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Go champion Iyama captures 7th straight Honinbo title

Ninth-dan professional Go player and lifetime Honinbo titleholder Yuta Iyama smiles as he answers questions from the press after winning his seventh consecutive Honinbo title, outside the Konjyakutei traditional Japanese inn in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 2, 2018. (Mainichi)

AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- Japanese Go champion Yuta Iyama won his fifth game of the 73rd Honinbo Tournament here against fellow ninth-dan player Keigo Yamashita on July 1 to capture the best-of-seven event for the seventh consecutive year.

The fifth game was held at the Konjyakutei traditional Japanese inn from June 30 and the 29-year-old Iyama defended his title with four wins and one loss, beating Yamashita in 228 moves. In the end, Iyama had 15 minutes left on the clock while Yamashita had 3 minutes.

While Iyama, a lifetime Honinbo titleholder, lost his first game of the tournament, he won the following four games. Iyama has now defended all of Japan's seven major Go titles -- Honinbo, Kisei, Meijin, Oza, Tengen, Gosei and Judan -- that he regained in October last year.

"I was able to defend the title despite struggling with continuous difficult games," Iyama told the press in front of the inn the day after his victory, on July 2. "From here I would like to continue forward if only little by little."

After his win, Iyama enjoyed the hot springs at Konjyakutei and watched the soccer World Cup.

With his seven straight tournament victories, Iyama is now tied for the third-highest record with 23rd Honinbo, the late ninth-dan player Eio Sakata. Iyama has now captured one of the major titles a total of 41 times, one short of 25th Honinbo Cho Chikun's 42-tournament record.

"Seeing Cho Chikun-sensei's 10 consecutive wins as a child left a lasting impression on me. Slowly approaching that record has become my motivation," said Iyama. "I would like to return to the basics and make a new start in the hope of being able to show what I have already prepared."

The Honinbo Tournament is organized by The Mainichi Newspapers Co., the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in, and sponsored by the Daiwa Securities Group Inc.

(Japanese original by Satoshi Mogami, Cultural News Department)

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