Go Commentary: Akiyama Jiro vs Iyama Yuta – 39th Tengen

This is game 3 of the 39th Tengen final, which was played on November 28, in Nagahama, Saga prefecture, Japan.

When the game finished at 7:44pm, after 176 moves, Iyama Yuta had defeated Akiyama Jiro 9p by resignation.

Iyama Yuta’s second Tengen defense


Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) plays Akiyama Jiro 9 dan in the final of the 39th Tengen title match.

Iyama successfully defended his Tengen title for the second time, chalking up three straight wins to take the title match.

Iyama first won the Tengen title in 2011, after he challenged and defeated Yuki Satoshi 9p 3-0 in the final.

In the following year, Kono Rin 9p became the challenger, and fought to gain the title, but Iyama defeated Kono 3-0 too.

That makes 2013 Iyama’s third consecutive 3-0 win in the Tengen title match.

As his 9-0 title match record in the Tengen suggests, Iyama’s currently unbeatable in Japan.

Challenger Akiyama Jiro


Akiyama Jiro plays his first move against Iyama Yuta.

Akiyama Jiro, the challenger, defeated Yamashita Keigo 9p in the challenger decider match, and proceeded through to a major title match for the first time in his career.

Unfortunately for Akiyama, he wasn’t able to win a game against Iyama, but it was still impressive to see him in the final.

Akiyama was born in 1977 and became a pro in 1992. He studied Go under Kikuchi Yashuro (a top Japanese amateur player) and Yamashita Keigo also studied at the dojo at that time.

I once played a game with Akiyama at a China, Japan and Korea friendship match, and it’s nice to see him again in this title match.

He won the 18th NEC Shun-Ei Cup in 2003, defeating Han Zenki 8p (Pan Shanqi) in the final, and it was his first title.

Iyama still chasing the grand slam

After this Tengen victory, Iyama still holds six of the seven major titles in Japan.

Iyama cleared another hurdle on his quest to hold all seven when he defended his Oza title, 3-1 against Cho U 9p, on December 2.


Iyama Yuta 9 dan: Will he be the first player to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of Japanese Go?

The only title Iyama Yuta doesn’t currently hold is the Judan, which he lost to Yuki Satoshi in April 2013. However, Iyama is on track to become the challenger in 2014, having progressed to the semfinals of the Judan league.

The 38th Kisei final will start in January 2014, and the challenger will be Yamashita Keigo.

If Iyama can defend his Kisei title against Yamashita, and become the challenger for the Judan title next year, he’ll be able to challenge Yuki for the Judan and aim to complete the Japanese grand slam of Go.

Up until now, nobody has ever achieved this in the history of Go in Japan.

39th Tengen photos

Commented game record

Akiyama Jiro vs Iyama Yuta


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He qualified as a professional in 1997 and won an award for winning 18 consecutive professional matches the following year. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea in 2008, to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now lives in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the founders of Go Game Guru. On Friday evenings, Younggil is usually at the Sydney Go Club, where he gives weekly lessons and plays simultaneous games.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. notevenbad says:

    Iyama is simply spectacular. I understand he’s overscheduled with his titles but i’d love to see him compete with the Koreans and Chinese.

  2. I loved this game, but in all honesty I think Cho U vs Iyama Last game of the current Oza was much more intense then against Akiyama. None the less thank you for the commentary! ^^

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, the last game of the Oza was interesting. I’m going to review that game soon as well. 🙂 Thanks.

  3. I love this game, but in all honesty I think Cho U vs Iyama Yuuta last game of the current Oza was much more intense then against Akiyama. None the less thank you for the commentary! ^^

  4. Hi !

    Thanks for that great commentary. I liked it a lot, and liked to see lot of variations like at moves 15/16, 30, 40 etc. (Yes, the whole commentary actually !)

    I was wondering about move 148, what happens if instead of playing h2 he played m2). Can’t white creates the same ko you showed in the move 149 variation ?

    I sure miss a move or liberty, but don’t get which one …

    • Younggil An says:

      Wow, M2 is a really good move! Yes, white can create the same ko. Maybe Iyama thought the actual game was good enough, and generously gave black an option to choose. 🙂

  5. Hi Younggil,

    Thank you for this – as usual – nice game commentary.
    White 34-36 seems very slow to me. Is there no way black can take advantage of this?

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, the moves looked slow, but they were sente. If black didn’t connect at 37, white could cut there. Since they were sente, black couldn’t take advantage of that.

  6. It’s not very hard for white to live, but black will get some more points while attacking. It´s the variation 2, move 77: black peeps and caps white. Can you tell us how white can live after black plays to the second line to steal the base?

    • Younggil An says:

      White will play at M6 to get some eye shapes. Since this is white’s only weak group, it’s not very hard for white to settle, but black would get some chances to catch up in this variation.

  7. Has the standard of play in Japan fallen so much that Iyama could attempt a grand slam?

    Iyama is a strong player, but by no means is he special compared to Korean or Chinese masters. I doubt he could even rank in the top 10 in China.

    • The level of Japanese Go has been stagnant and even deteriorating for many years. Iyama, presently the strongest Japanese player by some considerably margin, would be hard pressed to even crack top 10 in China, as you’ve correctly pointed out; and yet, Iyama is in position to play for the grand slam! Japanese Go is indeed very weak compare to its Korean and Chinese counterparts.

      The Japanese are attempting to improve via study groups and such, but they have a very long way to go.

  8. Christopher Goss says:

    Great commentary. Even I was able to understand what was going on! Iyama Yuta is awesome. Hopefully he pulls off the grand slam. That would definitely be something to see.

  9. Wasn’t Kono Rin the challenger for Tengen last year not Yuki Satoshi.
    Thanks for the great commentary!

  10. Robert Gilman says:

    The level of detail in this commentary was very helpful. Thanks.

  11. JolyonKay says:

    Thank you for the commentary. Even a fairly weak player like me was able (more or less) to understand what was going on.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Nice choice of game to comment. There was a number of interesting and instructional points in that game.

    Glad to see an analysis of the bottom right joseki, as not seen it before. My own analysis of that line had been incomplete…

    • Younggil An says:

      The joseki of the bottom right is kind of new, so it’s not easy to be seen in amateur players’ games. You can try to play the joseki on your own to learn it.

  13. Thanks for the analysis of the new joseki. Sorry if I am being dense, but after black Q4 in the variation for move 15, following the sequence up to white 32, I cannot work out why black does not push through at R6 and cut at S7. I keep getting mutual life with more thickness for black… 🙁

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question Hippo.
      If Black pushes through at R6 and cut at S7, White will extend at T6. White is alive and Black has to come back at O2 to save the group again.
      Black R6 and S7 help white, so Black just plays at the bottom without exchanging those moves. 🙂

  14. Right, that’s clear. Thanks.