Shogi champion Yoshiharu Habu and Go master Yuta Iyama commended each other during a joint press conference in Tokyo on Feb. 13, after they were bestowed with the People's Honor Award for their distinguished achievements in the historical board games.
"(Mr. Iyama) has struck a good balance between making ingenious moves and achieving fantastic results," Habu, 47, told reporters. The 28-year-old Iyama, meanwhile, said of the shogi master, "Throughout his long, brilliant career, he has always endeavored to aim higher and take on new challenges."
The conferment of the People's Honor Award to Habu and Iyama marks the first time the prestigious award has gone to either a shogi or Go player.
The prizewinners noted that both Go and shogi have a long history, and that they were grateful that the awards recognized the games' value, including their backgrounds.
"I'd be happy if shogi could continue to serve as a means of communication and enrich people's lives," Habu commented. Iyama added, "I hope Go, which is a universal board game, can be of help in bonding people together across national borders."
Habu became the first player to qualify to become a lifetime holder of seven of Japan's major shogi titles by earning a Lifetime Ryuo qualification with his seventh Ryuo tournament victory late last year, while Iyama, who holds a ninth-dan rank as well as the honorary title Honinbo Monyu, has captured all seven major titles of Go for the second time.
At the award ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented Habu and Iyama with calligraphy sets. In return, the two masters offered him a shogi set and a miniature Go set, respectively.
Habu is set to face off against 15-year-old shogi sensation and fifth-dan holder Sota Fujii in the semifinals of the Asahi Cup shogi open tournament on Feb. 17.
"It will be my first match against Mr. Fujii in an official tournament, and I'm excited and looking forward to it," Habu said.
Iyama, meanwhile, suffered a bitter loss in the recent LG Cup finals, but he is determined to push his career forward in upcoming title matches.
"There's still room for my improvement. Although I often find top Go players from other countries blessed with qualities that I don't have, I would like to produce good results at international tournaments," Iyama said.
The two players are the 25th and 26th recipients of the People's Honor Award.