Go Titles:

Honinbo is the third-most prestigious (as it has the third largest prize money) tournament title in the Japanese professional GO world, with a winners prize of 32 million Yen. Sponsored by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, this title must be won in a best-out-of-seven match against the current title holder, after emerging as best player in the preceding Honinbo-league. Even membership in this eight-member league open to members of the Nihon Kiin and Kansai Kiin, is an achievement in itself, with only four openings due to demotions each year/round, which are filled (how else) by a preliminary elimination tournament. The final matches' games are two-day events with an 8-hour time limit on each side.

Female Go professionals compete in the women's honinbo legue, which is organized parallel to the male system, with a title holder waiting for the winner of the preceeding league tournament.

There is also an annual amateur honinbo elimination tournament, in which selected amateur players compete for the Amateur Honinbo title, which is awarded to the winner of the tournament.

Historically, the Honinbo title is the oldest and most prestigious Go title in Japan. The buddhist monk Nikkai, who became know as Honinbo Sansa, took up the name of the pavillion Hon'inbo in the Jakkoji temple in Kyoto, in which he had lived, when he was given a stipend by the Shogun. The Shogun gave Sansa the name Meijin (literally "famous person"), meaning the best player in Japan, considered virtually unbeatable.

Honinbo Sansa founded the Honinbo school in 1612, making it the most prestigious and successful of the four traditionally schools of Go in the Edo period. The successive heads of the school took the title and name of Honinbo until the last hereditary holder, Honinbo Shusai, surrendered it to the Nihon Kiin to turn it into the tournament title described above. Incidentally, Honinbo Shusai's last game of professional Go was chronicled by Yasunari Kawabata in his famous book The Master of Go (Meijin).

In the modern tournament title, a vestige of these traditions is retained in the custom of a new Honinbo taking a new name upon his accession (see below).However, this tradition is only honored by Japanese title holders.

Historic (hereditary) Honinbo Title Holders:

Modern Professional Honinbo Title Holders:

  • 1941 - Sekiyama Riichi (defeating Kato Shin 3-3)
  • 1943 - Hashimoto Utaro (defeating Sekiyama Risen 1-0)
  • 1945 - Iwamoto Kaoru (defeating Hashimoto Shou 5-3 in a match interrupted by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, near where the game was played)
  • 1947 - Iwamoto Kunwa (defeating Kitani Minoru 3-2)
  • 1950 - Hashimoto Utaro (defeating Iwamoto Kunwa 4-0)
  • 1951 - Hashimoto Shou (defeating Sakata Eio 4-3)
  • 1952 - Takagawa Kaku (defeating Hashimoto Shou 4-1)
  • 1953 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Kitani Minoru 4-2)
  • 1954 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Sugiuchi Masao 4-2)
  • 1955 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Shimamura Toshihiro 4-0)
  • 1956 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Shimamura Toshihiro 4-2)
  • 1957 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Fujisawa Hosai 4-2)
  • 1958 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Sugiuchi Masao 4-2)
  • 1959 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Kitani Minoru 4-2)
  • 1960 - Takagawa Shukaku (defeating Fujisawa Syuko 4-2)
  • 1961 - Sakata Eio (defeating Takagawa Shukaku 4-1)
  • 1962 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Handa Dogen 4-1)
  • 1963 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Takagawa Shukaku 4-2)
  • 1964 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Takagawa Shukaku 4-0)
  • 1965 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Yamabe Toshiro 4-0)
  • 1966 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Fujisawa Syuko 4-0)
  • 1967 - Sakata Eiju (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-1)
  • 1968 - Rin Kaiho (defeating Sakata Eiju 4-3)
  • 1969 - Rin Kaiho (defeating Kato Masao 4-2)
  • 1970 - Rin Kaiho (defeating Sakata Eio 4-0)
  • 1971 - Ishida Yoshio (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-2)
  • 1972 - Ishida Shuho (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-3)
  • 1973 - Ishida Shuho (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-0)
  • 1974 - Ishida Shuho (defeating Takemiya Masaki 4-3)
  • 1975 - Ishida Shuho (defeating Sakata Eio 4-3)
  • 1976 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Ishida Shuho 4-1)
  • 1977 - Kato Masao (defeating Takemiya Masaki 4-1)
  • 1978 - Kato Kensei (defeating Ishida Yoshio 4-3)
  • 1979 - Kato Kensei (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-1)
  • 1980 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Kato Kensei 4-1)
  • 1981 - Cho Chikun (defeating Takemiya Masaki 4-2)
  • 1982 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kobayashi Koichi 4-2)
  • 1983 - Rin Kaiho (defeating Cho Chikun 4-3)
  • 1984 - Rin Kaiho (defeating Awaji Syuzo 4-1)
  • 1985 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Rin Kaiho 4-1)
  • 1986 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-1)
  • 1987 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-0)
  • 1988 - Takemiya Masaki (defeating Otake Hideo 4-3)
  • 1989 - Cho Chikun (defeating Takemiya Masaki 4-0)
  • 1990 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kobayashi Koichi 4-3)
  • 1991 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kobayashi Koichi 4-2)
  • 1992 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kobayashi Koichi 4-3)
  • 1993 - Cho Chikun (defeating Yamashiro Hiroshi 4-1)
  • 1994 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kataoka Satoshi 4-3)
  • 1995 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kato Masao 4-1)
  • 1996 - Cho Chikun (defeating Ryu Shikun 4-2)
  • 1997 - Cho Chikun (defeating Kato Masao 4-0)
  • 1998 - Cho Chikun (defeating O Rissei 4-2)
  • 1999 - Cho Sonjin (defeating Cho Chikun 4-2)
  • 2000 - O Meien (defeating Cho Sonjin 4-2)
  • 2001 - O Meien (defeating Cho U 4-3)
  • 2002 - Kato Masao (defeating O Meien 4-2)

Honorary Honinbo Title Holders: (for winning the professional title five times in a row)

Professional Women's Honinbo Title Holders:

  • 1982 - Honda Sachiko (defeating Kobayashi Chizu 2-1)
  • 1983 - Kusunoki Teruko (defeating Honda Sachiko 2-1)
  • 1984 - Honda Sachiko (defeating Kusunoki Teruko 2-0)
  • 1985 - Kusunoki Teruko (defeating Honda Sachiko 2-1)
  • 1986 - Ogawa Tomoko (defeating Kusunoki Teruko 2-0)
  • 1987 - Kusunoki Teruko (defeating Ogawa Tomoko 2-0)
  • 1988 - Kusunoki Teruko (defeating Ogawa Tomoko 2-0)
  • 1989 - Kusunoki Teruko (defeating Ogawa Tomoko 2-0)
  • 1990 - Nakazawa Ayako (defeating Kusunoki Teruko 2-1)
  • 1991 - Nakazawa Ayako (defeating Kobyashi Chizu 2-1)
  • 1992 - Kato Tomoko (defeating Nakazawa Ayako 2-0)
  • 1993 - Yoshida Mika (defeating Kato Tomoko 2-1)
  • 1994 - Yoshida Mika (defeating Tsukuda Akiko 2-0)
  • 1995 - Yoshida Mika (defeating Chinen Kaori 3-1)
  • 1996 - Yoshida Mika (defeating Nakazawa Ayako 3-0)
  • 1997 - Chinen Kaori (defeating Yoshida Mika 3-1)
  • 1998 - Chinen Kaori (defeating Kato Tomoko 3-0)
  • 1999 - Chinen Kaori (defeating Kobayashi Izumi 3-0)
  • 2000 - Inori Yoko (defeating Chinen Kaori 3-2)

A history of the title: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/igo_e/142.htm/p>

A collection of Honinbo Title matches in .sgf format can be found here:
http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~mmueller/go/honinbo.html

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