Shogi master Yoshiharu Habu wins seventh eisei lifetime title

JIJI, Kyodo

Yoshiharu Habu on Tuesday became the first-ever professional shogi player to win a seventh eisei lifetime title.

In the fifth qualifying round for the 30th Ryuo title held in Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, Habu, 47, beat title-holder Akira Watanabe, 33, in 87 moves, taking the prestigious title for the first time in 15 years.

Habu has won the Ryuo title seven times in total, gaining the eisei Ryuo honor.

He now holds eisei honors for all seven major shogi titles, excluding the Eio title newly created this year.

“Seeing this series of matches as a rare opportunity, I dared to take the risk to mount a challenge” for the seventh eisei title, Habu said after the day’s round.

“There are many strong junior players emerging recently. I would like to take on new challenges” while improving my skills and competing with others, he said in a news conference on Wednesday.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga congratulated Habu for a “feat that would remain in history.”

Sota Fujii, the nation’s youngest professional shogi player who set a record with 29 straight wins, also joined the chorus of praise, saying he is reminded of the “weight” the seventh eisei title holds and all the work put in by his senior over the years.

Habu, who is originally from Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, made his professional debut in 1985 as a third-year junior high school student.

He took the Ryuo title, his first honor, in 1989 as the then-youngest pro player at the age of 19 years and 3 months. In 1996, he became the first player to dominate all seven major titles — Ryuo, Meijin, Oi, Oza, Kio, Osho and Kisei.

Habu won the eisei Kio title in 1995, his first eisei honor. He gained his sixth eisei title in 2008, rewriting the then all-time record of five titles held by Yasuharu Oyama and Makoto Nakahara.