||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia. (March 2011)|
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 a local shogi club, Hachioji Shogi Club, the next summer, in 1978. Although Habu was eliminated at the preliminary stage of his first tournament with 1 win and 2 losses, from October 1978 his parents took him to the shogi club every weekend. At Hachioji Shogi Club, Habu improved so rapidly that he was promoted to amateur 5-dan, near the highest amateur rank, in October 1981 at the age of 11.
During his elementary school days, Habu regularly participated in regional shogi tournaments, mainly for children. At these tournaments, Habu eventually 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. He expressed his desire to become a professional player and asked advice from Katsuyasu Nakajima, the owner of the Hachioji Shogi Club and a pupil of Tatsuya Futakami. As Futakami's pupil, Habu applied for the Shoreikai  and was accepted as an aspirant professional in 1982.
Habu became a 4-dan professional in 1985 at the age of 14. He was the third "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 Habu's first victory in one of the seven major titles and thus he became the youngest titleholder ever at that time. The next year he lost the Ryu-oh title to Tanigawa but four months later, in 1991, Habu won the Kioh championship. Since then he has won at least one of the seven major titles every year as of 2012, and according to custom of the titleholder system he has, therefore, never been referred to by his dan ranking since winning the Ryu-oh 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. In 1996 (February 14 to July 30), Habu achieved the remarkable feat of holding simultaneously all seven major titles (Ryu-oh, Meijin, Kisei, Oi, Oza, Kioh, and Osho).
In July 2012, Habu won his 81st shogi championship title in the Kisei Championship, becoming 1st on the all-time title-winners list, surpassing the late Yasuharu Oyama who won a total of 80 titles .
In 1996 Habu married the actress Rie Hatada, who retired from her career after marriage. 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).
- 1982, December 2: 6-kyu
- 1983, February 2: 5-kyu (6 wins, 3 losses)
- 1983, March 28: 4-kyu (6 wins, no losses)
- 1983, May 11: 3-kyu: (6 wins, no losses)
- 1983, July 7: 2-kyu: (6 wins, no losses)
- 1983, August 24: 1-kyu: (6 wins, no losses)
- 1984, January 11: 1-dan (12 wins, 4 losses)
- 1984, September 10: 2-dan (14 wins, 5 losses)
- 1985, April 25: 3-dan (12 wins, 4 losses)
- 1985, December 12: 4-dan (13 wins, 4 losses)
- 1988, April 1: 5-dan (promoted to C1-class Meijinsen)
- 1989, October 1: 6-dan (being the Ryu-oh challenger)
- 1990, October 1: 7-dan (being Ryu-oh title holder himself)
- 1993, April 1: 8-dan (promoted to A-class Meijinsen)
- 1994, April 1: 9-dan (one year after of 8-dan promotion, having got qualified earlier to the 9-dan on accumulation of three major titles)
Titles and other championships
|Title||Years Held||Number of titles|
|Ryu-oh||1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002||6|
|Meijin||1994–1996, 2003, 2008–2010||7|
|Kisei||1993–1995, 2000, 2008–2013 (present)||12|
|Oi||1993–2001, 2004–2006, 2011-2012 (present)||14|
|Oza||1992–2010, 2012-2013 (present)||21|
|Osho||1996–2001, 2003, 2005–2009||12|
Lifetime titles (qualified for, but awarded upon retirement or death): Lifetime (Eisei) Meijin, Lifetime Kisei, Lifetime Oi, Lifetime Oza, Lifetime Kioh, Lifetime Osho.
- Non-title tournaments
|Asahi Open||1989, 1991, 1998, 2004–2007, 2009, 2011|
|NHK Cup||1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2008-2011|
|Nihon Series||1991, 1998, 2003, 2010-2011|
|Ginga-sen||1997, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006|
|Hayazashi Senshuken||1992, 1995|
Lifetime titles: Lifetime NHK Cup Champion
- Habu Meijin no Omoshiro Shōgi - Super Famicom video game
- Saikyō Habu Shōgi - Nintendo 64 video game
- Habu Yoshiharu Shogi de Kitaeru: Ketsudanryoku DS - Nintendo DS video game
- i HABU Shogi - iPhone/iPod
- 炬口勝弘 「羽生善治、生い立ちの記」、『将棋世界 ［4月臨時増刊号］七冠王、羽生善治。』 日本将棋連盟、1996年、168-175頁