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Shogi pro Toyoshima wins first major title, denies Habu 100th tournament victory

Masayuki Toyoshima, who defeated Yoshiharu Habu to claim the Kisei shogi title, makes a move on July 17, 2018, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Shogi competitor Masayuki Toyoshima claimed his first major title on July 17 by overpowering star opponent Yoshiharu Habu in the 89th Kisei tournament in Tokyo, denying Habu an unprecedented 100th title.

Toyoshima, 28, defeated the 47-year-old Habu in 108 moves to win his third game in the best-of-five tournament on July 17 and claim the Kisei title. Habu dropped back down to holding just one current title (Ryuo) for the first time in seven months. He will have another shot at reaching the 100-title mark during the next Ryuo tournament in October.

With Toyoshima's win, eight different players now each hold one of the eight major titles in shogi, or Japanese chess. They are Amahiko Sato, 30 (Meijin); Toshiaki Kubo, 42 (Osho); Habu (Ryuo); Taichi Takami, 25 (Eio); Tatsuya Sugai, 26, (Oi); Taichi Nakamura, 30 (Oza); Akira Watanabe, 34, (Kio); and Toyoshima (Kisei).

The last time for all the major titles to be split between different players was in 1987. (There were seven major titles at the time).

On July 17, Habu went first in the game against Toyoshima, and after a bishop exchange repeatedly played ambitious moves, but Toyoshima withstood the onslaught with accurate play and eventually managed to overpower his formidable opponent.

Masayuki Toyoshima is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward after defeating Yoshiharu Habu to claim the Kisei shogi title, on July 17, 2018. (Mainichi)

The Kisei title was the first for Toyoshima, who hails from the Aichi Prefecture city of Ichinomiya. It is the first time in 50 years for someone from one of the three Tokai region prefectures of Aichi, Gifu and Mie to claim the Kisei title since the late player Michiyoshi Yamada from Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture lost it in July 1968.

Toyoshima, who has an eighth-dan rank, first took an interest in shogi at the age of 4, when he saw television coverage of players from Habu's generation. "I can remember games coming down to one-minute shogi and the seconds counting down. The pressure was amazing," he recalled. He started playing at Kansai Shogi Hall in Osaka at the age of 5 after moving to the Osaka Prefecture city of Toyonaka, and achieved an amateur sixth-dan rank in his third year of elementary school before turning pro in his second year of high school.

Toyoshima was previously defeated by Habu when challenging him for the Oza title in 2014 and the Kisei title the following year. He reflected that too much study had left him deflated. He said it felt surreal to beat Habu this time.

"The fact that I was able to claim the title from Habu-sensei, whom I had watched play from a young age, seems unreal," Toyoshima said.

Habu said he wanted to aim to win the one more title he needs for this 100th tournament victory as soon as possible.

(Japanese original by Hideki Yamamura and Susumu Maruyama, Cultural News Department, and Hiroaki Niidoi, Osaka Cultural News Department)

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