Iyama Yuta wins 70th Honinbo, holds title for 4th consecutive year

Iyama Yuta 9p defended his Honinbo title on June 30, 2015, defeating Yamashita Keigo 9p with a 4-1 score in the 70th Honinbo title match.

Game 5 of the final was played on June 29 and 30 in Osaka, Japan, and Iyama Yuta won by resignation after 200 moves.

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

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

Iyama’s monopoly on Japanese titles

Having successfully defended the Honinbo title again, Iyama currently holds four of the seven major Japanese titles, including the Kisei, Meijin and Gosei.

He’s also extended his hold on the Honinbo title to a fourth consecutive year.

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 fended off Ida Atsushi 8p, winning the title match 4-1.

The goal of Honorary Honinbo

With this victory, the goal of becoming Honorary Honinbo, by defending the title for one more year, is within Iyama’s grasp.

The title of Honorary Honinbo is bestowed upon players who hold the Honinbo title for five years in a row.

Since 1941, only four players have received this title, including: Takagawa Kaku 9p,  Sakata Eio 9p,  Ishida Yoshio 9p and Cho Chikun 9p.

The 70th Honinbo Series

Game 1

Iyama got off to a nice start in the title match, by winning game 1.

Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) hands out his sealed move to Takemiya Masaki 9p, the referee.

Iyama Yuta 9 dan (left) hands out his sealed move to Takemiya Masaki 9p, the referee.

Yamashita sacrificed his stones at the bottom and attacked White’s center group.

However, Iyama managed the weak group very skillfully, and solidified his lead with a big trade between the bottom and the top right corner.

Iyama’s endgame was excellent, and Yamashita didn’t have any chances to catch up.

Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – Game 1


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Game 2

Game 2 was full of massive fighting and battles from the very beginning.

Iyama was ahead in terms of territory, and Yamashita attacked Iyama’s weak group in the center severely. However, Iyama’s defense was solid and accurate, and Yamashita couldn’t find any weaknesses during the game.

Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – Game 2


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Game 3

The 3rd game started with a peaceful opening, and it was well balanced up until the middle game. Iyama demonstrated his excellent sense of play in the center and built a large territory at the top.

The game was still pretty close, but Iyama’s attack in the right center area was very sharp and the game was suddenly decided when some of Black’s center stone were captured.

Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – Game 3


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Game 4 – Kadoban

Facing a kadoban (a match deciding game) in game 4, Yamashita fought back fiercely.

He showed his power and strength in the early combat on the right side. After playing a very well timed probe and showing us some nice tesuji in the bottom right corner, Yamashita achieved a good result.

Iyama began to play aggressively after that, but Yamashita’s responses were solid and accurate, and Iyama soon resigned.

Iyama Yuta vs Yamashita Keigo – Game 4


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Game 5 – Kadoban

At the end of game 5 from the 70th Honinbo.

At the end of game 5 from the 70th Honinbo.

With the score at 3-1 after four games, game 5 saw Yamashita face another kadoban in the best of seven match.

Iyama demonstrated his fighting spirit in closing out a resurgent Yamashita to finish the match.

The opening was well balanced between Black’s influence and White’s territory. Yamashita (Black) developed the right side through to the bottom right and White invaded.

Iyama’s sabaki was brilliant, and he even managed to take sente to develop the upper side. In doing so, White took the lead.

Black invaded White’s area at the top immediately and Iyama attacked furiously, even though the game was already favorable for him. Eventually, White captured the whole group at the top with a ko, and Black tried to kill White’s dragon on the right side.

However, Iyama managed both the weak group and the ko very well and another life and death ko arose at the bottom. Even though Black tried very hard to fight the ko, White had more ko threats and Yamashita had no choice but to resign.

Iyama Yuta won the 70th Honinbo after five games and holds the title for another year.

Congratulations Iyama Yuta!

Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta – Game 5


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Another title match begins

The 40th Gosei final began on June 26, 2015. Iyama Yuta is the defending champion, and Yamashita Keigo is the challenger.

Iyama won the 1st game of the best of five title match, and the games will continue throughout July and August.

This provides Yamashita with a good opportunity to exact his revenge on Iyama, even though he’s already lost the first game.

I hope that Yamashita comes back in good form for the next game, and that some interesting games will be created throughout the match.

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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. Yamashita is sure persistent. He already lost Kisei and Honinbou this year but that do not prevent him from continuing challenging Iyama. In my humble view, he’s the second strongest player of Japan.

    • Younggil An says:

      I agree with you. Yamashita is very strong against other Japanese top players, but not against Iyama.

      By the way, their games are quite tough with unique fighting, so they’re interesting to watch.

  2. Thank you for giving us the SGF with you excellent viewer. Would it be too much trouble to add the information which player is what color at the first move, even in uncommented games?