The first two games of the final were played in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, China, and the last three took place in Rugao, Jiangsu Province.
What’s half a point worth?
A lot, apparently!
The score was drawn at 2-2 with Lee winning games 1 and 4 and Ke claiming games 2 and 3.
According to 9 dan Korean professionals commenting on the final game, the result was unexpectedly hinged on half point kos and the counting system used.
Using Japanese counting (with 7.5 points komi), Lee (as white) would have won by half a point. In other words, Black was only ahead by 7 points on the board, so pros who typically count games using territory scoring initially thought that White was ahead.
However, Ke (as black) won the last half point ko, while playing on dame (which are counted under Chinese counting) and played the last move so black came out ahead.
Game records and preliminary comments by An Younggil 8p are provided at the end of this post.
Ke’s triple crown
Ke is rapidly expanding his trophy cabinet and consolidating on his fantastic year in 2015.
He won his break through world title at the 2nd Bailing Cup in early 2015, was promoted to 9 dan and in September 2015, became ranked number 1 in China.
Ke rounded out the year by capturing the 2015 Samsung Cup.
With this win against Lee, Ke has decidedly quashed any remaining doubts and emerged as the new superstar of the professional Go world.
For Lee and his fans, this was undoubtedly a huge disappointment, but it’s early days yet for 2016 with the upcoming 43rd Myeongin and 34th KBS Cup finals for Lee.
The MLily Cup is a biennial international Go tournament, which started in 2013 and is sponsored by MLily Meng Baihe – a mattress and bedding company.
It’s intended that it will alternate with the (also biennial) Bailing Cup, every other year.
The draw consists of 16 seeded players from China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan and 48 players from preliminary rounds, including 4 women and 4 amateurs.
Each player receives 2 hours thinking time and 5 x 1 minute byo-yomi. The main time is increased to 3 hours each for the final. The semifinals are played as best of three matches and the final is a best of five match.
The winner receives 1.8 million RMB (about $290,000 USD at the time of writing) and the runner up receives 600,000 RMB. This puts the tournament in the same league as the Bailing Cup and Samsung Cup, in terms of prize money.
The official name, ‘MLily Meng Baihe Cup World Go Open Tournament’ (try saying that 10 times) uses the sponsor’s double barrel English and Chinese names.
The Chinese name, 梦百合 Meng (=dream) Baihe (=lilies), translates literally to ‘dream of lilies’. A looser, but more natural translation would be something like ‘sweet dreams’. This explains the somewhat cryptic ‘MLily’ moniker.
Lee Sedol (black) vs Ke Jie – Game 1
The opening up to White 18 was peaceful.
Black 19 is rarely played, and the result up to Black 31 was playable for both.
White 32 to 34 formed a nice tesuji to strengthen the outside.
White 44 was slow, and Black 49 was a good move to avoid White’s plan.
Black 63 was greedy, and White 64 to 76 was a good way to resist.
Black captured White’s center group with 77, but White 78 and 82 increased the center area.
White 98 was safe, but a bit too early, and Black 107 and 109 were strong.
Black 123 and 131 were good decisions and Black 133 was the winning move.
Black 139 was a sharp tesuji. If White ataris at 143 instead of 140, Black will live with F4.
Black 143 made a miai of J5 and L9.
Ke Jie (black) vs Lee Sedol – Game 2
The opening up to White 22 was well balanced.
White 40 was bold, and the game became complicated after Black 41.
Black 65 was necessary, and the game was still even up to White 70.
Black 79 to 87 was territorial and practical, and Black started lead on territory.
White 92 was brilliant to steal Black’s eye shape, and the flow of the game was changed.
Black 101 was a bad exchange, and White 104 hit the vital point to capture Black’s center group.
White’s top left corner group was alive with 118, and Black 119 was Ke’s last hope.
White 126 to 128 was a sophisticated combination, but White 130 was the losing move.
White should have extended at Black 131 first, then the game would have been very good for White.
Black 131 and 133 punished White’s mistake, and the game was reversed because White’s top left corner was also in trouble after Black 153.
Lee Sedol (black) vs Ke Jie – Game 3
The opening up to White 12 was the same as the previous game.
Black 25 and 27 resisted nicely and the result up to Black 39 was slightly better for Black.
Black’s strategy after 41 was questionable, and White took the lead up to 56.
White 68 to Black 75 was a light way of reducing, and White still maintained his lead with 76.
Black 91 to 99 was a good sequence to attack White, but Black 109 should have been played at White 110 first.
Black 127,139 and 147 were severe, but White 148 to 150 was a nice way to counter Black.
Black 151 was a mistake, and White 152, 156 and 160 were good moves to manage White’s weaknesses.
The big trade up to White 168 seemed fair, but since Black had to reinforce at 169, White was still ahead.
White’s endgame was excellent and Black didn’t have any more chances to catch up.
Ke Jie (black) vs Lee Sedol – Game 4
The opening up to Black 13 was the same as game 3.
White 28 was interesting, and the continuation up to White 32 was expected.
Black 33 was a bit too gentle. Capping at E7 would have been more powerful.
White 44 to 46 was flexible, and White lived in the corner with 58.
Black 59 would have been better positioned at White 62, and the game was slightly better for White with 64.
Black 71 to 81 was an exquisite sequence to manage the center area, and Black 83 to 89 was good haengma.
White 92 was a good choice, and White was still in the lead up to 114.
White 124 was strong, but White 136 to 140 was questionable, and the game became very close with 141.
Black 149 was small and should have been played at K14.
Black 153 was the losing move. If Black connected at move 154, the game would have still been quite close.
The game was suddenly finished with 154.
Ke Jie (black) vs Lee Sedol – Game 5
White 12 and 14 was active, and the continuation up to Black 23 followed joseki.
Black 33, 35 and 37 were well timed probes, and White 38 was the correct response.
Black 55 was a flexible way to sacrifice two stones, but the game was slightly better for White with 58.
White 66 and 68 were questionable, and White 70 was a bit too cautious.
Cutting from White 72 to 76 was strong, but Black managed his weak group pretty well up to 87, and the game was even.
Black 89 and 91 formed a sharp combination, and the trade up to Black 101 was still playable for both.
White 102 was a mistake, and instead, it should have been at Black 103.
Black 105 was sharp, and Black 113 to 115 was a brilliant combination and Black took the lead.
Black 119 to 131 was excellent, and Black solidified his lead.
White started to catch up with 140, 148 and 154.
Black 157, 159 and 183 were mistakes, and the game became very close.
Black 245 was a misread, and the game seemed to be reversed with White 246.
However, at the end of the game, Black won a half point ko in the bottom left while playing neutral point at Black 273.
White 280 wasn’t necessary, but there wasn’t any other place to play. Under Japanese rules, White didn’t have to play there. But White 280 doesn’t cost points in Chinese rules.
Video commentary – Game 5
Myungwan Kim 9p also commented the games live.