Though it's been over two years since Hikaru and Akira have played against each other, Hikaru has the realization early on into their game that it wasn't a real game since Sai had played about half of it himself, which was one of the reasons Akira became so focused on Hikaru after that since Sai played unlike anyone else at the time. And it started his strong interest in Hikaru, as evidenced through the flashbacks here as we see the way he pursued knowledge of what Hikaru was up to an how he was playing throughout all of it. The rivalry between the two started awkwardly, a lot of it owing to the age of both of them at the time, but now they're both playing full on at true pro levels.
With the series close to ending, it's interesting that they do start talking about the events that are to follow which were done in the manga, namely the larger world context of having a group dealing with Korea and China along with Japan in an under eighteen league of sorts. Mixing this into the match between Hikaru and Akira is amusing since the two would likely become partners in such a thing to represent Japan. The match itself takes a fascinating turn though as Akira starts to see the way Sai played in Hikaru, but it's different in way where it's clearly Hikaru who is playing with the influence rather than Sai himself as Akira had seen through the internet based games. It's a disturbing moment for him that causes him to question his own play a bit so as to try and draw out the real essence of Sai that he wants to play, that he's chased for so long.
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