Iyama Yuta completes Japanese trifecta with 38th Meijin victory

Iyama Yuta 9p, the strongest Go player in Japan, completed his trifecta of the big three Japanese titles by winning the 38th Meijin on October 17, 2013.

Game 5 of the 38th Meijin final was played on October 16 and 17 in Gofu city, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan.

When the game finished at 8:03pm, after 258 moves,Β Iyama Yuta had defeated Yamashita Keigo 9p by 4.5 points.

Iyama Yuta’s Meijin comeback


Iyama Yuta 9 dan (pictured) defeated Yamashita Keigo 9 dan to win the 38th Meijin title and to achieve an historic ‘triple crown’.

Iyama lost the first game of the series, but he came back strong and won four games in a row to take the title.

This is Iyama’s third Meijin title.

Iyama already holds the Honinbo and Kisei titles, so he achieved the Japanese ‘triple crown’ with this victory.

The triple crown

The triple crown (Daisankan in Japanese) is the term Go players use to describe the feat of holding the three biggest Japanese titles at the same time.

Up until now, in the history of Go, only Cho Chikun 9p had achieved this feat (twice) in 1983 and 1997.

Iyama now holds six of Japan’s seven major titles once again. He lost the Judan to Yuki Satoshi 9p in April 2013, delaying any ambitions he (or his fans) might have of him attaining the Japanese grand slam of Go (all seven titles).

Games 1-4 of the title match

Iyama and Yamashita traded blows for the first two games, with Yamashita winning game 1 convincingly and Iyama countering in game 2.

In game 3, Yamashita had the advantage, but he made a tragic mistake at move 196 – reducing his own liberties when making a ko threat – and Iyama was able to take a 2-1 lead.


Iyama Yuta (left) and Yamashita Keigo play game 4 of the 38th Meijin title match. Otake Hideo 9 dan (center) was the referee for the match.

Yamashita’s famous attacking skills failed to best Iyama’s shinogi (the skill of managing weak groups) in game 4 and Yamashita had to resign when he couldn’t capture white’s huge dragon.

See the recent Power Report for more details.

Yamashita’s defeat


Yamashita Keigo 9 dan receives the sealed move from Yoda Norimoto 9 dan – Game 5 of the 38th Meijin.

Yamashita Keigo won the Meijin by defeating Iyama Yuta two years ago and defended it against Hane Naoki 9p last year.

However, he wasn’t able to repeat his victory over Iyama this time and, as of now, he doesn’t hold any titles.

The final game

I haven’t had time to analyze this game carefully yet, but in the meantime, here are some brief comments from a Japanese commentator:

  • Black 13 and 15 were fresh and interesting.
  • Black 35 was calm and nice, and it was the last move of the first day.
  • The opening up to 35 was favorable for black.
  • Black 79 was a good choice, and the game was still good for black.
  • However, black 101 was a mistake, and the game became even.
  • White 152 was a mistake. If white had blocked at H15 instead, the game would have still been playable for white.
  • After black 153, it wasn’t easy for white to win.

Iyama Yuta’s comments

Iyama gave a short interview after the game, where he said “it was a difficult series, but I tried to do my best.”

“I have a deep respect Cho Chikun 9p, and I’m very honored to achieve the triple crown, as he did.”

38th Meijin photos


Game records

Download all five games from the 38th Meijin title match

Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – Game 5


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – Game 4


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – Game 3


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – Game 2


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – Game 1


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. what will you commented game?
    i will study it before you send game commented

    • Younggil An says:

      I think the game 4 was the most interesting and exciting. So I’ll try to comment that one. Thanks πŸ™‚

  2. indeed. game 4 was a great example of Iyama’s shinogi skill. I wish Younggil will review one game from this series.

  3. The caption on the live commentary image should probably say ‘Game 4’, not ‘Game 5’

    • David Ormerod says:

      Thanks Josh, it’s hard to get all those details right sometimes, especially late at night πŸ™‚

  4. Hypothetically, if Iyama played in the Chinese league, would he be ranked in the top 10?

    • Younggil An says:

      I’m not sure, but he would be in the #10 in China I think. Iyama’s style of play is quite unique in Japan, and it’s different from Chinese or Korean top players’ style of play. Recently, he’s also good at international matches, so I think he’s one of the tops in the world at the moment.

  5. what exactly do you mean by saying “unique” and different from other countries? I’m interesting when u said that.

    • Younggil An says:

      I meant Iyama’s play is more active and aggressive than other top Japanese players I think. However, compare to top Chinese or Korean players, I can still feel his style is based on Japanese style. It’s hard to describe about that, but it’s just my feeling about his games.

  6. happysocks says:

    Always interesting to learn about the history of this great game – certainly on such an historic occasion! A wonderful photograph of Iyama too. πŸ˜€

    Thank you

  7. In game 2, the variation in the lower right corner seems very strange. it looks to me as black is thin and white is settled. Since black had a stone there first, it looks a fail for black. (just my opinion)

    • Younggil An says:

      You can feel so. However, the result seems to be even. Black can play at Q4, W R4, B P5 to cut white’s single stone off later, so white can’t easily attack black’s lower side group. After the variation, black started to develop the right side, so black was still fine. (just my opinion) πŸ˜€

  8. Thanks for the coverage!

    Everyone likes to keep score between the 3 big Go countries, but I am curious: how are today’s Japanese players measuring up to their Japanese predecessors?

    Of course we can’t arrange a match between Iyama and the top players of yesteryear at their prime; but have people tried to explore this question thru Elo-type rating data? I’m grateful for information from anyone who knows.

    • Playing two days go games is very different from playing two hour games. It’s like 10,000 meters vs a marathon. People good at one are not necessarily among the best at the other. Maybe Japanese players are more trained to long games, Chinese and Koreans to shorter ones. We should have ELO rankings divided by game length and see what difference emerges. Obviously the 2 days games rankings would be a Japanese only thing, I think.

      • bobiscool says:

        People keep saying that but i disagree. There’s a huge rate of deminishing returns in mind games like these. For example, it’s not hard for an average person to memorize say 30 digits of pi in a few mins. but it’ll take a lot longer for 100 digits, and maybe months for 1000. Similarly, there’s a huge difference between 10s biltz and a 2 hour game, but really after a certain point adding more time just doesn’t help much. People can only keep so much in their mind and can only concentrate for so long. I doubt that the underperformance of japanese pros have much to do with time.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your opinions.
      The top Japanese players today is not weaker than the predecessors, but Chinese and Korean players have improved a lot while Japanese players haven’t that much. Japan was the strongest nation for a long time, but since the 1990’s not many Japanese children want to learn and there’re fewer talented players compare to China and Korea. I don’t think the time limit is the main issue about this matter.

  9. Can someone explain Black 109 in Game 5? wit the top left corner being battled for, this “peep” move (?) is baffling. Such bad shape and the peep seems ineffective and the timing! oh! the timing! …

    • I spoke too soon… I see now how that works. A very odd move, at first sight.

      • Younggil An says:

        You’re right. The move 109 looks weird, but if black doesn’t play there, white can wedge at O7 for endgame. If black blocks at N7, white can connect, and there’ll be a big ko fight. πŸ™‚