The 2013 Samsung Cup final was played on December 10 and 11, 2013, at the Shilla Hotel in Suzhou, China.
New world champion: Tang Weixing
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.
Tang Weixing was born in 1993, and became a pro in 2005.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.