With this victory, Team China takes the Cup back home for another year.
The final round
The final round of the 17th Nongshim Cup was played from March 1 to 5, 2016, in Shanghai, China.
Murakawa showed his power with fighting spirit, and his victory against Gu Li was very impressive.
His next opponent was Lee Sedol 9p, who was the last man standing for Team Korea.
Murakawa didn’t avoid any battles against Lee, and the game was very exciting with many interesting ko fights through the game. Lee was more experienced, and he managed to win the complicated game with his special skill of dealing ko fights.
However, Lee Sedol’s moves were fierce and powerful in that game, and Lian’s play wasn’t as sharp as he did against Kim Jiseok last year to defeat Lee.
Lee’s next opponent was Iyama Yuta 9p, who was also the captain and anchorman for Team Japan.
Iyama started the game with his unique style of play, and the game was well balanced until the end of middle game. However, Lee’s play in the center was exceptional, and he captured Iyama’s center stones to finish the game.
Even though Team Japan was eliminated first, it wasn’t disappointing result for them. Ichiriki Ryo 7p won three games from the beginning of the first round, and Murakawa Daisuke defeated Gu Li in impressive way.
Japanese young talented players are getting more competitive, and it will be more interesting to watch the team competition next year.
The final game of 17th Nongshim Cup
With Lee Sedol’s three consecutive wins, he’s faced against Ke Jie 9p again, who’s become the natural enemy for Lee. Their head to head record before that game was 7-2 for Ke’s favor since late 2015.
Lee was playing in four days in a row, and many people worried that he’d be already tired without any break during the final round.
However, some said that it would be a great opportunity for Lee, because he was sweeping upturn in his excellent form.
That was Ke jie’s first time to play on Nongshim Cup in his career, and some doubted that if Ke could empty his mind under the big pressure of Chinese fans and media as the last man standing for Team China.
The game was relatively peaceful, and Lee’s sabaki from his invasion on the left side was sophisticated. However, Ke’s sense of balance was superior, and he provoked Lee’s fighting spirit in the center with 75.
In the middle game, Lee started to cut Black’s group with 84 to 86, and the game became very tense, but Lee avoided the extreme way of going all out as a capturing race for 88, and he accepted the trade up to 94.
The game was slightly better with Black 95, and Ke’s endgame was very different from game 5 from the 2nd MLily Cup final. He showed his excellent endgame technique in that game, and Lee didn’t grasp any chances afterwards.
The Nongshim Cup
The Nongshim Cup is a team event between China, Japan and Korea.
The sponsor, Nongshim, is a Korean instant noodles company.
The tournament uses a win and continue format, which is common in these team events.
Korea has dominated this event, winning it 11 times. In contrast, Japan has won it only once, while China is slowly catching up with five wins.
The prize money for the Nongshim Cup’s greatly increased in 2016. The previous winner’s purse was 200 million Korean Won (about $166,000 USD at the time of writing), but starting with the 17th edition of the tournament, the prize for the winning team becomes 500 million Korean Won (approximately $410,000 USD).
Brief game commentary
Murakawa Daisuke (Black) vs Gu Li – Game 10
Black 25 to 27 was a dynamic style of play, but White’s sabaki up to 38 was light and swift.
Black 43 was fighting spirit, but White’s responses up to 52 was seamless.
White 70 and 72 was a sharp combination to settle, but Black 83 to 87 was a nice technique to settle as well. The game was still even.
White 102 should have harassed Black’s left side group first with C10, B10 and B11.
Black 105, 107, 119 and 123 were good moves, and Black 127 was a final blow, which made White in deep trouble.
Although White played his best after 127, the trade up to 136 wasn’t fair, because bad aji from the left side’s gone, and Black took sente.
Black 143 to 147 were exquisite, and the game was practically over up to 153. If White connects at M14 for 148, Black will block at P15 in sente, and come back to O1 to win.
Murakawa Daisuke (Black) vs Lee Sedol – Game 11
The opening up to 45 was well balanced.
White 46 to 50 was practical way of play, and Black 51 was a strong resistant.
White’s sequence from 62 to 68 was exquisite, and White started to be in the lead.
However, White 74 and 76 were too much, and that should be at H10.
Black 77 to 81 was good move order, and Black 87 was a nice tesuji. The game became even again up to 95.
White started to attack Black’s center group with 108, but Black 123 was a brilliant tesuji, and the ko through to 131 was unavoidable.
White 140 to 142 was to create a powerful ko threat, and the trade up to 148 was an even result.
Black 159 should have been at Q7 first, and White took the lead again with 160 to 164.
White 172 was decisive, and White solidified his lead with 184.
White 186 was passive, and the game became closer with 187 and 205, but White 214 was the finishing blow, and the game was decided. White 220 made miai of M2 and P8.
Lee Sedol (Black) vs Lian Xiao – Game 12
Black 21 and 23 was creative, and White 24 to 26 was a bold reduction.
Black 27 to 33 was very unique style of play, and White 34 was questionable. Connecting at E5 might have been better.
Black 35 was nice, and the result up to 42 was still well balanced.
Black 47 was eye popping move, and it leaded to a fighting game up to 59 which was favorable for Black to utilize his thickness.
White 74 was wrong direction and it was a crucial mistake. That should be at around Q14.
Black 75 hit the vital point, and Black 77 to 81 was strong. White was suddenly in deep trouble.
White 82 was a tesuji to settle in the corner, but White’s center group was in danger through to 87.
Black 95 to 101 was powerful, and White saved his groups with 112 and 118.
However, Black 119 was severe, and the game was still very good for Black up to 131.
White 142 and 146 were strong resistances, but Black’s attack up to 153 was still powerful.
White 160 and 168 were tricky moves to make the game complicated, but Black’s responses were solid and accurate, and White soon resigned.
Iyama Yuta (Black) vs Lee Sedol – Game 13
Black 15 was unusual, and White 18 was the correct move. The result up to Black 29 was even.
White’s sequence from 44 to 50 was strong, and Black 51 was fighting spirit.
However, White 52 was a brilliant move, and the result up to 70 was successful for White.
Black 81, 87 and 89 were nice moves, and the game became nearly even again up to 99.
Black 107 to 109 was wrong direction, and he should have played from the bottom right.
White 110 was painful for Black, and the game became good for White up to 128.
White 134 was a brilliant attachment, and Black 135 was the losing move. Black should have jumped at O9 to connect.
White 136 and 138 were powerful, and Black’s center stones were cut off.
Black tried to find White’s weaknesses at the top, but White’s responses afterwards were perfect.
Ke Jie (Black) vs Lee Sedol – Final Game
The opening up to Black 23 was playable for both.
White 40 was a little slack, and Black was happy with 41.
Black 45 was a well timed invasion, and the movement up to 51 was smooth for Black.
White 52 was also well timed, an White’s sabaki from 60 to 66 was exquisite.
Black 69 to 75 was calm and patient, and White’s sequence from 76 to 86 was severe.
White 88 looked a good move, but Black 89 was a perfect timed cut, and the trade up to Black 95 was slightly better for Black.
As a result, White 88 should have played E9, B D8 and W E8 to lead a capturing race between his center group and Black’s lower side group.
Black 99, 107 and 111 were solid and calm, and Black 123 to 127 was an excellent tesuji to consolidate his lead.
White tried to catch up afterwards, but Ke’s endgame was perfect, and he didn’t give White any chances to catch up.
Ke Jie’s another excellent game against Lee Sedol.