2021 In The Big Seven Japanese Titles
2021 marked the resurgence of Iyama Yuta, insomuch as he could resurge from a base level that was already very dominant. This was four years after Iyama's landmark simultaneous capture of all seven titles in 2017, which had never before been achieved; in this year he was able to return to holding five, from having "only" three in 2020.
The year also saw a decline in the fortunes of Shibano Toramaru and Ichiriki Ryo, who lost their titles despite strong showings in their matches. It also witnessed the appearance of Seki Kotaro on the top stage.
The titles are listed by order of prestige.
He defeated Kono Rin, challenging for his third time. The score was 4-1.
Iyama successfully defended the Meijin in its 46th edition. His first reign was 2009-10, then 2013-15, and then just the 2017 edition, until retaking it in 2020. This was the eighth time he'd won the title.
He defeated Ichiriki, challenging for his first time. The match, which took place from August 26 to November 5 was hard fought and required all seven games.
He defeated Shibano, challenging for his second time. This was another closely contested match, again necessitating all seven games. Despite Shibano achieving a 3-1 lead, meaning he only needed one more win, Iyama achieved a comeback with three straight wins.
Iyama took the Oza from Shibano, who had held it for two years, in its 69th edition. Shibano having previously lost both the Meijin and Judan, this left him without a title for the first time since 2018.
Iyama had previously held the Oza from 2015 to 2018, and before that in 2012-13. He had challenged Shibano to regain the title in 2019, and had been beaten 3-1.
The 2021 match, which took place from October 29 to December 9, was evenly fought with alternating victories. Iyama having won first, this made the score 3-2.
Seki Kotaro took the Tengen, his first open title, from Ichiriki Ryo, in its 47th edition. Ichiriki had only held it a year since ending Iyama's 2015-19 run. Since Ichiriki also lost the Gosei this year, Seki's victory left him without a title, as he was before 2020.
As a mere four dan professional, who had never before challenged for one of the big seven titles, Seki's match appearance provided one of the most interesting stories of the professional Go year. He had, however, won the 2020 Shinjin O and been awarded the Kido New Star Prize.
Seki surprised everyone by dominating the match, which took place from October 5 to December 6, with a 3-1 score.
Iyama took the Gosei from Ichiriki in its 46th edition. Iyama had previously held the title from 2012 to 2017, before losing it to Kyo Kagen, who in turn was beaten by Hane Naoki, who was displaced by Ichiriki. This was the only title he hadn't held since 2017.
The match took place from June 26 to August 29. The score was 3-2, with Ichiriki having the initial lead.
The match, which took place from March 2 to April 28, was decided 3-2 with (like the Oza) alternating victories.