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Yoshiharu Habu

Yoshiharu Habu at International Shogi Forum 2011

Yoshiharu Habu, F.M. (羽生善治 Habu Yoshiharu, born September 27, 1970) is a professional shogi player and a chess FIDE Master. He studied shogi under Tatsuya Futakami (二上達也 Futakami Tatsuya).

Early life

Yoshiharu Habu was born in Tokorozawa, Saitama in 1970 and moved to Hachioji, Tokyo before entering kindergarten. Habu first encountered shogi in his first year of elementary school, when his classmates taught him how the shogi pieces move. He was so fascinated by the game that his mother entered him in a shogi tournament held at the Hachioji Shogi Club in the summer of in 1978. Although Habu was eliminated during the preliminary rounds with a record of 1 win and 2 losses, his parents took him to the shogi club every weekend from October 1978. Habu improved so rapidly that he was promoted to amateur 5-dan in October 1981 at the age of 11.

During his elementary school days, Habu regularly participated in regional and national shogi tournaments, mainly for children. At these tournaments, Habu played against several children of the same age who would also become professional players, including Toshiyuki Moriuchi, Yasumitsu Sato and Manabu Senzaki. Those players born around 1970 are now known as the "Habu generation", not just because they were born in the same year, but also due to their outstanding achievements as players.

In July 1981, Habu qualified to participate in the Amateur Meijin Tournament as the youngest ever representative ever of the Tokyo Suburban Area, and won four tournaments for elementary school children the following August. In April 1982, Habu won the 7th Elementary School Meijin tournament (小学生将棋名人戦 Shōgakusei meijinsen). He expressed his desire to become a professional player and asked advice from Katsuyasu Nakajima, the owner of the Hachioji Shogi Club and a student of Tatsuya Futakami. Habu applied to the Apprentice professional training school (奨励会 shōreikai) as Futakami's student and was accepted as a member later in 1982.

Shogi professional

Habu became a 4-dan professional in 1985 at the age of 14. He was the third "junior high school kid professional" in shogi history following Hifumi Kato and Koji Tanigawa. In 1989, at the age of 19, Habu 6-dan won the Ryu-oh championship, defeating Akira Shima who led a 4-person shogi study group "Shimaken" in which Habu himself took part. This was the first time Habu won one of the seven major titles making him, at the time, the youngest titleholder ever. Although he lost the Ryu-oh title to Tanigawa the following year, Habu won the Kioh championship four months later in 1991. Since then he has held at least one of the seven major titles every year since then, and according to custom of the titleholder system he has, therefore, never been referred to by his dan ranking since winning that first championship in 1989.

Accumulating three wins in major championships (Ryu-oh in 1989, Kioh in 1991 and 1992), Habu actually did qualify for promotion to 9-dan in March 1992, but the existing promotion rules required him to be promoted to 8-dan first and then to wait one year before his next promotion. He was officially promoted to 9-dan on April 1, 1994.

In 1992 Habu won the Oza championship defeating Bungo Fukuzaki to hold two titles (Kioh and Oza) simultaneously. He went on to hold the Oza title for 19 terms in a row. In 1996 (February 14 to July 30), Habu became the first professional to ever hold all seven major titles (Ryu-oh, Meijin, Kisei, Oi, Oza, Kioh, and Osho) at the same time, a remarkable feat that has not been duplicated since.

In July 2012, Habu won his 81st shogi title overall when he won in the Kisei title, becoming 1st on the all-time title-winners list, and surpassing the 80 of the late Yasuharu Oyama.

In June 2014, Habu defeated the defending Meijin Toshiyuki Moriuchi four games to none to become the 72nd Meijin. Habu lost his Meijin title to Moriuchi in 2011 (69th Meijin match) and was unable to defeat Moriuchi and regain the title in both 2012 (70th Meijin match) and 2013 (71st Meijin match). By defeating Moriuchi, Habu not only moved into a tie with both Moriuchi and Yoshio Kimura for third place on the all time Meijin winner's list, he also became the first person the recapture the title for the third time.

In November 2014, Habu won his 1300 official game, becoming the fourth player to do so, the youngest player to do so (44 years and 1 month) and the fastest player to do since turning professional (28 years and 11 months). Habu's win came in his 1801 game as a professional and his winning percentage of 72.3 percent at the time is the all-time highest of any professional player to reach 1300 wins to date.

Personal life

In March 1996, Habu married actress and singer Rie Hatada at Hato no Mori Hachiman Shrine in Sendagaya, Tokyo not far from the head office of the Japan Shogi Association. The two had met for the first time in September 1994 and officially announced their engagement in July 1995. It was reported that 80 police officers were assigned to the ceremony due to the popularity of the two. As of 2012, they have two daughters. He is also one of the best chess players in Japan, with an Elo rating of 2415 (February 2014).

Promotion history

The promotion history of Habu is as follows:

Titles and other championships

Major titles

There are 7 major titles in shogi. Below is a list of number of times and years Habu has won each title.

Title Years Number of times overall
Ryu-oh 1989, 1992, 1994-95, 2001-02 6
Meijin 1994-96, 2003, 2008-10, 2014-15 (current) 9
Kisei 1993-95, 2000, 2008-2015 (current) 14
Oi 1993-2001, 2004-06, 2011-15 (current) 17
Oza 1992-2010, 2012-15 (current) 23
Kioh 1991-2002, 2005 13
Osho 1996-2001, 2003, 2005-09 12

Lifetime titles (qualified for, but awarded upon retirement or death): Lifetime Meijin, Lifetime Kisei, Lifetime Oi, Lifetime Oza, Lifetime Kioh, Lifetime Osho.

Holds the record number of title match victories for the following titles: Oi, Oza, Kioh

Holds the record number of consecutive title match victories for the following titles: Kisei, Oza, Kioh

Other tournaments

In addition to major titles, Habu has won the following non-title tournaments.

Tournament Years Number of times
Tatsujin-sen 2011-12 2
Asahi Cup Open 2009, 2011, 2013-14 4
*Asahi Open 2003-06 4
*All Nihon Pro 1990, 1992, 1998 3
Ginga-sen 1997-98, 2000-01, 2004, 2006, 2012 7
NHK Cup 1989, 1992, 1997-99, 2001, 2008-11 10
*Hayazashi Senshuken 1992, 1995, 2002 3
Nihon Series 1991, 1998, 2003, 2010-11 5
Shinjin-Oh 1988 1
*All Star Kachinuki-sen 1988, 1990, 1997, 1999 4
*Tenno-sen 1987-88 2
*Young Lions 1987, 1989 2

Lifetime titles: Lifetime NHK Cup Champion

Note: Tournaments marked with an asterisk (*) are no longer held.


Habu's has received the following awards in recognition of his accomplishments throughout his career. The "Annual shogi awards" are awarded by the Japan Shogi Association, or JSA, to its members each year in recognition of performance during official play throughout the previous professional shogi year or shogi"nendo" (年度) (April 1 to March 31). "Other awards" includes those awarded by the JSA for career accomplishments and those awarded governmental organizations, etc. for contributions made to Japanese society.

Annual shogi awards

Other awards

Year-end prize money rankings

Since 1993, Habu has finished at the top of the year-end prize money rankings a total of 20 times (1993-1996, 1998-2012, 2014) and second twice (1997 and 2013). All amounts are given in Japanese yen and consist of tournament winnings and other game fees received during the calendar year (January 1 to December 31).


Habu has written numerous books, articles, etc. on shogi and various other topics. The vast majority of these works are in Japanese, but a few have been written especially for non-Japanese readers. Below is a select list of Habu's works.

Books in Japanese

- (April 1992). Kyūsen Shikenbisha Yaburi Part 1 急戦四間飛車破り Part 1 [Defeating the Quick Attack Fourth-file Rook Part 1]. ISBN 978-4819703154. 
- (June 1992). Kyūsen Shikenbisha Yaburi Part 2 急戦四間飛車破り Part2 [Defeating the Quick Attack Fourth-file Rook Part 2]. ISBN 978-4819703116. 
- (August 1992). Kyūsen, Nakabisha-Sangenbisha Yaburi 急戦、中飛車・三間飛車破り! [Defeating the Quick Attack Central Rook and Third-file Rook]. ISBN 978-4819703123. 
- (October 1992). Ibisha Anaguma to Hidari Minō 居飛車穴熊と左美濃 [Static Rook Anaguma and Left Mino]. ISBN 978-4819703130. 
- (January 1993). Saikyō Yagura - Gote Kyūsen to San Nana Gin Senpō 最強矢倉・後手急戦と3七銀戦法 [The Strongest Yagura - White Quick Attack and Silver 3g System]. ISBN 978-4819703147. 
- (May 1993). Saikyō Yagura - Morishita Shisutemu 最強矢倉・森下システム [The Strongest Yagura - Morishita System]. ISBN 978-4819703109. 
- (September 1993). Kakugawari Saizensen 角換わり最前線 [Cutting Edge Bishop Exchange]. ISBN 978-4819703161. 
- (March 1994). Saishin no Hineribisha 最新のヒネリ飛車 [Latest Twisting Rook]. ISBN 978-4819703178. 
- (September 1994). Gekisen! Yokofudori 激戦! 横歩取り [Ultra Sharp! Side Pawn Capture]. ISBN 978-4819703208. 
- (December 1994). Saishin no Yokofudori Senpō 最新の横歩取り戦法 [Latest Side Pawn Capture System]. ISBN 978-4819703215. 
- (December 2003). Fu no Tesuji 歩の手筋 [Pawn Tactics]. ISBN 978-4819703727. 
- (April 2004). Kin, Gin no Tesuji 金銀の手筋 [Gold and Silver Tactics]. ISBN 978-4819703758. 
- (September 2004). Gyoku, Kei, Kyō no Tesuji 玉桂香の手筋 [King, Knight and Lance Tactics]. ISBN 978-4819703772. 
- (December 2004). Hi, Kaku no Tesuji 飛角の手筋 [Rook and Bishop Tactics]. ISBN 978-4819703796. 
- (June 2006). Gyoku no Kakoikata 玉の囲い方 [Castling Methods]. ISBN 978-4819703833. 
- (March 2007). Shikake 仕掛け [Attacking]. ISBN 978-4819703857. 

Video games

Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy