From the back cover:
Hikaru faces the preliminary rounds of the pro test, during which he must eliminate not only his classmates at the insei school but also any outsiders who want to take the test. One of them in particular appears to know how to exploit Hikaru’s weaknesses, and poor Hikaru seems powerless to stop him.
I really like how the passage of time is handled in Hikaru no Go. Hikaru is improving quickly, true, but it’s still taken him a fairly long time to advance through the insei ranks. Now, in preparing for the pro test, Hikaru is walking his rival’s path one year later. As Hikaru continues to grow, we see a few panels that indicate that Akira is doing the same. Akira doesn’t look energized in any of these panels, though, and we all know he’ll benefit from finally having a true rival.
I thought it was interesting that the reaction of Hikaru’s parents and family was taken into account, too. They have no real way to gauge his abilities. They’re letting him do what he wants for now, but understandably concerned about his future. This isn’t something that I’ve personally seen in a tournament style story before, so it’s neat. The closest parallel would be Prince of Tennis, but everyone there universally acknowledges that Ryoma is awesome, and his dad would be in a position to know.
Lastly, I particularly appreciated that the preliminary round arc is resolved within a single volume. With the wait between volumes what it is, it was nice to get it all at once, and leave off with the boys in preparation for the real thing.