaya’s. The team they face, Shuryukan, almost seems to sense their collective unease and yelps and bellows as a unit; it’s made clear that, as a whole, they’re not as talented as Chihaya’s group, but they make up for it using whatever tactics they can.
Shuryukan gets off to a fast start and takes several cards. Chihaya has trouble focusing. The words of encouragement and the accusations during the fight coalesce in her mind, and Chihaya’s mind wanders. Everything comes to a head when the chihayafuru card — Chihaya’s card — is read, and everyone on the team takes it but her, and cold panic grips her heart. Her mind is a blank: She suddenly forgets how to play the game. Every instinct is gone.