Iyama Yuta becomes Honinbo

Iyama Yuta 9p took his first Honinbo title on July 19, 2012, defeating title holder Yamashita Keigo 9p by 7.5 points in the final game.

Iyama Yuta (9 dan, right) wins the 67th Honinbo tournament against Yamashita Keigo (9 dan).

The best of seven Honinbo title match, which started in May 2012, culminated in an exciting and unusual 7th game.

Severe fighting

Yamashita, playing black, built a large framework in the opening, while Iyama took solid territory.

Severe fighting broke out in the top left part of the board, followed by a series of ko fights.

A battle of territory vs influence

When the dust settled, white had amassed a huge territory at the top, but black’s position was thick throughout the rest of the board.

White had no choice but to dive into black’s sphere of influence, creating two unsettled groups in the process.

Iyama Yuta (left) and Yamashita Keigo resume play on the second day of the final match.

White manages both groups to win

When white managed to skillfully connect both groups together and lead them out to safety, black’s game ran out of steam and white eventually won by 7.5 points.

Congratulations Iyama Yuta!

400th anniversary of the Honinbo house

2012 is not only the 67th year of the modern Honinbo tournament, but also the 400th anniversary of the Honinbo house (which was established in 1612).

The Honinbo

The Honinbo is the oldest professional Go tournament in the world. Today it is, arguably, still the most prestigious title in Japan.

The Honinbo is sponsored by Mainichi Shimbun (The Daily Newspaper) and the prize money is currently $32 million Yen (approximately $400,000 USD at the time of writing).

During the Edo period, the Honinbo was a ‘hereditary’ title, which was bestowed upon the head of the Honinbo school, passed down from master to student. The last hereditary title holder, Honinbo Shusai, sold (some say gave) the title to the fledgling Nihon Kiin (Japanese Go Association) and it became a tournament title.

Typical of Japanese titles, the title holder is challenged by the winner of a league. The title is decided in a best of seven match. Each player is given eight hours of play over a two day period.

67th Honinbo photos

Game record

(See games 1-6 of the 67th Honinbo in our previous article)

Yamashita Keigo vs Iyama Yuta


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. Brandon Matt says:

    I was trying to watch the outcome of the game, but being EST, it was around 11:30pm by the time they went to lunch. I couldn’t stay awake anymore.

    From what I did see, the upper left turned out horribly for B, culminating in a ko that shocked everyone.

    Move 80 was when it got too late and I had to sleep. So unfortunate that I couldn’t watch the whole thing!

    • Brandon Matt says:

      And what I mean by ‘shocked everyone’ is that no one expected B to play the ko as early as he did. Even Cornel was kind of nonplussed. The game did seem exciting though and I am glad that Iyama won.

      Also, great job keeping up with the Tourney!! God, I love this website!

      • David Ormerod says:

        Thanks Brandon,

        I didn’t see the kibitz on IGS, but starting the ko so early was the thing that surprised me too. Black seemed to have a local advantage in that fight and I felt starting the ko made white’s position more flexible. Maybe there’s something about it that I didn’t understand…

  2. WeAreCake says:

    I’d love to see this game analysed under GGG’s commented game section. So much depth to this game.

  3. Awesome game and awesome coverage GGG! Congratulations to the new Honinbo Iyama Yuta! 🙂

    • David Ormerod says:

      Thanks Devin,

      It’s nice to see Iyama become Honinbo. Like many Go players, I’ve been following his career for awhile now.

  4. Hi,
    Glad to find this site. I used to be able to find game results (w/records) form NihonKiin links, but not any more. Watched the game late last nite on IGS up to the point when black pon-nuki’d at D5 before dozing off. I was 100% certain today’s head line would be “Yamashita Defends Title!”. Am shocked! Absolutely shocked! Was there consensus that B was better after the pon-nuki? Great Game!

    • David Ormerod says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the site dugu. I’m not sure what other people thought, but my feeling was also that black was just so thick. However, if you count how much territory white has at that point, you realize black is under a lot of pressure too. I felt the second half of the middlegame would be difficult for white and I was really impressed by the way Iyama managed the two weak groups and even connected them together!

  5. An astonishing game. When B built ponnuki in the lower left I did not believe w could win. I think B would have done better playing N10 rather than L10, this sequence leaves w with more defects to protect.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Hi Tony, as I said to dugu, I felt the same way about black’s thickness and that certainly makes it an interesting game.

      My first instinct was N10 too, but my reading is that white can just defend with N11 and if black continues with atari at O10, white just connects with P11. Since black hasn’t actually gained any liberties the result ends up being similar, but white’s shape is stronger on the outside. Black would capture some stones, but would lose the cut at P11 which he played later, leaving those R14 stones in a bit of a precarious situation.

      How about black K9 though? I don’t understand the thinking behind that move and I can’t see why black didn’t simply extend to M10. Having one more liberty seems to make the fight a fair bit better for black. Am I missing something?

  6. Stephan says:

    Interesting game, although I quickly got lost.

    I have a question about the kifu; is there a convention for the orientation of the game record? For example, the embedded sgf above plays from the perspective of Yamashita, who is playing black, but reorienting an sgf is easy; is the kifu of the official game recorder in his own perspective and how would the game be presented in the newspapers?

    • David Ormerod says:

      Hi Stephan, games are usually recorded and presented from black’s perspective, but I don’t think that’s set in stone. For example, I’ve noticed in some books where a player is commenting their collected games, the games are always shown from that player’s perspective because that’s how they remember it.

  7. Marcel Grünauer says:

    This game contains some fascinating study material about timing.

  8. Kagemoto4 says:

    What an exciting game!

  9. Michael says:

    What an incredible game! I am no expert on the matter but it seems to be extraordinary even for title games.

  10. ZeroWave says:

    Looks like a great game. Thanks for the coverage 🙂