Lee Sedol gets off to a good start
Lee Sedol won the first game of the match on December 11. It was such a spectacular and thrilling game to watch.
Gu Li took the lead in the late opening, and he maintained it until the endgame.
Even though there were so many trades and exchanges throughout the game, Lee wasn’t able catch up until the game was almost finished.
However, Gu made several small mistakes, and Lee eventually reversed the game to win by half a point.
Update: I’ve commented game 1 of the 17th Samsung Cup final here.
Gu Li fights back
Gu Li seemed to be dispirited after losing, but he won the next game on the following day (December 12), scoring a one sided victory over Lee.
Gu took the lead in the opening, as usual, and Lee couldn’t catch up, even though he tried his best.
Gu Li showed his deep and profound reading, and there didn’t seem to be a single chance for Lee in the whole game.
It was an absolute victory for Gu Li, and the atmosphere of the match changed.
A nailbiting final game
On the following day (December 13) the final game of the match was played.
Lee Sedol played black, and he took an early lead for the first time in the series.
Both players showed us their unique and brilliant intuition, and the position favored Lee.
However, Gu Li’s middle game was excellent and he managed to reverse the game.
After Gu took the lead, he made some tiny mistakes in the endgame and Lee was able to claw his way back, little by little.
The game became incredibly close, at which point Gu made a crucial endgame mistake, and Lee eventually reversed the game to win by half a point.
Gu Li’s Achilles’ heel
Many people say Gu Li is the best Go player in the world, but the endgame is his ‘Achilles’ heel’.
He’s lost so many important games in the endgame, and it affected two of his games in this final. That’s very unfortunate for Gu.
Lee Sedol wins the Samsung Cup
As a result, Lee won the final series by a total of just 1 point (0.5 + 0.5) and takes home the 17th Samsung Cup! That’s amazing!
Congratulations Lee Sedol.
A rematch of sorts
Lee Sedol and Gu Li already played one another in the round of 32 (group stage), and their first game was ruled a draw as a result of a quadruple ko.
It was the very first time such a thing had happened in the history of international Go tournaments.
Gu won the rematch and Lee had to win one more game to survive their group. He did, and they both fought their way through the remaining matches to meet again in the final.
Gu Li still leads by one game
After this final, the head to head record between Gu and Lee so far is 17–1–16 in Gu’s favor.
Friends and rivals
Many Go fans expected that this final would be very special.
Lee Sedol’s currently ranked #1 in Korea, and he’s already won 14 international titles throughout his career.
On the other hand, Gu Li’s currently ranked #10 in China, but most Go fans regard him as China’s #1. He’s won 7 international titles so far.
Both players are the same age and they seem to be good rivals, who learn a lot from each other.
In that sense, we can say they’re both very lucky, and happy, to have such a good rival and friend at the same time.
I hope to watch more of their exciting and spectacular games together for a long time into the future.
The Samsung Cup
The Samsung Cup first started in 1996 and uses a rather convoluted draw. Though, arguably, it is fairer than a straight knockout format.
The 32 players in the main draw are split into 8 groups of 4. Players must win two games in order to proceed from the first stage; two players from each group will advance to the knockout stage.
In some ways it’s similar to the group stage of the FIFA World Cup, except that only two wins are necessary to continue.
The round of 16 and the quarter finals are played as a straight knockout.
The semifinals and the final are played as a best of three matches.
Samsung is a well known Korean conglomerate.