The final game of the 68th Honinbo title match was played on July 17 and 18, in Hadano, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan.
Iyama Yuta’s first Honinbo defense
With this win, and a final score of 4-3 for the best of seven series, Iyama successfully defended the Honinbo title, which he took from Yamashita Keigo 9p in 2012.
When the marathon finally ended, Iyama had just 2 minutes left on the clock and Takao had 8.
The 68th Honinbo series
The title match started in mid-May, with Iyama winning the first game on May 16-17, 2013.
However, Takao won next two games and pulled ahead to 2-1. Takao last held the Honinbo title in 2007, but he’s challenged to reclaim the crown three times since.
Iyama, unfazed, fought back in games 4 and 5 to regain the lead (3-2) and setup a kadoban (match deciding game) in game 6.
Game 6 – Kadoban
Game 6 was held on July 10-11, 2013, in Todaya, Mie prefecture.
Takao (white) defeated Iyama by resignation, in 194 moves.
The opening was playable for both, and there was some complicated fighting from black 81 onwards.
White tried to attack black’s center group, but black moved into white’s area with 93 and 95, and the game became even more complicated.
Takao took the lead during the fighting, and played solidly after that.
White was leading from move 166 onwards, and capturing black’s lower left corner with move 190 was the finishing blow.
Takao was able fend off the kadoban and setup a decisive seventh game.
At an interview after the game, both players said that they wanted to do their best in the final game and have no regrets.
Iyama Yuta vs Takao Shinji – Game 6
The decisive final game
Game 7 started at 9:00 am on July 17, with Iyama playing black. Takao sealed the move (W74) at 5:07pm and gave it to Kataoka Satoshi 9p (the referee).
The first day ended at a critical juncture.
Iyama had spent 3 hours and 55 minutes, while Takao spent 3 hours and 12 minutes. The main time for games in the Honinbo final is 8 hours each.
When the game resumed on day two (same time and place), Iyama was confronted with the sealed move.
It was a crucial point in the game at the very start of the second day.
The play during the first day was great, and fitting for the final match of the Honinbo.
Things got very interesting when Iyama (black) entered white’s lower side with 53 and Takao thought 45 minutes about move 54. White played solidly through to 64 and 70, and the game was still playable for both.
Rin Kanketsu 7p, the live game commentator, said “the sealed move (W74) was very hard to guess, and it will change the flow of the game from here on.”
Black 81 was a good tesuji and white’s tenuki at 82 was a mistake. After black captured the cutting stones with 83 he became too thick and the game became difficult for white.
White 92 was a good move, trying to complicate the game, but Iyama played very solidly afterwards and there didn’t seem to be a chance for white to catch up.
The game continued all the way to the endgame and Iyama Yuta won by 4.5 points in the end.
Iyama Yuta vs Takao Shinji – Game 7
In an interview after the game, Iyama Yuta said that it had been a very difficult series for him and that he’d been lucky to hold onto the Honinbo title.
Takao Shinji said that he felt lucky when he made it to the end of the series, but expressed disappointment that he wasn’t able to clinch the final game.
In the midst of the Honinbo final, he also won the 25th Asian TV Cup at the end of June, showing that he can also compete on the international stage.
Congratulations Iyama Yuta!
68th Honinbo photos
You can review games 6 and 7 above (there’s some light commentary in this article) and download all seven of the 68th Honinbo title match games here.
More commentary coming soon.
An Younggil, with Eugene Lee.