When I last wrote about Cho U and Iyama Yuta, I wrote that Cho was arguably the top player in Japan. I doubt it’s even arguable this year, as he holds five of the big seven titles (Meijin, Judan, Gosei, Oza, Tengen).
Let’s just repeat something John Fairbairn said: “Everyone agrees that the 20-year-old Iyama has gotten stronger in the intervening year, but, seemingly, so has Cho－after all, he has become the first player to hold five of the top seven titles simultaneously.”
Iyama swept the Meijin qualifier, going 8-0 against a respectable field. Apparently it’s his tourney, as it’s the only major one this year where he’s stood out (and yet he has the most wins of any Japanese pro right now).
Cho is also doing well in the Kisei qualifiers. He only has to beat the currently hapless Miyazawa Goro to win the B league, in which case he’ll have a game against O Rissei for the chance to challenge Yamashita Keigo. Cho recently had little trouble defending the Oza against Yamashita, but it sometimes appears that particular players have a knack for winning their tournaments, and Yamashita is one more win before he becomes Honorary Kisei. Anyway, even if Cho eventually gets to challenge for the Kisei, in November, he’ll be defending the Tengen title against…Yamashita Keigo.
Lastly, the Honinbo league is incredibly competitive: Takao Shinji, Yamada Kimio, Yamashita Keigo, Cho U, Takemiya Masaki (!), Yuki Satoshi, Mimura Tomoyasu, Iyama Yuta. When you take into account that Hane Naoki is the title holder, it’s an impressive list.