Iyama Yuta defends Honinbo title – 68th Honinbo

The final game of the 68th Honinbo title match was played on July 17 and 18, in Hadano, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan.

When the game finished at 7:42pm, after 262 moves, Iyama Yuta 9p had defeated Takao Shinji 9p (challenger) by 4.5 points.


Iyama Yuta 9 dan defends the Honinbo title for the first time.

Iyama Yuta’s first Honinbo defense

With this win, and a final score of 4-3 for the best of seven series, Iyama successfully defended the Honinbo title, which he took from Yamashita Keigo 9p in 2012.

This is the third consecutive Honinbo title match that’s spanned the whole seven games, with the 66th, 67th and 68th all being tightly contested, drawn out affairs.

When the marathon finally ended, Iyama had just 2 minutes left on the clock and Takao had 8.

The 68th Honinbo series

The title match started in mid-May, with Iyama winning the first game on May 16-17, 2013.


Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) and Takao Shinji 9 dan review game 1 of the 68th Honinbo title match.

However, Takao won next two games and pulled ahead to 2-1. Takao last held the Honinbo title in 2007, but he’s challenged to reclaim the crown three times since.

Iyama, unfazed, fought back in games 4 and 5 to regain the lead (3-2) and setup a kadoban (match deciding game) in game 6.

Game 6 – Kadoban


Takao Shinji (left) survived the kadoban in game 6, against Iyama Yuta.

Game 6 was held on July 10-11, 2013, in Todaya, Mie prefecture.

Takao (white) defeated Iyama by resignation, in 194 moves.

The opening was playable for both, and there was some complicated fighting from black 81 onwards.

White tried to attack black’s center group, but black moved into white’s area with 93 and 95, and the game became even more complicated.

Takao took the lead during the fighting, and played solidly after that.

White was leading from move 166 onwards, and capturing black’s lower left corner with move 190 was the finishing blow.

Takao was able fend off the kadoban and setup a decisive seventh game.

At an interview after the game, both players said that they wanted to do their best in the final game and have no regrets.

Iyama Yuta vs Takao Shinji – Game 6


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


The decisive final game

Game 7 started at 9:00 am on July 17, with Iyama playing black. Takao sealed the move (W74) at 5:07pm and gave it to Kataoka Satoshi 9p (the referee).

The first day ended at a critical juncture.

Iyama had spent 3 hours and 55 minutes, while Takao spent 3 hours and 12 minutes. The main time for games in the Honinbo final is 8 hours each.


Takao Shinji 9p gives the sealed move to Kataoka Satoshi 9p (the referee) at the end of the first day.

When the game resumed on day two (same time and place), Iyama was confronted with the sealed move.

It was a crucial point in the game at the very start of the second day.

The play during the first day was great, and fitting for the final match of the Honinbo.

Things got very interesting when Iyama (black) entered white’s lower side with 53 and Takao thought 45 minutes about move 54. White played solidly through to 64 and 70, and the game was still playable for both.

Rin Kanketsu 7p, the live game commentator, said “the sealed move (W74) was very hard to guess, and it will change the flow of the game from here on.”


Play resumes on the second day: Takao Shinji (right) plays the sealed move against Iyama Yuta.

Black 81 was a good tesuji and white’s tenuki at 82 was a mistake. After black captured the cutting stones with 83 he became too thick and the game became difficult for white.

White 92 was a good move, trying to complicate the game, but Iyama played very solidly afterwards and there didn’t seem to be a chance for white to catch up.

The game continued all the way to the endgame and Iyama Yuta won by 4.5 points in the end.

Iyama Yuta vs Takao Shinji – Game 7


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Postgame interview

In an interview after the game, Iyama Yuta said that it had been a very difficult series for him and that he’d been lucky to hold onto the Honinbo title.

Takao Shinji said that he felt lucky when he made it to the end of the series, but expressed disappointment that he wasn’t able to clinch the final game.

Iyama Yuta currently holds five of the seven big Japanese titles (Kisei, Honinbo, Tengen, Oza and Gosei).

In the midst of the Honinbo final, he also won the 25th Asian TV Cup at the end of June, showing that he can also compete on the international stage.

Congratulations Iyama Yuta!

68th Honinbo photos

Game records

You can review games 6 and 7 above (there’s some light commentary in this article) and download all seven of the 68th Honinbo title match games here.

Click here to download the 68th Honinbo games.

More commentary coming soon.

An Younggil, with Eugene Lee.

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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. go lover says:

    Congrats Iyama Yuta!

  2. Mr. Younggil, how would you do against Iyama? :p

    • Michael Lee says:

      When Mr. An was younger he was very strong and even defeated Lee Sedol several times. Since then he’s dedicated himself to spreading baduk, making this website and teaching all of us. To do that and learn English he moved overseas and (as far as I know) hasn’t been able to play competitively for years now. Considering what he’s given up for our benefit, I think this question is a bit unfair and insensitive.

      • José Fidel says:

        I totally agree with you, the fact that he decided to spread and teach baduk, instead of continuing playing competitively, tells us of his love for this game.