Go Commentary: Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – 39th Kisei Final

This is game 7 of the 39th Kisei title match.

The game was played between Iyama Yuta 9p and Yamashita Keigo 9p on March 19 and 20, 2015, in Niigata, Japan.

Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) and Yamashita Keigo 9 dan at the 39th Kisei final.

Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) and Yamashita Keigo 9 dan at the 39th Kisei final.

39th Kisei title match

Iyama got off to a good start in this match. He won the first three games, so the score was 3-0. Everyone probably thought that the Kisei wouldn’t be much fun this year.

However, the situation changed dramatically when Yamashita started to catch up. Yamashita won game 4, and that was the turning point in terms of regaining his confidence against Iyama.

He won games 5 and 6 as well, and eventually the match was tied at 3-3.

In general, we’d expect Yamashita to have the advantage in a title deciding game like this, because he was already on a winning streak.

Iyama Yuta

Iyama-Yuta 9 dan at the end of the first day.

Iyama Yuta with the sealed move, at the end of the first day.

Iyama Yuta is indisputably the strongest Go player in Japan at the moment, and he held four major titles, including the Kisei, when this match was played.

He used to hold six of the seven major titles, but he lost the Tengen to Takao Shinji 9p and he also lost the Oza to Murakawa Daisuke 8p in 2014.

Iyama showed his strength at the 16th Nongshim Cup, in early 2015, against top Chinese and Korean players.

He defeated Park Junghwan 9p, who is currently #1 in Korea, and also defeated Mi Yiting 9p, who was the winner of the 1st MLily Cup.

Iyama proved that Japanese players can still be competitive in those games.

Yamashita Keigo

Yamashita Keigo 9p, just before the game.

Yamashita Keigo, just before the game.

On the other hand, Yamashita Keigo was playing to win his 6th Kisei title.

He used to be the #1 in Japan in the early and mid-2000s, and he’s still competitive today.

His last title was the 22nd Ryusei in 2013, and his last major title was the 37th Meijin in 2012.

This was a great opportunity for him to grasp one more major title. In addition, the Kisei is the biggest title in Japan, and the Kisei is generally regarded to be the top player in Japan, in terms of the traditional Japanese ranking system.

Yamashita showed his power and skill in games 4 to 6, and many of his fans were longing for him to win in a reverse sweep.

Echoes of history for Yamashita

There was a very similar situation in 2011. In the 66th Honinbo final, Yamashita won the first three games against Hane Naoki 9p, who was the challenger, but Hane won the next three games to make it a tie at 3-3.

However, Yamashita won the title deciding game, and he defended the Honinbo with that victory.

Let’s have a look at the game and see what was happened this time.

At the end of game 7 from the 39th Kisei final.

The conclusion of game 7 of the 39th Kisei title match.

Commented game record

Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo


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. Thanks Ann for this wonderful commentary.

    I think I prefer Classical-style games maybe, anyway I kind of like the games where there are big Moyos and some fighting.
    Iyama played, like you said, very solidly, beautifully discarding stones to simplify the game, a thing I have yet to learn to do properly.
    I do have a question about B 157 at T3. Like you showed an earlier variation, T3 is reverse sente for B but is not necessary to live.
    So does not B 157 at G14 is better /bigger ?
    Or does it lead to unexpected complications, which is why Yamashita did not play it?

    I guess if it was me, I would still play T3 maybe even before, because I would not be too sure about my reading ability, and think that W T3 may lead to something, but that surely was not the case for Yamashita …

    • Younggil An says:

      Classical games are easier to understand and follow, and you can also learn more about opening in that sort of games. So why not?

      For the question, Black 157 was fine. If I were Black, I would also choose there, because Black was already winning by a comfortable margin, and he didn’t need to earn any extra points.

      In your case, I recommend you to play T3 as well, because one simple mistake can cost the game. 🙂

  2. I know it is traditional that the both players sit in the position through the whole game, but can someone refuse to sit like that and ask for a chair? What if someone has medical problems or if someone is simply too old to sit like that for hours?

    In korea and china we don’t usually see this even on big titles, they mostly sit on chairs.

    • Cho Chikun was wheelchair-bound for the 10th Kisei, due to being hit by a motorcycle. He played from his wheelchair and his opponent (Kobayashi) sat in a chair. Also I’ve seen some players play with their legs crossed.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Filip and EdlV for your question and answer.

      Yes, that’s tradition in Japan, but China and Korea are different.

      As EdlV mentioned, you can click the link below to have a look at the photo of the wheelchair game, played between Cho Chikun and Kobayashi Koichi in 1986.

      That was a special case, but if someone has medical problems like that, they’ll let the player to do that I guess.


  3. Kisei is supposed to be the #1 Go competition in Japan and therefore it’s very disappointing to see Yamashita make low-level mistakes like W66, W106, and W154. Losing by 5.5 points he seemed to have no urgency to fight for a win.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Tony for more information about Yamashita.

      Yes, Yamashita became famous with his creative and experimental moves especially in the opening along with his power and strength at fighting.

      However, he doesn’t play very experimental moves any longer, but he only plays like 8, which is acceptable.

      Since that was a two day game, there must be somethings I haven’t thought or imagined about the moves which I declared questionable or a mistake. So please don’t be too critical about his mistakes.

      I was also a bit disappointed about this game, because Yamashita can play much better, but that’s probably Iyama played so wonderfully, and Yamashita seemed to play badly in contrast.

  4. sorry that the system is having a delay posting my comments and please forgive me for posting essentially the same thing multiple times.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Sorry about that Tony. I’ve removed your duplicate comments for you.

      Like other websites, Go Game Guru is subjected to a constant barrage of spam comments from people (and bots) who want to post links advertising hand bags, shoes, cars, political things etc and worse.

      You’ll rarely see them when browsing the site, but hundreds of spam comments are blocked every day using various automated systems.

      Sometimes our site will be a bit overzealous in blocking comments and will hold a few legitimate comments for manual review. However, we check the comments most days and will approve them for you when that happens. Leaving comments under an email address that has previously approved comments will reduce the chance of your comments getting caught in the spam filter.

      I know that this is annoying, but if we didn’t do this the comment section would literally be littered with all kinds of spammy advertisements.

      • Why not implement captcha in the comment section? That would stop spam and bots.

        • Younggil An says:

          Thanks Filip for your idea, we’ll consider of it. However, I worry that’d be inconvenient for the readers to leave a comment.

  5. Dejan Todorovic says:

    Just to say thank Younggil for analyzing this awesome game for us and help us understanding great minds that played this match. Also I enjoy this way of presenting Go on http://www.GoGameguru.com

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Dejan for your kind message. I hope you enjoy playing Go more with us. 🙂

  6. Younggil,
    I don’t think this is your intention, but the way you describe the type of moves played in shorter vs. longer games leads one to think that the Koreans and Chinese get away with playing inferior moves, because the opponent doesn’t have time to analyze properly.
    Such a claim would be difficult to test directly. On the other hand, I would be interested in the results of games played by Koreans and Chinese against top Japanese, but at the longer time control.
    Are there examples—e.g. Lee Sedol playing in the Honinbo tournament in Japan, or playing a match at long time control with a Japanese pro? I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to see someone like Lee Sedol tested by playing Iyama at Japanese time controls.

    • Mark:
      I am not sold on the ideas long time VS short time games. Actually if you notice, many of these 2-day Japanese games are only played no more than 50 moves on the first day, and obvious mistakes are still made in the crucial battles or the ending game on the second day when their time runs out. I assume the top Chinese and Korean players will only need a couple of practices to adapt to the change of time. They may need to spend more time on the first day to avoid falling into well-designed traps but on they second day they should have no problem pulling out.

      IMO one thing Mr. An said has been the determining factor in the competition: Japanese players treat Go as an art, while Korean and Chinese players treat it as a sports competition.

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a very interesting idea Mark.

      I also thought about the very long game between top Chinese or Korean players and Iyama Yuta. That must be quite interesting and we can see what happens if Chinese or Korean players play that long time match. And Iyama might have the advantage under that condition, because he’s experienced.

      I don’t think that sort of match is going to happen realistically. However, if there’s a big sponsor from Japan, or if Japan opens one of their top domestic tournaments, that’ll be possibilities.

      • Younggil An says:

        Oh, you have a different idea Tony, and that makes sense too.

        Yes, I said that Japanese treats Go as an art, but Iyama Yuta is a special case, and that will still be quite interesting I think. 🙂

  7. Hi Younggil 🙂

    You suggested move 52 at N4, but I still feel that black is better. After your variation to M4 (see diagram), I am not sure how white is supposed to develop on the right, in particular if black plays at O10 here. A and B are still a problem, and pulling out a stone at C is not an immediate threat. But perhaps I am missing something again 🙂

    Of course the game move is also a problem after the nice tesuji at P2. Perhaps the problem lies with the move at P6?



    • Younggil An says:

      That’s nice to see the diagram Hippo.

      Yes, White 24 seems to be a bit too much, and White can’t expect a nice result from that fighting.

      After Black’s cap at T10, White still has a hard time.

  8. Sorry, you have to push the forward button once in the above diagram to add the move at O10. Subsequent moves are just a demonstration of one problem white has to overcome if he wants to pull out the cutting stone (which I thought I’d deleted from the diagram… 🙂 ).

    Anyway, it is very nice to be able to add these diagrams.

    • SimeonG says:

      Hi !

      The diagram in commentaries is very nice. Can anyone add some ? And if yes … how ? 🙂

      • Younggil An says:

        Thanks SimeonG for your interest.

        You can make a diagram and save on CGoban, and you can open that with notepad. And you can put ,[,go,], at the beginning of the sequence (a long sentence on the notepad) and put ,[,/,go,], at the end.

        Since the code doesn’t show in this reply, I put the comma ‘,’. Therefore, you must delete all the commas and put the code together when you upload the diagram, and we’ll be able to see the diagram.

        If my explanation doesn’t make sense, feel free to let me know.

  9. By the bye, can I suggest that when there is nothing to be put there, the spaces above and below the arrow buttons could be removed? A small change, but I think it would make the diagram look better.

  10. For move 73, if black tries to settle at F3 wil white invade behind immediately at H3 for example?

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I think so. White wouldn’t respond gently with F4 and E2, because that’s too easy for Black.

  11. Thanks for your replies Younggil.

  12. Foreign pros arent allowed to compete in Japanese tournaments. Korean and Chinese pros wanted to participate in those tourneys because the prize money is high and frankly, there’s little competion. Many pros speculated that any top 10~20 ranked player in Korea or China can dominate Japanese tourneys and even Iyama wouldnt be a problem. Within maybe 1~2 yrs Iyama did well in international competition(even though he only played a few games) ppl now consider Iyama as one of the top level players in the world not just in Japan. Playing longer games wont be much of a problem since in pretty much all cases, best blitz players are also best at playing longer games. KeZie said when he played Iyama in Japan he had trouble sitting in a knee down kind of position. That may be a worse problem than playing in a longer time limit.