Well, to be honest I feel embarrassed. Korea now has won both the first and the second Toyota-Denso Cup (=World Oza). I hope that next year a player from Japan will lay hands on the title.
With trembling hands, which did not seem to know where to go Chang Hao watched the board, witness of his defeat, in state of shock. Only yesterday it was his opponent Lee SeDol who by losing the second game of the match was visibly shaken badly and perhaps on the verge of a nerves break down judging by his unsteady eyes and nervous posture. It is safe to say that when such a high-level pro game like this is finished both players are out of touch with the world around them for a period of time. At that moment to have won is the perfect medicine to get back to earth fast and feel good and sure about everything and especially your own achievement. On the other hand, in this fragile state of mind to accept a negative result is harsh and probably enough reason to doubt everything and, if only for a moment, close to become unhinged.
Being a go pro is not only about being skillful at the game. It is the mental strength to stay focused during a game and the power to keep yourself together regardless the result.
The Chinese team still on a high from yesterday's
victory cheerfully greets the referee of the final match
"Hey, Iwata, how long has it been? About 40 years since
the last time you came to visit us. Come on, don't be
bashful, here sit down in the middle" a chair was made
ready and tea was brought for the oldest active pro
and the most respected one in Nagoya, Iwata Tatsuaki
9p. He was one of Kitani's pupils in the early days of
the most successful dojo of the 20th century. Although
Iwata sensei is almost 80 years old he's still very
strong. All the same, when I asked a younger pro about
Iwata's playing strength he confided that Iwata does
not have the energy anymore to sit through a long game
so he tries to play fast and decide the game within
a couple of hours. The time allowance for pro's in
Japan is getting shorter and shorter, adapting to the
international go-scene. I guess that eventually most
pro games are likely to end up with 3 hours per person.
For now, however, there are still games played with 5
hours per person (or longer for two-day top games) so
sometimes games can go on until late at night.
Click the icon to use the online replay facility to progress the game move by move.
I asked Shimojima about the game move 26, the white
cut at the 4-6 point. "Biggest point on the board, no
doubt about it" was his reply. "What about playing like
this, going after the black stones on a large scale?" I
continued. "Well, I don't like it, there is no single
move to follow up with for white. It would be nice if
there was a move for white to once and for all make the
upper left his indisputable territory but I don't think
there is one. For example if black plays tenuki and
white jumps or something it is obvious that there is
enough life left in the black stones to either run to
the center or make eyes locally. The game move is best;
connecting the cut at the bottom is way too small in
White 32 is an excellent move. Most textbooks probably
will tell you that dia 2 is the way to go but when I
showed this to Shimojima he commented "uninteresting for
white, white is invading the upper part of the board to
gain something since the black position is thin". In Dia
2 white is not as much concerned with gaining as he is
worried about getting settled as fast as possible. This
way of thinking is not wrong I think but for (top) pro's
only going for safety is not good enough :-)
Related to this I'll give here a conversation I could listen in on between the current director of the local ki-in, Sakai 7p and said Iwata 9p.
Iwata: Well, this kind of play (not wanting to spend
a lot of moves on settling stones but getting in the
opponent's hair) is not much seen in Japan nowadays,
Game move black 45 is excellent. Pulling back playing B
as in dia 3 is totally uninteresting shape for black,
it does not create proper eye shape. Black would either
want to play at 1 or A, it was not clear if either of
those is better than the other.
The sequence at the top where black lets go of three
stones but settles the rest was very impressive. The
pro's gathered hadn't managed to even predict one move
correctly here but once the situation more or less was
played out they all were struck with awe.
By the way, when I wrote that the black stones at the
top are settled I meant it. For the time being there is
nothing white can do to try to attack. All of you, of
course, saw that white cannot try to escape playing 1 in
dia 4. After white fills in with 11 there is no way
he can avoid being caught in a ladder.
For white to play 68 at 1 in dia 5 is another likely
move. The analyzing pro's agreed however that black 2
here would make an excellent move so white preferred the
game move to dia 5.
White 86 was unexpected; everybody had expected this
move at 89. I must apologize for skimpy explanations
here but frankly the fight at the right is too hard for
me to write some fullproof comments about. The pro's of
three countries gathered seemed to feel the same and
besides the finalists nobody seemed to have a clear idea
of what exactly was going on :-) It probably will take a
week or so before the final word on the right side can
All through the after game analyzing and when
interviewed (3 times!) too Lee SeDol remained extremely
modest. He honestly seemed to feel he didn't deserve to
win this game and explained that Chang Hao just plays
better. Next Lee showed the moment he felt he could
get back in the game. He said that if black would have
played 95 as in dia 6 white can do nothing but something
like 2 after which 3 is perfect, threatening to make
the center as well as the lower side into solid black
According to most black 1 would have been the sharpest
move instead of game move 103 but again this is also a
matter of playing style. Black 103 is a rock-solid move
and typical for Chang's style (as is black 109).
Although Lee SeDol didn't seem to think so the general
consensus was that black 115 is too slack. When I asked
to strongest Chinese pro about this move he said "Yes,
it is slow but you can't say that it is a bad move, it
is obviously worth a lot of points". All the same, black
still had the chance to continue attacking the white
stones with a move like, for example, black 1 in dia 8.
For white to cut at 133 after black played 119 is very
attractive, if successful it would mean easy life for
white. Yamashiro sensei explained why this probably not
a good idea. In dia 9a after white 1 black extends his
stone once in order to set up an excellent squeeze. It
is a one-way street from there on and in dia 9b you can
see that after white 10 white must connect making a
heavy eyeless shape.
After white 140 white has managed what many thought
was next to impossible, while making eyes and settling
himself, totally destroying the black territory at the
bottom. Lee's genius latest example, black could not
bring up the strength anymore to stop the young Korean
Lee ChangHo still is the undisputed No.1 in Korea but
Lee SeDol is coming on hard. Lee SeDol himself said "My
goal? To learn from strong players like Chang Hao and to
one day overtake ChangHo!
Copyright © Pieter Mioch January 2005