In the end, Iyama Yuta 9P’s hold on the Honinbo title came down to 4.5 points. That was Iyama’s margin of victory over Takao Shinji 9P in the final game of the 68th Honinbo title, which concluded on July 18 at 7:42p after 262 moves in Hadano, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. This is the third time in three years that the Honinbo has gone the full 7-game distance, including last year when Iyama took the title from Yamashita Keigo 9P. Iyama and Takao began their grueling duel in mid-May with Iyama winning the first game. Takao quickly made up the loss by controlling the next two games. However, Iyama (right) was not intimidated and fought back in games four and five, giving himself a chance to capture the match in game six, but Takao quickly extinguished those hopes in just 194 moves to set up yet another dramatic final game for the match. In the decisive seventh game (left), Iyama, taking black, used almost half of his eight-hour time allowance during the first day alone. When Takao sealed the move (W74) at 5:07p on July 17, he had four hours and forty-eight minutes remaining while his opponent only had four hours and five minutes. At 9a the next morning, the tricky sealed move was revealed and
“[changed] the flow of the game,” according to live game commentator Rin Kanketsu 7P. Yet up until move 70, either player could have taken the title. It was white’s tenuki at move 82 that was the crucial misstep that allowed black to secure thickness and give Iyama the advantage. White attempted to complicate the game at move 92 but Iyama stayed unfazed through the endgame and claimed victory with only two minutes left on his clock. In a post-game interview, Iyama said he felt fortunate to have held on to the title after such a challenging series. Takao felt lucky he made it to the end but was disappointed in his own performance. Since his most recent Honinbo title in 2007, Takao has tried to “reclaim the crown” three times to no avail. Iyama, on the other hand, holds five of the seven major Japanese titles (Kisei, Honinbo, Tengen, Oza, and Gosei) and also won the 25th Asian TV Cup at the end of June, proving his international prowess.
- Annalia Linnan, based on a more detailed report — including more photos and game records — on Go Game Guru; photos courtesy Go Game Guru