Ke Jie defeated Lee Sedol to win for China -17th Nongshim Cup

Ke Jie 9p defeated Lee Sedol 9p in the final game of the 17th Nongshim Cup on March 5, 2015.

With this victory, Team China takes the Cup back home for another year.

Ke Jie 9 dan defeated Lee Sedol 9 dan to win the Nongshim Cup for China.

Ke Jie 9 dan defeated Lee Sedol 9 dan to win the Nongshim Cup for China.

The final round

The final round of the 17th Nongshim Cup was played from March 1 to 5, 2016, in Shanghai, China.

Gu Li, who won three games in the previous round, played against Murakawa Daisuke 8p from Team Japan.

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.

Lian Xiao 7p was Team China’s hero last year, who defeated Kim Jiseok 9p to takes the Nongshim Cup back home.

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

Gu Li 9 dan, Ke Jie 9 dan and Lian Xiao 7 dan (from the left) at the closing ceremony.

Gu Li 9 dan, Ke Jie 9 dan and Lian Xiao 7 dan (from the left) at the closing ceremony.

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

Gu Li 9 dan (left) and Murakawa Daisuke 8 dan, reviewing the game.

Gu Li 9 dan (left) and Murakawa Daisuke 8 dan, reviewing the game.

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’s masterpiece.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Murakawa Daisuke 8 dan, in the final round.

Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Murakawa Daisuke 8 dan, in the final round.

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.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Lian Xiao 7 dan, reviewing after the game with Gu Li 9 dan.

Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Lian Xiao 7 dan, reviewing after the game with Gu Li 9 dan.

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.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Iyama Yuta 9 dan in the final round.

Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Iyama Yuta 9 dan in the final round.

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.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan, at the final game of the 17th Nongshim Cup.

Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan, at the final game of the 17th Nongshim Cup.

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.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He qualified as a professional in 1997 and won an award for winning 18 consecutive professional matches the following year. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea in 2008, to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now lives in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the founders of Go Game Guru. On Friday evenings, Younggil is usually at the Sydney Go Club, where he gives weekly lessons and plays simultaneous games.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. Iyama’s record in very limited competition against Korean and Chinese counterparts isn’t impressive at all, and yet he’s ranked number 2 in the world by Someone needs to take Statistics 101 again…

    • The reason his ranking is skewed is because he rarely plays against chinese and korean players and his record against japanese players is very one-sided. He doesn’t get as much points for winning against them, but if you (almost) never lose the ranking just keeps going up. It’s a flow in the elo-rating system. I’ve seen some other rankings in korean and japanese(ty google translate) that most of the time put him around 15-20 the place. (e.g.

      • The Japanese rating website you provided has Iyama at #17. That is much more reasonable. Even the Japanese themselves don’t think Iyama belongs in the top 15. If the owner of is reading this, please correct the travesty that is Iyama’s #3 ranking, which only serves to discredit your rating methodology.

  2. Roland CA says:

    Ke Jie now has a 80% win rate vs. Lee. The last 2 wins have been big wins, 6~ 8 points.

    The latest win was as black. He played a very different opening to what he has been using lately. And he emphasized more on gaining outside potential this time during the opening. In the end, black was ahead by more than 12 points on the board.

    I think this showed his potential with black. He only lost 1 official game as white last year. Now his black is also improving.
    He will again be the Triple Crown winner this year.

    With 80% win rate vs. Lee, AlphaGo may have to challenge Ke if they do well vs. Lee. What do you guys think?

    • Ke Jie is the go superman right now, still kind of a boy wonder, having the potential to improve all the time. He is in luck having such strong competition in both China and Korea, where he can challenge all kinds of ideas, and is sharply challenged himself. He seems to be able to handle any kind of battle, both quiet positional and sharp fighting, grabbing any opportunity to punish a mistake invisible to most. It is great to be a spectator to go heroes like Ke Jie and Lee Sedol, even if one doesn’t understand most what is happening when not explained.

      Kind regards,

      • Well said Paul. The scary thing about Ke Jie is that, his moves are mostly simple and very rarely does he make a brilliant move. However, he still wins and many times by a big margin. Like the last game, Lee actually didn’t make any significant mistake. Many times he made brilliant moves. In the end Ke Jie still won by 6 pts after komi.

        Some people compare Ke Jie with Lee Changho. In my opinion they are similar to a degree but Ke is a upgraded version. Ke grew up against a bunch of fighters and managed to beat them by simplifying the game, while in Lee Changho’s era nobody were able to challenge him with that level of power. On the other hand, we need to give Lee credit for emphasizing the importance of quantifying the end game, which over decades have improved the level of pro end game by at least 5 points.

  3. I really liked Murakawa’s game against Gu Li, very interesting!

  4. I find it a little depressing that 40 and 88 were bad moves in the final game. 40 seemed very natural, and 88 looked like a tesuji to me.

    • See it positively, a “bad” professional move would still be an incredible move on the amateur-level. Actually, nevermind. 😛

      • Kaan Malçok says:

        A bad move would be a bad move no matter the rank intgo 🙂 A moves quality isnt measured by the opponents lack of ability to punish it. That would only be called a “successful overplay”.

    • Actually W88 is a good tesuji and the commentator’s recommendation to play a capturing race is not going to work for white according to Chinese pros. W would be at least 1 liberty behind. Getting the two black stones in the middle was a favorable result for white considering how deep the group was originally surrounded. However, white had to add W94 to eliminate the bad aji and B131 was sente, which all reduced white’s gain. At least the trade was even though.

  5. It won’t take long time for Ke Jie to taste bitter pain of losing game. Do you remember Lee Changho when he was dominating go world? Everyone was studying his game and eventually they brought him down. It is very hard to stay on top of the world these day.

    • Competition is a wonderful thing; it increases the level of play for the entire field. The downside for many of us is of course that pro moves will become even more unfathomable.

    • Actually Lee Changho was officially brought down by a few players of fierce fighting style which went opposite his style. And by that time he had never been tested by this style previously. Ke Jie grew up fighting against a bunch of most fierce fighters so I guess he would be more comfortable going against them. But yes anything can happen and you are right it is very hard to stay on top of the world these day. if Ke Jie can dominate three years it is already a huge success. Not to mention all of them can lose to a computer program very soon.

  6. People can put down the Japanese players as much as they like, but I like the creative approach one sees from many Japanese pros.
    There is Takemiya, of course, but I have seen many more fuseki experiments besides. I suppose you could call this “new” shin-fuseki.
    One of the lessons from computers in chess is that almost anything is playable. After AlphaGo trounces Lee Sedol 5-2 and then Kie Je 5-0, a new era of go openings will appear, I am certain. I look forward to this time.

    • Mark: I cannot agree with you on Japanese being more creative. Being “creative” without supporting it with precise reading is simply not going to work. Like Iyama’s B15 which was unusual but did nothing but creating a weak group at the bottom which led to 16 connected stones surrounding ~ 5 pts. In this sense the “creative” move was nothing more than an “unusual” move and should never appear again.

      If you have followed pro games closely you may find young players of China and South Korea have done research together to explore the unknown territories of openings and joseki’s. They have been exploring and experimenting in real and online games, and then eliminate the moves leading to one-sided results. This is the way to be creative nowadays.

      Regarding computer chess, if it has taught us anything, IMO it must be that “only a limited number of variations are going to work, or you will be punished”. On the go board, it translates into joseki’s and openings that are agreed by most pros over time.

  7. Gil Dogon says:

    I have a question about the Iyama-Lee game.

    In move 126 W N3 it seems Lee decided not to attack, and Itama indeed defended at 127 BH3. If 126 W K1, it seems there is a huge KO for the life of the big Black dragon at bottom left. I could not find a way for B to live unconditionally after that. So my question is, whether my reading was wrong (and there is a way for B to live unconditionally), or whether indeed there were too many Ko threats for B, so Lee decided not to play at K1. He surely is not the one to avoid such fights !

    • Black can make a double Ko in the area (there is another Ko to make on the left) and it is not a simple kill.

  8. IMO Iyama in his game never drew close to Lee. Before he messed up with B107 and B109 he was close by points but white’s wall in the middle always had value. After his slow moves Lee started to cash in and managed to pull away easily.

  9. I enjoyed Murakawa’s game against Gu Li too.

    In the Iyama Yuta vs Lee Sedol game, I wonder how White could answer if Black 135 were at O9 as suggested by Younggil.

    Would a normal follow-up be Q9 – N10 – N8 so White may keep around 20 points in that area?