Go Commentary: Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – 70th Honinbo

This is game 5 from the 70th Honinbo final.

The game was played between Yamashita Keigo 9p and Iyama Yuta 9p on June 29 and 30, 2015, in Osaka, Japan.

Yamashita Keigo 9 dan (left) and Iyama Yuta 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo, Game 5.

Yamashita Keigo 9 dan (left) and Iyama Yuta 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo, Game 5.

70th Honinbo title match

Yamashita Keigo won six games out of seven in the 70th Honinbo league, and he became the challenger.

Game 1 of the Honinbo title match was started on May 13 and 14, 2015, and Iyama Yuta had a nice start with winning that game.

2nd day of game 5 from the 70th Honinbo.

2nd day of game 5 from the 70th Honinbo.

Iyama won next two more games, and Yamashita had to face a kadodan (a potentially match deciding game) in game 4.

Yamashita showed his strength and power in game 4, and Iyama resigned early at the move of 128.

This was game 5 of the 70th Honinbo, and the score of the series was 3-1 for Iyama’s favor before this game.

Iyama Yuta

Iyama Yuta 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo final.

Iyama Yuta 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo final.

Iyama Yuta has been arguably the strongest Go player in Japan for quite a few years now.

He was holding four major titles, including the Kisei, Meijin and Gosei when this match was played.

Iyama challenged Yamashita Keigo for 67th Honinbo in 2012, and won his first Honinbo title with a 4-3 score.

In 2013, Iyama defeated Takao Shinji 9p 4-3 to defend the title and in 2014, he defended again against Ida Atsushi 8p, winning the title match with 4-1.

Iyama’s style of play is thick and powerful, and his reading is sharp and accurate as well.

Many of Go fans might want to see him more often in the international scene, since he’s the best player from Japan, and I also hope he’ll have more chances to participate international tournaments while he’s in his prime.

Yamashita Keigo

Yamashita Keigo was playing to win his 3rd Honinbo title.

Yamashita Keigo 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo final.

Yamashita Keigo 9 dan at the 70th Honinbo final.

Yamashita challenged Hane Naoki 9p for 65th Honinbo in 2010, and won his first Honinbo title with a 4-1 score.

In 2011, Hane Naoki was the challenger, but Yamashita won the return match again with a 4-3 score to defend his Honinbo.

However, he was defeated by Iyama Yuta in 2012, and this final was his first return match since he lost the Honinbo title.

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

After that, he hasn’t gained any titles, partly because he’s lost many important matches against Iyama Yuta.

His style of play is creative and solid, and he’s been doing quite well against other top Japanese players. However, when he plays against Iyama Yuta, it doesn’t seem to work very well.

It seems as if Iyama Yuta is a big obstacle for Yamashita to win a title again, and that’ll be interesting to see if he will find Iyama’s weaknesses in his games in the future or not.

Let’s have a look at the game 5 from the 70th Honinbo title match.

Commented game record

Yamashita Keigo 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. I was following this game in real time (the later stages anyway) and it was amazing. Lots of subtle details to find (like move 34 hane instead of descending being better because B12 was later sente). Many thanks for the commentary, particularly the right side around S14.

    For me the highlight was 113. I had thought I’d read out that black was dead, but this move was beautiful, and I had to rethink.

    One question. In the variation for move 45, I wondered why black would not play the iron pillar rather than the diagonal move in the main variation – like this:



    • Hippo, my idea is maybe white won’t answer at s13 but jump to r10 and then if you play s13 to capture 2 stones jump again to r7 and black feels slow. So probably black would attack r10 at r8 and then white pushes at q10 and it’s similar to the game in that white might go back to save the two stones soon but for now plays lightly to get out.

      • Interesting idea. If R10 then I think B could play immediately at R11 before R8. Of course W might tenuki again at R5 or R7, it could be quite another game:



    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question Hippo, and thanks Uberdude for your idea. These variations both of you showed above were possible.

      When I look back, I assume White would hane at Q13 instead of jumping at S12, and that’d be clearer for White.

  2. Guillermo Molano says:

    I found this game to be quite difficult to understand. I will have to study it with patience. Thanks for the review, it is very well explained and very deep.

    • Younggil An says:

      Your right that the game isn’t easy to understand, especially after Black’s invasion at the top. Yes, it’s worthwhile to study with patience. 🙂

  3. As you mentioned, Iyama seems to be a big obstacle in the way of Yamashita’s quest for more titles. I think Yamashita should go to China or Korea and pick the brains of the professionals there to find Iyama’s weaknesses. I remember Yamashita used to train in China in his younger days, and he should do so again because Chinese and Korea pros are much stronger than their Japanese counterparts. It will not be difficult to find advice on how to beat Iyama because I doubt Iyama would even be ranked in the top 10 or 15 in China.

    • Younggil An says:

      Oh, I didn’t know that Yamashita used to train in China. I thought that can be a reasonable idea, but in reality, I don’t think that’s possible for him to do now even if he did so before.

      His schedule must be full, and he’s already quite busy with many matches. In addition, he’s still very highly ranked in Japan, so that’d be disgraceful for him to do so.

  4. Black’s invasion starting with move 85 seems to have been a total loss for black. All of his stones were captured and white’s outside influence was strengthened. Thus, for move 85 would it have been better for black to immediately start attacking with T11?

    • Younggil An says:

      You’re right that Black lost the game there, but the game was already bad for Black before 85.

      That’s not easy to attack White’s right side group as we can see the actual game. In the game, Iyama chose easy and safe way because he was already winning, but there might be even better ways for White.

      As a result, Black 81 was wrong, and White played wonderfully afterwards.

  5. Wouldnt it be better for black to play 195 on N10. Only one threat left there?

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, N10 would be much better in term of ko threat.

      It looks as if Yamashita already gave up the game in his mind, because White still had many ko threat to live inside…

  6. Thank-you for the commentary.

    May I ask why you comment on more domestic Japanese title matches than domestic Chinese or Korean title matches (such as the Mingren or Kuksu)?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s an interesting question John.

      I feel like more people are interested in Japanese title matches rather than Chinese and Korean domestic titles.

      And also, there’re more of Chinese and Korean players’ games for the international matches, so I thought I’d better comment more of Japanese games for the domestic matches.