Where in the world is Yamashita Keigo?
You’ll have to consult the tour map for 37th Meijin title match to find out.
37th Meijin tour map
Yamashita Keigo Meijin
Yamashita Keigo 9p won the Meijin title in 2011, defeating title holder Iyama Yuta 4-2.
He became a professional in 1993 and celebrated his 34th birthday on September 6, 2012.
Yamashita has held most of the major Japanese titles at one time or another.
And, of course, he won the Meijin in 2011, as mentioned.
His style is creative and emphasizes fighting.
His book Breakthrough Attacking Power: Yamashita Style was translated into English by Bob Terry.
Hane Naoki (the challenger)
Hane Naoki 9p is another top Japanese player but, surprisingly, he’s never won the Meijin title. In fact this is his first time as challenger in the Meijin tournament.
At age 36, he’s two years older than Yamashita and he also become a pro two years earlier in 1991.
His father, Hane Yasumasa was a highly respected professional Go player.
Hane won the Tengen in 2001 (held until 2004), the Kisei in 2004 (held until 2006), the Honinbo in 2008 (held until 2010) and the Gosei in 2011 (losing it to Iyama Yuta in 2012).
As you can see, the two players have quite a history, and Yamashita has a record of taking titles from Hane. Can Hane give Yamahita a taste of his own medicine this year?
Hane’s style is calm and patient. He emphasizes thickness over speed in his games.
His book The Way of Creating a Thick and Strong Game talks about his style and his philosophy of winning by consistently playing the ’80% move’ instead of aiming for 100% and losing through overplay.
Game 1 – Bunkyo, Tokyo
The first match was played on August 30 and 31 in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Yamashita, the defending title holder, added another win to his 33-17 win/loss record against challenger, Hane Naoki.
Game 2 – Kamikawa, Hokkaido
The tour then escaped the sticky heat of the capital, heading north to Hokkaido, known for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Perhaps the cooler weather helped Hane, as he equalled the score at 1-1 on September 20-21, 2012.
Game 3 – Miyazaki, Miyazaki
Having visited one end of the country, the players traveled all the way to the other end for a game in Miyazaki, on September 27 and 28. Hane capitalized on his earlier win with another one and pulled ahead 2-1 in the series.
If Hane gets one more win, then Yamashita will face a kadoban (match deciding game) in the following game. The pressure is slowly mounting for Yamashita and he’ll be keen to even the score in game 4.
Game 4 – Sendai, Miyagi
After playing at both ends of Japan, the Meijin title match moved back to center, to Sendai, Miyagi. Game 4 was played on October 10 and 11.
Facing the very real prospect of a series of kadobans (see Game 3), Yamashita dug deep and clawed his way back to even the score at 2-2.
Game 5 - Hiratsuka, Kanagawa
After Yamashita evened the score at 2-2, the Meijin title match was almost back to where it started – both in terms of the score and the location.
On the outskirts of Tokyo overlooking Sagami Bay, in Kanagawa Prefecture, Yamashita and Hane met once again.
This time, Yamashita turned the tables on Hane, edging ahead 3-2. This means Hane will face a kadoban (see Game 3) as the series moves on to Atami, Shizuoka.
Game 6 - Atami, Shizuoka
Over October 31 and November 1, 2012, Hane Naoki successfully overcame a kadoban to stretch the Meijin title match out to a 7th and final game.
Hane and Yamashita, locked at 3-3, will get to sample wines from Japan’s premier wine region as they face each other once more at the end of a 6,000 km tour.
Every game in the series so far has ended in resignation. Let’s see if the pair can make it seven in a row when they play the decisive match on November 12 and 13, 2012.
Don’t miss it!
Game 7 – Kofu, Yamanashi
On November 12 and 13, 2012, almost three months after the title match started, Yamashita finally grasped the decisive game and successfully defended his Meijin title for the first time.
As if trying to prove a point, Yamashita started a severe attack around move 60 and skilfully carried the momentum from one attack to another, winning convincingly in just 138 moves.
No doubt Yamashita’s focus will now shift to taking the Honinbo title back from Iyama Yuta, but first, there should be a little time to sit back and enjoy the some Yamanashi wine.
The 37th Meijin tour
Yamashita and Hane will get to sample hyuganatsu fruit in Miyazaki and gyutan in Miyagi, see Sagami Bay in Kanagawa and the enjoy the onsen hot springs in Shizuoka.
If the score is locked at 3 all, the tour will end in Yamanashi, the top grapes and wine region in Japan.
If the match goes the full 7 games, Yamashita and Hane will travel over 6,000 km (more than 3,500 miles) throughout the tour.
This article will be updated as the title match is played.
- Game 1 – Bunkyo, Tokyo – August 30-31, 2012 – Yamashita + R
- Game 2 – Kamikawa, Hokkaido – September 20-21, 2012 – Hane + R
- Game 3 – Miyazaki, Miyazaki – September 27-28, 2012 – Hane + R
- Game 4 – Sendai, Miyagi – October 10-11, 2012 – Yamashita + R
- Game 5 – Hiratsuka, Kanagawa – October 17-18, 2012 – Yamashita + R
- Game 6 – Atami, Shizuoka – October 31-November 1, 2012 – Hane + R
- Game 7 – Kofu, Yamanashi – November 12-13, 2012 – Yamashita + R.
The Meijin tournament, originally sponsored by the Yomiuri newspaper, first started in 1962. Numbering for the tournament restarted at at 1 in 1976 because the sponsor changed to the Asahi newspaper.
The Meijin is one of the ‘big titles’ on the Japanese domestic circuit. As with all Japanese titles, the defending title holder plays a series of games with the challenger, who wins the right to challenge by playing through a league.
Entry to the league is dependent on past performance in the league or through the preliminary rounds.
The Meijin tournament should not be confused with the historical Meijin title, which was held by the strongest player of the day. At that time, the Meijin was also the only player ranked 9 dan in all of Japan.