PageType: Path     Keywords: Culture & History, Go term, Tournament

Chinese: 本因坊 (běn yīn fāng)
Japanese: 本因坊 (Hon'inbō)
Korean: 본인방

Table of contents

The house of Honinbo was one of the Four houses in the Edo Period in Japan. Today the Honinbo tournament is the oldest of the current Japanese professional titles and one of the three most important big titles.

Hereditary Title

During the Edo period the Honinbo (本因坊, Hon'inbō) was the head of the Honinbo school (originally founded by Honinbo Sansa). Of the four traditional go schools, the Honinbo was the most prestigious and successful one. The last hereditary[1] Honinbo, Shusai, gave (or [ext] sold) his title to the Nihon Ki-in so as to turn it into a tournament title. This is a list of the historic Honinbos, including the heirs who did not succeed to the Head of the House. (Heirs will not have a number before their use name.)

non numbered entries were heirs that died before their succession
# Name Kanji Rank Period as head
1st Sansa 算砂 Meijin 1612-1623
2nd Sanetsu 算悦 8-Dan 1630-1658
3rd Doetsu 道悦 7-Dan 1658-1677
4th Dosaku 道策 Meijin 1677-1702
Doteki 道的 7-Dan (heir 1684-1690)
Sakugen 策元 7-Dan (heir 1692-1699)
5th Dochi 道知 Meijin 1702-1727
6th Chihaku 知伯 6-Dan 1727-1733
7th Shuhaku 秀伯 6-Dan 1733-1741
8th Hakugen 伯元 6-Dan 1741-1754
9th Satsugen 察元 Meijin 1754-1788
10th Retsugen 烈元 8-Dan 1788-1808
11th Genjo 元丈 8-Dan 1808-1827
12th Jowa 丈和 Meijin 1827-1839
13th Josaku 丈策 7-Dan 1839-1847
14th Shuwa 秀和 8-Dan 1847-1873
Shusaku 秀策 7-Dan (heir 1848-1862)
15th Shuetsu 秀悦 6-Dan 1873-1879
16th Shugen 秀元 4-Dan 1879-1884
17th Shuei 秀栄 7-Dan 1884-1886
18th Shuho 秀甫 8-Dan 1886
19th Shuei 秀栄 Meijin 1887-1907
20th Shugen 秀元 6-Dan 1907-1908
21st Shusai 秀哉 Meijin 1908-1940

Note: The 17th and 19th Honinbo are the same person, and the 16th and 20th are the same, too. Also from 1864-1884 Shuei had been head of the Hayashi school.

Japanese Tournament

The Honinbo title is the oldest Go tournament in the world and in some ways still the most prestigious in Japan, though the Kisei and Meijin big titles have larger prize funds. The winner's prize is ¥32,000,000 currently, sponsored by the Mainichi Shinbun. The games can be found on their [ext] website (Japanese).

Due to the importance of the Honinbo as one of the "big three" titles in Japan (along with the Kisei and Meijin), there are several paths of automatic rank advancement through it in the Nihon Ki-in new promotion system. Qualifying for the Honinbo league warrants a promotion to 7-dan, winning the league to challenge for the title promotes to 8-dan, and finally winning the title itself gives an immediate 9-dan promotion.

As with each of the three Japanese big titles, the previous year's title holder is challenged by the winner of a league. In the event of a tie during the league, there is a playoff between the top two players. Entry to the league is gained through a series of preliminary tournaments. The title is decided in a best of seven match, where each player is given eight hours of thinking time over a two day period.

1st Honinbo Tournament

The 1st Honinbo Tournament started in June 1939 with 27 players participating in a set of four successive knockout mini-tournaments in which first place yielded the player 6 points, second place 5 points, down to 1 point for players eliminated in the first round. Of the 27 players, eight were thus selected to play in a league to determine the top two players. The eight players were: Sekiyama Riichi, Kato Shin, Go Seigen, Maeda Nobuaki, Kubomatsu Katsukiyo, Suzuki Tamejiro, Segoe Kensaku, and Kitani Minoru. All these games used komi. The top two then played a six game series of no-komi go. Black won all games, the result being tied at 3-3. The title was awarded to Sekiyama Riichi based upon his better performance in the qualifying rounds.

Tournament Winners

Player who adopted an artname (gagō 雅号) is referred to as 'Honinbo (artname)' or '(family name) (artname)' as long as he is the reigning Honinbo. For example, Iwamoto was called 'Honinbo Kunwa' or 'Iwamoto Kunwa'. At first, it was customary to adopt an artname on his first win; in recent years, there is a tendency to delay adoption. The first two artnames, Risen and Shō'u, were selected by the Nihon Kiin; later artnames were chosen by the player.

The title match usually starts in May.

Winners and defeated finalists
Ed. Year Winner and artname Runner-up Result
1st 1941 Sekiyama Riichi (Risen 利仙) Kato Shin 3-3 [2]
2nd 1943 Hashimoto Utaro (Shō'u 昭宇) Sekiyama Riichi 2-0 [3]
3rd 1945 Iwamoto Kaoru (Kunwa 薫和) Hashimoto Utaro 5-3 [4]
4th 1947 Iwamoto Kaoru Kitani Minoru 3-2 [5]
5th 1950 Hashimoto Utaro Iwamoto Kaoru 4-0
6th 1951 Hashimoto Utaro Sakata Eio 4-3
7th 1952 Takagawa Kaku (Shūkaku 秀格) Hashimoto Utaro 4-1
8th 1953 Takagawa Kaku Kitani Minoru 4-2
9th 1954 Takagawa Kaku Sugiuchi Masao 4-2
10th 1955 Takagawa Kaku Shimamura Toshihiro 4-0
11th 1956 Takagawa Kaku Shimamura Toshihiro 4-2
12th 1957 Takagawa Kaku Fujisawa Hosai 4-2
13th 1958 Takagawa Kaku Sugiuchi Masao 4-2
14th 1959 Takagawa Kaku Kitani Minoru 4-2
15th 1960 Takagawa Kaku Fujisawa Hideyuki 4-2
16th 1961 Sakata Eio (Eiju 栄寿) Takagawa Kaku 4-1
17th 1962 Sakata Eio Handa Dogen 4-1
18th 1963 Sakata Eio Takagawa Kaku 4-2 [10]
19th 1964 Sakata Eio Takagawa Kaku 4-0
20th 1965 Sakata Eio Yamabe Toshiro 4-0
21st 1966 Sakata Eio Fujisawa Hideyuki 4-0
22nd 1967 Sakata Eio Rin Kaiho 4-1
23rd 1968 Rin Kaiho (Kaihō 海峯) Sakata Eio 4-3
24th 1969 Rin Kaiho Kato Masao 4-2
25th 1970 Rin Kaiho Sakata Eio 4-0
26th 1971 Ishida Yoshio (Shūhō 秀芳) Rin Kaiho 4-2 [6]
27th 1972 Ishida Yoshio Rin Kaiho 4-3
28th 1973 Ishida Yoshio Rin Kaiho 4-0
29th 1974 Ishida Yoshio Takemiya Masaki 4-3
30th 1975 Ishida Yoshio Sakata Eio 4-3
31st 1976 Takemiya Masaki (Shūju 秀樹) Ishida Yoshio 4-1
32nd 1977 Kato Masao (Kensei 劒正) Takemiya Masaki 4-1
33rd 1978 Kato Masao Ishida Yoshio 4-3
34th 1979 Kato Masao Rin Kaiho 4-1
35th 1980 Takemiya Masaki (Seiju 正樹) Kato Masao 4-1
36th 1981 Cho Chikun (Chikun 治勲) Takemiya Masaki 4-2
37th 1982 Cho Chikun Kobayashi Koichi 4-2
38th 1983 Rin Kaiho Cho Chikun 4-3 [8]
39th 1984 Rin Kaiho Awaji Shuzo 4-1
40th 1985 Takemiya Masaki Rin Kaiho 4-1
41st 1986 Takemiya Masaki Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-1
42nd 1987 Takemiya Masaki Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-0
43rd 1988 Takemiya Masaki Otake Hideo 4-3
44th 1989 Cho Chikun Takemiya Masaki 4-0
45th 1990 Cho Chikun Kobayashi Koichi 4-3
46th 1991 Cho Chikun Kobayashi Koichi 4-2
47th 1992 Cho Chikun Kobayashi Koichi 4-3 [8]
48th 1993 Cho Chikun Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-1
49th 1994 Cho Chikun Kataoka Satoshi 4-3
50th 1995 Cho Chikun Kato Masao 4-1
51st 1996 Cho Chikun Ryu Shikun 4-2
52nd 1997 Cho Chikun Kato Masao 4-0
53rd 1998 Cho Chikun O Rissei 4-2
54th 1999 Cho Sonjin Cho Chikun 4-2
55th 2000 O Meien Cho Sonjin 4-2 [9]
56th 2001 O Meien Cho U 4-3
57th 2002 Kato Masao O Meien 4-2
58th 2003 Cho U Kato Masao 4-2
59th 2004 Cho U Yoda Norimoto 4-2
60th 2005 Takao Shinji Cho U 4-1 [7]
61st 2006 Takao Shinji Yamada Kimio 4-2
62nd 2007 Takao Shinji (Shūshin 秀紳) Yoda Norimoto 4-1
63rd 2008 Hane Naoki Takao Shinji 4-3 [8]
64th 2009 Hane Naoki Takao Shinji 4-2
65th 2010 Yamashita Keigo (Dōwa 道吾) Hane Naoki 4-1
66th 2011 Yamashita Keigo Hane Naoki 4-3
67th 2012 Iyama Yuta Yamashita Keigo 4-3
68th 2013 Iyama Yuta Takao Shinji 4-3
69th 2014 Iyama Yuta Ida Atsushi 4-1
70th 2015 Iyama Yuta Yamashita Keigo 4-1
71st 2016 Iyama Yuta (Monyū 文裕) Takao Shinji 4-1
72nd 2017 Iyama Yuta Motoki Katsuya 4-0
73rd 2018 Iyama Yuta Yamashita Keigo 4-1
74th 2019 Iyama Yuta Kono Rin 4-2
75th 2020 Iyama Yuta Shibano Toramaru 4-1
76th 2021 Iyama Yuta Shibano Toramaru 4-3
77th 2022 Iyama Yuta Ichiriki Ryo 4-0
78th 2023 Ichiriki Ryo Iyama Yuta 4-3

The longest Honinbo title game was played in 2022, in the 77th edition.

In April 2023, the sponsor Mainichi Shinbun announced a major shrink of the format from the 79th edition: the Honinbo league to determine the challenger would be abolished and the title match would become a 5 game match.

Honorary Honinbo

The title Honorary Honinbo is given to those players who have previously won the Honinbo title five years in a row. The Nihon Ki-in has been numbering those players who have qualified for the Honorary Honinbo title as a continuation of the list of hereditary honinbos, as follows:

# Name Year of Entitlement Art name
22 Takagawa Kaku 1956 Shūkaku 秀格
23 Sakata Eio 1965 Eiju 栄寿
24 Ishida Yoshio 1975 Shūhō 秀芳
25 Cho Chikun 1993 Chikun 治勲
26 Iyama Yuta 2016 Monyū 文裕

Such a player is called as '(number)-sei Honinbo (art name)', like 'nijūyon-sei Honinbo Shūhō' (二十四世本因坊秀芳), as if he were a hereditary Honinbo.


[1] By custom the Honinbo would adopt his successor.

[2] The 1st Honinbo tournament in 1941 involved a bitter dispute over the introduction of komi. The preliminary events used a komi of 4.5 but once the participants in the title match were decided, Kato Shin succeeded in requiring that the title match be played without komi and that the Mainichi Shinbun publish his opinion titled "On Irrationality of Komi go".

Amusingly enough after the vocal opposition to komi, Black won all six games of the title match. It had been previously specified that in the event of a tied match, the player with the better previous results would be declared the winner. Karma caught up to Kato Shin with a vengeance, and based on those previous results Sekiyama Riichi became the first non-hereditary Honinbo title holder.

[3] Sekiyama Riichi became ill during game two of the 2nd Honinbo tournament in 1943. He fought through the illness, but collapsed unconscious by the board on day two of the second game. He was then forced to forfeit both the game and the match.

[4] The second game of the 3rd Honinbo tournament in 1945 is the famous atomic bomb game, which took place in Hiroshima and was interrupted on its third day by the atomic bomb being dropped there. Fortunately the game had been moved to the outskirts of the city at police insistence so there were only minor injuries caused by flying glass. Perhaps most famously, the game was then set up again and concluded after lunch the same day.

The first six games resulted in a 3-3 tie, and a seventh game playoff was intended to be played with 4.5 points komi. Due to the end of the war though, there were no resources to set up this game. A year later in 1946 they met again (finally) for a three game playoff match, which Iwamoto Kaoru won 2-0.

[5] In the aftermath of the war, the title match was reduced to five games for the 4th Honinbo tournament in 1947. 4.5 point komi was at last introduced in the title match.

[6] A book was actually written about the 26th Honinbo, titled The 1971 Honinbo Tournament appropriately enough. It details how Ishida Yoshio (at age 22) entered the Honinbo League for his first time, won it, and then went on to defeat the established Honinbo Rin Kaiho in the title match. All of Ishida's games from the league and title match have extensive commentary in the book.

[7] In the 60th Honinbo tournament game one, there are some interesting moves. See at 60th Honinbo Title Match 1st Game Move 43. There's also some discussion about the position at the end of the first day of game four.

[8] Recovered from 0-3, winning the title.

[9] O Meien recovered from a shocking oversight of a clever ladder.

[10] Sakata recorded a 17-game winning streak in Honinbo title matches, from Game 5 in 1963 to Game 3 in 1967.

The name Honinbo is not a trademark; it has come to mean "the best player in go" in general and is used in many other tournaments such as Female Honinbo, Amateur Honinbo and Female Student Honinbo.

Honinbo last edited by on August 1, 2023 - 21:34
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