by John Power, EJ Japan Correspondent
Iyama Defends Kisei Title, Defeats Yamashita 4-2: Iyama Yuta swept to a 3-0 lead in the 38th Kisei title match, but then Yamashita made a comeback, saving two kadobans (games that can lose a series) to keep the match alive. However, the tide turned again in the sixth game, with Iyama outfighting Yamashita to defend his title 4-2. This is Iyama’s second Kisei title, his 7th big-three title and his 23rd title overall. He also maintained his sextuple crown.
To take up the story from my previous report, the fourth game was played at the Hokkaido Hotel in Obihiro City in Hokkaido on February 20 and 21. Yamashita (white) had his back to the wall, but he played in his usual aggressive fashion and took the lead in the middle game. He suffered a number of losses in the endgame, but just managed to hang on to a half-point lead. The game ended after 243 moves, with Yamashita looking relieved that he had kept the series alive. He comes from Hokkaido, so he also made local fans happy, and the sponsors were probably also relieved that the series hadn’t fizzled out. Incidentally, this win redressed the balance for Yamashita’s half-point loss in the first game.
The fifth game was played at the Atami Korakuen Hotel in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture on February 26 and 27. Yamashita took the lead in a fight centered on a ko and then coolly wrapped up the game. Playing black, he won by 3.5 points. He was still one game behind, but his successive wins put a lot of pressure on Iyama. On the evening of the first day, Go Seigen, who lives nearby in Odawara, visited the tournament venue to look at the game and to chat with the players. Go will turn 100 on May 19 and is already the longest-lived top player in history, but he still takes a keen interest in the go scene.
The sixth game was held at Ryugon, a traditional Japanese inn with a large pond and extensive garden, in South (Minami) Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture on March 12 and 13. Iyama (B) played well and was never behind; he decided the game when he skilfully resurrected a group of three stones that he had ‘sacrificed’ in the opening. This secured a resignation after 229 moves.
This series was yet another good demonstration of Iyama’s fighting power. Yamashita is known for his fondness for fighting, but Iyama matched him blow for blow. Yamashita’s current results in other tournaments show that he’s in good form, but he was able to take only two games off Iyama.
The referee for the final game, Hane Naoki 9P, gave his view of Iyama. ‘He has stable strength in every field. He can handle any kind of game and has the confidence to trust his own judgement.’
photos: top right: Game 3; bottom left: Game 4. photos courtesy EGC 2014 website
This is the first in a 4-part series this week. TOMORROW: Yamashita Keeps Lead In Honinbo League; Yamashita Takes Lead In Meijin League