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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.
The three Chinese pro's and 2 newspaper reporters are sitting around one of the boards in the pressroom where I decided to spend the day of the third game. Originally, I intended to also have a look at the local ki-in to listen to Hane Naoki analyzing. Finally, however, some Japanese strong pro's (Nakano 9p, Yamashiro 9p, Shimojima 7p) decided to get from behind their PC's and join the fun. So instead of trying to catch what the Chinese pro's and the Korean delegations are talking about I now could listen in with the local talent.


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Fig 1

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 comparison.

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, isn't it?
Sakai: Yes, that is true, the fighting is continuous and feels very dangerous.
Iwata: In games like this the slightest slip up can easely cost you the game, I think most players in Japan are unwilling to take the risk of losing a game like that and therefore play more solid.

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.

Fig 2 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 be said.

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 territory.

Fig 3

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.
dia09a dia09b

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 (21!).

Fig 4 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

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