Hane Naoki fights back in 66th Japanese Honinbo

The 66th Honinbo has turned out to be an exciting title series. The sixth match, which finished on July 14, was a spectacular game full of complicated fights.

Yamashita Keigo (9 dan, left) and Hane Naoki (9 dan) count the game. Ishida Yoshio (9 dan) watches at (standing rear center).

Earlier in the year, when Yasmashita Keigo 9p won the first three games of the 66th Honinbo tournament, many people reasonably assumed that he would easily defend his title with a fourth win.

66th Honinbo goes the full seven games

Hane Naoki survives three decisive games (called 'kadoban' in Japanese).

Even if Go fans may have doubted challenger Hane Naoki 9p, it seems that Hane himself was unperturbed. With his back against the wall, he’s gone on to win the fourth match (June 15-16), the fifth match (June 29-30) and now the sixth match on July 13-14, 2011.
This remarkable comeback by Hane means that this year’s Japanese Honinbo, will be played out in its full seven games. The deciding match is scheduled to be played on July 20 and 21. Play starts at 9am Japan time.

Who do you think will win the Honinbo?

Final results:

  • Hane Naoki 9p (65%, 15 Votes)
  • Yamashita Keigo 9p (35%, 8 Votes)

Both players go all out in game six

With the title on the line, neither player seemed to be holding anything back in game six. Yamashita (black) played an aggressive opening based around the Chinese fuseki, which has been popular recently. Fighting erupted after black’s moves 9 and 11 in the lower right and continued to spread, engulfing the entire game.

Hane sacrifices and takes the initiative

Hane Naoki sacrifices a large group and wins the game.

It looked liked white was in trouble around move 121 when white’s large dragon came under severe attack in the right hand center. However, white managed to reclaim the initiative by sacrificing a large part of the group and switched to attacking black on the left hand side.

Despite that fact that black managed to settle two groups on the left (but only just) and also captured a large group on the right, white made enough territory during the counter attack to take the lead. Black continued to fight hard, starting two successive kos. However, white calmly and skillfully wrapped up the game and is now back in contention for the title.

If you want to watch the final, don’t forget that it starts at 9:00am, July 20 (Japan time). That’s 12:00am, July 20 UTC and 8:00pm July 19, US Eastern Time.

Game record: Yamashita Keigo vs Hane Naoki


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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About David Ormerod

David is a Go enthusiast who’s played the game for more than a decade. He likes learning, teaching, playing and writing about the game Go. He's taught thousands of people to play Go, both online and in person at schools, public Go demonstrations and Go clubs. David is a 5 dan amateur Go player who competed in the World Amateur Go Championships prior to starting Go Game Guru. He's also the editor of Go Game Guru.

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  1. Uberdude says:

    I bet Hane will win; the momentum is with him and I remember in the Tournament Go 1992 book which covers Cho Chikun coming back from 3 games down to win the Honinbo it said there had been a few times someone had come back from 3 down, and they had always gone on to win.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Good point. I remember reading that comment as well. My money’s on Hane too, but I expect Yamashita will fight like crazy.

    • David Ormerod says:

      What’s also interesting is that Hane has made this sort of comeback from three down before, against Takao Shinji in the 63rd Honinbo (2008). He also defied the trend by preventing Yamashita from doing the same in the 28th Kisei (2004).