Tang Weixing defeats Lee Sedol in 2013 Samsung Cup – China sweeps international Go in 2013

The 2013 Samsung Cup final was played on December 10 and 11, 2013, at the Shilla Hotel in Suzhou, China.

Tang Weixing 3p defeated Lee Sedol 9p 2-0 in the final, becoming a new world champion and a new 9 dan professional Go player.

New world champion: Tang Weixing

Tang Weixing 2 2013 Samsung Cup Final 300x448 picture

Tang Weixing 9 dan won his first world championship and was promoted from 3 dan to 9 dan.

Not many people expected Tang Weixing to defeat Lee Sedol, because this was Tang’s first appearance in an international final and he’s not yet well known among Go fans.

However, Tang won the first game of the final by half a point, and went on to win the second game too, by resignation.

Samsung Cup final – Game 1

In the first game of the final, Tang took the lead in the middle game, and Lee tried very hard to catch up in the endgame.

There was a chance for Lee to reverse the game near the end, but Lee didn’t quite catch up, and Tang saved the game by the smallest of margins.

Samsung Cup final – Game 2

In the second game, Tang once again took the lead in the middle game and played very safely afterwards.

Lee fought fiercely to catch up, and he nearly did, but he made a mistake in the endgame and couldn’t quite make it.

In the end, Lee was losing by 1.5 points, but he resigned.

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Lee Sedol 9 dan plays the second game of the 2013 Samsung Cup final.

Tang Weixing

Tang Weixing 2013 Samsung Cup Final 300x448 picture

Tang Weixing.

Tang Weixing was born in 1993, and became a pro in 2005.

In 2012, Tang proceeded to the semifinals of the 1st Bailing Cup, and he won 2nd place in the 13th Liguang Cup. The winner of both those tournaments was Zhou Ruiyang 9p.

In 2013, Tang won the Men’s individual division of 4th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games.

En route to the final of the 2013 Samsung, Tang defeated Park Younghun 9p, Kim Jiseok 9p and Shi Yue 9p, and eventually managed to defeat none other than Lee Sedol, with two straight wins in the final.

China sweep major international titles in 2013

Chinese players won six of the major international Go tournaments in 2013.

The only international tournament that didn’t succumb to the Chinese wave was the 25th Asian TV Cup (a more minor lightning Go event), which Japan’s Iyama Yuta successfully snatched in June.

Zhou Ruiyang 9p won the 1st Bailing Cup, Shi Yue 9p won the 17th LG Cup, Fan Tingyu 9p won the 7th Ing Cup, Chen Yaoye 9p won the 9th Chunlan Cup, Mi Yuting 9p won the 1st MLily Cup and, finally, Tang Weixing 9p won the 18th Samsung Cup.

Tang Weixing Autograph 2013 Samsung Cup Final 550x412 picture

Tang Weixing is in high demand – giving autographs to fans.

The winners from 2013 were nearly all born in the 90s, with the only exception being Chen Yaoye (who was born in 1989). We can expect this generation of players to become even stronger over the next few years.

This isn’t good news for Japanese and Korean pros, and many Go fans in Asia are worried that the Chinese players will soon dominate the international Go scene the way they do in sports like table tennis.

Some fans fear that this could make the Go world less exciting than before and be bad for the game of Go as a whole.

Korean players have won at least one international tournament per year from 1996 through to 2012, but 2013 has seen the end of that run.

Lee Sedol’s defeat

Lee Sedol was in a good form in the second half of 2013, but he played in too many domestic, official matches shortly before this final and it made him physically exhausted.

Lee had a few days break just before the final, but he didn’t seem to be completely ready to compete.

In both games, he missed several good chances towards the end of the game – the kind of opportunities which he rarely missed in the past.

Lee Sedol’s style of play is very unique, and it’s usually very hard for live commentators to predict Lee’s next move. However, in this final, many of his moves were predicted by commentators.

That’s not a good sign for Lee, because if Lee’s moves are no longer unique or special, it means that other pros can anticipate and read out what he’s thinking too.

Lee Sedol 7 2013 Samsung Cup Final 550x368 picture

Is Lee Sedol losing his edge?

When Lee Sedol almost retired and took his 6 month leave of absence in 2009, it was partly because he was exhausted.

One of the issues that led to tensions in the Korean Baduk world was that Lee thought that the match schedule for top players was too demanding and enervating, and he wanted an exemption from the Korean Baduk League.

After Lee came back from his break in 2010, it seemed like he was stronger than ever. However, it seems that now his mental and physical stamina has been worn down again.

I hope that Lee Sedol and Gu Li will both be able to rest and recover, and bring their best Go to their jubango in January 2014.

Following the path of Lee Changho?

Anyway, the results from this year, and the 2013 Samsung Cup in particular, have been very disappointing for Korean Baduk fans.

Some fans fear that Lee Sedol is following the same pattern that Lee Changho did earlier.

Lee Sedol 6 2013 Samsung Cup Final 550x368 picture

Korean fans fear that Lee Sedol is following the same path that Lee Changho did earlier.

Lee Changho was the strongest player in the world in 2005, but he was defeated by Luo Xihe 9p in the final of the 10th Samsung Cup and he never really came back again.

Lee Changho took 2nd place 10 times in international tournaments afterwards, but he never won again.

Lee Sedol was defeated by Chen Yaoye in the final of the Chunlan Cup this year, and he was defeated again in this Samsung Cup. It’s reminded Korean Baduk fans about Lee Changho and they’re not happy about that.

Interviews with Tang Weixing and Lee Sedol

There were interviews with the players after the final concluded. The following is my translation:

Tang Weixing

How are you feeling now?

I’m very happy to win, but to be honest, I don’t really feel anything at the moment. There was a very good chance for Lee to win, and I’m still coming to terms with it.

Could you please comment on both games from the final?

I thought I was leading by a lot in the first game, but Lee’s play in the second half of the game was amazing, and I felt his power in that game.

In the second game, Lee had a very good chance near the end, but he missed it. I suspect he wasn’t in top physical shape for this final, and I had the advantage in that respect.

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Tang Weixing gives a post game interview.

Were you confident about this final?

All the younger players beat the older ones in the finals this year. In particular, players born in the 90s have done very well. When I saw them winning the world championships, I thought “I can do that too.”

I was very lucky in this Samsung Cup. The game was hopeless against Shi Yue, in the semifinals, but I was able to reverse it at the end, and then I thought I still had a chance to win.

Even though I’m not yet at Lee Sedol’s level, I’ve been luckier in this final.

However, other young Chinese players who’ve won world championships this year don’t seem to be doing that well afterwards.

What’s the matter, and what should they do to win again?

I think it’s because everybody’s become stronger these days.

You have to be very lucky to win a tournament in this environment, and if one wants to win again, he has to keep going and make himself stronger, to overwhelm other top players.

I don’t think there’s any other way.

Lee Sedol

How was the second game?

I thought the opening was alright, but I misread something in the middle game, and the game became bad. I had a good chance to reverse the game at the end, but I missed it.

Many of your fans expected you to win, how do you feel now?

I can’t be happy with myself now. It’s regrettable.

Congratulations to Tang though!

Lee Sedol 2 2013 Samsung Cup Final 550x368 picture

Lee Sedol.

This was the first time you’ve played against Tang Weixing, how do you feel about him?

He’s strong, and he won a world championship.

However, he allowed some opportunities for the games to be reversed, even though I failed to grasp them at the time.

If he can improve the way he plays when he’s winning, I think he’ll become even stronger in the future.

Could you please summarize the final for us?

I missed very critical chances in both games. I think it’s because of a lack of concentration. I’ll try not to do it again.

I feel awkward being interviewed as the runner up, and I hope to give an interview again as a winner in the future.

Chinese and Korean media reaction

The Chinese media

After the final, the Chinese media said that four final matches were played between Chinese and Korean players this year, and that two #1 players from Korea – Lee Sedol and Park Junghwan 9p – were defeated by young Chinese players.

According to them, this means China dominates not only in terms of the quantity, but also the quality of players.

Chinese Weiqi has already overtaken Korean Baduk, because of the 90s generation players.

Chinese players have won 24 international titles so far, but it’s still far behind what Korea has achieved over the years – 55 international titles in total.

However, the Chinese media are confident that China will overtake Korea on this measure as well, in the future.

Press 2013 Samsung Cup Final 550x317 picture

The Asian Go media.

The Korean media

On the other hand, the Korean media criticized the Korean Baduk Association (KBA) and called for them to reform the system.

Under the current system, it’s already hard to compete with China’s young and talented players, and it will keep getting harder in the future if nothing is done.

Dr Bai Taeil, who’s a professor at Stanford and also an expert in Go rankings, insists that KBA need to have a system that allows young talented children to become pros from an early age, in order to compete with similarly trained Chinese players.

Currently young talented players in Korea are held back from becoming pros earlier by older yeongusaeng who are only stronger because they’ve been playing for longer (yeongusaeng is the Korean word for insei – a person studying to become a professional Go player).

Dr Bai believes that there’s no way to compete with Chinese players (and the Chinese training system) without implementing these reforms.

Dr Bai and others have also been critical about the increased prominence of lightning tournaments on the Korean domestic circuit.

These tournaments are designed to cater to a TV audience, but many people (including Lee Sedol himself) believe that they condition players to analyze the game on a more superficial level and crush the creativity which has been Korea’s greatest strength up until now.

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.

The time limit for games is 2 hours and 5 x 1 minute byo-yomi.

Samsung is a well known Korean conglomerate.

2013 Samsung Cup photos

Game records

Tang Weixing vs Lee Sedol – Game 1

Download SGF File (Go Game Record)

Lee Sedol vs Tang Weixing – Game 2

Download SGF File (Go Game Record)

About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He won the 'Prize of Victory of the Year' in 1998 for winning 18 consecutive pro games. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now runs Younggil's Go School in Sydney, Australia and writes at Go Game Guru. You can find Younggil on Google+ and follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

Comments

  1. It has seemed clear for some time to from reading about the pro scene here at ggg that a wave of Chinese players of the 90s has been poised to overwhelm the go scene.

    It makes me a bit sad because it does not give players from around the world hope that they too could be the best some day. Go seems to have long suffered from this ’1 country’ syndrome: first Japan, then Korea and now China.

    On the other hand it is wonderful to see a crop of young players all very strong and each one-upping the other. That’s very exciting!

    Setting aside the world of the pros, I just wish there was a way to dramatically increase the popularity of go around the world.

  2. Justin Teng says:

    I think Korea definitely needs to do something to fight back, otherwise it’ll be very difficult to continue competing on even grounds with China. Japan has kind of started looking at ways to improve its international scene, and it has already showed some results this year. I’m no expert on Go politics, but considering how Korea is already at a disadvantage just in raw terms of numbers (China I believe has a much larger talent pool to begin with), some radical changes will probably have to be made. Even though I’m Chinese, I love watching Korean pros’ games, and I hope they can have more success in 2014 (starting with a Nongshim cup miracle).

  3. GREAT ARTICLE! Thank you!
    I have just one question: game 2, move 24. Isnt it overconcentrated?

    • Yes, but you can’t let black play there or his shape is too strong. After white stands black has a shape problem at 3-3. Black r9 could also be considered a little overconcentrated so each player’s inefficiencies sort of cancel out for a fair result.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Uberdude for the nice explanation. :)

  4. Lee Sedol has been playing a lots of finals in the time being, I don’t think he is getting down. It’s like Germany in Football, they were not always worldchampions but there were in a lot of final games. Lee Sedol is always there, very high

  5. Great reporting, thanks!

  6. I have looked over many of these recent games with young Chinese players and they seem to have a very different feel than games from 2-4 years ago. They seem more aggressive, but not in a fighting way. There are not big fights necessary, but rather many little ones. Has anyone else noticed this?

  7. I really enjoyed this article – fascinating insights into the games and the international scene. Thanks!

  8. The Korean and Japanese players must first get new haircuts. Look at the Chinese players: they all have adult hair style and look sharp. The Koreans and the Japanese look downright prepubescent with their silly bowl cut. How can you expect to win and be taken seriously when you look like a bunch of sissies?

  9. I think it is impossible to generalise the player’s style but it seem to me that the game of Chinese player seem to be more creative ,seem like a mix bag of good style from the past like Lee Chang Ho at the core ,equipped with Lee Sedol punch and had a ligthing footwork of Cho Chikun .

  10. What we may see here is more randomness. In my experience with watchign top sports, having many different winners is a sign of levelling downwards, having just one winner is a sign of weak competition (see Iyama in Japan), while having two or three winners is a sign of geniuses pushing each other higher up.

    This is what we can observe in today’s male tennis, or at least a couple of years back, when Federer had reached his peak, while Nadal was already his rival and Djokovic was busy overcoming these two. There were times when multiple players won a grand slam and they definitely do not count as the highlight of tennis.

    Similarly, when Go & Sakata, or Go & Kitani, then Kitani’s pupils Cho & Kobayashi, then the Korean emergence of Cho, Seo & Lee and later the Lee-Lee rivalries highlighted the scene, the level of play was undoubtably very high. Today, no single player is able to dominate the scene, not even a threesome can be pointed out as leading players. Youngsters are stumbling over each others’ feet, taking titles and obsoleting the hierarchy.

    I think we should listen more closely to what Lee Sedol has to say about it: the schedule’s too busy, the games are too fast, the conditions are in general not optimal. I think this causes more randomness: the compound of flukes, upsets or half pointers can easily obstruct the full deployment of genius and oppose two finalists who are not significantly better than those eliminated but rather get their spot through the accumulated luck of winning close games.

    It’s good that 2014 will feature a 10 game match, between Lee Sedol and Gu Li, even if they’re not clearly today’s best anymore, not internationally or in their country. They have shown to be potential geniuses in the past, fostering a rivalry between them. The rivalry could not blossom through the sterile conditions of international go. 2014 will show if these players reach the peak of their go, through the initially somewhat artificial setup, but gradually stimulating each other towards new and unknown heights.

    • As much as people like to call go or chess “mind sports”, they’re just not comparable to physical sports. At least not completely.

      Go, at its heart, is really just a mathematics problem. Find the optimal path/paths with the given rules.

      We see that go is developing in a way much like scientific research; back in the day, we had geniuses like Newton or Einstein or Galileo, who single-handedly changed our paradigm on science. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen anymore. With so much information available to us, and convenient communication systems such as the internet, scientific discoveries as well as techological inventions are now more of a collaboration work by many top scientists. It’s become almost impossible for a single scientist to know enough about all the relevant fields to make an Earth-scattering discovery by himself.

      Similarly, we see that today’s go is more of a collaboration between top pros and computer calculations, to get closer to the most optimal route that certainly exists. There is too much knowledge now for any single person or few players to really be far above everyone else.

      It doesn’t mean the overall quality has declined, though.

      • “Similarly, we see that today’s go is more of a collaboration between top pros and computer calculations,”
        No.

        • A very convincing argument you’ve put fourth, uberdude. No one can argue against that.

          • More words don’t make a better argument. How about you presenting some evidence that computers, which are still very weak compared to pros, are helping them?

  11. @Bobiscool: I’ll address a couple of points in your post.

    First of all, despite there being no physical skills required in Go, I still think it compares better to other sports than to scientific activity. There are games with limited time, there is a winner and a loser and there is overall competition. It depends on what you want to compare the activities for. I made the comparison with tennis to make a point about the effect of synchronous high level competition. When you want to find out what happens in the brain, then math may be a good field for comparison.

    Then you make the claim that today geniuses like Newton and Einstein do not surface because there is too much information to process for a single person. I think something different is going on: in the fields of mechanical physics, most important discoveries have already been made. These have had enormous impact on mankind, which is why Newton and Einstein have acquired such fame.

    Similarly the geniuses of Von Neumann and Turing have been appreciated for the enormous impact of their concepts in information technology. Today the human brain and DNA are at the centre of discoveries. We don’t know enough yet, but someone like Jeff Hawkins may later be celebrated for his Hierarchical Temporal Memory concept. Scientific discoveries form an S-curve. Todays mechanics and ICT may be researched by teams mostly. There however is no real proof that individual genius is being systematically replaced by teams, in all fields of science.

    Last but not least, all the anecdotal evidence we have is that top pros still train in the same fashion as did the traditional go houses of Japan, i.e. they gather and study old games, pro games and new variations. We have no reports or evidence about pros using computer databases or strong programs. They may occasionally and increasingly do so but apparently it still pays off better to team up with the best humans around.

  12. Trong Cuong Le says:

    Hi Youngil An,
    What is different between Korea’s style go and China’s Style go?
    Thank.

    • Younggil An says:

      It’s hard to define. My feeling is that Chinese style of Go is more concerned about the opening and generally more complicated and variable. On the other hand, Korean style of Go is tidier compare to Chinese.

  13. Mike Mountainchild says:

    I suggest, that popularizing the game of go in the west should not be the responsibility of any great player from the west. All we need to do is play outside on a board, and let the people see, and they’ll decide what do. No one will care much, but us go players, to see Lee Sedol(or any other great) standing behind a podium giving a speech about the promotion of go in the west.
    2-0! Ouch… I haven’t played through the games yet, gotta go!
    I hope I didn’t offend anybody.
    This is the best go site I’ve been on yet, I’ve just discovered it. I think I’ll settle my stones here, whatever that means.

    • Mike Mountainchild says:

      first sentence*(any great player from the east.)

      • If you travel far enough to the west, you reach the east.

        As far as popularising the game, I very much agree with you: go out and play for fun where many people see you playing, and let them try playing too. Nothing sophisticated, just a lot of effort by many, for a long period of time.

        Kind regards,
        Paul

  14. Can an amateur that is not from the big 4 Go countries(China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan) join a professional tournament like this?

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes and no. In general, no amateur players from other countries are allowed to join, but some international tournaments invite few selected players from other continents. It’s possible, but very rare.

    • And even amateur players can join, it will be very hard for them to compete with professionals.

    • Just think of an amateur player whose rank is below dan level that will allowed to play against pro. Boring right?

      • Younggil An says:

        Yes, you’re right. However, the top level amateur players can compete with pros. :)

        • Yeah… there are some amateurs that are strong as some pros, but didn’t have a chance to be a pro or might be that they don’t want to have a professional career as a Go player, but instead maybe they want to play for fun and/or have a another professional career in other fields.

          Who knows :D

          I play for fun too and i don’t have any plans to be a pro as i’m not that good. :D

          Go is fun and I like it very much. By the way, cheers to Gu Li and Lee Sedol for their jubango. Wish them both good luck. :D

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