Go Commentary: Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – 38th Kisei – Game 6

Iyama Yuta 9p, the strongest Go player in Japan, successfully defended his Kisei title against challenger Yamashita Keigo 9p, on March 13, 2014.


Iyama Yuta 9 dan plays the sealed move against Yamashita Keigo 9 dan – Game 6 of the 38th Kisei title match in Japan.

This year’s 38th Kisei was the first time Iyama went into the title match as the title holder.

He took the Kisei title from Cho U 9p in 2013.

The final game

Game 6 of the match was played on March 12 and 13, in Uonuma city, Niigata Prefecture, Japan.

The game finished with Yamashita’s resignation, after 229 moves, at 7:51 pm.

Both players were playing under byo-yomi by that stage, after spending their full 8 hour time allocations.

Iyama Yuta

After securing this win, Iyama still holds six of the seven major Japanese domestic titles. The only one he doesn’t hold is the Judan, which he lost to Yuki Satoshi 9p last year.


Iyama Yuta still holds six of the seven major Japanese titles.

Iyama also lost the challenger decision match for the 52nd Judan to Takao Shinji 9p, in January, 2014.

Because of that, he won’t be challenging Yuki for the title in 2014, so it’s not possible for him to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of Japanese Go this year (by holding all seven major titles – something no modern Go player has achieved yet).

However, if he can accomplish the incredibly difficult feat of defending all his current titles, he’ll have another chance to become the challenger for the Judan next year.

Yamashita Keigo

Returning to the present match, Yamashita Keigo was playing to win his 6th Kisei title (he last held the Kisei in 2009), but he was unsuccessful this time.

It appears that Yamashita’s powerful and creative attacking style doesn’t work well against Iyama’s flexible and solid style of play.

Iyama won the first three games of the final, but Yamashita fought back to win the next two games. If Yamashita had won this game, he’d have been in a good position to win the title in a reverse sweep, but it wasn’t to be.


Yamashita Keigo (right). His style powerful and creative attacking style doesn’t seem to work well against Iyama Yuta’s solid and flexible style of play.
However, Yamashita is determined to regain his previous position as the top player in Japan.

A treat for Spanish Go players

The first game of the final was held in Madrid, Spain, and it would have been a very special event for Spanish Go fans.

Did any Go Game Guru readers attend the event or meet the players? If you did, please leave a comment to share your experience with Go fans around the world.

An interview with the players

There were interviews with both players just before this final match.

Iyama Yuta

“I expected that Yamashita would be the challenger for the Kisei, because he’s very strong and was in good form.”

“Yamashita’s style of play is very powerful and active. He often plays nice moves which I don’t expect, and whenever I see such moves, I feel that he’s extraordinary.”

“I was very lucky to defeat him in the final of the Meijin, and I’m still focused on the goal of sweeping all the seven major titles. This final is the hardest match for me on the road to that goal so far. I’m very excited to have a chance to play with Yamashita in the final of the Kisei.”

Yamashita Keigo

“The Meijin final was awful for me, but I’m challenging Iyama again. His perception throughout the game is outstanding, and his moves are flexible. He never loses a game easily.”

“However, I don’t want to let him to sweep all seven titles. I’ll stop him in order to become #1 again, and that’s why I’m here as the challenger today.”

“Actually, both Iyama’s and my style of play are based on fighting. Recently, he starts fighting rather often, and some of his moves defy my imagination, which sometimes discourages me.”

“Anyway, I’ll do my best, and I’ll fight openly and squarely against him. By the way, I’m still improving. I might have been better at reading in the past, but my perception of the game is still improving. I want to create better games in this Kisei final.”

Let’s have a look at the game…

Commented game record

Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


38th Kisei photos

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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. The Kisei tournament in Spain was absolutely amazing!! So many different players from so many different countries!
    There was an amateur open tournament parallel to the title match, and twice a day participants could enjoy commentaries on the proffesional game.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Juan. That sounds so fun and enjoyable. 🙂

  2. Truth is, I don’t know if it’s possible for him to get all seven titles. Holding six is already amazing enough. If he can defend all six of his titles this year…

    I think traveling outside of Asia to play major matches is awesome. More professional organizations and events should do this. I do worry about the professional players sleep schedules and health though. But it’s a great way to promote awareness of the game outside of Asia. They should make sure it’s on the cities’ listing of events, so that locals browsing the events calendar can otherwise attend out of curiosity.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I agree logan. However, it takes time and money greatly, so this kind of event is very hard to organize. Furthermore, there’re more international matches today, and it makes even harder to match the players’ schedule. Anyway, that’ll be nice to see more of this sort of events in the future.

  3. thanks for the commentary.
    just a small corr in the article: “he want be challenging”, should be “he won’t* be…”

  4. A surprising commentary amidst the Lee-Gu frenzy.

    At move 34 there is a variation and in there the variation at move 38 ends with White taking 4th line territory and Black crossing under. If you look at Black’s bottom sphere, it is already reduced from above and open at the right. For my positional eyes this result in exchange for 4th line territory for White is not good for Black, contrary to yours. Of course you are much stronger, so where am I wrong in my positional judgement?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a nice question Dieter.
      Your positional judgement is alright. Actually, everyone has different style of play, and if you think the bottom area was already reduced, you can think that the result is better for White.
      What I thought was the left side territory isn’t that big even though it’s 4th line territory, and the three of Black stones on the N line are safe in that variation.White needs to look after the stone A, and Black will take sente to approach in the top left corner.
      Your idea is alright, but the point of view is different from mine.

  5. great commentary,thanks!
    I thought that black should’ve played C13 instead of 55.
    Wouldn’t the game be complex if white had connected the left side after59?
    I can’t believe yamashita let black cut the left side.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, C15 looks fine in that situation. It’d be a different game.
      I make commentary after the game, so it’s easy to find good or bad moves. Actually, Iyama played very well, so I could find a couple of questionable moves played by Yamashita.

  6. White living on the right side is a nice sabaki example. attach when you’re in trouble!

  7. Any opinions on how Iyama would hold up outside of Japan ( vs Chinese or Korean players)? It looks to me like he is pretty much dominating Japan at the moment so it would be nice to see how he fairs vs other opponents.

    • Younggil An says:

      I want to see Iyama play more in the international tournaments too. However, he’s already busy enough to defend his title matches in Japan. Unfortunately, we’ll be able to see him playing vs Chinese or Korean players when he’s on the downward.

  8. At move 44, variation 2 leads to the same result as the actual game, and variation 3 is simple and good for white. Why was the move in the actual game the proper answer?


    • Younggil An says:

      Oh, I made a mistake.
      Actually, the variation 3 is playable for both. The actual game was ok for White until White played at 52.
      Sorry about my miswritten.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Thanks Uisek,

      Younggil analyzed the game a bit more and made some more variations for you. I’ve uploaded the new version of his commentary and you should be able to view it as long as the old one isn’t cached by your browser.

      Regarding the difference between the hane and the empty triangle at move 44… Both moves will probably lead to the same shape, but the hane leaves more options open to the opponent. After the hane, Black could pinch at F4, for example. We analyzed those possibilities and it doesn’t look bad for white, but the game can become more complicated. Because of that, it’s also hard to provide a really clear cut explanation.

      The difference might not be that important in this case, but strong players like to choose the sequence that leads to the result they want, while limiting their opponent’s options. If you always play loosely, you’ll be more likely to suffer a nasty surprise at times. That’s why the empty triangle was good in this case. You can think of it as a good habit if you want.

  9. william wiseman says:

    Iyama Yuta moves are so much past my understanding, to bad we cannot seem him here playing in the USA

    • David Ormerod says:

      You never know. Maybe one of his matches will be held in the USA at some point in the next few years.

      • First things first, when will David, Jing and An play in the USA? :p

        • David Ormerod says:

          Haha, we’d all love to visit the US Go Congress together one of these days. Maybe we could have a game Logan?

          Younggil’s actually been to the Seattle Go Club and Jing and I have both been to the US too, but didn’t have much time to play Go.

  10. Love Japan says:

    Iyama Yuta studied go how?, I’m curious with this
    Iyama Yuta don’t think a large big moymo,so Iyama is very good in sabaki,reduce,fight and life and death? Does Iyama often attack?
    You can say about his style? (An Youngil).
    Thank you very much.

    • Anonymous says:

      Iyama picked it up from his family. He became 3d fairly quickly and played a fairly important small board tournament. There Ishii Kunio met him and Iyama became his student. Rather than become a live-in pupil, Iyama played hundreds of games against him via modem. This is usually held as one of the ways in which is teaching was very different from many other students.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for the questions.
      Actually, I don’t know how Iyama studies Go, and I’m also curious about it too. 🙂
      Since he plays many title matches in Japan, it’d be a very good way of learning or maintaining his strength and form, but I don’t know what kind of secret way of studying on his own. 🙂
      He attacks when he needs to, but I feel like his prefer style isn’t attacking. His style of play is rather flexible and good at managing his weak stones.
      I hope my answer helps you to understand about Iyama Yuta.

      • Love Japan says:

        Thank you very much for answer.
        My question is:”Iyama had study go how when he isn’t pro”
        Do you know?

        • Younggil An says:

          I have no idea how Iyama studied when he was an insei.
          He was very talented when he was young, and became a pro when he was 13. There might be a secret way of studying for him, but I don’t know what that is.

          • Love Japan says:

            Thank you very much for answer
            I think that i want to play like his style,it suits my personality
            Can you commented game4 in 38th Meijin?Game 4 is very interesting and it show that Iyama very good at managing his weak stones.But i don’t understand a lot move,
            I think that big group(of Iyama) died in many countries, but it is still alive
            Thank you very much.

            • Younggil An says:

              Yes, that’s a good idea to play like Iyama, but it’s not easy to mimic if you’re not good at fighting. His style of play doesn’t look very powerful, but actually it’s quite tough and fighting oriented.
              The game 4 was quite interesting and fun to watch, but it wasn’t as exciting and complicated as top Chinese and Korean players’ games. I still felt their moves were calm and cautious.

              • Love Japan says:

                Yes,I see. Thank you very much.
                What will you commented game in Zhaoshang Cup ?
                I think that There are many games interesting.
                you’ll wonder,haha
                I want to know to study game before

                • Younggil An says:

                  Yes, I’m still thinking about that. There’re many interesting games in Zhaoshang Cup.
                  Thanks for your concern. 🙂

              • william wiseman says:

                The aforementioned game four war easier for me to understand. I feel more comefortable studying their game except for Lee sodols excellent game

                • Younggil An says:

                  Yes, it’s easier for me to understand their games too.
                  It’s because their style of play is more neat and well shaped compare to Chinese and Korean players’ games.

  11. Hi An Yougil
    If move 26,White play at E3,Black is look at heay.
    Why don’t Yamashita Keigo play at E3?
    Thank you very much.

    • Younggil An says:

      Attaching at E3 for move 26 is a good idea. Black will extend, and White needs to answer the corner again. Then Black will play at the bottom, and the result would be playable for both. In the opening, there’re many possible ways of play, and Yamashita may have thought the actual game would be better for him.

  12. Błażej says:

    Awesome match! Very good idea to promote Go overseas by playing a title matches in western countries. It is not impossible to get all seven crowns. For example shogi player Habu Yoshiharu got all seven titles: Ryuuou, Oushou, Kiou, Oui, Ouza, Meijin and Kisei.

    • Younggil An says:

      I see. I didn’t know that. Actually, Cho Hunhyun 9p had had all domestic Korean titles in 1980’s. However, it was quite a while ago, and I thought it’s not easy to see that happen again.