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Record-holding Go champion Iyama extends Honinbo title run to 8 wins in row

Yuta Iyama is seen surveying the board after the end of play in the deciding match at the Honinbo Tournament at the Hotel Hankyu Expo Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on July 4, 2019. (Mainichi/Tadashi Kako)

SUITA, Osaka -- Japanese Go champion Yuta Iyama won his sixth game of the 74th Honinbo Tournament against challenger and fellow ninth-dan player Rin Kono on July 4 to retain his title at the best-of-seven event for the eighth year in a row.

The event took place from July 3 at the Hotel Hankyu Expo Park in the western Japan city of Suita, with victory declared for Iyama, 30, at 7:01 p.m. on July 4. It took 171 moves for him to win their final game in a decisive victory, with the closing tally standing at four wins and two losses for the champion. At the close of play, Iyama had 7 minutes left on his move clock, while Kono, 38, had just 1.

Iyama's eighth consecutive win at the tournament is the third-longest continuous run in the history of the Honinbo. Iyama started the best-of-seven event against Kono by losing two games in a row, but turned it around from their third meeting to win four consecutively. Speaking to the press the day after the deciding match, he smiled and said, "I'm glad to have retained the title all this time. I was prepared for a hard match this season, so I'm pleased I've held onto it."

Iyama turned 30 during the course of this year's Honinbo, which took place over a series of meetings between him and Kono starting in May. On the subject of young players using artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly improve their abilities, Iyama said, "It's not just the younger generation. Players senior to me are also using AI to learn more about the game. I don't want to fall behind, especially in the study of opening moves."

Along with the Honinbo title, Iyama has also retained the Kisei, Oza and Tengen championships. The player, who has held all seven major Go titles, has won 45 major tournaments, a record tally.

The Honinbo Tournament is organized by The Mainichi Newspapers Co., the Nihon Ki-in and the Kansai Ki-in, with cooperation from Hankyu Corp. It is sponsored by Daiwa Securities Group Inc.

(Japanese original by Hiroaki Niidoi, Osaka Cultural News Department)

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